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Third-Party Dependency Management for Backend Delegates

Disclaimer: We are planning to restructure the repository around delegates. With that some of these guidelines will change in the future.

A delegate may depend on external, third-party libraries to efficiently implement ahead-of-time (AOT) partition() or preprocess() functions, and/or to implement runtime functions such as init() or execute(), or to run tests in a specific manner. This guide aims to classify different types of third-party dependencies a delegate might depend on, and provide a high level guidance on how to include them.

Ahead-of-Time Dependencies

This includes dependencies used by the delegate’s partitioner() and preprocess() functions to generate preprocessed result which will be used at later at runtime.

Depending on how the preprocess() function is implemented this can be either Python or C++ dependency. This guide will talk about only Python AOT dependencies.


  • If ExecuTorch already includes a dependency you require, prefer to use that if possible.

  • If the dependency is only needed by the files inside the executorch/backends/<delegate_name>/ directory, it should be introduced in a way such that it is used only by the code under that directory.

  • The dependency should not be installed by default when installing the ExecuTorch Python package.

More details in the section below.

Runtime Dependencies

This category covers C++ dependencies used by the delegate runtime code. It can be as simple as a third-party math library to implement some delegate operator, or can be a whole framework handling the lowered subgraph for the delegate.


At a high level, “only pay for what you use” should be the desired approach for these third-party dependencies.

  • Similar to the AOT dependencies, the use of this should also be restricted to only the delegate runtime source files.

  • If a delegate has a dependency which is already part of executorch/third-party then try to use that if possible. This helps with reducing the binary size when the delegate is enabled.

  • The rest of the ExecuTorch code, outside of the delegate, should not depend on this. And it should should build and run correctly without this dependency when the delegate is disabled at build time.

More details in the section below.

Testing-Only Dependencies

Some libraries or tools are only used for executing the delegate tests. These can either be a Python dependency or a C++ dependency depending on the type of the test.


  • For a Python test dependency, it should not be installed by default when installing the ExecuTorch Python package.

  • For a C++ test dependency, it should not be part of the ExecuTorch runtime even when the delegate is built/enabled.

Other Considerations


Explicit and specific is preferred. For example a PyPI version (or range) or a git tag/release.

Documenting Dependencies

At a minimum, some documentation under executorch/backends/<delegate_name>/ should be provided when introducing a new dependency which includes,

  • Rationale for introducing a new third-party dependency

  • How to upgrade the dependency

  • Any special considerations for the new dependency

After listing the high level guidelines, let’s now talk about specific logistics to actually include a dependency for your delegate,

Python Dependencies

Python packaging is complicated and continuously evolving. For delegate dependencies, we recommend that a delegate specifies its third-party dependencies under executorch/backends/<delegate_name>/requirements.txt to be supplied to pip at installation time. The goal is to decouple them from the core ExecuTorch dependencies.

Version conflicts should be avoided by trying to use the dependency already included by ExecuTorch or by some other backend if possible. Otherwise try some other recommended ways to mitigate version conflicts.

Local Python Packages

If it is a git repository, it should be added as a git submodule.

C++ Dependencies

The recommended approach is to include a git submodule for a given C++ dependency in the executorch/backends/<delegate_name>/third-party directory.

buck2/CMake Support

At a minimum CMake support is required. Adding buck2 support is optional, but will make the delegate available to more ExecuTorch users.


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