Now Reading
System Design for Suggestions and Search

System Design for Suggestions and Search

2023-07-28 03:01:29

Additionally translated to Korean because of Zimin Park.

How do the system designs for industrial suggestions and search appear to be? It’s unusual to see system design mentioned in machine studying papers or blogs; most give attention to mannequin design, coaching information, and/or loss capabilities. Nonetheless, the handful of papers that debate implementation particulars elucidate design patterns and finest practices which are laborious to realize exterior of hands-on expertise.

Particular to discovery methods (i.e., suggestions and search), most implementations I’ve come throughout comply with an analogous paradigm—parts and processes are cut up into offline vs. on-line environments, and candidate retrieval vs. rating steps. The two x 2 beneath tries to simplify this.

2x2 of online vs. offline environments, and candidate retrieval vs. ranking.

2 x 2 of on-line vs. offline environments, and candidate retrieval vs. rating.

The offline atmosphere largely hosts batch processes equivalent to mannequin coaching (e.g., illustration studying, rating), creating embeddings for catalog objects, and constructing an approximate nearest neighbors (ANN) index or data graph to search out related objects. It might additionally embrace loading merchandise and person information right into a function retailer that’s used to reinforce enter information throughout rating.

The web atmosphere then makes use of the artifacts generated (e.g., ANN indices, data graphs, fashions, function shops) to serve particular person requests. A typical strategy is changing the enter merchandise or search question into an embedding, adopted by candidate retrieval and rating. There are additionally different preprocessing steps (e.g., standardizing queries, tokenization, spell examine) and post-processing steps (e.g., filtering undesirable objects, enterprise logic) although we gained’t talk about them on this writeup.

Candidate retrieval is a quick—however coarse—step to slim down tens of millions of things into a whole bunch of candidates. We commerce off precision for effectivity to shortly slim the search area (e.g., from tens of millions to a whole bunch, a 99.99% discount) for the downstream rating activity. Most modern retrieval strategies convert the enter (i.e., merchandise, search question) into an embedding earlier than utilizing ANN to search out related objects. Nonetheless, within the examples beneath, we’ll additionally see methods utilizing graphs (DoorDash) and determination bushes (LinkedIn).

Rating is a slower—however extra exact—step to attain and rank prime candidates. As we’re processing fewer objects (i.e., a whole bunch as a substitute of tens of millions), now we have room so as to add options that may have been infeasible within the retrieval step (on account of compute and latency constraints). Such options embrace merchandise and person information, and contextual info. We will additionally use extra subtle fashions with extra layers and parameters.

Rating could be modeled as a learning-to-rank or classification activity, with the latter being extra generally seen. If deep studying is utilized, the ultimate output layer is both a softmax over a catalog of things, or a sigmoid predicting the probability of person interplay (e.g., click on, buy) for every user-item pair.

Subsequent, let’s see how the processes above come collectively in a recommender or search system.

Basic system design of a recommender or search system.

Fundamental system design for suggestions and search, primarily based on the two x 2 above.

Within the offline atmosphere, information flows bottom-up, the place we use coaching information and merchandise/person information to create artifacts equivalent to fashions, ANN indices, and have shops. These artifacts are then loaded into the web atmosphere (through the dashed arrows). Within the on-line atmosphere, every request flows left to proper, by way of the retrieval and rating steps earlier than returning a set of outcomes (e.g., suggestions, search outcomes).

Extra particulars on some arrows within the diagram:

  1. With the educated illustration studying mannequin, embed objects within the catalog.
  2. With the merchandise embeddings, construct the ANN index that permits retrieval of comparable embeddings and their respective objects.
  3. Get (historic) options to reinforce coaching information for the rating mannequin. Use the identical function retailer in offline coaching and on-line serving to reduce train-serve skew. May require time travel.
  4. Use the enter question/merchandise(s) embedding to retrieve ok related objects through ANN.
  5. Add merchandise and person options to the candidates for downstream rating.
  6. Rank the candidates primarily based on aims equivalent to click on, conversion, and many others.

Replace: This 2×2 has since been referenced in different sources, together with:

Examples from Alibaba, Fb, JD, Doordash, and many others.

Subsequent, we’ll briefly talk about the high-level system design of some discovery methods, primarily based on their respective papers and tech blogs. I’ll spotlight how these methods are cut up into offline and on-line environments, and their retrieval and rating steps. For full particulars on the methodology, mannequin, and many others., I like to recommend you learn the complete paper/weblog.

We begin with Alibaba’s sharing about building item embeddings for candidate retrieval. Within the offline atmosphere, session-level user-item interactions are mined to assemble a weighted, bidirectional merchandise graph. The graph is then used to generate merchandise sequences through random walks. Merchandise embeddings are then discovered through illustration studying (i.e., word2vec skip-gram), eliminating the necessity for labels. Lastly, with the merchandise embeddings, they get the closest neighbor for every merchandise and retailer it of their item-to-item (i2) similarity map (i.e., a key-value retailer).

