Home Artificial Intelligence Inside DBRX: Databricks Unleashes Powerful Open Source LLM

Inside DBRX: Databricks Unleashes Powerful Open Source LLM


In the rapidly advancing field of large language models (LLMs), a new powerful model has emerged – DBRX, an open source model created by Databricks. This LLM is making waves with its state-of-the-art performance across a wide range of benchmarks, even rivaling the capabilities of industry giants like OpenAI’s GPT-4.

DBRX represents a significant milestone in the democratization of artificial intelligence, providing researchers, developers, and enterprises with open access to a top-tier language model. But what exactly is DBRX, and what makes it so special? In this technical deep dive, we’ll explore the innovative architecture, training process, and key capabilities that have propelled DBRX to the forefront of the open LLM landscape.

The Birth of DBRX The creation of DBRX was driven by Databricks’ mission to make data intelligence accessible to all enterprises. As a leader in data analytics platforms, Databricks recognized the immense potential of LLMs and set out to develop a model that could match or even surpass the performance of proprietary offerings.

After months of intensive research, development, and a multi-million dollar investment, the Databricks team achieved a breakthrough with DBRX. The model’s impressive performance on a wide range of benchmarks, including language understanding, programming, and mathematics, firmly established it as a new state-of-the-art in open LLMs.

Innovative Architecture

The Power of Mixture-of-Experts At the core of DBRX’s exceptional performance lies its innovative mixture-of-experts (MoE) architecture. This cutting-edge design represents a departure from traditional dense models, adopting a sparse approach that enhances both pretraining efficiency and inference speed.

In the MoE framework, only a select group of components, called “experts,” are activated for each input. This specialization allows the model to tackle a broader array of tasks with greater adeptness, while also optimizing computational resources.

DBRX takes this concept even further with its fine-grained MoE architecture. Unlike some other MoE models that use a smaller number of larger experts, DBRX employs 16 experts, with four experts active for any given input. This design provides a staggering 65 times more possible expert combinations, directly contributing to DBRX’s superior performance.

DBRX differentiates itself with several innovative features:

  • Rotary Position Encodings (RoPE): Enhances understanding of token positions, crucial for generating contextually accurate text.
  • Gated Linear Units (GLU): Introduces a gating mechanism that enhances the model’s ability to learn complex patterns more efficiently.
  • Grouped Query Attention (GQA): Improves the model’s efficiency by optimizing the attention mechanism.
  • Advanced Tokenization: Utilizes GPT-4’s tokenizer to process inputs more effectively.

The MoE architecture is particularly well-suited for large-scale language models, as it allows for more efficient scaling and better utilization of computational resources. By distributing the learning process across multiple specialized subnetworks, DBRX can effectively allocate data and computational power for each task, ensuring both high-quality output and optimal efficiency.

Extensive Training Data and Efficient Optimization While DBRX’s architecture is undoubtedly impressive, its true power lies in the meticulous training process and the vast amount of data it was exposed to. DBRX was pretrained on an astounding 12 trillion tokens of text and code data, carefully curated to ensure high quality and diversity.

The training data was processed using Databricks’ suite of tools, including Apache Spark for data processing, Unity Catalog for data management and governance, and MLflow for experiment tracking. This comprehensive toolset allowed the Databricks team to effectively manage, explore, and refine the massive dataset, laying the foundation for DBRX’s exceptional performance.

To further enhance the model’s capabilities, Databricks employed a dynamic pretraining curriculum, innovatively varying the data mix during training. This strategy allowed each token to be effectively processed using the active 36 billion parameters, resulting in a more well-rounded and adaptable model.

Moreover, DBRX’s training process was optimized for efficiency, leveraging Databricks’ suite of proprietary tools and libraries, including Composer, LLM Foundry, MegaBlocks, and Streaming. By employing techniques like curriculum learning and optimized optimization strategies, the team achieved nearly a four-fold improvement in compute efficiency compared to their previous models.

Training and Architecture

DBRX was trained using a next-token prediction model on a colossal dataset of 12 trillion tokens, emphasizing both text and code. This training set is believed to be significantly more effective than those used in prior models, ensuring a rich understanding and response capability across varied prompts.

