Learn about the concept of history (version control) in Pachyderm.

December 5, 2022

Pachyderm implements rich version-control and history semantics. This section describes the core concepts and architecture of Pachyderm’s version control and the various ways to use the system to access historical data.

The following abstractions store the history of your data:

  • Commits

    In Pachyderm, commits are the core version-control primitive that is similar to Git commits. Commits represent an immutable snapshot of a filesystem and can be accessed with an ID. They have a parentage structure, where new commits inherit content from their parents. You can think of this parentage structure as of a linked list or a chain of commits.

  • Branches

    Branches are pointers to commits that are similar to Git branches. Typically, branches have semantically meaningful names such as master and staging. Branches are mutable, and they move along a growing chain of commits as you commit to the branch, and can even be reassigned to any commit within the repo by using the pachctl create branch command. The commit that a branch points to is referred to as the branches head, and the head’s ancestors are referred to as on the branch. Branches can be substituted for commits in Pachyderm’s API and behave as if the head of the branch were passed.

Ancestry Syntax #

  • Pachyderm’s commits and branches support a familiar Git syntax for referencing their history. A commit or branch parent can be referenced by adding a ^ to the end of the commit or branch. Similar to how master resolves to the head of master, master^ resolves to the parent of the head. You can add multiple ^s. For example, master^^ resolves to the parent of the parent of the head master, and so on. Similarly, master^3 has the same meaning as master^^^.

    Git supports two characters for ancestor references —^ and ~— with slightly different meanings. Pachyderm supports both characters as well, but their meaning is identical.

  • Also, Pachyderm supports a type of ancestor reference that Git does not: the forward reference, using the special character .. It resolves to commits on the beginning of commit chains. For example, master.1 is the first (oldest) commit on the master branch, master.2 is the second commit, and so on.


Resolving ancestry syntax requires traversing chains of commits high numbers passed to ^ and low numbers passed to .. These operations might take a long time. If you plan to repeatedly access an ancestor, you might want to resolve that ancestor with pachctl inspect commit <repo>@<branch or commitID>.

View the Pipeline History #

Pipelines are the main processing primitive in Pachyderm. However, they expose version-control and history semantics similar to filesystem objects. This is largely because, under the hood, they are implemented in terms of filesystem objects. You can access previous versions of a pipeline by using the same ancestry syntax that works for commits and branches. For example, pachctl inspect pipeline foo^ gives you the previous version of the pipeline foo. The pachctl inspect pipeline foo.1 command returns the first ever version of that same pipeline. You can use this syntax in all operations and scripts that accept pipeline names.

To view historical versions of a pipeline use the --history flag with the pachctl list pipeline command:

pachctl list pipeline --history all

System Response:

Pipeline2 1       input2:/* 4 hours ago running / success
Pipeline1 3       input1:/* 4 hours ago running / success
Pipeline1 2       input1:/* 4 hours ago running / success
Pipeline1 1       input1:/* 4 hours ago running / success

View the Job History #

Jobs do not have versioning semantics associated with them. However, they are strongly associated with the pipelines that created them. Therefore, they inherit some of their versioning semantics. You can use the -p <pipeline> flag with the pachctl list job command to list all the jobs that were run for the latest version of the pipeline.

Furthermore, you can get jobs from multiple versions of a pipeline by passing the --history flag. For example, pachctl list job -p edges --history all returns all jobs from all versions of the pipeline edges.