Beginner Tutorial

Welcome to the beginner tutorial for Pachyderm! If you’ve already got Pachyderm installed, this guide should take about 15 minutes, and it will introduce you to the basic concepts of Pachyderm.

Image processing with OpenCV

This guide will walk you through the deployment of a Pachyderm pipeline to do some simple edge detection on a few images. Thanks to Pachyderm’s built in processing primatives, we’ll be able to keep our code simple but still run the pipeline in a distributed, streaming fashion. Moreover, as new data is added, the pipeline will automatically process it and output the results.

If you hit any errors not covered in this guide, get help in our public commity Slack, submit an issue on GitHub, or email us at We are more than happy to help!


This guide assumes that you already have Pachyderm running locally. Check out our Local Installation instructions if haven’t done that yet and then come back here to continue.

Create a Repo

A repo is the highest level data primitive in Pachyderm. Like many things in Pachyderm, it shares it’s name with primitives in Git and is designed to behave analogously. Generally, repos should be dedicated to a single source of data such as log messages from a particular service, a users table, or training data for an ML model. Repos are dirt cheap so don’t be shy about making tons of them.

For this demo, we’ll simply create a repo called images to hold the data we want to process:

$ pachctl create-repo images

# See the repo we just created
$ pachctl list-repo
NAME                CREATED             SIZE
images              2 minutes ago       0 B

Adding Data to Pachyderm

Now that we’ve created a repo it’s time to add some data. In Pachyderm, you write data to an explicit commit (again, similar to Git). Commits are immutable snapshots of your data which give Pachyderm its version control properties. Files can be added, removed, or updated in a given commit.

Let’s start by just adding a file, in this case an image, to a new commit. We’ve provided some sample images for you that we host on Imgur.

We’ll use the put-file command along with the -f flag. -f can take either a local file, a URL, or a object storage bucket which it’ll automatically scrape. In our case, we’ll simply pass the URL.

Unlike Git, commits in Pachyderm must be explicitly started. Similar to Git though, commits must also be explicitly finished, as they can contain huge amounts of data and we don’t want that much “dirty” data hanging around in an unpersisted state. Although commits are explicitly managed, put-file offers a shortcut: if you run put-file on a repo that does not have an open commit, it automatically opens and closes the commit for you. This is called an atomic commit. Alternatively, in a situation where you want to add many files over a period of time, or you want add a commit message, you can manually call start-commit and finish-commit yourself.

Here’s an example atomic commit of the file liberty.png to the images repo’s master branch:

$ pachctl put-file images master liberty.png -f

We can check to make sure the data we just added is in Pachyderm.

# If we list the repos, we can see that there is now data
$ pachctl list-repo
NAME                CREATED             SIZE
images              5 minutes ago   57.27 KiB

# We can view the commit we just created
$ pachctl list-commit images
REPO                ID                                 PARENT              STARTED            DURATION            SIZE
images              7162f5301e494ec8820012576476326c   <none>              2 minutes ago      38 seconds          57.27 KiB

# And view the file in that commit
$ pachctl list-file images master
NAME                TYPE                SIZE
liberty.png         file                57.27 KiB

We can also view the file we just added to Pachyderm. Since this is an image, we can’t just print it out in the terminal, but the following commands will let you view it easily.

# on OSX
$ pachctl get-file images master liberty.png | open -f -a /Applications/

# on Linux
$ pachctl get-file images master liberty.png | display

Create a Pipeline

Now that we’ve got some data in our repo, it’s time to do something with it. Pipelines are the core processing primitive in Pachyderm and they’re specified with a JSON encoding. For this example, we’ve already created the pipeline for you and you can find the code on Github.

When you want to create your own pipelines later, you can refer to the full Pipeline Specification to use more advanced options. This includes building your own code into a container instead of the pre-built Docker image we’ll be using here.

For now, we’re going to create a single pipeline that takes in images and does some simple edge detection.


Below is the pipeline spec and python code we’re using. Let’s walk through the details.

# edges.json
  "pipeline": {
    "name": "edges"
  "transform": {
    "cmd": [ "python3", "/" ],
    "image": "pachyderm/opencv"
  "input": {
    "atom": {
      "repo": "images",
      "glob": "/*"

Our pipeline spec contains a few simple sections. First is the pipeline name, edges. Then we have the transform which specifies the docker image we want to use, pachyderm/opencv (defaults to DockerHub as the registry), and the entry point Lastly, we specify the input. Here we only have one “atom” input, our images repo with a particular glob pattern.

