If you haven’t read the first blog post, I highly recommend you start there. In this post we’ll be digging deeper into some more intermediate tasks with Fabric. We’re going to start out talking about roles. From there we’re going to move an environment-specific configuration into a YAML config file. We’re then going to delve into building a deployment script for a simple Python application with a pip install for requirements into a virtualenv and a deployment strategy that simplifies rollbacks.

Server Roles

The basis of any Fabric deployment script is defining what server’s get what tasks. We do this using the @roles decorator on a task. This then will run the commands in that task on every server in the group. A list of servers getting what roles is in the env.roledefs variable.

Here’s a simple example:

env.roledefs = {
    'application': [ 'web.example.com' ]

def deploy():
    sudo('echo deploying application to webserver')

To run a deploy to the webservers, all we do now is run fab deploy

Environment Configuration Files – Using YAML With Fabric

You very well could specify all your roledefs in your fabfile.py for all your environments, but a trick I like to do is load this from a YAML file. In addition to roledefs, this pattern also allows you to have environment-specific variables, such as environment name, some credentials, etc.

To do this, we create a task for loading our environment. This task then parses the YAML file with the configuration and then sets that configuration in a new variable, env.config. This config variable is then accessible in any other tasks. Finally, we set env.roledefs to env.config['roledefs'].

Here’s the code:

def loadenv(environment = ''):
    """Loads an environment config file for role definitions"""
    with open(config_dir + environment + '.yaml', 'r') as f:
        env.config = yaml.load(f)
        env.roledefs = env.config['roledefs']

And the associated configuration file staging.yaml:

      - 'web.example.com'

Context Managers

Context managers are a useful concept. They run a command within a certain context on the remote server. A simple example is the cd() context manager. This changes the directory before running a specific command. It’s used as follows:

with cd('/opt/myapp'):
    run('echo running from `pwd`')

Other context managers that we’ll be using for this example are lcd() to cd on the system from which we’re running Fabric and exists() to check whether a file or directory exists on the remote host before running a command.

Using Prefix for Python virtualenv

With Fabric, we can prefix any command with the prefix() context manager. We can also create our own context managers by decorating a function as @_contextmanager. We aren’t going to go into huge details on these commands right now (they’re much more advanced usage), but we are going to use them to create a context manager for loading a Python virtualenv using the following code:

env.activate = 'source /opt/myapp/python/bin/activate'
def virtualenv():
    with prefix(env.activate):

This context manager can then be used in your tasks similar to the built-in cd() context manager as follows:

def deploy():
    with virtualenv():
        run('pip install -r requirements.txt')

Running Privileged Commands

Sometimes you need to run a command as root, for example, to create an initial directory and chown it to the user. This can be done by replacing run() with sudo(). Just remember, always follow the least privilege security pattern. It’s always better to not use sudo() if you don’t have to! In this example, it is only used to create the initial directory for the application and the Python virtualenv.

Let’s Deploy an Application!

Ok, so now that we have the basics, let’s work on deploying an application from a git repository! We’ll start with the code and staging/production config files and then explain what they’re doing. You can find the Fabric file at https://github.com/disassembler/fabric-example/fabfile.py and configuration for staging at https://github.com/disassembler/fabric-example/config/staging.yml.

To break down the deploy process, here are the steps we are trying to accomplish with the deploy task:

  1. If this is the first run on this server, run the setup() process.
  2. Remove previous local builds and use git to clone the application locally.
  3. Create a binary release tarball for the application.
  4. Copy the tarball to the application server.
  5. On the application server, extract to /opt/application/builds/.
  6. Symlink above directory to /opt/application/current.
  7. Run pip install to get any requirements that have changed for the app.

And our initial setup is the following:

  1. If virtualenv for application doesn’t exist, create it.
  2. If /opt/application/builds doesn’t exist, create it.

Here is the output of our deployment:

fab loadenv:environment=staging deploy
[] Executing task 'deploy'
[] sudo: mkdir -p /opt/virtualenvs/application
[] sudo: chown -R vagrant /opt/virtualenvs/application
[] run: virtualenv /opt/virtualenvs/application
[] out: New python executable in /opt/virtualenvs/application/bin/python
[] out: Installing distribute........done.
[] out: Installing pip...............done.
[] out:

[] sudo: mkdir -p /opt/application/builds
[] sudo: chown -R vagrant /opt/application
[localhost] local: mkdir -p /tmp/work
[localhost] local: rm -rf *.tar.gz fabric-example
[localhost] local: /usr/bin/git clone https://github.com/disassembler/fabric-example.git fabric-example
Cloning into 'fabric-example'...
remote: Counting objects: 21, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (15/15), done.
remote: Total 21 (delta 7), reused 18 (delta 4), pack-reused 0
Unpacking objects: 100% (21/21), done.
Checking connectivity... done.
[localhost] local: git checkout master
Already on 'master'
Your branch is up-to-date with 'origin/master'.
[localhost] local: git archive --format=tar master | gzip > ../application-20150416080436.tar.gz
[] put: /tmp/work/application-20150416080436.tar.gz -> /tmp/application-20150416080436.tar.gz
[] run: mkdir -p /opt/application/builds/20150416080436
[] run: tar -zxf /tmp/application-20150416080436.tar.gz
[] run: rm -f /opt/application/current
[] run: ln -sf /opt/application/builds/20150416080436 /opt/application/current
[] run: pip install -q -U -r requirements.txt

Disconnecting from done.

I hope this blog post will help you get started with doing your own deployments with Fabric. One thing we didn’t do in this case is create a production environment, but that is as simple as creating a new production.yml file containing the roledefs for production servers, and specifying environment=production in the loadenv task. In a future post we’ll discuss adding new roles, using execute for ordering tasks across multiple servers, and hiding the implementation details inside a class so our Fabric file can be nice and clean. I’ll also be doing a separate blog post not related to Fabric on how we can take a Flask Python application and use supervisord to launch it with a proxy behind nginx. Keep an eye on the OpsBot Blog for these upcoming posts!