Flask/WSGI Application Deployment with Ubuntu, Ansible, Nginx, Supervisor and uWSGI

Published on August 07, 2012

In this article you will learn how to use Ansible to deploy an arbitrary WSGI app, in this case a Flask app, to an Ubuntu server that runs NginxuWSGI, and Supervisor. This article assumes you have a basic understanding of Ubuntu, Python web application development and are using git for source control.


Ansible is a great devops tool. It's truly simply to understand and is easily extended with custom functionality that can be written in nearly any language. If you have not installed Ansible yet, please do by following the instructions on the Getting Started page.

This tutorial will make use of a few modules I contributed to Ansible. They include apt_repositoryeasy_installpip, and supervisorctl.

Server Software


Nginx is a very fast, lightweight, and popular web server. It will be used as the front end proxy server that ushers the HTTP requests to the Flask application. It will also be used to serve the application's static files to the browser.


uWSGI is a fast, stable, and full featured application container. It plays very nice with Python and WSGI applications. It will be used to run the Python application process(es) and Nginx, conveniently, supports uWSGI out of the box.


Supervisor will be used to manage the uWSGI application container including starting, stoping, and restarting it when necessary. Its also useful for managing other various processes. For instance, you could use it to manage worker processes for a task queue.

The Flask/WSGI Application

It's probably safe to say that if you're developing a Python web app you'll using a WSGI based framework. This article happens to use a very simple Flask application but this deployment method could be applied to any WSGI compatible framework.

The application that will be used is located at http://github.com/mattupstate/ansible-tutorial. The repository also contains the Ansible playbooks for this tutorial. Clone the repository if you would like to follow along step by step:

git clone http://github.com/mattupstate/ansible-tutorial
cd ansible-tutorial

Server Setup

Before following along with this section of the tutorial you may want to have a server to run the proceeding playbooks against. I've been using a fresh, 64-bit, Ubuntu 11.04 server on Amazon EC2. If you happen to have an Amazon EC2 account you can launch an instance of the same server (ami-699f3600).

Create a copy of the devops/hosts.example file and make sure its located at devops/hosts. Replace the current host name with the host name of your Ubuntu server.

sed "s/something.com/<your.host.name>/g" devops/hosts.example >> devops/hosts

With the server/host is defined you can run the server_setup.yml playbook against it. Run the following Ansible command:

ansible-playbook devops/setup_server.yml -i devops/hosts

If your server requires a private key to access it via ssh run the previous command but append it with:


If all goes well all the required software for running your application will be installed and configured.

Application Deployment

The application will deployed to the server using Ansible's git module. Essentially it will pull the latest code from the repository and checkout the specified version or branch. In the case of this tutorial the HEAD revision of the origin/master branch is being used.

To deploy the application run the deploy.yml playbook against the server with the following command (appending the --private-key argument if necessary):

ansible-playbook devops/deploy.yml -i devops/hosts

If all goes well the application should be deployed to the server and if you access the host in your browser you should see Hello World appear in your browser!

Playbooks Explained

This section explains each playbook in detail.


The server_setup.yml playbook is made specifically for setting up an Ubuntu server to run the application in the manner described above.


At the top of the file you will see the following contents:

- hosts: webservers
  user: ubuntu
  sudo: True

This part of the file specifies which host(s) to run the playbook against, which user to run as, and wether or not to use sudo actions. In the case of this tutorial the hosts attribute is set to the webservers group which was defined in the devops/hosts file. Additionall the default user for the newly created server is named ubuntu and all actions are performed as root for simplicity.


After the previous contents you will begin to see task definitions. The first four tasks are as follows:

- name: add nginx ppa
  action: apt_repository repo=ppa:nginx/stable state=present

- name: install common packages needed for python application development
  action: apt pkg=$item state=installed
    - libpq-dev
    - libmysqlclient-dev
    - libxml2-dev
    - libjpeg62
    - libjpeg62-dev
    - libfreetype6
    - libfreetype6-dev
    - zlib1g-dev
    - mysql-client
    - python-dev
    - python-setuptools
    - python-imaging
    - python-mysqldb
    - python-psycopg2
    - git-core
    - nginx

- name: install pip
  action: easy_install name=pip

- name: install various libraries with pip
  action: pip name=$item state=present
    - virtualenv
    - supervisor
    - uwsgi

These tasks install the various pieces of software necessary for running the application. Notice the use of the custom Ansible modules apt_repositoryeasy_install, and pip. These are available in my Ansible fork.

