LLMOps involves managing the entire lifecycle of Large Language Models (LLMs), including data and prompt management, model fine-tuning and evaluation, pipeline orchestration, and LLM deployment.

While there are many similarities with MLOps, LLMOps is unique because it requires specialized handling of natural-language data, prompt-response management, and complex ethical considerations.

Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) enables LLMs to extract and synthesize information like an advanced search engine. However, transforming raw LLMs into production-ready applications presents complex challenges.

LLMOps encompasses best practices and a diverse tooling landscape. Tools range from data platforms to vector databases, embedding providers, fine-tuning platforms, prompt engineering, evaluation tools, orchestration frameworks, observability platforms, and LLM API gateways.

Large Language Models (LLMs) like Meta AI’s LLaMA models, MISTRAL AI’s open models, and OpenAI’s GPT series have improved language-based AI. These models excel at various tasks, such as translating languages with remarkable accuracy, generating creative writing, and even coding software.

A particularly notable application is Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG). RAG enables LLMs to pull relevant information from vast databases to answer questions or provide context, acting as a supercharged search engine that finds, understands, and integrates information.

This article serves as your comprehensive guide to LLMOps. You will learn:

What is Large Language Model Operations (LLMOps)?

LLMOps (Large Language Model Operations) focuses on operationalizing the entire lifecycle of large language models (LLMs), from data and prompt management to model training, fine-tuning, evaluation, deployment, monitoring, and maintenance.

LLMOps is key to turning LLMs into scalable, production-ready AI tools. It addresses the unique challenges teams face deploying Large Language Models, simplifies their delivery to end-users, and improves scalability.

LLMOps involves:

  1. Infrastructure management: Streamlining the technical backbone for LLM deployment to support robust and efficient model operations.
  2. Prompt-response management: Refining LLM-backed applications through continuous prompt-response optimization and quality control.
  3. Data and workflow orchestration: Ensuring efficient data pipeline management and scalable workflows for LLM performance.
  4. Model reliability and ethics: Regular performance monitoring and ethical oversight are needed to maintain standards and address biases.
  5. Security and compliance: Protecting against adversarial attacks and ensuring regulatory adherence in LLM applications.
  6. Adapting to technological evolution: Incorporating the latest LLM advancements for cutting-edge, customized applications.

Machine Learning Operations (MLOps) vs Large Language Model Operations (LLMOps)

LLMOps fall under MLOps (Machine Learning Operations). You can think of it as a sub-discipline focusing on Large Language Models. Many  MLOps best practices apply to LLMOps, like managing infrastructure, handling data processing pipelines, and maintaining models in production.

The main difference is that operationalizing LLMs involves additional, special tasks like prompt engineering, LLM chaining, and monitoring context relevance, toxicity, and hallucinations.

The following table provides a more detailed comparison:




Developing and deploying machine-learning models.

Specifically focused on LLMs.

If employed, it typically focuses on transfer learning and retraining.

Centers on fine-tuning pre-trained models like GPT-3.5 with efficient methods and enhancing model performance through prompt engineering and retrieval augmented generation (RAG).

Evaluation relies on well-defined performance metrics.

Evaluating text quality and response accuracy often requires human feedback due to the complexity of language understanding  (e.g., using techniques like RLHF.)

Teams typically manage their models, including versioning and metadata.

Models are often externally hosted and accessed via APIs.

Deploy models through pipelines, typically involving feature stores and containerization.

Models are part of chains and agents, supported by specialized tools like vector databases.

Monitor model performance for data drift and model degradation, often using automated monitoring tools.

Expands traditional monitoring to include prompt-response efficacy, context relevance, hallucination detection, and security against prompt injection threats.

The three levels of LLMOps: How teams are implementing LLMOps

Adopting LLMs by teams across various sectors often begins with the simplest approach and advances towards more complex and customized implementations as needs evolve. This path reflects increasing levels of commitment, expertise, and resources dedicated to leveraging LLMs.

Three levels of LLMOps: Operating LLM APIs, fine-tuning and serving pre-trained LLMs, and training and serving them from scratch
Three levels of LLMOps: Operating LLM APIs, fine-tuning and serving pre-trained LLMs, and training and serving them from scratch. | Source: Author

Using off-the-shelf Large Language Model APIs

Teams often start with off-the-shelf LLM APIs, such as OpenAI’s GPT-3.5, for rapid solution validation or to quickly add an LLM-powered feature to an application.

