Python deployment using fabric and pip

I’ve spent a not insignificant amount of time working on a deployment function for within my fabfile.py (the configuration file used by Fabric). It’s well worth the investment, as being able to deploy with a single command (potentially to many servers) is not only faster, but much less prone to human error.

Currently, I’m using Mercurial as my source control. I’m also using it for deployment, but I’d like to get away from that.

My deployment process looks something like this:

  1. Ensure the local repository has no uncommitted changes.
  2. Ensure the requirements.txt file is exactly the same as the output from pip freeze.
  3. Copy our public key to the remote server, for the user www-data, if it is not already installed there.
  4. Create a virtualenv in the desired location on the server, if there is not one already there.
  5. Ensure mercurial is installed on the server.
  6. Push the local repository to the remote server. This will include any subrepositories. I do a little bit of fancy magic to ensure the remote subrepositories exist.
  7. Update the remote server’s repository to the same revision as we are at locally. This means we don’t necessarily need to always deploy to tip.
  8. Install the dependencies on the remote server.
  9. Run some django management commands to ensure everything is setup correctly.
    • collect static files
    • sync the database
    • run migrations
    • ensure permissions are correct
    • compress static files
  10. Restart the various services that need to be restarted.

This process is based around requirements files for a very good reason. pip is very good at recognising which packages are already installed, and not reinstalling them if the version requirements are met. I use pip freeze > requirements.txt to ensure that what will be deployed matches exactly with what I have been developing (and testing) against.

However, this process has some issues.

  • Files must be committed to SCM before they can be deployed. This is fine for deployment to production, but is annoying for deploying to test servers. I have plenty of commits that turn on some extra debugging, and then a commit or two later, I turn it off.
  • I have some packages that I have installed locally using pip install -e /path/to/package. To deploy these, I need to:
    1. Uninstall the editable installation.
    2. Package up a new version of the app.
    3. Push the package to my package repository (I use localshop).
    4. Install the package from the package repository.
    5. Run pip freeze > requirements.txt.
    6. Commit the changes.
    7. Deploy to the test server.
  • Then, I usually need to develop further, so I reinstall using pip install -e ....

Today, I finally got around to spending some time looking at how pip can help improve this workflow.

With pip==1.3.1, we have a command that was not in pip==1.1, which was what I had been using until now. pip bundle.

My ‘deploy-to-development/test’ process now looks something like:

  1. Get a list of packages installed as editable: pip list -e
  2. Create a bundle, without dependencies, of these packages.
  3. Get a list of all packages, other than those installed as editable: pip freeze | grep -v "^-e".
  4. Ensure the server is set up (virtualenv, etc)
  5. Push the local repository to the remote server.
  6. Upload the bundle and requirements files.
  7. Install from the requirements file on the server.
  8. Force install from the bundle file on the server, without dependencies.
  9. Repeat the post-installation stuff from above.

Some of this I’m never going to be able to avoid: ensuring we have the virtualenv, and the post-installation stuff. Migrations gotta migrate. However, I would like to move away from the pushing of the local repository.

My plan: turn my project into a package (complete with setup.py), so that it becomes just another entry in the requirements file. It will be editable, which means it will be bundled up for deployment.

However, it will mean I can get away from having the nested repositories that I currently have. Ultimately, I plan to be able to:

  1. Build a bundle of editable packages.
  2. Create a requirements file of non-editable packages.
  3. Upload both of these files to the server.
  4. Install the requirements.
  5. Install the bundle.
  6. Run the post installation tasks.

That would be bliss.

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