The glob pattern defines how the input data can be broken up if we wanted to distribute our computation. /* means that each file can be processed individually, which makes sense for images. Glob patterns are one of the most powerful features of Pachyderm so when you start creating your own pipelines, check out the Pipeline Specification.

import cv2
import numpy as np
from matplotlib import pyplot as plt
import os

# make_edges reads an image from /pfs/images and outputs the result of running
# edge detection on that image to /pfs/out. Note that /pfs/images and
# /pfs/out are special directories that Pachyderm injects into the container.
def make_edges(image):
   img = cv2.imread(image)
   tail = os.path.split(image)[1]
   edges = cv2.Canny(img,100,200)
   plt.imsave(os.path.join("/pfs/out", os.path.splitext(tail)[0]+'.png'), edges, cmap = 'gray')

# walk /pfs/images and call make_edges on every file found
for dirpath, dirs, files in os.walk("/pfs/images"):
   for file in files:
       make_edges(os.path.join(dirpath, file))

Our python code is really straight forward. We’re simply walking over all the images in /pfs/images, do our edge detection and write to /pfs/out.

/pfs/images and /pfs/out are special local directories that Pachyderm creates within the container for you. All the input data for a pipeline will be found in /pfs/<input_repo_name> and your code should always write out to /pfs/out. Pachyderm will automatically gather everything you write to /pfs/out and version it as this pipeline’s output.

Now let’s create the pipeline in Pachyderm:

$ pachctl create-pipeline -f

What Happens When You Create a Pipeline

Creating a pipeline tells Pachyderm to run your code on the data currently in your input repo (the HEAD commit) as well as all future commits that happen after the pipeline is created. Our repo already had a commit, so Pachyderm automatically launched a job to process that data.

This first time Pachyderm runs a pipeline job, it needs to download the Docker image (specified in the pipeline spec) from the specified Docker registry (DockerHub in this case). As such, this first run this might take a minute or so, depending on your Internet connection. Subsequent runs will be much faster.

You can view the job with:

$ pachctl list-job
ID                               OUTPUT COMMIT                          STARTED       DURATION   RESTART PROGRESS  DL       UL       STATE
490a28be32de491e942372018cd42460 edges/bc2d20d0c23740f397622a62b0978c57 2 minutes ago 35 seconds 0       1 + 0 / 1 57.27KiB 22.22KiB success

Yay! Our pipeline succeeded! Notice, that there is an OUTPUT COMMIT column specified above. Pachyderm creates a corresponding output repo for every pipeline. This output repo will have the same name as the pipeline, and all the results of that pipeline will be versioned in this output repo. In our example, the “edges” pipeline created a repo called “edges” to store the results.

$ pachctl list-repo
NAME                CREATED            SIZE
edges               2 minutes ago      22.22 KiB
images              10 minutes ago     57.27 KiB

Reading the Output

We can view the output data from the “edges” repo in the same fashion that we viewed the input data.

# on OSX
$ pachctl get-file edges master liberty.png | open -f -a /Applications/

# on Linux
$ pachctl get-file edges master liberty.png | display

The output should look similar to:


Processing More Data

Pipelines will also automatically process the data from new commits as they are created. Think of pipelines as being subscribed to any new commits on their input repo(s). Also similar to Git, commits have a parental structure that tracks which files have changed. In this case we’re going to be adding more images.

Let’s create two new commits in a parental structure. To do this we will simply do two more put-file commands and by specifying master as the branch, it’ll automatically parent our commits onto each other. Branch names are just references to a particular HEAD commit.

$ pachctl put-file images master AT-AT.png -f

$ pachctl put-file images master kitten.png -f

Adding a new commit of data will automatically trigger the pipeline to run on the new data we’ve added. We’ll see corresponding jobs get started and commits to the output “edges” repo. Let’s also view our new outputs.