Alibaba's design for candidate retrieval in Taobao.

Alibaba’s design for candidate retrieval in Taobao through merchandise embeddings and ANN.

Within the on-line atmosphere, when the person launches the app, the Taobao Personalization Platform (TPP) begins by fetching the most recent objects that the person interacted with (e.g., click on, like, buy). These things are then used to retrieve candidates from the i2i similarity map. The candidates are then handed to the Rating Service Platform (RSP) for rating through a deep neural community, earlier than being exhibited to the person.

Alibaba additionally shared an analogous instance the place they apply a graph network for ranking. Within the offline atmosphere, they mix an current data graph (G), person conduct (e.g., impressed however not clicked, clicked), and merchandise information to create an adaptive data graph (G_ui). That is then merged with person information (e.g., demographics, user-item preferences) to coach the rating mannequin (Adaptive Goal-Habits Relational Graph Community, ATBRN).

Alibaba's design for ranking in Taobao.

Alibaba’s design for rating in Taobao through a graph community (ATBRN).

Within the on-line atmosphere, given a person request, the candidate generator retrieves a set of candidates and the person ID, earlier than passing them to the Actual-Time Prediction (RTP) platform. RTP then queries the data graph and have shops for merchandise and person attributes. The graph representations, merchandise information, and person information is then fed into the rating mannequin (i.e., ATBRN) to foretell the likelihood of click on on every candidate merchandise. The candidates are then reordered primarily based on likelihood and exhibited to the person.

Subsequent, we take a look at Fb’s embedding-based retrieval for search. Within the offline atmosphere (proper half of picture), they first practice a two-tower community—with a question encoder and doc encoder—that outputs cosine similarity for every query-document pair (not proven in picture). This ensures that search queries and paperwork (e.g., person profiles, teams) are in the identical embedding area.

Facebook's design for embedding-based retrieval.

Fb’s design for embedding-based retrieval through question and doc encoders.

Then, with the doc encoder, they embed every doc through Spark batch jobs. The embeddings are then quantized and printed into their ANN index (“inverted index”). This ANN index is predicated on Faiss and fine-tuned (see Part 4.1 of paper). The embeddings are additionally printed in a ahead index, with out quantization, for rating. The ahead index also can embrace different information equivalent to profile and group attributes to reinforce candidates throughout rating.

Within the on-line atmosphere, every search request goes by way of question understanding and is embedded through the question encoder. The search request and related embedding then undergo the retrieval step to get nearest neighbor candidates through the ANN index and boolean filtering (e.g., match on identify, location, and many others.). The candidates are then augmented with full embeddings and extra information from the ahead index earlier than being ranked.

JD shared an analogous strategy for semantic retrieval for search. Within the offline atmosphere, a two-tower mannequin with a question encoder and an merchandise encoder is educated to output a similarity rating for every query-item pair. The merchandise encoder then embeds catalog objects earlier than loading them into an embedding index (i.e., key-value retailer).

Major stages of an e-commerce search systems (left), JD's design for candidate retrieval (right).

Main phases of an e-commerce search methods (left), JD’s design for candidate retrieval (proper).

Then, within the on-line atmosphere, every question goes by way of preprocessing (e.g., spelling correction, tokenization, enlargement, and rewriting) earlier than being embedding through the question encoder. The question embedding is then used to retrieve candidates from the embedding index through nearest neighbors lookup. The candidates are then ranked on elements equivalent to relevance, predicted conversion, and many others.

The paper additionally shares sensible tricks to optimize mannequin coaching and serving. For mannequin coaching, they raised that the de facto enter of user-item interplay, merchandise information, and person information is duplicative—merchandise and person information seem as soon as per row, consuming vital disk area. To deal with this, they constructed a customized TensorFlow dataset the place person and merchandise information are first loaded into reminiscence as lookup dictionaries. Then, throughout coaching, these dictionaries are queried to append person and merchandise attributes to the coaching set. This straightforward follow diminished coaching information dimension by 90%.

Additionally they referred to as out the significance of making certain offline coaching and on-line serving consistency. For his or her system, probably the most essential step was textual content tokenization which occurs thrice (information preprocessing, coaching, serving). To reduce train-serve skew, they constructed a C++ tokenizer with a skinny Python wrapper that was used for all tokenization duties.

For mannequin serving, they shared how they diminished latency by combining companies. Their mannequin had two key steps: question embedding and ANN lookup. The straightforward strategy could be to have every as a separate service, however this is able to require two community calls and thus double community latency. Thus, they unified the question embedding mannequin and ANN lookup in a single occasion, the place the question embedding is handed to the ANN through reminiscence as a substitute of community.

Additionally they shared how they run a whole bunch of fashions concurrently, for various retrieval duties and numerous A/B assessments. Every “servable” consists of a question embedding mannequin and an ANN lookup, requiring 10s of GB. Thus, every servable had their very own occasion, with a proxy module (or load balancer) to direct incoming requests to the best servable.

How JD organizes the embedding model and ANN indices across multiple versions.

