Building LLM Applications for Production - Key Strategies & Best Practices

In this guide, learn how to build and deploy LLM applications for production, focusing on effective strategies and best practices.
Pavel Klushin
Pavel Klushin
Head of Solution Architecture at Qwak
June 24, 2024
Building LLM Applications for Production - Key Strategies & Best Practices

LLM apps, short for Large Language Model applications, utilize the power of Large Language Models (LLMs) to carry out a broad spectrum of tasks. LLMs are a sophisticated type of artificial intelligence developed using deep learning methodologies and vast datasets to comprehend, generate, and predict text. These models have revolutionized how we interact with and process digital information, offering capabilities that stretch from writing assistance to complex problem-solving.

 Building LLM applications for production isn’t always a simple task, however, LLM applications can be tailored for various purposes, including but not limited to:

Copywriting: Tools such as GPT-4, Mixtral, Claude, Llama 2, Cohere Command, and Jurassic are capable of generating original, engaging copy across different genres and formats. This capability is highly beneficial in marketing, advertising, and content creation.

Knowledge Base Answering: LLMs excel in fetching and synthesizing information from extensive databases to answer queries, making them invaluable in customer support and research.

Conversational AI: The integration of LLMs in virtual assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri enhances their understanding and responsiveness, making these devices more helpful and intuitive for users.

The application of LLMs spans a variety of business domains, increasingly being seen as a tool to diminish tedious tasks, augment customer interactions through smarter chatbots, and streamline content creation processes.

The development and deployment of LLM apps require collaborative efforts involving engineers, conversational designers, data scientists, and product managers, all working together to harness the potential of LLM technologies in innovative and effective ways. As these models continue to evolve, so too will their applications, potentially transforming how businesses operate and how individuals interact with digital content and services.

The performance and effectiveness of LLM apps largely depend on the underlying model, the quality and breadth of the training data, and the specific fine-tuning applied to tailor the model for particular tasks or industries. This customization is critical as it directly influences how well an LLM app can perform its intended functions.


Challenges of Building LLM Applications for Production

Building applications that leverage large language models (LLMs) presents a unique set of challenges that differ significantly from those encountered in traditional software engineering. These challenges often revolve around the management of complex interactions with the model and ensuring the quality and relevance of the outputs. Here's how developers & Infrastructure engineers can address these issues:

LLM Infrastructure Challenges

  1. Computational Demands: LLMs require significant computational resources for training and inference, often needing high-performance GPUs or specialized TPUs. Efficient resource allocation and management in cloud or on-premise environments are critical to handle these demands cost-effectively.
  2. Data Storage and Management: The large size of datasets used for training LLMs requires substantial storage solutions. Engineers must ensure data integrity and security, alongside maintaining quick access to support active training and inference processes.
  3. High Availability and Fault Tolerance: To ensure reliability in production, systems must be designed for high availability. This involves implementing redundant systems and robust disaster recovery protocols to prevent downtime and data loss.
  4. Scalability: As usage grows, the infrastructure must scale efficiently. This requires dynamic scaling solutions for computational resources and data handling capabilities to support varying loads without performance degradation.
  5. Maintenance and Updates: Keeping up with the rapid advancements in LLM technologies means continuous updates to the models and the supporting infrastructure. This necessitates a flexible LLM Platfrom that allows for easy updates and minimal downtime during maintenance cycles.

LLM Application Challenges

Debugging and Workflow Complexity

LLM applications frequently require complex, repeated, chained, or agentic calls to foundational models. This complexity makes debugging difficult, as pinpointing the root cause of issues in an extended control flow can be challenging. To address this, developers can utilize frameworks like LangChain, which offers automated instrumentation for tracing and control flow management. This allows for capturing the full context of an LLM application, enabling developers to track LLM inference, API usage, and interactions with internal systems. Such tools provide a model and framework-agnostic way to define and monitor the steps involved in the application's execution, significantly simplifying the debugging process.

