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InfoQ Homepage News PyTorch Becomes Linux Foundation Top-Level Project

PyTorch Becomes Linux Foundation Top-Level Project

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PyTorch, the popular deep-learning framework developed by Meta AI Research, has now become an independent top-level project of the Linux Foundation. The project will be managed by the newly-chartered PyTorch Foundation, with support from several large companies including Meta, AWS, NVIDIA, AMD, Google, and Microsoft.

PyTorch co-creator Soumith Chintala announced the move on the PyTorch blog. The move is intended to make sure business decisions about the framework are open and transparent, and take into account the needs of the many PyTorch stakeholders. The new Foundation also formalizes the technical governance of the project, defining a hierarchical maintainer organization and processes for making technical decisions. The project leaders chose the Linux Foundation as the parent organization because of its experience managing large open-source projects with a diverse community of stakeholders. According to Chintala:

PyTorch started with a small group of contributors which have grown and diversified over the years, all bringing in new ideas and innovations that would not have been possible without our community. We want to continue the open-source spirit – for the community and by the community. Thank you to our contributors, maintainers, users, supporters and new foundation members. We look forward to the next chapter of PyTorch with the PyTorch Foundation.

Chintala and his colleagues began developing PyTorch in 2016 and released version 1.0 in 2018. The framework quickly gained popularity, especially among the academic researchers; it's currently used by approximately 80% of researchers who contribute to major machine learning conferences. InfoQ covered the initial 1.0 release as well as many of the framework's major releases since.

The PyTorch Foundation is overseen by a governing board with members from Meta as well as from other large companies who have invested in and contributed to the project: computer chip manufacturer NVIDIA and AMD; and cloud providers Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. This board will "prioritize the continued growth of PyTorch’s vibrant community." Technical oversight will remain with the contributors and small group of core maintainers who "drive the overall project direction."

The community reaction to the move has largely been positive, but in a Hacker News discussion, one user pointed out the lack of academic representatives on the governing board:

As an academic myself who does research on PyTorch, I wonder if there should have been more academics involved in the guidance or governance of PyTorch, especially given how much the future of machine learning may depend on choices made by such frameworks. Maybe it is unfounded, but I fear that over-optimizing for large industry uses and forgetting what it is like to run a single network training on your desktop GPU might be detrimental to PyTorch and machine learning as a whole.

Other users wondered whether the move signaled a reduction in Meta's investment in PyTorch. Chintala addressed these concerns on Reddit, saying that "Meta is not divesting the project, if anything it's the opposite -- they're investing more and more into PyTorch." Yann LeCun, a Meta AI researcher and deep-learning progenitor, expressed a similar opinion on Twitter:

No. More resources from Meta, and way more resources from contributors other than Meta, now that PyTorch is a perennially open community project...It ensures that continued support is not subject to resource allocation decisions in one company. With this structure, there will be support as long as there are users who care sufficiently.

The PyTorch Foundation charter and technical governance documents can be found on the PyTorch site. PyTorch project source code is available on GitHub.

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