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Avinash Bendigeri Avinash is a developer-turned Technical writer skilled in core content creation. He has an excellent track record of blogging in areas like Docker, Kubernetes, IoT and AI.

What is vLLM and what problem does it solve?

2 min read

Large language models (LLMs) have taken the world by storm, generating human-quality text, translating languages, and writing different kinds of creative content. But unleashing their full potential often comes with a challenge: speed. Traditional LLM inference can be sluggish, hindering real-world applications.

This is where vLLM steps in.

What is vLLM?

vLLM stands for “vectorized Large Language Model.” It’s a high-throughput and memory-efficient serving engine specifically designed to optimize LLM inference. Developed by the open-source project BentoML, vLLM tackles the bottleneck of slow LLM inference, enabling faster and more efficient use of these powerful language models.

The Problem vLLM Solves

Traditional LLM inference relies on methods that can be computationally expensive. This translates to slow response times, especially when handling large volumes of requests. Here’s how vLLM addresses this challenge:

  • Efficient Memory Management: vLLM utilizes a novel attention mechanism called “PagedAttention.” Inspired by the concept of virtual memory in operating systems, PagedAttention tackles the memory bottleneck by dividing large attention matrices into smaller, more manageable chunks. This reduces memory usage and allows vLLM to handle larger models and requests.
  • State-of-the-Art Serving Techniques: vLLM employs various optimizations for faster inference, including continuous batching, optimized CUDA kernels, and quantization techniques (reducing model size without sacrificing accuracy).
  • OpenAI API Compatibility: vLLM offers an API structure similar to OpenAI, a popular cloud-based LLM platform. This allows developers familiar with OpenAI tools to seamlessly transition to using vLLM with open-source LLMs.

Benefits of Using vLLM

By addressing the speed limitations of LLMs, vLLM unlocks several benefits:

  • Faster Response Times: vLLM significantly reduces inference times, leading to a more responsive and user-friendly experience for LLM applications.
  • Scalability: The efficient memory management of vLLM allows for handling larger models and increased workloads, making it suitable for real-world deployments.
  • Reduced Costs: Faster inference translates to lower operational costs, especially when deploying LLMs in cloud environments.
  • Flexibility: vLLM integrates with various open-source LLMs and offers compatibility with tools like Transformers and LlamaIndex, enabling developers to build powerful and versatile AI applications.

Step-by-Step Guide to Deploying vLLM with Docker

This guide walks you through deploying vLLM in a Docker container for faster large language model (LLM) inference.


  • Docker Desktop installed and running on your system.
  • A Hugging Face Hub account and a valid access token (you can create a free account).


  1. Obtain Hugging Face Hub Token:
    • Go to and sign in or create an account.
    • Navigate to your profile settings and locate your access token.
  2. Run vLLM with Docker: Open a terminal window and run the following command, replacing placeholders with your information:

docker run --runtime nvidia --gpus all \ -v ~/.cache/huggingface:/root/.cache/huggingface \ -p 8000:8000 \ --env "HUGGING_FACE_HUB_TOKEN=<your_huggingface_token>" \ vllm/vllm-openai:latest \ --model <model_name>

Explanation of options:

  • –runtime nvidia –gpus all: Uses the NVIDIA runtime and allocates all available GPUs for faster processing. Adjust –gpus all to the number of GPUs you want to use (e.g., –gpus 1 for one GPU).
  • -v ~/.cache/huggingface:/root/.cache/huggingface: Mounts your local Hugging Face cache directory into the container. This can speed up model loading if you’ve previously downloaded models.
  • -p 8000:8000: Maps the container port 8000 (where vLLM runs) to your host port 8000. This allows you to access the LLM server from your machine.
  • –env “HUGGING_FACE_HUB_TOKEN=”: Sets the Hugging Face Hub token as an environment variable. Replace with your actual token.
  • vllm/vllm-openai:latest: Specifies the official vLLM Docker image name and the latest tag for the most recent version.
  • –model : Defines the specific LLM model you want to load. Replace with the name of the model available on Hugging Face Hub (e.g., mistralai/Mistral-7B-v0.1).

Verify Functionality (Optional):

Once the container starts, you can test if vLLM is running by sending a request using tools like curl or Postman. Refer to the vLLM documentation for specific instructions on making requests to the LLM server.

Additional Notes:

  • Shared Memory: The command uses the default --ipc=host flag. This allows the container to access the host’s shared memory, which is necessary for vLLM to function properly.
  • Building from Source (Optional): The provided guide focuses on using the pre-built Docker image for simplicity. vLLM offers instructions for building the image from source if you prefer more control.
  • Root User: Be aware that the current vLLM Docker image runs under the root user. If you encounter permission issues, refer to the vLLM documentation for adjusting library permissions.

By following these steps, you’ll have a vLLM container up and running, ready to serve your LLM inference needs with improved performance using Docker.


vLLM is a game-changer for LLM deployments. By overcoming the speed barrier, vLLM paves the way for a new generation of AI applications that are faster, more efficient, and more accessible. With its open-source nature and focus on performance, vLLM empowers developers to unlock the full potential of large language models and revolutionize the way we interact with AI.

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Avinash Bendigeri Avinash is a developer-turned Technical writer skilled in core content creation. He has an excellent track record of blogging in areas like Docker, Kubernetes, IoT and AI.
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