ndb library for Google Cloud Datastore

This is a Python 3 version of the ndb client library for use with Google Cloud Datastore.

The original Python 2 version was designed specifically for the Google App Engine python27 runtime. This version of ndb is designed for the Google App Engine Python 3 runtime and will run on other Python 3 platforms as well.

Installing ndb

ndb can be installed using pip:

$ pip install google-cloud-ndb

Before you can use ndb, you need a way to authenticate with Google. The recommended way to do this is to create a service account that is associated with the Google Cloud project that you’ll be working on. Detailed instructions are on the link above, but basically once you create the account you will be able to download a JSON file with your credentials which you can store locally.

Once you have the credentials, the best way to let your application know about them is to set an environment variable with the path to the JSON file. On Linux:

export GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDENTIALS="/path/to/credentials.json"

From the Windows command prompt:

set GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDENTIALS=C:\path\to\credentials.json

To test that your credentials work, try this from the Python environment where you installed ndb:

>>> from google.cloud import ndb
>>> client = ndb.Client()
>>> client
<google.cloud.ndb.client.Client object at 0x7f82593727b8>

If your credentials are OK, you will have an active client. Otherwise, Python will raise a google.auth.exceptions.DefaultCredentialsError exception.

Next, you’ll need to enable Firestore with Datastore API to your project. To do that, select “APIs & Services” from the Google Cloud Platform menu, then “Enable APIs and Services”. From there, look for “Databases” in the Category filter. Make sure that both “Cloud Datastore API” and “Google Cloud Firestore API” are enabled.

Defining Entities, Keys, and Properties

Now that we have completed setup, we can start writing applications. Let’s begin by introducing some of ndb’s most important concepts.

Cloud Datastore stores data objects, called entities. An entity has one or more properties, named values of one of several supported data types. For example, a property can be a string, an integer, or a reference to another entity.

Each entity is identified by a key, an identifier unique within the application’s datastore. The key can have a parent, another key. This parent can itself have a parent, and so on; at the top of this “chain” of parents is a key with no parent, called the root.

Entities whose keys have the same root form an entity group or group. If entities are in different groups, then changes to those entities might sometimes seem to occur “out of order”. If the entities are unrelated in your application’s semantics, that’s fine. But if some entities’ changes should be consistent, your application should make them part of the same group when creating them.

In practice, this would look like the following. Assume we want to keep track of personal contacts. Our entities might look like this:

from google.cloud import ndb

class Contact(ndb.Model):
    name = ndb.StringProperty()
    phone = ndb.StringProperty()
    email = ndb.StringProperty()

For now, we’ll keep it simple. For each contact, we’ll have a name, a phone number, and an email. This is defined in the above code. Notice that our Contact class inherits from google.cloud.ndb.Model. A model is a class that describes a type of entity, including the types and configuration for its properties. It’s roughly analogous to a SQL Table. An entity can be created by calling the model’s class constructor and then stored by calling the put() method.

Now that we have our model, let’s create a couple of entities:

client = ndb.Client()
with client.context():
    contact1 = Contact(name="John Smith",
                       phone="555 617 8993",
    contact2 = Contact(name="Jane Doe",
                       phone="555 445 1937",

An important thing to note here is that to perform any work in the underlying Cloud Store, a client context has to be active. After the ndb client is initialized, we get the current context using the ndb.google.Client.context method. Then, we “activate” the context by using Python’s context manager mechanisms. Now, we can safely create the entities, which are in turn stored using the put() method.


For all the following examples, please assume that the context activation code precedes any ndb interactions.

In this example, since we didn’t specify a parent, both entities are going to be part of the root entity group. Let’s say we want to have separate contact groups, like “home” or “work”. In this case, we can specify a parent, in the form of an ancestor key, using ndb’s google.cloud.ndb.Key class:

ancestor_key = ndb.Key("ContactGroup", "work")
contact1 = Contact(parent=ancestor_key,
                   name="John Smith",
                   phone="555 617 8993",
contact2 = Contact(parent=ancestor_key,
                   name="Jane Doe",
                   phone="555 445 1937",

A key is composed of a pair of (kind, id) values. The kind gives the id of the entity that this key refers to, and the id is the name that we want to associate with this key. Note that it’s not mandatory to have the kind class defined previously in the code for this to work.

This covers the basics for storing content in the Cloud Database. If you go to the Administration Console for your project, you should see the entities that were just created. Select “Datastore” from the Storage section of the Google Cloud Platform menu, then “Entities”, to get to the entity search page.

Queries and Indexes

Now that we have some entities safely stored, let’s see how to get them out. An application can query to find entities that match some filters:

query = Contact.query()
names = [c.name for c in query]

A typical ndb query filters entities by kind. In this example, we use a shortcut from the Model class that generates a query that returns all Contact entities. A query can also specify filters on entity property values and keys.

A query can specify sort order. If a given entity has at least one (possibly null) value for every property in the filters and sort orders and all the filter criteria are met by the property values, then that entity is returned as a result.

In the previous section, we stored some contacts using an ancestor key. Using that key, we can find only entities that “belong to” some ancestor:

ancestor_key = ndb.Key("ContactGroup", "work")
query = Contact.query(ancestor=ancestor_key)
names = [c.name for c in query]

While the first query example returns all four stored contacts, this last one only returns those stored under the “work” contact group.

There are many useful operations that can be done on a query. For example, to get results ordered by name:

query = Contact.query().order(Contact.name)
names = [c.name for c in query]

You can also filter the results:

query = Contact.query().filter(Contact.name == "John Smith")
names = [c.name for c in query]

Every query uses an index, a table that contains the results for the query in the desired order. The underlying Datastore automatically maintains simple indexes (indexes that use only one property).

You can define complex indexes in a configuration file, index.yaml. When starting out with complex indexes, the easiest way to define them is by attempting a complex query from your application or from the command line. When Datastore encounters queries that do not yet have indexes configured, it will generate an error stating that no matching index was found, and it will include the recommended (and correct) index syntax as part of the error message.

For example, the following Contact query will generate an error, since we are using more than one property:

query = Contact.query().order(Contact.name, Contact.email)
names = [c.name for c in query]

This will show an error like the following. Look for the text “recommended index is” to find the index properties that you need:

debug_error_string = "{"created":"@1560413351.069418472",
"description":"Error received from peer ipv6:[2607:f8b0:4012
:809::200a]:443","file": "src/core/lib/surface/call.cc",
"file_line":1046,"grpc_message":"no matching index found.
recommended index is:\n- kind: Contact\n  properties:\n  - name:
name\n  - name: email\n","grpc_status":9}"

From this error, you would get the following index description:

- kind: Contact
    - name: name
    - name: email

Add your new indexes to a local index.yaml file. When you have them all, you can add them to your project using the gcloud command from the Google Cloud SDK:

gcloud datastore indexes create path/to/index.yaml

If your datastore has many entities, it takes a long time to create a new index for them; in this case, it’s wise to update the index definitions before uploading code that uses the new index. You can use the “Datastore” control panel to find out when the indexes have finished building.

This index mechanism supports a wide range of queries and is suitable for most applications. However, it does not support some kinds of queries common in other database technologies. In particular, joins aren’t supported.