This approach is a practical entry point for smaller teams or projects under tight resource constraints. While it presents a straightforward path to integrating advanced LLM capabilities, this stage has limitations, including less flexibility in customization, reliance on external service providers, and potential cost increases with scaling.

Fine-tuning and serving pre-trained Large Language Models

As needs become more specific and off-the-shelf APIs prove insufficient, teams progress to fine-tuning pre-trained models like Llama-2-70B or Mistral 8x7B. This middle ground balances customization and resource management, so teams can adapt these models to niche use cases or proprietary data sets.

The process is more resource-intensive than using APIs directly. However, it provides a tailored experience that leverages the inherent strengths of pre-trained models without the exorbitant cost of training from scratch. This stage introduces challenges such as the need for quality domain-specific data, the risk of overfitting, and navigating potential licensing issues.

Training and serving LLMs

For larger organizations or dedicated research teams, the journey may involve training LLMs from scratch—a path taken when existing models fail to meet an application’s unique demands or when pushing the envelope of innovation.

This approach allows for customizing the model’s training process. However, it entails substantial investments in computational resources and expertise. Training LLMs from scratch is a complex and time-consuming process, and there is no guarantee that the resulting model will exceed pre-existing models.

Understanding the LLMOps components and their role in the LLM lifecycle

Machine learning and application teams are increasingly adopting approaches that integrate LLM APIs with their existing technology stacks, fine-tune pre-trained models, or, in rarer cases, train models from scratch.

Key components, tools, and practices of LLMOps include:

  • Prompt engineering: Manage and experiment with prompt-response pairs.
  • Embedding creation and management: Managing embeddings with vector databases.
  • LLM chains and agents: Crucial in LLMOps for using the full spectrum of capabilities different LLMs offer.
  • LLM evaluations: Use intrinsic and extrinsic metrics to evaluate LLM performance holistically.
  • LLM serving and observability: Deploy LLMs for inference and manage production resource usage. Continuously track model performance and integrate human insights for improvements.
  • LLM API gateways: Consuming, orchestrating, scaling, monitoring, and managing APIs from a single ingress point to integrate them into production applications.
Large Language Model Operations Components
Five Components of LLMOps | Source: Author

Prompt engineering

Prompt engineering involves crafting queries (prompts) that guide LLMs to generate specific, desired responses. The quality and structure of prompts significantly influence LLMs’ output. In applications like customer support chatbots, content generation, and complex task performance, prompt engineering techniques ensure LLMs understand the specific task at hand and respond accurately.

Prompts drive LLM interactions, and a well-designed prompt differentiates between a response that hits the mark and one that misses it. It’s not just about what you ask but how you ask it. Effective prompt engineering can dramatically improve the usability and value of LLM-powered applications.

The main challenges of prompt engineering

  • Crafting effective prompts: Finding the proper wording that consistently triggers the desired response from an LLM is more art than science.
  • Contextual relevance: Ensuring prompts provide enough context for the LLM to generate appropriate and accurate responses.
  • Scalability: Managing and refining an ever-growing library of prompts for different tasks, models, and applications.
  • Evaluation: Measuring the effectiveness of prompts and their impact on the LLM’s responses.

Prompt engineering best practices

  1. Iterative testing and refinement: Continuously experiment with and refine prompts. Start with a basic prompt and evolve it based on the LLM’s responses, using techniques like A/B testing to find the most effective structures and phrasing.
  1. Incorporate context: Always include sufficient context within prompts to guide the LLM’s understanding and response generation. This is crucial for complex or nuanced tasks (consider techniques like few-shot and chain-of-thought prompting).
  2. Monitor prompt performance: Track how different prompts influence outcomes. Use key metrics like response accuracy, relevance, and timeliness to evaluate prompt effectiveness.
  3. Feedback loops: Use automated and human feedback to improve prompt design continuously. Analyze performance metrics and gather insights from users or experts to refine prompts.
  4. Automate prompt selection: Implement systems that automatically choose the best prompt for a given task using historical data on prompt performance and the specifics of the current request.