Ensuring Output Integrity

Unlike traditional software where output can often be validated against a set of predefined test cases, LLM-based applications are inherently non-deterministic. This lack of determinism means there is rarely a clear standard for assessing quality. Developers must therefore develop new strategies for evaluating the quality of outputs, especially at scale. One effective approach is to attach scores to production traces, including sub-steps, to quantify quality more precisely. These scores can be derived from various sources, including model-based evaluations, user feedback, or manual labeling. Tracking these metrics over time can help developers monitor the quality of applications across different users, versions, or releases, providing insights into the impacts of any changes made.

Handling Diverse User Intentions

LLM applications, particularly those that are conversational or agent-based, often deal with a broad range of user inputs and intents. This variability poses significant challenges, as the application must handle inputs that vary widely from the developers' initial assumptions. To manage this, it's important to implement mechanisms for classifying user inputs within the application. By ingesting and analyzing this additional context, developers can gain a deeper understanding of user behavior and adjust their applications to better meet user needs. This approach not only improves user satisfaction but also enhances the application's ability to deal with unexpected or outlier inputs effectively.


Exploring the Architecture of LLM Apps

In the architecture of modern LLM applications, the management of prompts involves more than just delivering user queries to the model. Today, prompts are complex components of the system, often linked together with additional contextual information. This extra data improves the relevance and accuracy of the model's responses.

When a user submits a query through the UI, the backend processes it starting with an embedding model that transforms the query into a vector. This vector is important because it helps the system fetch relevant information from a vector database, adding depth to the ongoing prompt chain. This enhanced content allows the LLM to gain a clearer understanding of the query.

The prompt is also supplemented with metadata such as the LLM type and version, which supports consistent and compatible responses. Additionally, prompts can include variables and may trigger function calls or third-party API interactions, bringing dynamic elements like real-time data or external computations into the mix.

This enriched prompt is then forwarded to the LLM host through an API, where the processing takes place. The LLM interprets this detailed input and generates a response, considering not only the initial query but also the broader contextual information. Responses might be cached to speed up future queries that are similar, thereby improving system efficiency.

Part I: Preparing for Production

Understanding LLM Requirements

In deploying large language models (LLMs), two strategies stand out: Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG) and fine-tuning. RAG enhances a pre-trained LLM with a retrieval component, fetching real-time data for timely and specific responses. It’s ideal for queries needing current information, utilizing both the LLM’s capabilities and external data sources. Conversely, fine-tuning adjusts an LLM on a tailored dataset to better fit specific domains, improving accuracy but requiring vigilant data management to prevent overfitting.

Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG)


  • Dynamic Content Integration: Provides up-to-date, relevant responses using external data.
  • Scalability in Knowledge: Accesses a wide range of topics without needing retraining.
  • Reduced Training Costs: Minimizes the need for extensive retraining.


  • Dependency on External Sources: Relies on the quality and availability of external data.
  • Complex System Design: Involves managing both retrieval and generation components.

Example: A customer support chatbot using RAG could access the latest product details from a database to answer inquiries precisely.



  • High Customization: Allows deep customization to specific tasks, enhancing performance.
  • Control Over Training Data: Offers the ability to fine-tune data inputs for better output control.
  • Efficiency in Deployment: Simpler to deploy as it doesn’t rely on real-time data access.


  • Risk of Overfitting: Performs well on training data but may falter with new data.
  • Data Requirements: Needs high-quality, specific training data.
  • Ongoing Maintenance: Requires updates to remain effective as the field evolves.

Example: A financial model fine-tuned on market data may excel in its niche but struggle with unfamiliar data types.

Choosing between RAG and fine-tuning involves considering the application’s needs for accuracy, current information, and the available computational resources. Each method has unique advantages and fits different deployment scenarios in LLM applications.

