Deploying a Machine Learning Model as a REST API

Blue and green-themed illustration of deploying a machine learning model as a REST API, featuring REST API symbols, deployment diagrams, and machine learning icons.
  1. Use a Web Framework to Create a REST API
    1. Flask
    2. Django
  2. Save Your Trained Machine Learning Model as a File
  3. Load the Model into Your API Code
  4. Define API Endpoints for Model Functionalities
    1. Prediction Endpoint
    2. Training Endpoint
    3. Model Information Endpoint
  5. Handle Incoming Requests and Process Data
    1. Set Up Endpoints
    2. Preprocess Incoming Data
    3. Invoke the Model
    4. Return the Results
    5. Test and Monitor
  6. Implement Authentication and Access Control
    1. Choose Authentication Method
    2. Generate API Keys
    3. Role-Based Access Control
    4. Rate Limiting
    5. Secure Communication
  7. Test Your API
    1. Postman
    2. cURL
  8. Deploy Your API
    1. Deploying to AWS
    2. Deploying to Heroku
    3. Other Deployment Options
  9. Monitor and Scale Your API
    1. Set Up Monitoring
    2. Load Testing
    3. Scaling Your API
    4. Continuous Monitoring

Use a Web Framework to Create a REST API


Flask is a lightweight web framework in Python that is ideal for creating REST APIs. It provides the flexibility to develop simple or complex APIs without unnecessary overhead. Flask is easy to set up and is highly customizable, making it a popular choice for deploying machine learning models as APIs. The framework supports extensions that can add functionality as needed, such as handling requests, rendering templates, and managing databases.

Flask's minimalistic nature allows developers to build APIs quickly and efficiently. To start, you can create a basic Flask application and define routes that correspond to different API endpoints. This simplicity makes it easier to integrate machine learning models and process requests in real-time.


Django is a more comprehensive web framework compared to Flask. It is designed for larger applications and includes many built-in features such as an ORM (Object-Relational Mapper), authentication, and a powerful admin interface. While Django is more complex, it provides a robust structure and is highly scalable, which is beneficial for larger projects or when handling complex requirements.

Django's strengths lie in its scalability and extensive built-in functionalities. When deploying a machine learning model as a REST API using Django, you benefit from its security features, scalability, and robust framework. This makes Django a suitable choice for projects that might grow in complexity over time or require high security and performance.

Save Your Trained Machine Learning Model as a File

Once your machine learning model is trained, the next step is to save the model to a file. This allows you to load the model later for making predictions without retraining it each time. Popular libraries like scikit-learn, TensorFlow, and PyTorch provide functions to save models easily.

For instance, in scikit-learn, you can use joblib or pickle to save the model:

from sklearn.externals import joblib

# Assuming `model` is your trained model
joblib.dump(model, 'model.pkl')

In TensorFlow or Keras, saving a model involves:

# Assuming `model` is your trained Keras model'model.h5')

Saving your model ensures that it can be efficiently loaded into your API code for making predictions, thus streamlining the deployment process.

Load the Model into Your API Code

To load the saved model into your API code, you need to use the corresponding loading function from the library you used to save the model. This step is crucial as it initializes the model so it can process incoming data and generate predictions.

For scikit-learn models saved using joblib, you would load the model as follows:

from sklearn.externals import joblib

# Load the model from the file
model = joblib.load('model.pkl')

For TensorFlow or Keras models:

from keras.models import load_model

# Load the model from the file
model = load_model('model.h5')

Loading the model in your API code ensures it is ready to handle incoming requests and perform predictions based on the data provided.

Define API Endpoints for Model Functionalities

Prediction Endpoint

The prediction endpoint is crucial as it handles requests to make predictions using the trained model. This endpoint will receive data, preprocess it if necessary, pass it to the model, and return the predicted results.

Training Endpoint

The training endpoint can be useful for APIs that need to retrain models periodically with new data. This endpoint will handle requests to initiate model training or retraining, ensuring the model remains up-to-date.

Model Information Endpoint

The model information endpoint provides metadata about the model, such as its version, training accuracy, and last update time. This endpoint is helpful for monitoring and managing the model's lifecycle.

Handle Incoming Requests and Process Data

Set Up Endpoints

Setting up the necessary endpoints involves defining routes in your web framework (Flask or Django) that correspond to the functionalities like prediction, training, and model information. Each route will handle specific types of requests (e.g., GET, POST).

Preprocess Incoming Data

Preprocessing the incoming data is essential to ensure it matches the format expected by the model. This step might involve scaling, normalization, or encoding of features.

Invoke the Model

Invoking the machine learning model involves passing the preprocessed data to the model to generate predictions. The model's output will then be formatted as needed for the response.

Return the Results

Returning the results as a response involves packaging the model's predictions into a format that the API client can easily understand, such as JSON.

Test and Monitor

Testing and monitoring the API are critical to ensure it functions correctly and performs well under different conditions. This involves using tools like Postman or cURL to simulate requests and analyze responses.

Implement Authentication and Access Control

Choose Authentication Method

Choosing an authentication method is the first step to securing your API. Options include API keys, OAuth, JWT (JSON Web Tokens), etc.

Generate API Keys

Generating API keys allows you to control access to your API. Each client is assigned a unique key that must be included in their requests.

Role-Based Access Control

Implementing role-based access control ensures that different users have the appropriate level of access to your API's functionalities. For example, some users may only be allowed to make predictions, while others can retrain the model.

Rate Limiting

Setting up rate limiting helps protect your API from abuse by limiting the number of requests a client can make within a specified time period.

Secure Communication

Securing communication with SSL/TLS ensures that data transferred between the client and the server is encrypted and protected from interception.

Test Your API


Postman is a popular tool for testing APIs. It allows you to create and send requests to your API endpoints, inspect responses, and automate testing workflows.


cURL is a command-line tool for sending requests to URLs. It can be used to test API endpoints and automate testing in scripts.

Deploy Your API

Deploying to AWS

Deploying to AWS involves setting up an EC2 instance, installing necessary software, and configuring your API to run on the server. AWS provides robust infrastructure and scalability options.

Deploying to Heroku

Deploying to Heroku is simpler for smaller applications. It involves pushing your code to a Heroku Git repository, and Heroku automatically handles the deployment and scaling.

Other Deployment Options

Other deployment options include platforms like Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and DigitalOcean, each offering various features and scalability.

Monitor and Scale Your API

Set Up Monitoring

Setting up monitoring involves using tools like AWS CloudWatch, New Relic, or Prometheus to track the performance and health of your API.

Load Testing

Load testing ensures your API can handle the expected number of requests without performance degradation. Tools like Apache JMeter or Locust can simulate high traffic.

Scaling Your API

Scaling your API involves adding more server instances or increasing resources to handle increased traffic. This can be done automatically with cloud providers' autoscaling features.

Continuous Monitoring

Continuous monitoring and optimization ensure your API remains performant and reliable over time. Regularly review performance metrics and make necessary adjustments to configurations and resources.

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