DataFlow is a library to easily build Python iterators for efficient data loading.

A DataFlow has a get_data() generator method, which yields datapoints. A datapoint must be a list of Python objects which I called the components of a datapoint.

For example, to train on MNIST dataset, you can build a DataFlow with a get_data() method that yields datapoints of two elements (components): a numpy array of shape (64, 28, 28), and an array of shape (64,).

Composition of DataFlow

One good thing about having a standard interface is to be able to provide the greatest code reusability. There are a lot of existing modules in tensorpack, which you can use to compose complex DataFlow with a long pre-processing pipeline. A whole pipeline usually would read from disk (or other sources), apply augmentations, group into batches, prefetch data, etc. A simple example is as the following:

# a DataFlow you implement to produce [tensor1, tensor2, ..] lists from whatever sources:
df = MyDataFlow(shuffle=True)
# resize the image component of each datapoint
df = AugmentImageComponent(df, [imgaug.Resize((225, 225))])
# group data into batches of size 128
df = BatchData(df, 128)
# start 3 processes to run the dataflow in parallel, and communicate with ZeroMQ
df = PrefetchDataZMQ(df, 3)

A more complicated example is the ResNet training script with all the data preprocessing.

All these modules are written in Python, so you can easily implement whatever operations/transformations you need, without worrying about adding operators to TensorFlow.

Unless you are working with standard data types (image folders, LMDB, etc), you would usually want to write your own DataFlow. See another tutorial for details on handling your own data format.

Use DataFlow outside Tensorpack

DataFlow is independent of both tensorpack and TensorFlow. You can simply use it as a data processing pipeline and plug it into any other frameworks.

To use a DataFlow independently, you will need to call reset_state() first to initialize it, and then use the generator however you want:

df = SomeDataFlow()

generator = df.get_data()
for dp in generator:
    # dp is now a list. do whatever