Deployment Scenarios

In the following sections, we will describe some of the ways in which Intake is used in real production systems. These go well beyond the typical YAML files presented in the quickstart and examples sections, which are necessarily short and simple, and do not demonstrate the full power of Intake.

Sharing YAML files

This is the simplest scenario, and amply described in these documents. The primary advantage is simplicity: it is enough to put a file in an accessible place (even a gist or repo), in order for someone else to be able to discover and load that data. Furthermore, such files can easily refer to one-another, to build up a full tree of data assets with minimum pain Since YAML files are text, this also lends itself to working well with version control systems. Furthermore, all sources can describe themselves as YAML, and the export and upload commands can produce an efficient format (possibly remote) together with YAML definition in a single step.


The Pangeo collaboration uses Intake to catalog their data holdings, which are generally in various forms of netCDF-compliant formats, massive multi-dimensional arrays with data relating to earth and climate science and meteorology. On their cloud-based platform, containers start up jupyter-lab sessions which have Intake installed, and therefore can simply pick and load the data that each researcher needs - often requiring large Dask clusters to actually do the processing.

A static rendering of the catalog contents is available, so that users can browse the holdings without even starting a python session. This rendering is produced by CI on the repo whenever new definitions are added, and it also checks (using Intake) that each definition is indeed loadable.

Pangeo also developed intake-stac, which can talk to STAC servers to make real-time queries and parse the results into Intake data sources. This is a standard for spaceo-temporal data assets, and indexes massive amounts of cloud-stored data.

Anaconda Enterprise

Intake will be the basis of the data access and cataloging service within Anaconda Enterprise, running as a micro-service in a container, and offering data source definitions to users. The access control, who gets to see which data-set, and serving of credentials to be able to read from the various data storage services, will all be handled by the platform and be fully configurable by admins.

National Center for Atmospheric Research

NCAR has developed intake-esm, a mechanism for creating file-based Intake catalogs for climate data from project efforts such as the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) and the Community Earth System Model (CESM) Large Ensemble Project. These projects produce a huge of amount climate data persisted on tape, disk storage components across multiple (of the order ~300,000) netCDF files. Finding, investigating, loading these files into data array containers such as xarray can be a daunting task due to the large number of files a user may be interested in. Intake-esm addresses this issue in three steps:

  • Datasets Catalog Curation in form of YAML files. These YAML files provide information about data locations, access pattern, directory structure, etc. intake-esm uses these YAML files in conjunction with file name templates to construct a local database. Each row in this database consists of a set of metadata such as experiment, modeling realm, frequency corresponding to data contained in one netCDF file.

cat = intake.open_esm_metadatastore(catalog_input_definition="GLADE-CMIP5")
  • Search and Discovery: once the database is built, intake-esm can be used for searching and discovering of climate datasets by eliminating the need for the user to know specific locations (file path) of their data set of interest:

sub_cat =['hfls'], frequency='mon', modeling_realm='atmos', institute=['CCCma', 'CNRM-CERFACS'])
  • Access: when the user is satisfied with the results of their query, they can ask intake-esm to load the actual netCDF files into xarray datasets:

dsets = cat.to_xarray(decode_times=True, chunks={'time': 50})

Brookhaven Archive

The Bluesky project uses Intake to dynamically query a MongoDB instance, which holds the details of experimental and simulation data catalogs, to return a custom Catalog for every query. Data-sets can then be loaded into python, or the original raw data can be accessed …


Zillow is developing Intake to meet the needs of their datalake access layer (DAL), to encapsulate the highly hierarchical nature of their data. Of particular importance, is the ability to provide different version (testing/production, and different storage formats) of the same logical dataset, depending on whether it is being read on a laptop versus the production infrastructure …