NNVM Graph JSON Specification

NNVM uses JSON for graph serialization. This allows NNVM graph to be exported to any backend either natively supported or by third-party without any dependency such as protobuf.

Getting started

A serialized NNVM graph in JSON format can be deserialized by any JSON parser.

# python
import json
with open('model.json', 'r') as f:
  graph = json.loads(f.read())

['nodes', 'arg_nodes', 'heads', 'node_row_ptr']

Actually, the following keys are valid in JSON graph.

Keys Required Description
nodes Yes The nodes in graph.
arg_nodes Yes Indices of input nodes.
heads Yes Indices of output nodes.
node_row_ptr Optional Depth first search row indices.
attr Optional Additional information.


Explained by the name itself, nodes are either placeholders or computational nodes in NNVM graph. The nodes are stored in list.

nodes = graph['nodes']
{'inputs': [], 'name': 'data', 'op': 'null'}
{'inputs': [[0, 0, 0], [1, 0, 0], [2, 0, 0]], 'attrs': {'channels': '64',
'padding': '(1, 1)', 'layout': 'NCHW', 'kernel_size': '[3, 3]', 'groups': '1',
'strides': '(1, 1)', 'use_bias': 'True', 'dilation': '(1, 1)'},
'name': 'conv1_1', 'op': 'conv2d'}

The following keys are valid in each node:

Keys Required Descript ion
op Yes The operator type name, ‘null’ is used if it’s a placehol der/vari able/inp ut.
name Yes The given name of the node, defined by user composin g the network.
inputs Yes List of Entry of the input nodes, can be empty list []. Entry is a list of [nose_i d, index, version]
attrs Optional Extra attribut es for the specific operator .
control_deps Optional Control dependen cies, left blank unless specific ally used.

attrs for operators is a dictionary. Key-value pair examples:

Keys Value Operator Descript ion
‘channels’ ‘64’ conv2d Output channels for 2d convolut ion.
‘kernel_size’ ‘[3, 3]’ conv2d Convolut ion filter kernel size in (h, w), list and tuple both works.
‘use_bias’ ‘1’ conv2d Whether use bias such that y = w * x + b .


Tips for parsing key-value pair:

  • Both key and value are stored as strings.
  • Boolean values need extra attention, convert to int is recommended since bool(‘0’) == True in python.
  • For a full list of operator attributes, please refer to the core operator documentation.


arg_nodes is a list of indices of nodes which is placeholder/variable/input to the graph.

[0, 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, 15, 16, 20, 21, 24, 25, 29, 30, 33, 34, 39, 40, 44, 45, 49, 50]

For example, nodes[3] is not in arg_nodes because it’s an internal node.


heads is a list of entries as the outlet/output of the graph.

[[52, 0, 0]]

This example indicating that there’s only one output in the graph, with index 52.


node_row_ptr stores the history of forward path, so you can skip constructing the entire graph in inference tasks.


attrs can contain version numbers or similar helpful informations.