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Meet Velociraptor

Velociraptor is a Django- and Celery-powered web application for building and deploying software services. It is very opinionated about how this should be done, adhering (with one or two exceptions) to the Twelve Factor App methodology.

Velociraptor is language agnostic. It can deploy apps in Python, PHP, Ruby, Node.js, Java, Scala, Go, or any other language that runs on Linux.

Velociraptor supports zero downtime deployment for apps that include uptests. (See docs/uptests.rst for how this works.)


Gustavo Picon: velociraptor is BLISS

Mike Malecki: vr2 is pretty badass.



The smoothest way to get running is to start up a VM with the included Vagrantfile. This requires having VirtualBox and Vagrant installed. Go do that now.

You'll need a local clone of the Velociraptor repo:

hg clone

Now enter the velociraptor folder and launch vagrant:

cd velociraptor
vagrant up

Now go make a sandwich while you wait for the precise64 VM image to download (it's about 250MB).

Installation of system-level dependencies inside the VM is done automatically using Vagrant's Puppet provisioner. This includes some normal apt packages, (curl, Vim, Postgres), and some installed with pip (Mercurial and Virtualenv). You can see the Puppet manifest at puppet/manifests/vr.pp.

The first time you 'vagrant up', the Puppet provisioning could take about 5 minutes. It will be faster on later startups, since most packages will already be installed.

Once the image is all downloaded and Puppet has done its thing, type this:

vagrant ssh

You're now inside your new Vagrant VM! The Velociraptor repo will be at /vagrant. Now make a Python virtualenv for yourself. It will use Python 2.7 by default. Virtualenvwrapper is pre-installed to make this extra easy:

mkvirtualenv velo

Python Dependencies

Velociraptor contains a dev_requirements.txt file listing its dev-time Python dependencies. You can install the dependencies with this:

cd /vagrant
pip install -r dev_requirements.txt


There is a dbsetup.sql file included that contains commands for creating the Postgres database used by Velociraptor:

psql -U postgres -f dbsetup.sql

Once your database is created, you'll need to create the tables. (Please forgive the deeply nested folders; I know it's tedious, but it's the cost of using several namespaced Python packages in the same repo):

cd /vagrant/server/vr/server
./ syncdb
./ migrate

As Velociraptor is developed and the DB schema changes, you can run ./ migrate again to get your local DB schema in sync with the code.

Dev Server

The Velociraptor server is composed of three processes:

  1. The main Django web service.
  2. A Celery daemon that starts and controls one or more workers.
  3. A 'celerybeat' process that puts maintenance jobs on the Celery queue at preconfigured times.

There is a Procfile included with Velociraptor that can be used to run a development environment with these processes. You can use Foreman to read the Procfile and start the processes it lists:

cd /vagrant
foreman start -f

That will start the Django dev server on port 8000, the Celery workers, and the celerybeat process.

Now open your web browser and type in http://localhost:8000. You should see Velociraptor. (The Vagrantfile is configured to forward ports 8000, 9001, and 5000-5009 to the VM. If you need these ports back for other development, you can stop your Vagrant VM with a vagrant halt.)

Add Metadata


In order to build and deploy your apps, Velociraptor needs to be told where they are and how to build them. The 'how to build them' part is done with Heroku buildpacks. Go to http://localhost:8000/admin/deployment/buildpack/add/ in your browser in order to add a buildpack. You will need to enter the git (or mercurial) repository URL, as well as an integer for the 'order'. See the `Heroku buildpack documentation`_ to understand more about how buildpacks work and why order matters. For now, just add a single buildpack, and set its order to '0'. The NodeJS buildpack at is a good one to start with.

Squads and Hosts

In order to know where to deploy your application, you'll need to give Velociraptor some hostnames. Velociraptor does load balanced deployments across a group of hosts, which it calls a "Squad". Go to http://localhost:8000/admin/deployment/squad/add/ to create a new squad. Call it whatever you like (I call my development squad 'local'. Squad names must be unique. Give the squad a single host named 'precise64', which is the hostname of the Vagrant VM itself.


Now tell Velociraptor about your code! Go to http://localhost:8000/admin/deployment/app/add/ and give the name, repo url, and repo type (git or hg) of your application. If you don't have one around, try the vr_node_example app. The name you give to your app should have only letters, numbers, and underscores (no dashes or spaces).

