Implementation details#

These implementation details are great to consult when working on the product as they describe in detail how features work.

Orchest Controller#

Let’s quickly go through how the Orchest Controller “reacts” on the state of the Kubernetes cluster.

In controller.go a number of Informers are set up. These Informers (not written by us) store the applicable (depending on how you configure the informat) content from the k8s api in memory (functioning as cache). This in-memory store is kept in sync with the state of the cluster using a watch command. To minimize the load on the k8s api an informerFactory is used (again not implemented by us).

Next, we add event handlers on the informers to watch for particular events, e.g. the creation of a Pod. Whenever an event handler is triggered the respective event handler enqueues the task. This is where the orchest-controller comes in. The Orchest Controller consumes tasks from the respective queues and handles it accordingly. An important note to make is that the Orchest Controller will always make a deepcopy of objects as to not change the objects in the informer’s cache.

Note, that there is one go routine per queue as to not concurrently work on tasks from the same queue.


Specifying custom images in the OrchestCluster CR#

Details can be found here: PR #1205.

In short, a custom image can be specified for an Orchest service. This image can have a custom registry, name and/or tag. When the custom image is specified in the OrchestCluster CR on creation, then the orchest-controller will deploy the image to be used.

On orchest update all non-custom images will be updated as regular, whereas custom images will remain unchanged.

Telemetry Events#

The Orchest shared library provides a module (lib/python/orchest-internals/_orchest/internals/ which allows to send events to our telemetry backend. The caller of this module, needs, essentially, to provide an already anonymized payload (a dictionary) to the send_event function along with the event type to send, e.g. project:created.

If you are tasked with adding new telemetry events, you should:

  • find when the event takes place and when to send the telemetry event

  • decide the type/name of the event, see the analytics module for examples. The event type must be defined in that module to be sent.

  • decide what data to include in the payload.

  • send the event.

  • if you have access to it, check out our internal analytics backend to make sure the event arrived as expected.

If you are looking for a list of telemetry events that are sent out, see the Event enumeration in the shared analytics module.

Telemetry events from the orchest-webserver#

This is the simplest case, where you will usually end up calling send_event in the same endpoint that produces the event. Overall, sending a telemetry event translates to a piece of logic similar to this:

from _orchest.internals import analytics

        event_properties={"active": active},

Telemetry events from the front-end client#

The client sends telemetry events by using the orchest-webserver as a relay, essentially, the orchest-webserver exposes the /analytics endpoint (services/orchest-webserver/app/app/views/ which allows the client to send events as long as the event type exists in the shared analytics module. The payload should look like the following:

  "event": "my event type",  # e.g. "project:created".
  # Must not contain any sensitive data, i.e. already anonymized.
  "properties": {
    "hello": "world"

Telemetry events from the orchest-api#

The orchest-api will automatically take care of sending the telemetry event to the analytics backend, asynchronously and with retries, once the event is registered in the orchest-api event system. A complex way of saying that:

  • the orchest-api has its own event system.

  • each orchest-api event is also defined as an event in the analytics module and sent out to the analytics backend.

  • as a “user” of this system, you will have to implement the event (i.e. the content of the payload), and register the event when it happens, the equivalent of calling register_event(my_event) in the right places.

See Orchest-api Events for a more in depth explanation.

orchest-api events#

The orchest-api keeps track of a number of events happening in Orchest, in fact, a dedicated models module related to events exists, models implemented by the orchest-api can be found at services/orchest-api/app/app/models/ .

Events are used by the orchest-api for two reasons: to send them as telemetry events to the analytics backend, and to use them for user facing notifications. Orchest implements a simple subscription system where subscribers can subscribe to a number of events. A possible subscriber is a “webhook”, which users can use to get notified of particular events. An analytics subscriber subscribed automatically to all events exists, which will automatically send out telemetry events when orchest-api events are recorded.