DBRX’s architecture is not only a testament to Databricks’ technical prowess but also highlights its application across multiple sectors. From enhancing chatbot interactions to powering complex data analysis tasks, DBRX can be integrated into diverse fields requiring nuanced language understanding.

Remarkably, DBRX Instruct even rivals some of the most advanced closed models on the market. According to Databricks’ measurements, it surpasses GPT-3.5 and is competitive with Gemini 1.0 Pro and Mistral Medium across various benchmarks, including general knowledge, commonsense reasoning, programming, and mathematical reasoning.

For instance, on the MMLU benchmark, which measures language understanding, DBRX Instruct achieved a score of 73.7%, outperforming GPT-3.5’s reported score of 70.0%. On the HellaSwag commonsense reasoning benchmark, DBRX Instruct scored an impressive 89.0%, surpassing GPT-3.5’s 85.5%.

DBRX Instruct truly shines, achieving a remarkable 70.1% accuracy on the HumanEval benchmark, outperforming not only GPT-3.5 (48.1%) but also the specialized CodeLLaMA-70B Instruct model (67.8%).

These exceptional results highlight DBRX’s versatility and its ability to excel across a diverse range of tasks, from natural language understanding to complex programming and mathematical problem-solving.

Efficient Inference and Scalability One of the key advantages of DBRX’s MoE architecture is its efficiency during inference. Thanks to the sparse activation of parameters, DBRX can achieve inference throughput that is up to two to three times faster than dense models with the same total parameter count.

Compared to LLaMA2-70B, a popular open source LLM, DBRX not only demonstrates higher quality but also boasts nearly double the inference speed, despite having about half as many active parameters. This efficiency makes DBRX an attractive choice for deployment in a wide range of applications, from content creation to data analysis and beyond.

Moreover, Databricks has developed a robust training stack that allows enterprises to train their own DBRX-class models from scratch or continue training on top of the provided checkpoints. This capability empowers businesses to leverage the full potential of DBRX and tailor it to their specific needs, further democratizing access to cutting-edge LLM technology.

Databricks’ development of the DBRX model marks a significant advancement in the field of machine learning, particularly through its utilization of innovative tools from the open-source community. This development journey is significantly influenced by two pivotal technologies: the MegaBlocks library and PyTorch’s Fully Sharded Data Parallel (FSDP) system.

MegaBlocks: Enhancing MoE Efficiency

The MegaBlocks library addresses the challenges associated with the dynamic routing in Mixture-of-Experts (MoEs) layers, a common hurdle in scaling neural networks. Traditional frameworks often impose limitations that either reduce model efficiency or compromise on model quality. MegaBlocks, however, redefines MoE computation through block-sparse operations that adeptly manage the intrinsic dynamism within MoEs, thus avoiding these compromises.

This approach not only preserves token integrity but also aligns well with modern GPU capabilities, facilitating up to 40% faster training times compared to traditional methods. Such efficiency is crucial for the training of models like DBRX, which rely heavily on advanced MoE architectures to manage their extensive parameter sets efficiently.

PyTorch FSDP: Scaling Large Models

PyTorch’s Fully Sharded Data Parallel (FSDP) presents a robust solution for training exceptionally large models by optimizing parameter sharding and distribution across multiple computing devices. Co-designed with key PyTorch components, FSDP integrates seamlessly, offering an intuitive user experience akin to local training setups but on a much larger scale.

FSDP’s design cleverly addresses several critical issues:

  • User Experience: It simplifies the user interface, despite the complex backend processes, making it more accessible for broader usage.
  • Hardware Heterogeneity: It adapts to varied hardware environments to optimize resource utilization efficiently.
  • Resource Utilization and Memory Planning: FSDP enhances the usage of computational resources while minimizing memory overheads, which is essential for training models that operate at the scale of DBRX.

FSDP not only supports larger models than previously possible under the Distributed Data Parallel framework but also maintains near-linear scalability in terms of throughput and efficiency. This capability has proven essential for Databricks’ DBRX, allowing it to scale across multiple GPUs while managing its vast number of parameters effectively.

Accessibility and Integrations

In line with its mission to promote open access to AI, Databricks has made DBRX available through multiple channels. The weights of both the base model (DBRX Base) and the finetuned model (DBRX Instruct) are hosted on the popular Hugging Face platform, allowing researchers and developers to easily download and work with the model.

