Parallelization of R code using Azure Infrastructure

Working on large data sets, exploring which machine learning algorithm fits the bill is a daunting task. Moreover these ML algorithm can run into hours and days in certain cases. There is always a need of having compute resources available on the fly. R in principle is single threaded by nature.  To support parallel constructs like parallel for , apply functions we have the parallel package in R, which supports multi core and cluster based parallel execution.  The cluster supports both PSOCK and FORK implementation.

doAzureParallel R package is a lightweight R package built on top of Azure Batch Service (job scheduler service) that allows use of Azure compute resources from the R session. doAzureParallel supports the foreach parallel construct.

Getting started with doAzureParallel

Below video will walk you through on the basics of doAzureParallel.

doAzureParallel does not have parallel constructs for apply function, If one did require to use them they can use the parallel package on the node on the cluster and get the best of parallel apply functions. With parallelism comes a degree of complexity of memory management and caching and understand how can FORK help for same. The below video explains  how to use parallel package and take the parallel execution of the code down to a core level.

Running Parallel constructs along with DoAzureParallel

Parallelization to MLR algorithms

DoAzureParallel in its current form supports foreach , it needs to graduate to support parallel apply functions. Taking the discussion to the next level it would be lovely if doAzureParallel would support mlr (classification, regression) set of algorithm to run in parallel.  The current set of algorithm like parallelmap, batchjobs and mlr solve the problem of running the Mlr algorithms . It’s pretty easy to see how a larger model, more iterations or a different choice of methods could result in unacceptably long run-times. One could use multi-core or socket level parallelism, but ideally taking advantage of as much computing resource is better choice,.

Apparently the batchjobs package doesnt support azure batch service.

ParallelMap is now directly integrated into mlr, and this makes scaling to parallel back-ends seamless. Our choice of back-end is parameterized so we can write algorithms once and choose the parallel back-end depending on the resources we have available when we run the model. To illustrate this, we re-run the same model, but instead of running the model on a single node, we run it on a clustered environment running OpenLava, an open-source Platform LSF compatible workload manager now supported by BatchJobs.

Below video explains how to use parallemap, mlr in a mult-core scenario along with doAzureParallel.

Demo codebase can be found here –


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