When you record an orchest-api event, subscribers that are subscribed to that event type will trigger the creation of a delivery record, which is stored in the database and acts as a transactional outbox. The celery-worker will periodically check for undelivered deliveries and send them out. Different deliverees (webhooks, analytics, etc.) have different delivery implementations.

orchest-api events are implemented through a hierarchy of models backed by a single table through single table inheritance. Each one of those models must implement its own methods to be converted to a notification or telemetry payload. Given the nested nature of entities in Orchest, for example project:job:pipeline_run, what actually happens is that an event representing a specific layer of this hierarchy will call the parent class to generate a payload, then add it’s own data to the payload, incrementally. See the events models for example.

Steps to implement a new orchest-api event:

  • create the database model by extending an existing Event class. Implement to_notification_payload, which will return the payload that is exposed to users through notifications, and to_telemetry_payload, which will return the payload that is sent to the analytics backend. This last payload must be completely anonymized.

  • create a schema migration file if the model introduces new columns, i.e. bash scripts/ orchest-api migrate.

  • in that same file, or in a new one, add new event types as required by adding records to the event_types table. The EventType model refers to such migrations, that you can use as examples.

  • add the required register_<event_type>_event functions in the services/orchest-api/app/app/core/ module, these functions will be used to record the event in the orchest-api.

  • use the functions you defined to register the event happening in the right places.

  • add the event type to the Event enumeration of the shared analytics module.

  • you can now test said event as a user facing notification and, if you have access to the analytics backend, you can make sure that the telemetry event is delivered (and anonymized!).

SDK data passing#

The orchest.transfer.get_inputs() method calls orchest.transfer.resolve() which, in order to resolve what output data the user most likely wants to get, needs a timestamp of the most recent output for every transfer type.

Disk transfer#

To be able to resolve the timestamp of the most recent write, we keep a file called HEAD for every step. It has the following content: timestamp, serialization, where timestamp is specified in isoformat with timespec in seconds.

Internally used environment variables#

When it comes to pipeline execution, each pipeline step is executed in its own environment. More particularly in its own container. Depending on how the code inside a pipeline step is executed a number of ENV variables are set by Orchest. The different ways to execute code as part of a pipeline step are:

  • Running the cell of a Jupyter Notebook in JupyterLab,

  • Running an interactive run through the pipeline editor,

  • Running a non-interactive run as part of a job.

In all of the above mentioned cases the following ENV variables set: ORCHEST_PROJECT_UUID, ORCHEST_PIPELINE_UUID and ORCHEST_PIPELINE_PATH. Then there is ORCHEST_STEP_UUID, which is used for data passing, this ENV variable is always present in (non-)interactive runs and in the Jupyter Notebooks after the first data passing using the Orchest SDK reference. Additionally, you can use the following code snippet to get the UUID of the step if it is not yet set inside the environment:

import json
import orchest

# Put in the relative path to the pipeline file.
with open("pipeline.orchest", "r") as f:
    desc = json.load(f)

p = orchest.pipeline.Pipeline.from_json(desc)
step_uuid = orchest.utils.get_step_uuid(p)

Lastly, there is ORCHEST_PROJECT_DIR which is used to make the entire project directory available through the JupyterLab UI and is thus only set for interactive Jupyter kernels.

Building environment and custom jupyter images#

Environment and custom JupyterLab images are built directly on the node by talking to the container runtime. This allows faster builds given that we can push the image to the internal registry later and asynchronously with respect to the actual build.

When a build is started by the user, a task in the celery-worker will create a pod in charge of getting in touch with the container runtime and following the build. We let k8s schedule the pod on any node it prefers, but we keep track of it for later use. The celery task following the build will stream the logs of the building pod to the client through a websocket connection, with the websocket server being the orchest-webserver.

Once the build is done, the image is pushed to the internal registry by the node-agent, a daemonset that is in charge of a number of activities that need to happen on every node. This happens transparently, meaning that the build will be considered done the moment the image is built, and not after it has been pushed, and the user will be able to use that image immediately, e.g. through a pipeline run.

