The 2024 CrateDB architecture guide covering all key concepts is out.

Download now
Skip to content
Blog

What is a Vector Database for LLM: Relation and Significance

For a long time, relational databases have been very useful, but they have limitations when handling unstructured data like text, images, and voice. These types of data are the majority of what is generated today and this is where vector databases come in. Vector databases are becoming essential for language modeling, especially in developing applications based on large language models (LLMs). Let's explore what a vector database is and its relation to LLMs. 

What is a Vector Database? 

A vector database is a specialized database that is designed to store high-dimensional data, like vectors, and group them based on similarities.  

It provides a structured approach to understanding complex spatial relationships, which makes it well-suited for applications like similarity search, recommendation systems, natural language processing, and computer vision. Vector databases use advanced indexing and search algorithms to efficiently find vectors that are most similar to a given query. 

This allows for quick query handling in AI-powered applications, which presents important benefits for different business cross-industries, considering the growing importance of AI globally. 

Relation to Large Language Models 

Large Language Models (LLMs) like GPT-4, are revolutionizing data management. They are playing a significant role in driving the adoption of a novel type of database called the vector database. These models are being utilized to derive insights from vast quantities of data and are introducing a paradigm shift in how we store, manage, and retrieve information. 

LLMs are computer models capable of comprehending and analyzing natural language. They are trained on massive amounts of text data and use statistical techniques to identify patterns and relationships between words and phrases. 

Vector databases are crucial for developing LLMs as they enable computers to understand the relationships between words and phrases. In simpler terms, vector databases provide the foundation for LLMs to operate by mapping words and phrases to points in a high-dimensional space.  

These databases come into play as they are specifically designed to store and manage high-dimensional vector representations efficiently. They can handle the dense, continuous data output produced by language models. For instance, an LLM might use a vector database to generate embeddings for the phrases "breach of contract" and "damages" and then use these embeddings to predict the meaning of a sentence that contains both phrases. 

The Significance of Vector Databases in Natural Language Processing

Vector databases are an essential aspect of natural language processing that enables computers to understand the interconnections between words and phrases. They are crucial to sentiment analysis, text classification, and language translation. These databases can be used to develop new language processing technologies, such as chatbots and document analysis tools, which can provide enhanced access to information and services, especially for those who cannot afford to hire a human expert. 

By analyzing vast amounts of text data, computers can identify patterns and trends in language that may not be immediately apparent to human readers, thereby improving natural language understanding and processing. This can benefit language learners and professionals in gaining a better understanding of language concepts and improving their language skills. 

Vector databases can also be used to analyze and comprehend specialized languages, such as legal or medical languages, which it can be challenging for humans to understand. Computers can use vector databases to identify patterns and relationships between words and phrases, thus enhancing our understanding of these languages. 

LLMs, such as GPT-4, understand and generate human-like text proficiently. They convert text into high-dimensional vectors or embeddings that capture the semantic meaning of the text. This enables complex text operations, such as finding similar words, sentences, or documents, making them suitable for chatbots, recommendation engines, and more. 

Vector databases are essential for efficient storage and indexing of these high-dimensional vectors and embeddings, which enable efficient similarity searches. The distance between two vectors defines their relationship, where small spaces suggest high relatedness and more considerable distances suggest low relatedness.  

While traditional NLP models used techniques such as Word2Vec and GloVe, transformer models like GPT-3 create contextualized word embeddings, meaning the word embedding for a word can change based on the context in which it is used. 

Each LLM uses a different mechanism to generate the word embeddings or vectors. For example, OpenAI's text-embedding-ada-002 model generates the word embeddings used with the text-davinci-003 and gpt-turbo-35 model variants, while Google's PaLM 2 uses the embedding-gecko-001 model to generate the embedding vectors.