Case Study: Meituan’s Journey in Elevating AI Performance and Scalability

Background

Meituan, China’s leading e-commerce platform for lifestyle services, has emerged as a key player in harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance its service offerings. With an ever-growing user base, evolving business needs, and the increasing complexity of AI models, Meituan faces significant challenges in terms of system performance. As the digital landscape becomes more competitive, companies like Meituan have realized the imperative need for AI to drive business innovation and ensure accurate and tailored internet services.

Key Takeaways

  • Meituan has harnessed AI across operations, from site selection and delivery services to marketing.
  • The growth in data and sophistication of Meituan’s AI models necessitated a comprehensive re-architecture of its infrastructure.
  • Meituan chose to partner with Intel, leveraging the power of Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, to optimize its TensorFlow applications.
  • Notable results include a tenfold boost in distributed scalability in recommendation system scenarios and significant performance improvements in TensorFlow model training.
  • Challenges faced included performance bottlenecks with TensorFlow in large-scale applications and the rising total cost of ownership.

Deep Dive: Meituan’s Journey in Elevating AI Performance and Scalability

Approach

Realizing the integral role of AI in the modern internet market, Meituan built a robust AI team dedicated to infusing its operations with AI-driven solutions. From site selection to marketing, the company leveraged AI for better decision-making and customer experience. The primary tool of choice was TensorFlow, Google’s open-source deep learning framework. Known for its versatility and scalability, TensorFlow was employed for model training and distributed computing.

Implementation

To address the burgeoning challenges, Meituan opted for re-architecting its infrastructure and optimizing its software. Partnering with Intel, Meituan integrated Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors into its TensorFlow system. These processors, known for their AI acceleration capabilities, became a crucial part of Meituan’s server clusters. Meituan underwent multiple stages of optimization, from boosting throughput for unit computing power to enhancing distributed computing. Techniques included employing Intel’s Advanced Vector Extensions and parallelization technology, optimizing load balancing, and enhancing communication mechanisms.

Results

Through the combined optimizations, Meituan witnessed substantial improvements in system performance. They achieved near-linear acceleration for models with hundreds of billions of parameters, enabling a full year of sample data training in just one day. The TensorFlow-based Recommendation System also became more cost-effective and efficient. Furthermore, the optimizations made the system more user-friendly, leading to its adoption across multiple Meituan businesses, such as food delivery, ad platform, and community group buying.

Challenges and Barriers

Meituan’s rapid growth came with its own set of challenges. With the increasing scale and complexity of AI models, performance bottlenecks in TensorFlow became evident. Large-scale applications revealed issues with the official version of TensorFlow, such as memory resource wastage and scalability concerns. The rising total cost of ownership (TCO) also posed a significant challenge. Balancing the need for better performance with TCO considerations was a complex problem that Meituan had to address.

Future Outlook

Intel’s commitment to advancing AI technology, in tandem with partners like Meituan, paints a promising picture for the future. With a focus on delivering more accurate, personalized services to end-users, Intel aims to drive the AI industry’s development further, making the technology more accessible and cost-effective. As for Meituan, its mission remains steadfast: to help people lead better lives. With continuous investments in R&D and a commitment to digital transformation, Meituan is poised for even greater successes in the AI-driven digital age.

Sources:
Meituan Optimizes TensorFlow


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