This Post Was Originally Published on Real Python on May 7th, 2018 by Renato Candido.
Python has a design philosophy that stresses allowing programmers to express concepts readably and in fewer lines of code. This philosophy makes the language suitable for a diverse set of use cases: simple scripts for web, large web applications (like YouTube), scripting language for other platforms (like Blender and Autodesk’s Maya), and scientific applications in several areas, such as astronomy, meteorology, physics, and data science.
It is technically possible to implement scalar and matrix calculations using Python lists. However, this can be unwieldy, and performance is poor when compared to languages suited for numerical computation, such as MATLAB or Fortran, or even some general purpose languages, such as C or C++.
To circumvent this deficiency, several libraries have emerged that maintain Python’s ease of use while lending the ability to perform numerical calculations in an efficient manner. Two such libraries worth mentioning are NumPy (one of the pioneer libraries to bring efficient numerical computation to Python) and TensorFlow (a more recently rolled-out library focused more on deep learning algorithms).
- NumPy provides support for large multidimensional arrays and matrices along with a collection of mathematical functions to operate on these elements. The project relies on well-known packages implemented in other languages (like Fortran) to perform efficient computations, bringing the user both the expressiveness of Python and a performance similar to MATLAB or Fortran.
- TensorFlow is an open-source library for numerical computation originally developed by researchers and engineers working at the Google Brain team. The main focus of the library is to provide an easy-to-use API to implement practical machine learning algorithms and deploy them to run on CPUs, GPUs, or a cluster.
But how do these schemes compare? How much faster does the application run when implemented with NumPy instead of pure Python? What about TensorFlow? The purpose of this article is to begin to explore the improvements you can achieve by using these libraries.
To compare the performance of the three approaches, you’ll build a basic regression with native Python, NumPy, and TensorFlow.