Deploying models

After all the hard work you did to train your tree ensemble model, you now have to deploy the model. Deployment refers to distributing your model to other machines and devices so as to make predictions on them. To facilitate the coming discussions, let us define a few terms.

  • Host machine : the machine running Treelite.

  • Target machine : the machine on which predictions will be made. The host machine may or may not be identical to the target machine. In cases where it’s infeasible to install Treelite on the target machine, the host and target machines will be necessarily distinct.

  • Shared library : a blob of executable subroutines that can be imported by other native applications. Shared libraries will often have file extensions .dll, .so, or .dylib. Going back to the particular context of tree deployment, Treelite will produce a shared library containing the prediction subroutine (compiled to native machine code).

  • Runtime package : a tiny fraction of the full Treelite package, consisting of a few helper functions that lets you easily load shared libraries and make predictions. The runtime is good to have, but on systems lacking Python we can do without it.

In this document, we will document two options for deployment. We will present the programming interface each deployment option presents, as well as its dependencies and requirements.

Option 1: Deploy prediction code with the runtime package

If feasible, this option is probably the most convenient. On the target machine, install the Treelite runtime by running pip:

python3 -m pip install treelite_runtime --user

Once the Treelite runtime is installed, it suffices to follow instructions in First tutorial.

Option 2: Deploy prediciton code only

With this option, neither Python nor a C++ compiler is required. You should be able to adopt this option using any basic installation of UNIX-like operating systems.

Dependencies and Requirements

The target machine shall meet the following conditions:

  • A C compiler is available.

  • The C compiler supports the following features of the C99 standard: inline functions; declaration of loop variables inside for loop; the expf function in <math.h>; the <stdint.h> header.

  • GNU Make or Microsoft NMake is installed.

  • An archive utility exists that can open a .zip archive.

Deployment instructions

1. On the host machine, install Treelite and import your tree ensemble model. You should end up with the model object of type Model.

### Run this block on the **host** machine

import treelite
model = treelite.Model.load('your_model.model', 'xgboost')
# You may also use `from_xgboost` method or the builder class

2. Export your model as a source package by calling the method export_srcpkg() of the Model object. The source package will contain C code representation of the prediction subroutine.

### Continued from the previous code block

# Operating system of the target machine
platform = 'unix'
# C compiler to use to compile prediction code on the target machine
toolchain = 'gcc'
# Save the source package as a zip archive named
# Later, we'll use this package to produce the library
model.export_srcpkg(platform=platform, toolchain=toolchain,
                    pkgpath='./', libname='',


On the value of toolchain

Treelite supports only three toolchain configurations (‘msvc’, ‘gcc’, ‘clang’) for which it generates Makefiles. If you are using a compiler other than these three, you will have to write your own Makefile. For now, just set toolchain='gcc' and move on.

After calling export_srcpkg(), you should be able to find the zip archive named inside the current working directory.

john.doe@host-machine:/home/john.doe/$ ls .   your_model.model

The content of consists of the header and source files, as well as the Makefile:

john.doe@host-machine:/home/john.doe/$ unzip -l
  Length      Date    Time    Name
---------  ---------- -----   ----
        0  11-01-2017 23:11   mymodel/
      167  11-01-2017 23:11   mymodel/Makefile
  4831036  11-01-2017 23:11   mymodel/mymodel.c
      311  11-01-2017 23:11   mymodel/mymodel.h
      109  11-01-2017 23:11   mymodel/recipe.json
---------                     -------
  4831623                     5 files

3. Now you are ready to deploy the model to the target machine. Copy to the target machine the archive (source package).

john.doe@host-machine:/home/john.doe/$ sftp john.doe@target-machine
Connected to target-machine.
sftp> put
Uploading to /home/john.doe/                             100%  410KB 618.2KB/s   00:00
sftp> quit

4. It is time to move to the target machine. On the target machine, extract the archive

john.doe@host-machine:/home/john.doe/$ ssh john.doe@target-machine
Last login: Tue Oct 31 00:43:36 2017 from host-machine

john.doe@target-machine:/home/john.doe/$ unzip
   creating: mymodel/
  inflating: mymodel/Makefile
  inflating: mymodel/mymodel.c
  inflating: mymodel/mymodel.h
  inflating: mymodel/recipe.json

5. Build the source package (using GNU Make or NMake).

john.doe@target-machine:/home/john.doe/$ cd mymodel
john.doe@target-machine:/home/john.doe/mymodel/$ make
gcc -c -O3 -o mymodel.o mymodel.c -fPIC -std=c99 -flto -fopenmp
gcc -shared -O3 -o mymodel.o -std=c99 -flto -fopenmp
john.doe@target-machine:/home/john.doe/mymodel/$ ls
Makefile       mymodel.c
mymodel.h      mymodel.o      recipe.json


Parallel compilation with GNU Make

If you used parallel_comp option to split the model into multiple source files, you can take advantage of parallel compilation. Simply replace make with make -jN, where N is replaced with the number of workers to launch. Setting N too high may result into memory shortage.


