5 Best Ways to Use TensorFlow’s Estimator to Compile Models with Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: When working with TensorFlow to build machine learning models in Python, users often seek efficient methods to compile and train their models. The TensorFlow Estimator API provides high-level utilities for this purpose. For instance, if you have input data and want to train a model for predictions, you’d like a systematic approach to compile the model for execution. We will look at how TensorFlow Estimator can be utilized in this regard.

Method 1: Using Pre-made Estimators

TensorFlow offers a set of pre-made Estimators to quickly and easily configure models. Pre-made Estimators encapsulate the implementation for a variety of model types including linear classifiers and regressors as well as deep neural networks. Compiling a model with a pre-made Estimator involves simply selecting the appropriate Estimator and configuring it with your data and training specifications.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

feature_columns = [tf.feature_column.numeric_column("x", shape=[1])]
estimator = tf.estimator.LinearRegressor(feature_columns=feature_columns)

The output would be a LinearRegressor object configured with the specified feature columns.

By choosing a pre-made Estimator, you’re able to avoid low-level model definition, and instead focus on training, evaluation, and prediction. In this example, the LinearRegressor is quickly compiled with one feature column for input data.

Method 2: Custom Estimators

For models with custom requirements not covered by pre-made Estimators, TensorFlow allows the creation of a custom Estimator using the tf.estimator.Estimator base class. This provides more flexibility, as you can define your own model function.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

def model_fn(features, labels, mode):
    # Define a simple linear regression model
    predictions = tf.matmul(features['x'], [[2.0]])
    loss = tf.reduce_sum(tf.square(labels - predictions))
    return tf.estimator.EstimatorSpec(mode, predictions=predictions, loss=loss)

estimator = tf.estimator.Estimator(model_fn=model_fn)

The output is a custom Estimator object tailored to your specified model function.

This snippet creates a custom Estimator for linear regression with a straightforward model function, handling predictions and loss. The indicated model function is passed to the Estimator, providing full control over the model’s architecture and training behavior.

Method 3: Estimator’s Train and Evaluate Loop

After the model is compiled, TensorFlow’s Estimator API offers a simple loop for training and evaluation via the train and evaluate methods. This helps in automating the training process while monitoring model performance on a validation set.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

# Assume 'input_fn' is predefined to return proper input data
# and 'eval_input_fn' for evaluation data
estimator.train(input_fn=train_input_fn, steps=1000)
evaluation = estimator.evaluate(input_fn=eval_input_fn)

The output would be the evaluation metrics specified during the estimator creation.

This code depicts the usage of the Estimator’s train method, followed by the evaluate method. It showcases an effective training loop that will also output evaluation metrics to assess the model’s performance.

Method 4: Leveraging Hooks for Custom Behavior

Users may also employ customizable hooks with the TensorFlow Estimator API to insert custom behavior into the training and evaluation loop. These hooks can handle tasks like logging, checkpointing, or early stopping.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

class MyLoggingHook(tf.train.SessionRunHook):
    def before_run(self, run_context):
        return tf.train.SessionRunArgs(tf.compat.v1.train.get_global_step())
    def after_run(self, run_context, run_values):
        print(f"Step: {run_values.results}")

estimator.train(input_fn=input_fn, steps=1000, hooks=[MyLoggingHook()])

During training, the output would show the logging of the current global step.

The code creates a custom logging hook to display the current training step after each batch processed by the train method. This exemplifies how hooks can be used for accessing and manipulating the training loop within an Estimator.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Quick Model Export

TensorFlow Estimators can simplify the model exporting process for prediction serving. The export_saved_model method compiles and saves the trained model for production environments with a single line of code.

Here’s an example:

estimator.export_saved_model(export_dir_base, serving_input_receiver_fn)

This code would export the trained model to the specified directory for serving.

The one-liner method demonstrates the effectiveness and simplicity of exporting a compiled and trained Estimator model ready for deployment.


  • Method 1: Pre-made Estimators. Quick setup. Limited to predefined architectures. Not suitable for complex custom models.
  • Method 2: Custom Estimators. Highly flexible. Can define custom model logic. Requires deeper TensorFlow knowledge.
  • Method 3: Training and Evaluation Loop. Automated and easy to implement. Dependent on proper data feeding.
  • Method 4: Customizable Hooks. Allows for additional functionalities. May introduce complexity if not managed properly.
  • Bonus Method 5: Quick Model Export. Efficient and straightforward for deployment. Less control over export parameters.