Incremental Processing

Pachyderm performs computations in an incremental fashion. That is, rather than computing a result all at once, it computes it in small pieces and then stitches those pieces together to form results. This allows Pachyderm to reuse results and compute things much more efficiently than traditional systems, which are forced to compute everything from scratch during every job.

Pachyderm supports two kinds of incremental processing:

  1. Inter-Datum Incrementality
  2. Intra-Datum Incrementality

If you are new to the idea of Pachyderm “datums,” you can learn more here.

Inter-datum Incrementality

Each of the input datums in a Pachyderm pipeline is processed in isolation, and the results of these isolated computations are combined to create the final result. Pachyderm will never process the same datum twice (unless you update a pipeline with the --reprocess flag). If you commit new data in Pachyderm that leaves some of the previously existing datums intact, the results of processing those pre-existing datums in a previous job will also remain intact. That is, the previous results for those pre-existing datums won’t be recalculated.

This inter-datum incrementality is best illustrated with an example. Suppose we have a pipeline with a single input that looks like this:

  "atom": {
    "repo": "R",
    "glob": "*",

Now, suppose you make a commit to R which adds a single file F1. Your pipeline will run a job, and that job will find a single datum to process (F1). This datum will be processed, because it’s the first time the pipeline has seen F1.

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If you then make a second commit to R adding another file F2, the pipeline will run a second job. This job will find two datums to process (F1 and F2). F2 will be processed, because it hasn’t been seen before. However F1 will NOT be processed, because an output from processing it already exists in Pachyderm.

Instead, the output from the previous job for F1 will be combined with the new result from processing F2 to create the output of this second job. This reuse of the result for F1 effectively halves the amount of work necessary to process the second commit.

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Finally, suppose you make a third commit to R, which modifies F1. Again you’ll have a job that sees two datums (the new F1 and the already processed F2). This time F2 won’t get processed, but the new F1 will be processed because it has different content as compared to the old F1.

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Note, you as a user don’t need to do anything to enable this inter-datum incrementality. It happens automatically, and it should should be transparent from your perspective. In the above example, you get the same result you would have gotten if you committed the same data in a single commit.

As of Pachyderm v1.5.1, list-job and inspect-job will tell you how many datums the job processed and how many it skipped. Below is an example of a job that had 5 datums, 3 that were processed and 2 that were skipped.

ID                                   OUTPUT COMMIT                             STARTED            DURATION           RESTART PROGRESS      DL       UL       STATE
54fbc366-3f11-41f6-9000-60fc8860fa55 pipeline/9c348deb64304d118101e5771e18c2af 13 seconds ago     10 seconds         0       3 + 2 / 5     0B       0B       success

Intra-datum Incrementality

Pachyderm also supports intra-datum incrementality, which is useful when the processing you’re doing can be done “online”. For example, when you are performing online training of a model or when you are summing a set of numbers in an aggregation.

Not all computations can be done online. Thus, this intra-datum incrementality is optionally enabled for Pachyderm pipelines via the incremental field in the pipeline specification.

Again, an example is instructive. Suppose you have a pipeline like the one illustrated above in the inter-datum section. However, instead of each datum being a single file, it is now a directory (D1, D2, etc.) which contains multiple files (F1, F2, etc.).

Each of these files in the directories contain numbers, and our pipeline sums the numbers in all of the files to produce a result that includes the sum of the numbers per directory. The pipeline also enables incrementality via the incremental field.

In a first commit, we add D1/F1. Our pipeline will run a job which sums up the numbers in all of the files in D1 (in this case, just D1/F1). This is similar to what would happen if the pipeline did not enable intra-datum incrementality.

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Then, in a second commit, we add D1/F2. Another job will be triggered process D1. However, the data it sees in D1 will be different from what it would be if the pipeline weren’t incremental. Instead of seeing D1/F1 and D1/F2, it will only see D1/F2.

Moreover, the output directory, /pfs/out, won’t be empty. /pfs/out will contain the results of last job that processed D1. That is, it will contain the sum of all the numbers in D1/F1.

As such, all our code needs to do is sum the numbers in D1/F2 and add them to the previous result, which we can access at /pfs/out/D1/result. We can then overwrite the previous result in /pfs/out with the new result.

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