Data Privacy and Security Considerations

When implementing data privacy and security for LLM Platforms in cloud environments like AWS or Google Cloud Platform (GCP), several streamlined measures are essential:

  1. Encryption: Ensure robust encryption of data at rest and in transit to protect against unauthorized access. Utilize industry-standard encryption tools and practices. Utilize tools like AWS KMS or GCP's Cloud KMS for robust encryption of data at rest and in transit, ensuring protection against unauthorized access.
  2. Access Controls: Leverage IAM services from AWS or GCP to set detailed access permissions, restricting resource access to authorized users only.
  3. Data Residency: Select cloud storage locations that comply with local data residency laws to meet jurisdictional compliance requirements.
  4. Network Security: Secure data transmission by setting up isolated network environments using AWS VPC or GCP equivalents, coupled with strict firewall rules.
  5. Auditing and Monitoring: Employ AWS CloudTrail or GCP's Cloud Audit Logs to track and monitor access, enhancing visibility and response to potential threats.
  6. Prompt Injection Attacks: Safeguard against malicious inputs designed to manipulate LLM behavior. Implement input validation and sanitization to prevent exploitation.
  7. Model Inversion Attacks: Protect against attacks that aim to extract training data from the model. Employ techniques like differential privacy to make it harder for attackers to infer individual data points from the model outputs.
  8. User Data Protection: Ensure that user data processed by LLM applications is anonymized and used in compliance with data protection regulations. Implement strict policies and procedures for data handling and retention.

These concise strategies help ensure that LLM applications in cloud settings meet high standards of data security and regulatory compliance.

Designing for Scalability

When designing an LLM Platform for scalability, particularly for deployment on cloud platforms like AWS or Google Cloud Platform (GCP), it is crucial to utilize cloud-native features that support dynamic scaling and resource management. Here's how you can optimize for scalability:

  1. Microservices Architecture: Utilize a microservices approach to enable independent scaling of different components, such as data ingestion, model training, and user interfaces. Platforms like AWS Elastic Container Service (ECS) and GCP Kubernetes Engine can manage containerized services, allowing each to scale based on demand.
  2. Elastic Compute Resources: Leverage the auto-scaling capabilities of cloud services such as AWS EC2 or GCP Compute Engine, which automatically adjust the number of virtual machines available based on the load. This ensures that the application can handle peaks in demand without manual intervention.
  3. Managed Database Services: Employ managed database solutions like Amazon RDS or Google Cloud SQL, which offer automatic scaling, backup, and recovery services. These databases can scale up to handle larger loads as application data grows.
  4. Load Balancing: Implement load balancing to efficiently distribute client requests across multiple servers, enhancing response times and application availability. Utilize advanced load balancing features to dynamically manage and optimize the flow of requests to LLM services.
  5. Caching: Integrate caching mechanisms to temporarily store frequently accessed data, which significantly reduces latency and decreases the load on backend LLM servers during high-traffic periods. Effective caching ensures that common queries and responses are quickly retrievable, improving overall system performance.
  6. Continuous Integration and Deployment: Establish CI/CD pipelines to automate the deployment of updates to LLM applications. This process ensures rapid scaling, minimizes downtime, and maintains consistent performance across all instances. Utilize robust CI/CD tools tailored for managing LLM workflows and updates.

Part II: Deployment Strategies

Choosing the Right Deployment Model: Real-Time vs. Batch Processing

When developing and deploying large language models (LLMs), one of the critical decisions involves choosing the appropriate processing strategy—real-time or batch. This choice significantly impacts the application's responsiveness, cost, and complexity.

Real-Time Processing

Definition: Real-time processing refers to the analysis and response to input data immediately as it is received. The goal is to minimize the time between data receipt and the desired action or response.

Use Cases: Real-time processing is essential for applications requiring immediate feedback, such as interactive AI chatbots, real-time translation services, or dynamic content recommendation systems.


  • Immediate Feedback: Enhances user experience by providing instant responses, essential in customer service or any interactive service.
  • Dynamic Decision Making: Allows systems to make decisions based on the most current data, which is crucial in fast-paced environments like financial trading or emergency response systems.


  • Resource Intensity: Requires powerful and efficient hardware to handle continuous data streams and deliver responses within tight time constraints.
  • Scalability: Needs robust infrastructure to maintain performance during high demand, which can increase operational costs significantly.
  • Complexity in Deployment: Maintaining uptime and managing live data feeds can complicate infrastructure and software maintenance.

Batch Processing

Definition: Batch processing involves collecting data over a period, then processing it in large, consolidated batches at scheduled times. This method is not dependent on performing actions in real-time.

