Core Concepts

The core concepts of Pinecone include: Service, Graph, Function, Model Hub, and Traffic Router. The figure below describes the relationships among the core concepts.

Pinecone service


A Pinecone service is a live instance of Pinecone’s vector database. A service consists of the following compnents:

  • Graph

    The graph of a service describes how the service handles requests and how functions in the service should be deployed. When setting up a service, you will construct a graph from scratch or modify an existing service’s graph, then deploy the graph to Pinecone.

  • Function

    A function is a self-contained functional unit within a service. Functions in a service handle requests (e.g. upsert, query, delete, or fetch) per the network graph. A service pulls custom function docker images from the Model Hub.

  • Management

    Pinecone manages the orchestration (e.g. scaling, sharding, and recovery) of the docker containers, as well as the networking, storage, and logging layers.

  • Connection

    A client establishes a connection to a service, then it can interact with the service to upsert, delete, query, or fetch. Multiple connections can be established with a service.


A Pinecone graph is a serialization of a Pinecone service. Analogous to a network graph, a Pinecone graph describes how a request (e.g. upsert, delete, query, or fetch) is handled by a service by specifying the sequence of nodes (i.e., the path) that the request would go through within a service’s network. The “write” path supports upsert and delete requests, and the “read” path supports query and fetch requests. Each node in a graph manifests itself in a service as a Pinecone function.

The figure below is an example of the topology of a user-movie recommender service. The “Pinecone engine” and “Pinecone aggregator” functions are the workhorses of Pinecone’s vector database. The figure shows that you can add a movie preprocessor and a user perprocessor to transform movie ids and user ids into embeddings before sending time to the vector database.

Pinecone service


A Pinecone function is a self-contained functional unit within a Pinecone service. A function is analogous to a node in a network graph, and each function has its own replication and sharding factors. Currently, Pinecone supports two types of custom functions: preprocessor and postprocessor. A preprocessor modifies the items or the queries before they are sent to Pinecone’s vector database, and a postprocessor modifies the results from the vector database. Furthurmore, multiple preprocessors can be concatenated, and so can the postprocessors. Note that custom functions are optional when you use Pinecone.

A function is deployed by pulling docker images from the model hub. To deploy custom functions, you will build your custom model and upload the docker images to the model hub.

Model Hub

Pinecone’s model hub is a registry where custom models are stored as docker images. These custom models can be used by Pinecone functions.

Custom models will need to use Pinecone’s base docker image but they are flexible otherwise–you may write them in any framework (e.g. scikit-learn, Tensorflow, Pytorch) with a Python interface.

Traffic Router

When a client creates a connection to a service, all the traffic is sent to that particular service. With a Pinecone traffic router, the client maintains the same connection, but you can change, with zero downtime, the active service that handles the client’s requests. This is particular helpful for updating inference models already in production. Currently, Pinecone traffic routers support blue-green deployment. We are planning to add support for Canary, A/B testing, and champion/challenger deployment strategies.