User Guide

The basic workflow for setting up a new web site is described in this guide. If this workflow doesn’t fit for some reason then django-fab-deploy can still be used as a collection of scripts, a lot of them can be used independently.


  1. Clean Debian Lenny, Debian Squeeze, Ubuntu 10.04 or 10.10 server/VPS with root or sudo-enabled user ssh access;
  2. working ssh key authentication;


OpenVZ has serious issues with memory management (VIRT is counted and limited instead of RSS) so a lot of software (including apache2, Java and mysql’s InnoDB engine) is nearly unusable on OpenVZ while being memory-wise and performant on XEN/KVM. So please try to avoid OpenVZ or Virtuozzo VPS’s, use XEN or KVM or real servers.

Prepare the project

  1. Install django-fab-deploy its requirements:

    pip install django-fab-deploy
    pip install jinja2
    pip install "fabric >= 1.4"
  2. Create at project root. It should provide one or more function putting server details into Fabric environment. Otherwise it’s just a standart Fabric’s fabfile (e.g. project-specific scripts can also be put here). Example:

    # my_project/
    from fab_deploy import *
    def my_site():
        env.hosts = ['']
        env.conf = dict(
            DB_USER = 'my_site',
            DB_PASSWORD = 'password',
            # uncomment this line if the project is not stored in VCS
            # default value is 'hg', 'git' is also supported
            # VCS = 'none',

    There is a simpler syntax for the code above:

    from fab_deploy import *
    def my_site():
        return dict(
            DB_USER = 'my_site',
            DB_PASSWORD = 'password',

    In order to make things simple set the username in env.hosts string to your project name. It should be a valid python identifier. Don’t worry if there is no such user on server, django-fab-deploy can create linux user and setup ssh access for you, and it is preferrable to have linux user per project if possible.


    There are some defaults, e.g. DB_NAME equals to INSTANCE_NAME, and INSTANCE_NAME equals to username obtained from env.hosts.

    Read API for more details.

  3. Copy config_templates folder from django-fab-deploy to your project root, manually or by running the following command from the project root:

    django-fab-deploy config_templates

    Read the configs and adjust them if it is needed. Basic configs are usually a good starting point and should work as-is.


    {{ variables }} can be used in config templates (engine is jinja2). They will be replaced with values from env.conf on server.

    If you change web server config file or env.conf variables after initial deployment, apply the changes in web server configs by running

    fab setup_web_server
  4. Create at project root. This file will become on server. Example:

    # my_project/
    # config file for environment-specific settings
    DEBUG = False
        'default': {
            'ENGINE': 'django.db.backends.mysql',
            'NAME': '{{ DB_NAME }}',
            'USER': '{{ DB_USER }}',
            'PASSWORD': '{{ DB_PASSWORD }}',
            'HOST': '',
            'PORT': '',
            'OPTIONS': {
                "init_command": "SET storage_engine=INNODB"

    Then create for local development. Import config in project’s

    # Django settings for my_project project.
    # ...
    from config import *
    # ...
 trick is also known as (make sure is ignored in your VCS if one is used).


    {{ variables }} can be used in They will be replaced with values from env.conf on server.

    If you change or env.conf variables after initial deployment, apply the changes to by running

    fab update_django_config
  5. Create reqs folder at project root. This folder should contain text files with pip requirements.

    You can get basic/example reqs folder by running

    django-fab-deploy example_reqs

    One file is special: reqs/all.txt. This is the main requirements file. List all project requirements here one-by-one or (preferrable) by including other requirement files using “-r” syntax.

    There is also

    django-fab-deploy generate_reqs

    command. It creates reqs folder with all.txt file containing a list of currently installed packages (obtained from pip freeze).

The project should look like that after finishing steps 1-5:

    config_templates <- this folder should be copied from django-fab-deploy

    reqs             <- a folder with project's pip requirement files
        all.txt      <- main requirements file, list all requirements in this file
        active.txt   <- put recently modified requirements here
        ...          <- you can provide extra files and include them with '-r' syntax in e.g. all.txt        <- this file should be included in and ignored in .hgignore <- this is a production django config template       <- your project's Fabric deployment script


django-fab-deploy does not enforce this layout; if it doesn’t fit for some reason (e.g. you prefer single pip requirements file or django project in subfolder or you use django >= 1.4), take a look at Custom project layouts.

The project is now ready to be deployed.

Prepare the server

  1. If the server doesn’t have sudo installed (e.g. clean Lenny or Squeezy) then install sudo on server:

    fab install_sudo


    Fabric commands should be executed in shell from the project root on local machine (not from the python console, not on server shell).

  2. If there is no linux account for user specified in env.hosts then add a new linux server user, manually or using

    fab create_linux_account:"/home/kmike/.ssh/"

    You’ll need the ssh public key. create_linux_account creates a new linux user and uploads provided ssh key. Test that ssh login is working:


    SSH keys for other developers can be added at any time:

    fab ssh_add_key:"/home/kmike/coworker-keys/"
  3. Setup the database. django-fab-deploy can install mysql and create empty DB for the project:

    fab mysql_install
    fab mysql_create_db

    mysql_install does nothing if mysql is already installed on server. Otherwise it installs mysql-server package and set root password to env.conf.DB_ROOT_PASSWORD. If this option is empty, mysql_install will ask for a password.

    mysql_create_db creates a new empty database named env.conf.DB_NAME (it equals to env.conf.INSTANCE_NAME by default, which equals to the user from env.hosts by default). mysql_create_db will ask for a mysql root password if DB_USER is not ‘root’.


    If the DB enging is not mysql then DB should be created manually now.

  4. If you feel brave you can now run fab full_deploy from the project root and get a working django site.

    This command:

    • installs necessary system and python packages;
    • configures apache and ngnix;
    • creates virtualenv;
    • uploads project to the server;
    • runs python syncdb and python migrate commands on server.

    Project sources will be available under ~/src/<INSTANCE_NAME>, virtualenv will be placed in ~/envs/<INSTANCE_NAME>.


    django-fab-deploy disables ‘default’ apache and nginx sites and takes over ‘ports.conf’ so apache is no longer listening to 80 port.

    If there are other sites on server (not managed by django-fab-deploy) they may become unaccessible due to these changes.

Working with the server

django-fab-deploy provides additional commands that should be useful for updating the server:

  1. Source changes are deployed with fab_deploy.deploy.push() command:

    fab push

    Another example (deploy changes on ‘prod’ server, update pip requirements and perform migrations in one step:

    fab prod push:pip_update,migrate
  2. Update web server configuration:

    fab setup_web_server
  3. Update django configuration (

    fab update_django_config
  4. Requirements are updated with fab_deploy.virtualenv.pip_update() command. Update requirements listed in reqs/active.txt:

    fab pip_update

    Update requirements listed in reqs/my_apps.txt:

    fab pip_update:my_apps
  5. Remotely change branch or revision (assuming env.conf.VCS is not ‘none’):

    fab up:my_branch

Full list of commands can be found here.

Customization guide is also worth reading.