Towards ML Engineering: A Brief History Of TensorFlow Extended (TFX)
Software Engineering, as a discipline, has matured over the past 5+ decades.
The modern world heavily depends on it, so the increased maturity of Software
Engineering was an eventuality. Practices like testing and reliable
technologies help make Software Engineering reliable enough to build industries
upon. Meanwhile, Machine Learning (ML) has also grown over the past 2+ decades.
ML is used more and more for research, experimentation and production
workloads. ML now commonly powers widely-used products integral to our lives.
But ML Engineering, as a discipline, has not widely matured as much as its
Software Engineering ancestor. Can we take what we have learned and help the
nascent field of applied ML evolve into ML Engineering the way Programming
evolved into Software Engineering ? In this article we will give a whirlwind
tour of Sibyl  and TensorFlow Extended (TFX) , two successive end-to-end
(E2E) ML platforms at Alphabet. We will share the lessons learned from over a
decade of applied ML built on these platforms, explain both their similarities
and their differences, and expand on the shifts (both mental and technical)
that helped us on our journey. In addition, we will highlight some of the
capabilities of TFX that help realize several aspects of ML Engineering. We
argue that in order to unlock the gains ML can bring, organizations should
advance the maturity of their ML teams by investing in robust ML infrastructure
and promoting ML Engineering education. We also recommend that before focusing
on cutting-edge ML modeling techniques, product leaders should invest more time
in adopting interoperable ML platforms for their organizations. In closing, we
will also share a glimpse into the future of TFX.