Use Cases: Batch processing is suitable for applications where immediate response times are not critical, such as data analysis for business intelligence, large-scale content generation, or background information processing tasks.


  • Cost Efficiency: More economical in terms of computational resources, as it allows for the consolidation of workloads and more efficient use of processing power.
  • Complex Computations: Better suited for handling complex algorithms that require long processing times, as there’s no immediate need for output.
  • Simplicity: Easier to manage and maintain compared to real-time systems, as it involves less complexity in data handling and infrastructure.


  • Delayed Responses: Not suitable for use cases requiring immediate data processing or real-time feedback.
  • Data Staleness: There's a risk that the data may become outdated by the time it is processed, which can be a significant disadvantage in rapidly changing environments.

Decision Factors

When choosing between real-time and batch processing, consider the following key factors:

  • Application Requirements: The nature of the application itself is the most significant factor. Real-time interactions naturally require real-time processing, whereas analytical tasks can benefit from the efficiencies of batch processing.
  • User Expectations: User experience can be significantly affected by the choice between real-time and batch processing. Real-time processing is critical when users expect immediate responses.
  • Resource Availability: Real-time processing requires more robust and costly infrastructure compared to batch processing, which can be managed with less frequent resource utilization.
  • Cost Considerations: Real-time systems generally require more investment in both hardware and operational management, which can be prohibitive for some organizations.

In summary, the decision between real-time and batch processing should align with the application's strategic goals, operational capabilities, and budget constraints. Each approach has its merits and challenges, and the choice depends heavily on the specific needs and circumstances of the deployment environment.

Part III: Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD)

Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD) are pivotal for developing and maintaining large language models (LLMs) efficiently, particularly when these models are deployed in dynamic environments like cloud platforms (AWS, GCP). Integrating CI/CD into the development process for LLMs ensures that code updates, model retraining, and deployment are handled seamlessly and with minimal human intervention. Here’s a detailed look at how CI/CD can be utilized effectively for LLM development:

  1. Continuous Integration (CI):some text
    • Automated Testing: Every code commit made to the repository triggers a series of automated tests, which might include code linting, unit tests, integration tests, and security scans. This ensures that changes do not break the application and adhere to quality standards.
    • Model Validation: In the context of LLMs, CI pipelines can also include steps to validate model performance through automated testing scripts that assess the impact of new training data or changes in model architecture on the model's accuracy and output quality.
  2. Continuous Deployment (CD):some text
    • Automated Deployment: Once the updated model and codebase pass all predefined tests, the CD process automates the deployment of these changes to production. This automation includes provisioning or updating necessary cloud resources, scaling the model up or down based on anticipated demand, and deploying the model across different regions if needed.
    • Rollback Mechanisms: CD pipelines are equipped with mechanisms to revert to the previous version of the application if the new deployment fails or introduces critical issues. This is crucial for maintaining service availability and reliability.
  3. Environment Management:some text
    • Staging and Production: CI/CD enables the setup of multiple environments, such as development, staging, and production. Models and applications can be tested in staging environments that mirror production settings, reducing the chances of deployment-time surprises.
    • Infrastructure as Code (IaC): Tools like AWS CloudFormation or Terraform can be used within CI/CD pipelines to manage infrastructure changes programmatically. IaC ensures that all environment setups are reproducible, version-controlled, and maintainable.
  4. Monitoring and Feedback Loops:some text
    • Performance Monitoring: After deployment, continuous monitoring tools collect data on model performance and system health. Anomalies or degradations trigger alerts that can initiate further CI/CD cycles to address issues.
    • Feedback Integration: User feedback and system performance data can be integrated back into the model development lifecycle, informing further model training and refinement.