Additionally, the DBRX model repository is available on GitHub, providing transparency and enabling further exploration and customization of the model’s code.

inference throughput for various model configurations on our optimized serving infrastructure using NVIDIA TensorRT-LLM at 16-bit precision with the best optimization flags we could find.

For Databricks customers, DBRX Base and DBRX Instruct are conveniently accessible via the Databricks Foundation Model APIs, enabling seamless integration into existing workflows and applications. This not only simplifies the deployment process but also ensures data governance and security for sensitive use cases.

Furthermore, DBRX has already been integrated into several third-party platforms and services, such as You.com and Perplexity Labs, expanding its reach and potential applications. These integrations demonstrate the growing interest in DBRX and its capabilities, as well as the increasing adoption of open LLMs across various industries and use cases.

Long-Context Capabilities and Retrieval Augmented Generation One of the standout features of DBRX is its ability to handle long-context inputs, with a maximum context length of 32,768 tokens. This capability allows the model to process and generate text based on extensive contextual information, making it well-suited for tasks such as document summarization, question answering, and information retrieval.

In benchmarks evaluating long-context performance, such as KV-Pairs and HotpotQAXL, DBRX Instruct outperformed GPT-3.5 Turbo across various sequence lengths and context positions.

DBRX outperforms established open source models on language understanding (MMLU), Programming (HumanEval), and Math (GSM8K).

DBRX outperforms established open source models on language understanding (MMLU), Programming (HumanEval), and Math (GSM8K).

Limitations and Future Work

While DBRX represents a significant achievement in the field of open LLMs, it is essential to acknowledge its limitations and areas for future improvement. Like any AI model, DBRX may produce inaccurate or biased responses, depending on the quality and diversity of its training data.

Additionally, while DBRX excels at general-purpose tasks, certain domain-specific applications may require further fine-tuning or specialized training to achieve optimal performance. For instance, in scenarios where accuracy and fidelity are of utmost importance, Databricks recommends using retrieval augmented generation (RAG) techniques to enhance the model’s output.

Furthermore, DBRX’s current training dataset primarily consists of English language content, potentially limiting its performance on non-English tasks. Future iterations of the model may involve expanding the training data to include a more diverse range of languages and cultural contexts.

Databricks is committed to continuously enhancing DBRX’s capabilities and addressing its limitations. Future work will focus on improving the model’s performance, scalability, and usability across various applications and use cases, as well as exploring techniques to mitigate potential biases and promote ethical AI use.

Additionally, the company plans to further refine the training process, leveraging advanced techniques such as federated learning and privacy-preserving methods to ensure data privacy and security.

The Road Ahead

DBRX represents a significant step forward in the democratization of AI development. It envisions a future where every enterprise has the ability to control its data and its destiny in the emerging world of generative AI.

By open-sourcing DBRX and providing access to the same tools and infrastructure used to build it, Databricks is empowering businesses and researchers to develop their own cutting-edge Databricks tailored to their specific needs.

Through the Databricks platform, customers can leverage the company’s suite of data processing tools, including Apache Spark, Unity Catalog, and MLflow, to curate and manage their training data. They can then utilize Databricks’ optimized training libraries, such as Composer, LLM Foundry, MegaBlocks, and Streaming, to train their own DBRX-class models efficiently and at scale.

This democratization of AI development has the potential to unlock a new wave of innovation, as enterprises gain the ability to harness the power of large language models for a wide range of applications, from content creation and data analysis to decision support and beyond.

Moreover, by fostering an open and collaborative ecosystem around DBRX, Databricks aims to accelerate the pace of research and development in the field of large language models. As more organizations and individuals contribute their expertise and insights, the collective knowledge and understanding of these powerful AI systems will continue to grow, paving the way for even more advanced and capable models in the future.


DBRX is a game-changer in the world of open source large language models. With its innovative mixture-of-experts architecture, extensive training data, and state-of-the-art performance, it has set a new benchmark for what is possible with open LLMs.

By democratizing access to cutting-edge AI technology, DBRX empowers researchers, developers, and enterprises to explore new frontiers in natural language processing, content creation, data analysis, and beyond. As Databricks continues to refine and enhance DBRX, the potential applications and impact of this powerful model are truly limitless.

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