Example: Prompt engineering for a chatbot

Let’s imagine we’re developing a chatbot for customer service. An initial prompt might be straightforward:  “Customer inquiry: late delivery.”

But with context, we expect a much more fitting response. A prompt that provides the LLM with background information might look as follows:

‘The customer has bought from our store $N times in the past six months and ordered the same product $M times. The latest shipment of this product is delayed by $T days. The customer is inquiring: $QUESTION.’”

In this prompt template, various information from the CRM system is injected:

  • $N represents the total number of purchases the customer has made in the past six months.
  • $M indicates how many times the customer has ordered this specific product.
  • $T details the delay in days for the most recent shipment.
  • $QUESTION is the specific query or concern raised by the customer regarding the delay.

With this detailed context provided to the chatbot, it can craft responses acknowledging the customer’s frequent patronage and specific issues with the delayed product.

Through an iterative process grounded in prompt engineering best practices, we can improve this prompt to ensure that the chatbot effectively understands and addresses customer concerns with nuance.

Embedding creation and management

Creating and managing embeddings is a key process in LLMOps. It involves transforming textual data into numerical form, known as embeddings, representing the semantic meaning of words, sentences, or documents in a high-dimensional vector space. 

Embeddings are essential for LLMs to understand natural language, enabling them to perform tasks like text classification, question answering, and more.

Vector databases and Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG) are pivotal components in this context:

  • Vector databases: Specialized databases designed to store and manage embeddings efficiently. They support high-speed similarity search, which is fundamental for tasks that require finding the most relevant information in a large dataset.
  • Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG): RAG combines the power of retrieval from vector databases with the generative capabilities of LLMs. Relevant information from a corpus is used as context to generate responses or perform specific tasks.

The main challenges of embedding creation and management

  • Quality of Embeddings: Ensuring the embeddings accurately represent the semantic meanings of text is challenging but crucial for the effectiveness of retrieval and generation tasks.
  • Efficiency of Vector Databases: Balancing retrieval speed with accuracy in large, dynamic datasets requires optimized indexing strategies and infrastructure.

Embedding Creation and Management Best Practices

  • Regular Updating: Continuously updating the embeddings and the corpus in the vector database to reflect the latest information and language usage.
  • Optimization: Use database optimizations like approximate nearest neighbor (ANN) search algorithms to balance speed and accuracy in retrieval tasks.
  • Integration with LLMs: Integrate vector databases and RAG techniques with LLMs to leverage the strengths of both retrieval and generative processes.

Example: An LLM that queries a vector database for customer service interactions

Consider a company that uses an LLM to provide customer support through a chatbot. The chatbot is trained on a vast corpus of customer service interactions. When a customer asks a question, the LLM converts this query into a vector and queries the vector database to find similar past queries and their responses.

The database efficiently retrieves the most relevant interactions, allowing the chatbot to provide accurate and contextually appropriate responses. This setup improves customer satisfaction and enhances the chatbot’s learning and adaptability.

LLM chains and agents

LLM chains and agents orchestrate multiple LLMs or their APIs to solve complex tasks that a single LLM might not handle efficiently. Chains refer to sequential processing steps where the output of one LLM serves as the input to another. Agents are autonomous systems that use one or more LLMs to execute and manage tasks within an application.

Chains and agents allow developers to create sophisticated applications that can understand context, generate more accurate responses, and handle complex tasks.

The main challenges of LLM chains and agents

  • Integration complexity: Combining multiple LLMs or APIs can be technically challenging and requires careful data flow management.
  • Performance and consistency: Ensuring the integrated system maintains high performance and generates consistent outputs.
  • Error propagation: In chains, errors from one model can cascade, impacting the overall system’s effectiveness.

LLM chains and agents best practices

  1. Modular design: Adopt a modular approach where each component can be updated, replaced, or debugged independently. This improves the system’s flexibility and maintainability.
  2. API gateways: Use API gateways to manage interactions between your application and the LLMs. This simplifies integration and provides a single point for monitoring and security.
  3. Error handling: Implement robust error detection and handling mechanisms to minimize the impact of errors in one part of the system on the overall application’s performance.
  4. Performance monitoring: Continuously monitor the performance of each component and the system as a whole. Use metrics specific to each LLM’s role within the application to ensure optimal operation.
  5. Unified data format: Standardize the data format across all LLMs in the chain to reduce transformation overhead and simplify data flow.