You can leave the 'buildpack' field blank. Velociraptor will use the buildpacks' built-in 'detect' feature to determine which buildpack to use on your app.


Swarms are where Velociraptor all comes together. A swarm is a group of processes all running the same code and config, and load balanced across one or more hosts. Go to http://localhost:8000/swarm/ to create yours. Here's what all the form fields mean:

  • App: Select your app from this drop down.
  • Tag: This is where you set the version of the code that Velociraptor should check out and build. You can use any tag, branch name, bookmark, or revision hash from your version control system (basically anything you can 'git checkout' or 'hg up').
  • Proc name: The name of the proc that you want to run in this swarm (from the Procfile). Type in 'web' for our example app.
  • Config Name: This is a short name like 'prod' or 'europe' to distinguish between deployments of the same app. Must be filesystem-safe, with no dashes or spaces. You could put 'test' or 'demo' here for our sample app.
  • Squad: Here you declare which group of hosts this swarm should run on. If you set up the squad as indicated earlier in this walkthrough, you should be able to select 'local' here.
  • Size: The number of procs to put in the swarm. Try 2 for now.
  • Config YAML: Here you can enter optional YAML text that will be written to the remote host when your app is deployed. Your app can find the location of this YAML from the APP_SETTINGS_YAML environment variable.
  • Env YAML: Here you can enter YAML text to specify additional environment variables to be passed in to your app.
  • Pool: If your app accepts requests over a network you can use this "pool" field to tell your load balancer what name to use for the routing pool. By default Velociraptor talks only to an in memory stub balancer called "Dummy". If you're following this document with the sample app, leave this field blank. To configure a real load balancer, see docs/balancers.rst in the Velociraptor repo. Velociraptor supports nginx, Varnish, and Stingray load balancers. This interface is pluggable, so you can also create your own.
  • Balancer: Here you select which balancer should be told to route traffic to your swarm. You can leave this blank if you're following this walkthrough with the sample app.

Now click Swarm. Velociraptor will start a series of worker tasks to check out the buildpack, check out your code, compile your code, save the resulting build, and push it out to the hosts in the squad along with any config you've specified. You can see everything that happens when you swarm by looking at the Swarm Flow diagram in the docs folder.


Run the tests with py.test from the root of the repo. You can install any test dependencies using the test_requirements.txt:

cd /vagrant
pip install -r dev_requirements.txt

The tests will automatically set up and use separate databases from the default development ones.

While developing, you might want to speed up tests by skipping the database creation (and just re-using the database from the last run). You can do so like this:

py.test --nodb

This should be safe as long as we keep using randomly-generated usernames, etc., inside tests.

Editing Code

Running the code inside a VM does not mean that you need to do your editing there. Since the project repo is mounted inside the VM, you can do your editing on the outside with your regular tools, and the code running on the inside will stay in sync.


Velociraptor's code is divided between the parts that are Django-specific (the web and worker processes), and the supporting library that is not.

The Django parts are inside the 'vr' folder. The non-Django parts are in the 'libraptor' folder. This may be moved into a separate repository in the future.


All frontend interfaces rely on a 'VR' javascript object defined in deployment/static/js/vr.js. Individual pages add their own sub-namespaces like VR.Dash and VR.Squad, using vrdash.js and vrsquad.js, for example.

Velociraptor uses goatee.js templates (a Django-friendly fork of mustache.js). They are defined as HTML script blocks with type "text/goatee".

Velociraptor makes liberal use of jQuery, Backbone, and Underscore.

See Also

The tools are getting so good these days that custom PaaS systems are springing up all over. If Velociraptor isn't to your liking, you might take a look at Gilliam, Tsuru, or openruko.


You can ask questions about Velociraptor here:

IRC: #velociraptor on Freenode Google Group:!forum/velociraptor-dev

Recent activity

Jason R. Coombs

Jason R. Coombs pushed 5 commits to yougov/velociraptor

4dcec1d - Moved two classes from to its own package,
1d595f0 - Use parse_redis_url from vr.common
758db69 - Remove dependence on django from Listener. Usage didn't rely on the dependency anyway.
87cf873 - Now _has_buffer is superfluous.
d6a4729 - It appears as if Listener wasn't used anywhere. Scrapped it.
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