Transformers are used to convert the Op graph into a backend specific executable format. Once the graph has been defined, one or more computations are created using a transformer. Computations are handles to executable objects created by the transformer, which can be called to evaluate a subset of the entire graph. All transformers must implement a common abstract interface allowing users to easily switch between backends without altering their computation graph definition. Transformers are currently provided for the following backends:

  • CPUs (via NumPy)
  • NVIDIA GPUs (via PyCUDA)

Additional transformers will be implemented for other backends in the future.

Transformer Creation

Transformers should be created using the factory interface in ngraph.transformers.base

from ngraph.transformers import make_transformer
transformer = make_transformer()

This will create a transformer using the default factory (NumPy). It is possible to set the transformer factory manually to control the target backend. The transformer API provides functionality to enumerate the available transformers to assist with this

import ngraph.transformers as ngt
available_transformers = ngt.transformer_choices()
if 'gpu' in available_transformers:
    factory = ngt.make_transformer_factory('gpu')

transformer = ngt.make_transformer()

The above example first checks if the GPU transformer is available (this will depend on whether CUDA and PyCuda are installed). If the GPU transformer is available, the example sets the transformer factory to generate GPU transformers. The call to make_transformer will then return a GPU transformer if available, and a NumPy transformer otherwise.


Computation objects are created by the transformer and provide an interface to evaluate a subset of the graph. The format of the executable used for evaluation depends on the transformer that created the computation. For example the NumPy transformer generates python NumPy code which is called to evaluate the computation, while the GPU transformer generates a series of CUDA kernels which can be called to evaluate the computation.

Computation Creation

Computations are created with the Transformer.computation method. When creating a computation, the user must specify a list of results which should be evaluated by the computation. These results should be ngraph Op s. The transformer is able to traverse the graph backwards from these results to determine the entire subset of graph nodes required to evaluate these results, so it is not necessary for the user to specify the entire subset of nodes to execute. The user must also specify a list of graph nodes to be set as inputs to the computation. Typically these are placeholder tensors. Continuing from the above code example, a simple graph and computation can be created:

import ngraph as ng

a = ng.constant(4)
b = ng.placeholder(())
c = ng.placeholder(())
d = ng.multiply(a, b)
e = ng.add(d, c)

example_comp = transformer.computation(e, b, c)

This example creates a simple graph to evaluate the function e = ((a * b) + c). The first argument is the result of the computation and the remaining arguments are inputs to the computation. The only result that we need to specify to create the computation is e since d will be discovered when the transformer traverses the graph. In this example, a is a constant so it does not need to be passed in as an input, but b and c are placeholder tensors which must be filled as inputs.

After all computations are created, the Transformer.initialize method must be called to finalize transformation and allocate all device memory for tensors (this will be called automatically if a computation is called before manually calling initialize). Note that new computations cannot be created with a transformer after initialize has been called. For more information on this initialization process, see the transformer_implementation.rst documentation file.

Computation Execution

This computation object can be executed with its __call__ method by specifying the input c.

result_e = example_comp(2, 7)

The return value of this call will be the resulting value of e, which should be ((4 * 2) + 7) = 15.

Computations with Multiple Results

In real world cases, we often want computations that return multiple results. For example a single training iteration may compute both the cost value and the weight updates. Multiple results can be passed to computation creation in a list. After execution, the computation will return a tuple of the results:

example_comp2 = transformer.computation([d, e], b, c)
result_d, result_e = example_comp2(2, 7)

In addition to returning the final result as above, this example will also set result_d to the result of the d operation, which should be 8.

Transformed Graph State

Once the transformer has been initialized and computation objects have been finalized, all tensors (constants, variables, placeholders) will be allocated in device memory. These tensors are only allocated and initialized once at transformation time, so the transformed graph has state that is persistent between computation evaluations. This is most important for variable tensors, since constants are never modified after creation and placeholders are usually filled by the caller each time a computation is run. The value of variable tensors will remain unchanged between the finish of one computation and the subsequent evaluation of another.

Computations created by the same transformer will share state for any op graph nodes which are needed by both computations. If a variable tensor is assigned in one computation, the updated value will be seen by a subsequent call to a different computation which references that variable tensor. An example of this is a script that defines both a train and test computation. We want to evaluate the test computation to check convergence periodically using the parameters being trained in the train computation.

Executor Utility

For convenience, an executor utility is provided in ngraph.util.utils. This executor utility reduces the process of creating a transformer and a computation to a single function call. Note that calling this function creates a new transformer each time, so it should not be used for cases where multiple computations with shared state are needed.

from ngraph.util.utils import executor
example_comp = executor(e, b, c)
result_e = example_comp(2, 7)

Graph execution

A computation is a subset of ops whose values are desired and corresponds to a callable procedure on a backend. Users define one or more computations by specifying sets of ops to be computed. In addition, the transformer will define four additional procedures:

Allocate required storage required for all computations. This includes all allocations for all ops marked as in.
Run all initializations. These are all the initializers for the ops needed for the computations. These are analogous to C++ static initializers.
Save all persistent state. These are states with the persistent property set.
Restore saved state.