Example: A chain of LLMs handling customer service requests

Imagine a customer service chatbot that handles various inquiries, from technical support to general information. The chatbot uses an LLM chain, where:

  • The first LLM interprets the user’s query and determines the type of request.
  • Based on the request type, a specialized LLM generates a detailed response or retrieves relevant information from a knowledge base.
  • A third LLM refines the response for clarity and tone, ensuring it matches the company’s brand voice.

This chain leverages the strengths of individual LLMs to provide a comprehensive and user-friendly customer service experience that a single model could not achieve alone.

LLM evaluation and testing

LLM evaluation techniques assess a model’s performance across various dimensions, including accuracy, coherence, bias, and reliability. This process employs intrinsic metrics, like word prediction accuracy and perplexity, and extrinsic methods, such as human-in-the-loop testing and user satisfaction surveys. It’s a comprehensive approach to understanding how well an LLM interprets and responds to prompts in diverse scenarios.

In LLMOps, evaluating LLMs is crucial for ensuring models deliver valuable, coherent, and unbiased outputs. Since LLMs are applied to a wide range of tasks—from customer service to content creation—their evaluation must reflect the complexities of the applications.

The main challenges of LLM evaluation and testing

  • Comprehensive metrics: Assessing an LLM’s nuanced understanding and capability to handle diverse tasks is challenging. Traditional machine-learning metrics like accuracy or precision are usually not applicable.
  • Bias and fairness: Identifying and mitigating biases within LLM outputs to ensure fairness across all user interactions is a significant hurdle.
  • Evaluation scenario relevance: Ensuring evaluation scenarios accurately represent the application context and capture typical interaction patterns.
  • Integrating feedback: Efficiently incorporating human feedback into the model improvement process requires careful orchestration.

LLM evaluation and testing best practices

  1. Task-specific metrics: For objective performance evaluation, use task-relevant metrics (e.g., BLEU for translation, ROUGE for text similarity).
  2. Bias and fairness evaluations: Use fairness evaluation tools like LangKit and TruLens to detect and address biases. This helps recognize and rectify skewed responses.
  3. Real-world testing: Create testing scenarios that mimic actual user interactions to evaluate the model’s performance in realistic conditions.
  4. Benchmarking: Use benchmarks like Original MMLU or Hugging Face’s Open LLM leaderboard to gauge how your LLM compares to established standards.
  5. Reference-free evaluation: Use another, stronger LLM to evaluate your LLM’s outputs. With frameworks like G-Eval, this technique can bypass the need for direct human judgment or gold-standard references. G-Eval applies LLMs with Chain-of-Thought (CoT) and a form-filling paradigm to evaluate LLM outputs.

Example Scenario: Evaluating a customer service chatbot with intrinsic and extrinsic metrics

Imagine deploying an LLM to handle customer service inquiries. The evaluation process would involve:

  • Designing test cases that cover scripted queries, historical interactions, and hypothetical new scenarios.
  • Employing a mix of metrics to assess response accuracy, relevance, response time, and coherence.
  • Gathering feedback from human evaluators to judge the quality of responses.
  • Identifying biases or inaccuracies to fine-tune the model and for subsequent reevaluation.

LLM deployment: Serving, monitoring, and observability

LLM deployment encompasses the processes and technologies that bring LLMs into production environments. This includes orchestrating model updates, choosing between online and batch inference modes for serving predictions, and establishing the infrastructure to support these operations efficiently. Proper deployment and production management ensure that LLMs can operate seamlessly to provide timely and relevant outputs.

Monitoring and observability are about tracking LLMs’ performance, health, and operational metrics in production to ensure they perform optimally and reliably. The deployment strategy affects response times, resource efficiency, scalability, and overall system performance, directly impacting the user experience and operational costs.

The main challenges of LLM deployment, monitoring, and observability

  • Efficient inference: Balancing the computational demands of LLMs with the need for timely and resource-efficient response generation.
  • Model updates and management: Ensuring smooth updates and management of models in production with minimal downtime.
  • Performance monitoring: Tracking an LLM’s performance over time, especially in detecting and addressing issues like model drift or hallucinations.
  • User feedback integration: Incorporating user feedback into the model improvement cycle.

