Train Random Forest on GPU with RAPIDS

A working end-to-end script showing how a Random Forest can be trained on a GPU using RAPIDS

This example requires a GPU cluster and GPU image on Saturn Cloud to run.

This example will demonstrate how users can run Random Forest machine learning on GPU hardware - allowing larger models to be trained, and increasing the speed of training thanks to the parallelization possible.

If you need more information about how to choose whether GPU is the right thing for your workflow, visit our reference article.


Random Forest

Random forest is a machine learning algorithm trusted by many data scientists for its robustness, accuracy, and scalability. The algorithm trains many decision trees through bootstrap aggregation, then predictions are made from aggregating the outputs of the trees in the forest.

Due to its ensemble nature, a random forest is an algorithm that can be implemented in distributed computing settings. Trees can be trained in parallel across processes and machines in a cluster, resulting in significantly faster training time than using a single process.


RAPIDS is an open-source Python framework that executes data science code on GPUs instead of CPUs. This results in huge performance gains for data science work, similar to those seen for training deep learning models. RAPIDS has interfaces for DataFrames, ML, graph analysis, and more.

RAPIDS uses Dask to handle parallelizing to machines with multiple GPUs, as well as a cluster of machines each with one or more GPUs. The libraries we’re going to use below, including cudf and cuml, are part of the RAPIDS ecosystem and are designed specifically to work on GPU hardware.


You should have a GPU Dask cluster running in order to proceed. If you need help creating a cluster, we have step by step instructions to help.

Set up connection to your cluster, first. For this example, we recommend at least a 4 worker cluster of T4 4XLarge instances.

from dask.distributed import Client
from dask_saturn import SaturnCluster

cluster = SaturnCluster()
client = Client(cluster)

Create Dataframe

In this example, we use the publicly available NYC Taxi dataset and train a random forest regressor to predict the fare amount of a taxi ride. Taxi rides from 2017, 2018, and 2019 are used as the training set, amounting to 300,700,143 instances.

The data files are hosted on a public S3 bucket, so we can read the CSVs directly from there. The S3 bucket has all files in the same directory, so we use s3fs to select the files we want.

import s3fs
fs = s3fs.S3FileSystem(anon=True)
files = [f"s3://{x}" for x in's3://nyc-tlc/trip data/')
         if 'yellow' in x and ('2019' in x or '2018' in x or '2017' in x)]
cols = ['VendorID', 'tpep_pickup_datetime', 'tpep_dropoff_datetime',
        'passenger_count', 'trip_distance','RatecodeID', 
        'store_and_fwd_flag', 'PULocationID', 'DOLocationID', 
        'payment_type', 'fare_amount','extra', 'mta_tax', 
        'tip_amount', 'tolls_amount', 'improvement_surcharge', 'total_amount']

import dask_cudf
taxi = dask_cudf.read_csv(files, 
                          storage_options={'anon': True})

Notice that we use dask_cudf to load these CSV’s - this allows us to get a dataframe that works on GPU hardware. For more information about the dask-cudf library, visit the RAPIDS website.

Feature Engineering

We’ll generate a few features based on the pickup time and then persist the DataFrame. In both frameworks, this executes all the CSV loading and preprocessing, and stores the results in RAM (in the RAPIDS case, GPU RAM). The features we will use for training are:

features = ['pickup_weekday', 'pickup_hour', 'pickup_minute',
            'pickup_week_hour', 'passenger_count', 'VendorID', 
            'RatecodeID', 'store_and_fwd_flag', 'PULocationID', 

GPU hardware has different requirements for numeric types than CPU, and as a result we need to convert all float values to float32 precision for GPU computing.

from dask import persist
from dask.distributed import wait

taxi['pickup_weekday'] = taxi.tpep_pickup_datetime.dt.weekday
taxi['pickup_hour'] = taxi.tpep_pickup_datetime.dt.hour
taxi['pickup_minute'] = taxi.tpep_pickup_datetime.dt.minute
taxi['pickup_week_hour'] = (taxi.pickup_weekday * 24) + taxi.pickup_hour
taxi['store_and_fwd_flag'] = (taxi.store_and_fwd_flag == 'Y').astype(float)
taxi = taxi.fillna(-1)

X = taxi[features].astype('float32')
y = taxi['total_amount']

X, y = persist(X, y)
_ = wait([X, y])

Train/Test Split

Here we’re using a 75/25 split.

from dask_ml.model_selection import train_test_split
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, y, test_size=.25)

X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = persist(X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test)
_ = wait([X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test])

Train Model

At this point, training the model takes only a couple of lines of code. We will define the Random Forest Regressor, and use the .fit() method to train. Notice that we are specifically using the cuml.dask submodule to get the RandomForestRegressor; this is important so that our model training is compatible with Dask.

from cuml.dask.ensemble import RandomForestRegressor
cu_rf_params = {
    'n_estimators': 100,
    'max_depth': 10,
    'seed': 42,
    'n_streams': 5,
    'client': client

rf = RandomForestRegressor(**cu_rf_params)
rf_trained =, y_train)

Predict on Test Sample

y_pred = rf_trained.predict(X_test)

Now you can choose the evaluation metric you prefer to examine the model performance and continue working on the model tuning!

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