Following this are some housekeeping tasks:

- name: symlink imaging library files
  action: file src=/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libfreetype.so dest=/usr/lib/libfreetype.so state=link

- name: symlink imaging library files
  action: file src=/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libz.so dest=/usr/lib/libz.so state=link

- name: symlink imaging library files
  action: file src=/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libjpeg.so.62 dest=/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libjpeg.so state=link

- name: symlink imaging library files
  action: file src=/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libjpeg.so dest=/usr/lib/libjpeg.so state=link

These tasks ensure that a few files are able to be found during the build process of PIL, Python's imaging library.

Following this are some tasks related to Nginx:

- name: remove default nginx site
  action: file path=/etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default state=absent

- name: write nginx.conf
  action: template src=templates/nginx.conf dest=/etc/nginx/nginx.conf

With these tasks the default Nginx site is removed and a new Nginx configuration file is created from the custom template.

Following this are some tasks related to Supervisor:

- name: create supervisord config folder
  action: file dest=/etc/supervisor state=directory owner=root

- name: create supervisord config
  action: template src=templates/supervisord.conf dest=/etc/supervisord.conf

- name: create supervisord init script
  action: template src=templates/supervisord.sh dest=/etc/init.d/supervisord mode=0755

- name: start supervisord service and have it run during system startup
  action: service name=supervisord state=started enabled=yes

The first task creates a directory to contain various program configurations. Following this a Supervisor configuration file is created from the custom template which will load all files located in the aforementioned directory. The third and fourth tasks setup Supervisor to run as a service and run when the system starts up.

And finally the last task:

- name: create webapps directory
  action: file dest=/srv/webapps state=directory

This task simply creates a directory to hold all the server's web applications.


The deploy.yml playbook is made specifically for the previous server setup.


Just as with the server_setup.yml playbook, you'll see the same contents at the top of the file specifying the host(s) and user.

- hosts: webservers
  user: ubuntu
  sudo: True

Following this are some variable definitions:

  app_name: hello_flask
  repo_url: https://github.com/mattupstate/ansible-tutorial.git
  repo_remote: origin
  repo_version: master
  webapps_dir: /srv/webapps
  wsgi_file: wsgi.py
  wsgi_callable: app

These variables are used throughout the playbook and are also used when writing templates to the server.


- name: ensure log directory
  action: file dest=${webapps_dir}/${app_name}/log state=directory

This ensures the log directory is in place.

- name: deploy code from repository
  action: git repo=$repo_url dest=${webapps_dir}/${app_name}/src remote=$repo_remote version=$repo_version

This task retrieves the source code form the remote git repository and checks out the specified version/branch, in this case the HEAD revision of the master branch. Notice the usage of the variables defined before.

- name: install dependencies into virtualenv
  action: pip requirements=${webapps_dir}/${app_name}/src/requirements.txt virtualenv=${webapps_dir}/${app_name}/venv state=present

This tasks installs the application's dependencies into the specified vitualenv using pip and the applicaiton's requirements.txt file.

- name: create supervisor program config
  action: template src=templates/supervisor.ini dest=/etc/supervisor/${app_name}.ini
    - restart app

This task creates or updates the application's Supervisor program configuration from a custom template. If you look at the contents of the template you will see the previous defined variables being used. Additionally, this task defines a notify action. This means that if the configuration file changes at all, Ansible will run the restart app handler which is defined later on in the playbook.

- name: create nginx site config
  action: template src=templates/nginx_site.conf dest=/etc/nginx/sites-available/${app_name}.conf
    - restart nginx

- name: link nginx config
  action: file src=/etc/nginx/sites-available/${app_name}.conf dest=/etc/nginx/sites-enabled/${app_name}.conf state=link

These tasks creates or updates the applicatin's Nginx configuration from a custom template and ensures a symlink exists in the Nginx sites-enabled directory. This task also defines a notify action and in this case, if the configuration changes at all, Nginx will be restarted.

- name: start app
  action: supervisorctl name=${app_name} state=started

And lastly, this task ensures the application is running, if it is running already nothing will be affected.

This task ensures the symlink for the Nginx configuration


Some of the previous tasks use Ansible's notify action. In the case those tasks make a change on the server Ansible will run a handler with the given name. The following are the handlers:

- name: restart app
  action: supervisorctl name=${app_name} state=restarted

This handler will ensure the application is restarted via supervisorctl so long as it is already running.

- name: restart nginx
  action: service name=nginx state=restarted

This handler will ensure Nginx is restarted so long as it is already running.


At the time of writing this tutorial there was a small problem with the Nginx PPA and the init script that was packaged with it. Luckily a bug was filed at Launchpad so I figured out what was going on. If you experience this problem simply replace the contents of the /etc/init.d/nginx file with this alternative init script.

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