LLM Deployment and Observability Best Practices

  • CI/CD for LLMs: Use continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipelines to automate model updates and deployments.
  • Optimize inference strategies:
  • Production validation: Regularly test the LLM with synthetic or real examples to ensure its performance remains consistent with expectations.
  • Vector databases: Integrate vector databases for content retrieval applications to effectively manage scalability and real-time response needs.
  • Observability tools: Use platforms that offer comprehensive observability into LLM performance, including functional logs (prompt-completion pairs) and operational metrics (system health, usage statistics).
  • Human-in-the-Loop (HITL) feedback: Incorporate direct user feedback into the deployment cycle to continually refine and improve LLM outputs.

Example Scenario: Deploying customer service chatbot

Imagine that you are in charge of implementing a LLM-powered chatbot for customer support. The deployment process would involve:

  1. CI/CD Pipeline: Use GitLab CI/CD (or GitHub Action workflow) to automate the deployment process. As you improve your chatbot, these tools can handle automatic testing and rolling updates so your LLM is always running the latest code without downtime.
  2. Online Inference with Kubernetes using OpenLLM: To handle real-time interactions, deploy your LLM in a Kubernetes cluster with BentoML’s OpenLLM, using it to manage containerized applications for high availability. Combine this with the serverless BentoCloud or an auto-scaling group on a cloud platform like AWS to ensure your resources match the demand.
  3. Vector Database with Milvus: Integrate Milvus, a purpose-built vector database, to manage and retrieve information quickly. This is where your LLM will pull contextual data to inform its responses and ensure each interaction is as relevant and personalized as possible.
  4. Monitoring with LangKit and WhyLabs: Implement LangKit to collect operational metrics and visualize the telemetry in WhyLabs. Together, they provide a real-time overview of your system’s health and performance, allowing you to react promptly to any LLM functional (drift, toxicity, data leakage, etc) or operational issues (system downtime, latency, etc).
  5. Human-in-the-Loop (HITL) with Label Studio: Establish a HITL process using Label Studio, an annotation tool, for real-time feedback. This allows human supervisors to oversee the bot’s responses, intervene when necessary, and continually annotate data that will be used to improve the model through active learning.

Large Language Model API gateways

LLM APIs let you integrate pre-trained large language models in your applications to perform tasks like translation, question-answering, and content generation while delegating the deployment and operation to a third-party platform.

An LLM API gateway is vital for efficiently managing access to multiple LLM APIs. It addresses operational challenges such as authentication, load distribution, API call transformations, and systematic prompt handling.

The main challenges addressed by LLM AI gateways

  • API integration complexity: Managing connections and interactions with multiple LLM APIs can be technically challenging due to varying API specifications and requirements.
  • Cost control: Monitoring and controlling the costs associated with high-volume API calls to LLM services.
  • Performance monitoring: Ensuring optimal performance, including managing latency and effectively handling request failures or timeouts.
  • Security: Safeguarding sensitive API keys and data transmitted between your application and LLM API services.

LLM AI gateways best practices

  1. API selection: Choose LLM APIs that best match your application’s needs, using benchmarks to guide your choice for specific tasks.
  2. Performance monitoring: Continuously monitor API performance metrics, adjusting usage patterns to maintain optimal operation.
  3. Request caching: Implement caching strategies to avoid redundant requests, thus reducing costs.
  4. LLM trace logging: Implement logging for API interactions to make debugging easier with insights into API behavior and potential issues.
  5. Version management: Use API versioning to manage different application lifecycle stages, from development to production.

Example Scenario: Using an LLM API gateway for a multilingual customer support chatbot

Imagine developing a multilingual customer support chatbot that leverages various LLM APIs for real-time translation and content generation. The chatbot must handle thousands of user inquiries daily, requiring quick and accurate responses in multiple languages.

  • The role of the API gateway: The LLM API Gateway manages all interactions with the LLM APIs, efficiently distributing requests and load-balancing them among available APIs to maintain fast response times.
  • Operational benefits: The gateway improves security by centralizing API key management. It also implements caching for repeated queries to optimize costs and uses performance monitoring to adjust as APIs update or improve.
  • Cost and performance optimization: Through its cost management features, the gateway provides a breakdown of expenses to identify areas for optimization, such as adjusting prompt strategies or caching more aggressively.