Part IV: Monitoring and Management

Monitoring and management are critical components of deploying large language models (LLMs) in production, particularly when these models are hosted on cloud platforms like AWS or GCP. Effective monitoring and management ensure that the system performs optimally, remains reliable, and can scale in response to user demand. Here’s how to approach these aspects thoroughly:


  1. Performance Metrics: Key performance indicators for LLMs include response time, throughput, and accuracy. Monitoring these metrics helps in understanding the model's operational efficiency and effectiveness. Tools like AWS CloudWatch or Google Cloud Monitoring can track these metrics in real-time.
  2. Resource Utilization: Monitoring CPU, GPU, memory usage, and network traffic is essential to optimize resource allocation and cost. Over-utilization can indicate that scaling is necessary, while under-utilization suggests a possibility for cost savings.
  3. Error Rates and Log Management: Tracking errors and anomalies in application logs can help quickly identify and troubleshoot issues. Log management services like AWS CloudTrail or Google Cloud Operations (formerly Stackdriver) can aggregate, analyze, and archive logs, making it easier to uncover the root causes of problems.
  4. User Interaction Analytics: Understanding how users interact with the LLM application can provide insights into user behavior, preferences, and potential areas for improvement. Analytic tools integrated into the application can track and analyze user interactions, providing data to refine and optimize the model.
  5. OpenAI Usage and Cost Monitoring: For applications leveraging OpenAI's APIs, it’s crucial to monitor API usage closely to manage costs effectively. OpenAI typically charges based on the number of tokens processed, which can quickly accumulate. Setting up alerts and thresholds using tools such as AWS Budgets or GCP Billing to track the usage of OpenAI tokens helps prevent unexpected charges and ensures that the deployment remains within budget. This type of monitoring should be integrated into the overall cloud monitoring dashboard to provide a holistic view of operational costs related to LLM usage.

LLM Optimization Considerations 

Optimizing the deployment of large language models (LLMs) in production involves a strategic approach to both infrastructure and token usage to enhance performance and cost-efficiency. Here’s a detailed exploration of the techniques that can be used:

Infrastructure Optimization

  1. Resource Allocation: Efficient allocation of computational resources like CPUs, GPUs, and memory is essential. This can be managed through dynamic scaling based on the workload. Using cloud services like AWS Auto Scaling or Google Cloud AutoScaler ensures that the infrastructure scales up during peak times and scales down during low usage periods, optimizing cost.
  2. Network Optimization: Reduce latency and increase throughput by optimizing network configurations. This includes choosing the right network tiers in cloud services and strategically locating compute resources geographically closer to the end-users.
  3. Load Balancing: Distribute incoming application traffic across multiple servers using load balancers (e.g., AWS Elastic Load Balancing, Google Cloud Load Balancing). This not only prevents any single server from becoming a bottleneck but also improves fault tolerance and application availability.
  4. Caching: Implement caching mechanisms to store frequently accessed information. This reduces the load on backend systems and speeds up response times. Technologies like Redis or Memcached can be utilized, and cloud versions like Amazon ElastiCache or Google Cloud Memorystore provide managed caching services.

Token Optimization

  1. Model Selection: Choose the appropriate model size based on the task’s complexity and required accuracy. Smaller models consume fewer tokens and can be sufficient for less complex queries, significantly reducing costs.
  2. Prompt Engineering: Optimize the prompts sent to the LLM. Concise, well-crafted prompts reduce the number of tokens processed, lowering operational costs while maintaining or improving the quality of the model's outputs.
  3. Batch Requests: Where possible, batch multiple requests together. This approach can reduce overhead and maximize the efficiency of token usage, as it often reduces the total number of API calls and tokens consumed.
  4. Usage Monitoring and Analysis: Regularly review and analyze token usage to identify patterns, peak usage times, and potential inefficiencies. Tools like OpenAI’s usage dashboard or integrations with cloud monitoring tools can provide insights necessary for ongoing optimization.
  5. Rate Limiting and Quotas: Implement rate limiting and set quotas on token usage to prevent overuse and manage budget constraints effectively. This can be particularly important in multi-user environments or when deploying new features.


As we move towards 2024, the integration of LLMs into various applications continues to grow, bringing transformative potential to business operations and digital interactions. The development and deployment of these applications require a collaborative effort across multiple disciplines—engineering, data science, and product management—to harness the full capabilities of LLM technologies. By adhering to best practices and addressing the unique challenges associated with building LLM applications for production, developers can create powerful, efficient, and impactful solutions that leverage the cutting-edge of AI technology. This endeavor not only demands technical expertise but also a commitment to ongoing learning and adaptation in a rapidly evolving field.

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