How JD organizes the embedding mannequin and ANN indices throughout a number of variations.

(Apart: My candidate retrieval methods have an analogous design sample. Embedding shops and ANN indices are hosted on the identical docker container—you’ll be stunned how far this goes with efficiently-sized embeddings. Moreover, Docker makes it straightforward to model, deploy, and roll again every mannequin, in addition to scale horizontally. Fronting the mannequin cases with a load balancer takes care of directing incoming requests, blue-green deployments, and A/B testing. SageMaker makes this straightforward.)

Subsequent, we transfer from the embedding + ANN paradigm and take a look at DoorDash’s use of a knowledge graph for query expansion and retrieval. Within the offline atmosphere, they practice fashions for question understanding, question enlargement, and rating. Additionally they load paperwork (i.e., eating places and meals objects) into ElasticSearch to be used in retrieval, and attribute information (e.g., rankings, worth factors, tags) right into a function retailer.

How DoorDash splits their search into offline and online, and retrieval (recall) and ranking (precision)

DoorDash splits search into offline and on-line, and retrieval (recall) and rating (precision).

Within the on-line atmosphere, every incoming question is first standardized (e.g., spell examine) and synonymized (through a manually curated dictionary). Then, the data graph (Neo4J) expands the query by discovering associated tags. For instance, a question for “KFC” will return tags equivalent to “fried hen” and “wings”. These tags are then used to retrieve related eating places equivalent to “Popeyes” and “Bonchon”.

These candidates are then ranked primarily based on lexical similarity between the question and paperwork (aka eating places, meals objects), retailer reputation, and probably the search context (e.g., time of day, location). Lastly, the ranked outcomes are augmented with attributes equivalent to rankings, worth level, and supply time and price earlier than exhibited to the shopper.

Lastly, we take a look at how LinkedIn personalizes talent search results. Their system depends closely on XGBoost, first as a mannequin to retrieve the highest 1,000 candidates for rating, and second, as a generator of options (i.e., mannequin scores, tree interactions) for his or her downstream rating mannequin (a generalized linear blended mannequin aka GLMix).

See Also

LinkedIn's offline design for generating GLMix ranking models.

LinkedIn’s offline design for producing tree-based options, and coaching GLMix rating fashions.

Within the offline atmosphere, they first mix impression and label information to generate coaching information (step 1 in picture above). Labels include cases the place the recruiter despatched a message to potential hires and the person responded positively. The coaching information is then fed right into a pre-trained XGBoost mannequin to generate mannequin scores and tree interplay options (step 3 in picture above) to reinforce the coaching information. This augmented information is then used to coach the rating mannequin (GLMix).

LinkedIn's online design for candidate retrieval, feature augmentation, and ranking via GLMix.

LinkedIn’s on-line design for candidate retrieval, function augmentation, and rating through GLMix.

Within the on-line atmosphere, with every search request, the search engine (possibly Elastic or Solr?) first retrieves candidates that are then scored through a first-level XGBoost mannequin. The highest 1,000 candidates are then augmented with (i) extra options (step 2 in picture above) and (ii) tree interplay options through a second-level XGBoost mannequin (step 3 in picture above). Lastly, these augmented candidates are ranked earlier than the highest 125 outcomes are proven to the person.


That was a short overview of the offline-online, retrieval-ranking sample for search and proposals. Whereas this isn’t the one strategy for discovery methods, from what I’ve seen, it’s the commonest design sample. I’ve discovered it useful to differentiate the latency-constrained on-line methods from the less-demanding offline methods, and cut up the web course of into retrieval and rating steps.

If you happen to’re beginning to construct your discovery system, begin with candidate retrieval via simple embeddings and approximate nearest neighbors, earlier than including a ranker on prime of it. Alternatively, think about using a data graph like Uber and DoorDash did. However earlier than you get too excited, assume laborious about whether or not you want real-time retrieval and rating, or if batch recommendations will suffice.

Did I miss out something? Please attain out and let me know!

Replace (2022-04-14): Even Oldridge and Karl Byleen-Higley from NVIDIA up to date the 2-stage design to 4-stages by including a filtering step and splitting rating into scoring and ordering. Additionally they offered it at KDD’s Industrial Recommender Systems workshop.

NVIDIA augmented the 2-stage design with 2 more stages.

Even Oldridge & Karl Byleen-Higley (NVIDIA) augmented my 2-stage design with 2 extra phases.


Thanks to Yang Xinyi for studying drafts of this.

If you happen to discovered this convenient, please cite this text as:

Yan, Ziyou. (Jun 2021). System Design for Suggestions and Search.


  title   = {System Design for Suggestions and Search},
  creator  = {Yan, Ziyou},
  journal = {},
  yr    = {2021},
  month   = {Jun},
  url     = {}

Share on:

Be part of 5,000+ readers getting updates on machine studying, RecSys, LLMs, and engineering.

Source Link

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

2022 Blinking Robots.
WordPress by Doejo

Scroll To Top