Distributing the image around the cluster#

In a single node cluster there are no other nodes to pull the image into, but built images are pushed to the internal registry regardless. This is because the k8s garbage collection task could delete images from the node in case of disk pressure. If that happens, the node-agent will pull the image back into the node by pulling it from the internal registry.

In a multi node cluster things are slightly different, but not that much: on each node, the node-agent will check if the image is on the node, and, if not, will pull the image from the registry. Once an image is pulled on a node the orchest-api is notified by the node-agent. This information is used later for scheduling pods.

To summarize, given N nodes:

  • the image is built using the container runtime, it’s now on 1 node.

  • the node-agent running on the node notices the new image, and pushes it to the registry.

  • the node-agent pods running on the other N - 1 nodes notice (by querying the orchest-api) that there is an image that is on the registry but not on the node, they pull the image.

  • the image is now on all N nodes. If the image gets deleted from a node by k8s garbage collection it will be pulled again.

Interfacing with different container runtimes#

Talking directly to the container runtime gives us flexibility but also the burden of taking care of every quirk or leaky abstraction related to the particular runtime we are interfacing with. The points of interest in our logic, i.e. where changes related to container runtimes are likely to happen, are the orchet-api module in charge of building images and the orchest-controller, which might have to change some Orchest cluster level configuration based on the runtime.


When it comes to docker things are pretty easy, we just mount the docker socket from the host in the builder pod, which image contains the docker-cli, and build the image through that.


Things are slightly more complex when it comes to containerd. Since containerd doesn’t offer an high level way of building images we use buildkit to indirectly interface with it for builds. Differently from the simple docker case, we can’t just launch a builder pod containing an ephemeral buildkit daemon and mount the containerd socket to said pod because bidirectional mounting propagation is required in order to make this work when the buildkit daemon runs in a container and containerd runs on the host, and we considered continuously creating and bringing down the daemon too risky when it comes to leaving dangling mounts on the host.

Given that, when the containerd runtime is detected a buildkitd daemonset is created. Now that we have a buildkit daemon running on every node, building becomes similar to the docker case, the builder pod contains the buildctl CLI and mounts the buildkitd socket, the image is then built by issuing buildctl commands. To clarify, this means that the buildkitd socket is exposed to the host through a volume mount, and is then “picked up” by the builder pod by mounting the same location from the host.

Pod scheduling in Orchest#

In order to provide a better user experience, Orchest distinguishes activities between what could be called an “interactive scope” and a “non-interactive scope”. The interactive scope includes any activity where the user is directly involved in waiting to continue its tasks. For example, an interactive pipeline run, a Jupyter kernel starting, waiting for an interactive session to be ready, etc. Obviously, we want to make events part of this scope happen as quickly as possible.

Given this premise, and the fact that the orchest-api knows on which node(s) an environment image is, Orchest interacts with the scheduling of pods of interest in order to have the best user experience while balancing node pressure across the cluster. The entire logic can be found in the module of the orchest-api, and it’s, at the high level, pretty simple: anything that belongs to the interactive scope is scheduled to be on any node that already contains the images, while the non-interactive scope is scheduled on any node, regardless of the fact that the image is there already or if a pull will be needed.

This means that no pull will be needed to start pods related to the interactive scope, reducing the time that the user would have to wait if, for example, the pod backing a step of an interactive run would, instead, have been scheduled on a node that doesn’t have the image already.


  • a user imports a project containing one environment.

  • the environment is built on the node.

  • immediately after the image has been built, the user can start a session, start an interactive run, interact with a Jupyter kernel. These will all be scheduled on the node already containing the image.

  • the image gets pushed to the registry by the node-agent.

  • after the image has been pushed to the registry and pulled to the other nodes, all these activities belonging to the interactive scope could be scheduled on any node. This means that the time window during which there is single node pressure is given by the time it takes to push the newly built image to the registry and spread it to the other nodes.