Using other compilers

If you are using a compiler other than gcc, clang, or Microsoft Visual C++, you will need to compose your own Makefile. Open the Makefile and make necessary changes.

Prediction instructions

The prediction library provides the function predict with the following signature:

float predict(union Entry* data, int pred_margin);

Here, the argument data must be an array of length M, where M is the number of features used in the tree ensemble. The data array stores all the feature values of a single row. To indicate presence or absence of a feature value, we use the union type Entry, which defined as

union Entry {
  int missing;
  float fvalue;

For missing values, we set the missing field to -1. For non-missing ones, we set the fvalue field to the feature value. The total number of features is given by the function

size_t get_num_feature(void);

Let’s look at an example. We’d start by initializing the array inst, a dense aray to hold feature values of a single data row:

/* number of features */
const size_t num_feature = get_num_feature();
/* inst: dense vector storing feature values */
union Entry* inst = malloc(sizeof(union Entry) * num_feature);
/* clear inst with all missing values */
for (i = 0; i < num_feature; ++i) {
  inst[i].missing = -1;

Before calling the function predict, the array inst needs to be initialized with missing and present feature values. The following peudocode illustrates the idea:

For each data row rid:
  inst[i].missing == -1 for every i, assuming all features lack values

  For each feature i for which the data row in fact has a feature value:
    Set inst[i].fvalue = [feature value], to indicate presence

  Call predict(inst, 0) and get prediction for the data row rid

  For each feature i for which the row has a feature value:
    Set inst[i].missing = -1, to prepare for next row (rid + 1)

The task is not too difficult as long as the input data is given as a particular form of sparse matrix: the Compressed Sparse Row format. The sparse matrix consists of three arrays:

  • val stores nonzero entries in row-major order.

  • col_ind stores column indices of the entries in val. The expression col_ind[i] indicates the column index of the i th entry val[i].

  • row_ptr stores the locations in val that start and end data rows. The i th data row is given by the array slice val[row_ptr[i]:row_ptr[i+1]].

/* nrow : number of data rows */
for (rid = 0; rid < nrow; ++rid) {
  ibegin = row_ptr[rid];
  iend = row_ptr[rid + 1];
  /* Fill nonzeros */
  for (i = ibegin; i < iend; ++i) {
    inst[col_ind[i]].fvalue = val[i];
  out_pred[rid] = predict(inst, 0);
  /* Drop nonzeros */
  for (i = ibegin; i < iend; ++i) {
    inst[col_ind[i]].missing = -1;

It only remains to create three arrays val, col_ind, and row_ptr. You may want to use a third-pary library here to read from a SVMLight format. For now, we’ll punt the issue of loading the input data and write it out as constants in the program:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include "mymodel.h"

int main(void) {
  /* 5x13 "sparse" matrix, in CSR format
     [[ 0.  ,  0.  ,  0.68,  0.99,  0.  ,  0.11,  0.  ,  0.82,  0.  ,
        0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ],
      [ 0.  ,  0.  ,  0.99,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,
        0.61,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ],
      [ 0.02,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,
        0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ],
      [ 0.  ,  0.  ,  0.36,  0.  ,  0.82,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.57,  0.  ,
        0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.75],
      [ 0.47,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,  0.  ,
        0.  ,  0.  ,  0.45,  0.  ]]
  const float val[] = {0.68, 0.99, 0.11, 0.82, 0.99, 0.61, 0.02, 0.36, 0.82,
                       0.57, 0.75, 0.47, 0.45};
  const size_t col_ind[] = {2, 3, 5, 7, 2, 9, 0, 2, 4, 7, 12, 0, 11};
  const size_t row_ptr[] = {0, 4, 6, 7, 11, 13};
  const size_t nrow = 5;
  const size_t ncol = 13;

  /* number of features */
  const size_t num_feature = get_num_feature();
  /* inst: dense vector storing feature values */
  union Entry* inst = malloc(sizeof(union Entry) * num_feature);
  float* out_pred = malloc(sizeof(float) * nrow);
  size_t rid, ibegin, iend, i;

  /* clear inst with all missing */
  for (i = 0; i < num_feature; ++i) {
    inst[i].missing = -1;

  for (rid = 0; rid < nrow; ++rid) {
    ibegin = row_ptr[rid];
    iend = row_ptr[rid + 1];
    /* Fill nonzeros */
    for (i = ibegin; i < iend; ++i) {
      inst[col_ind[i]].fvalue = val[i];
    out_pred[rid] = predict(inst, 0);
    /* Drop nonzeros */
    for (i = ibegin; i < iend; ++i) {
      inst[col_ind[i]].missing = -1;
    printf("pred[%zu] = %f\n", rid, out_pred[rid]);
  return 0;

Save the program as a .c file and put it in the same directory mymodel/. To link the program against the prediction library, simply run

gcc -o myprog myprog.c -I. -std=c99

As long as the program myprog is in the same directory of the prediction library, we’ll be good to go.

A sample output:

pred[0] = 44.880001
pred[1] = 44.880001
pred[2] = 44.880001
pred[3] = 42.670002
pred[4] = 44.880001