# view the jobs that were kicked off
$ pachctl list-job
ID                               OUTPUT COMMIT                          STARTED        DURATION           RESTART PROGRESS  DL       UL       STATE
81ae47a802f14038b95f8f248cddbed2 edges/146a5e398f3f40a09f5151559fd4a6cb 7 seconds ago  Less than a second 0       1 + 2 / 3 102.4KiB 74.21KiB success
ce448c12d0dd4410b3a5ae0c0f07e1f9 edges/c5d7ded9ba214d9aa4aa2c044625198c 16 seconds ago Less than a second 0       1 + 1 / 2 78.7KiB  37.15KiB success
490a28be32de491e942372018cd42460 edges/bc2d20d0c23740f397622a62b0978c57 9 minutes ago  35 seconds         0       1 + 0 / 1 57.27KiB 22.22KiB success
# View the output data

# on OSX
$ pachctl get-file edges master AT-AT.png | open -f -a /Applications/

$ pachctl get-file edges master kitten.png | open -f -a /Applications/

# on Linux
$ pachctl get-file edges master AT-AT.png | display

$ pachctl get-file edges master kitten.png | display

Adding Another Pipeline

We have succesfully deployed and utilized a single stage Pachyderm pipeline, but now let’s add a processing stage to illustrate a multi-stage Pachyderm pipeline. Specifically, let’s add a montage pipeline that take our original and edge detected images and arranges them into a single montage of images:


Below is the pipeline spec for this new pipeline:

# montage.json
  "pipeline": {
    "name": "montage"
  "input": {
    "cross": [ {
      "atom": {
        "glob": "/",
        "repo": "images"
      "atom": {
        "glob": "/",
        "repo": "edges"
    } ]
  "transform": {
    "cmd": [ "sh" ],
    "image": "v4tech/imagemagick",
    "stdin": [ "montage -shadow -background SkyBlue -geometry 300x300+2+2 $(find /pfs -type f | sort) /pfs/out/montage.png" ]

This pipeline spec is very similar to our edges pipeline except, for montage: (1) we are using a different Docker image that has imagemagick installed, (2) we are executing a sh command with stdin instead of a python script, and (3) we have multiple input data repositories.

In this case we are combining our multiple input data repositories using a cross pattern. There are multiple interesting ways to combine data in Pachyderm, which are further discussed here and here. For the purposes of this example, suffice it to say that this cross pattern creates a single pairing of our input images with our edge detected images.

We create this next pipeline as before, with pachctl:

$ pachctl create-pipeline -f

This will automatically trigger a job that generates a montage for all the current HEAD commits of the input repos:

$ pachctl list-job
ID                               OUTPUT COMMIT                            STARTED        DURATION           RESTART PROGRESS  DL       UL       STATE
92cecc40c3144fd5b4e07603bb24b104 montage/1af4657db2404fcfba1c6cee6c71ae16 45 seconds ago 6 seconds          0       1 + 0 / 1 371.9KiB 1.284MiB success
81ae47a802f14038b95f8f248cddbed2 edges/146a5e398f3f40a09f5151559fd4a6cb   2 minutes ago  Less than a second 0       1 + 2 / 3 102.4KiB 74.21KiB success
ce448c12d0dd4410b3a5ae0c0f07e1f9 edges/c5d7ded9ba214d9aa4aa2c044625198c   2 minutes ago  Less than a second 0       1 + 1 / 2 78.7KiB  37.15KiB success
490a28be32de491e942372018cd42460 edges/bc2d20d0c23740f397622a62b0978c57   11 minutes ago 35 seconds         0       1 + 0 / 1 57.27KiB 22.22KiB success

And you can view the generated montage image via:

# on OSX
$ pachctl get-file montage master montage.png | open -f -a /Applications/

# on Linux
$ pachctl get-file montage master montage.png | display

Exploring your DAG in the Pachyderm dashboard

When you deployed Pachyderm locally, the Pachyderm Enterprise dashboard was also deployed by default. This dashboard will let you interactively explore your pipeline, visualize the structure of the pipeline, explore your data, debug jobs, etc. To access the dashboard visit localhost:30080 in an Internet browser (e.g., Google Chrome). You will see something similar to this:


Enter your email address if you would like to obtain a free trial token for the dashboard. Upon entering this trial token, you will be able to see your pipeline structure and interactively explore the various pieces of your pipeline as pictured below:

../_images/dashboard2.png ../_images/dashboard3.png

Next Steps

We’ve now got Pachyderm running locally with data and a pipeline! If you want to keep playing with Pachyderm locally, you can use what you’ve learned to build on or change this pipeline. You can also dig in and learn more details about:

We’d love to help and see what you come up with so submit any issues/questions you come across on GitHub , Slack or email at if you want to show off anything nifty you’ve created!