Bringing it all together: An LLMOps use case

In this section, you will learn how to introduce LLMOps best practices and components to your projects using the example of a RAG system providing information about health and wellness topics.

RAG system architecture
Caption: RAG system architecture. The application works by segmenting source data into chunks, converting these chunks into vector representations through an LLM, and then storing them in a vector database. When a user query is received, the system retrieves the most contextually relevant data from the vector database, leverages a component like LangChain’s RetrievalQA to formulate a response based on this information, and then delivers this response back to the user via an API. | Source: Author

Define the problem

The first step clearly articulates the challenge the RAG app aims to address. In our case, the app aims to help users understand complex health conditions, provide suggestions for healthy living, and offer insights into treatments and remedies.

Develop the text preprocessing pipeline

  • Data ingestion: Use Unstructured.io to ingest data from health forums, medical journals, and wellness blogs. Next, preprocess this data by cleaning, normalizing text, and splitting it into manageable chunks.
  • Text-to-embedding conversion: Convert the processed textual data into embeddings using Cohere, which provides rich semantic understanding for various health-related topics.
  • Use a vector database: Store these embeddings in Qdrant, which is well-suited for similarity search and retrieval in high-dimensional spaces.

Implement the inference component

  • API Gateway: Implement an API Gateway using Portkey’s AI Gateway. This gateway will parse user queries and convert them into prompts for the LLM.
  • Vector database for context retrieval: Use Qdrant’s vector search feature to retrieve the top-k relevant contexts based on the query embeddings.
  • Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG): Create a retrieval Q&A system to feed the user’s query and the retrieved context into the LLM. To generate the response, you can use a pre-trained HuggingFace model (e.g., meta-llama/Llama-2-7b, google/gemma-7b) or one from OpenAI (e.g., gpt-3.5-turbo or gpt-4) that is fine-tuned for health and wellness topics.

Test and refine the application

  • Learn from users: Implement user feedback mechanisms to collect insights on app performance.
  • Monitor the application: Use TrueLens to monitor responses and employ test-time filtering to dynamically improve the database, language model, and retrieval system.
  • Enhance and update: Regularly update the app based on the latest health and wellness information and user feedback to ensure it remains a valuable resource.

The present and the future of LLMOps

The LLMOps landscape continuously evolves with diverse solutions for deploying and managing LLMs.

In this article, we’ve looked at key components, practices, and tools like:

  • Embeddings and vector databases: Central repositories that store and manage vast embeddings required for training and querying LLMs, optimized for quick retrieval and efficient scaling.
  • LLM prompts: Designing and crafting effective prompts that guide the LLM to generate the desired output is critical to effectively leveraging language models.
  • LLM chains and agents: Crucial in LLMOps for using the full spectrum of capabilities different LLMs offer.
  • LLM evaluations (evals) and testing: Systematic evaluation methods (intrinsic and extrinsic metrics) to measure the LLM’s performance, accuracy, and reliability, ensuring it meets the required standards before and after deployment.
  • LLM serving and observability: The infrastructure and processes making the trained LLM available often involve deployment to cloud or edge computing environments. Tools and practices for monitoring LLM performance in real time include tracking errors, biases, and drifts and using human—or AI-generated—feedback to refine and improve the model continually.
  • LLM API gateways: Interfaces that allow users and applications to interact with LLMs easily, often providing additional layers of control, security, and scalability.

In the future, the landscape will focus more on:

  • Explainability and interpretability: As LLMOps technology improves, so will explainability features that help you understand how LLMs arrive at their outputs. These capabilities will give users and developers insights into the model’s operations, irrespective of the application.
  • Advancement in monitoring and observability: While current monitoring solutions provide insights into model performance and health, there’s a growing need for more nuanced, real-time observability tools tailored to LLMs.
  • Advancements in fine-tuning in a low-resource environment: Innovative strategies are emerging to address the high resource demand of LLMs. Techniques like model pruning, quantization, and knowledge distillation lead the way, allowing models to retain performance while reducing computational needs.
    • Additionally, research into more efficient transformer architectures and on-device training methods holds promise for making LLM training and deployment more accessible in low-resource environments.

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