Django in Production - Part 2 - Background Tasks
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This is the second part in a series about Django in Production.
In my last post, I described in detail the core stack which powers a Django application in production. In this second part, I’ll talk about something which has become commonplace in modern web applications - background tasks.
Often websites perform complex tasks which take a long time to finish. These tasks don’t always need to be done before the response is sent to the browser, so can be executed elsewhere. In cases like this, tasks can be performed asynchronously, by one or more “workers” which consume a task queue.
The most common task queue used with Django, at least in my experience, is called Celery.
Celery is an asynchronous task queue/job queue based on distributed message passing. It is focused on real-time operation, but supports scheduling as well.
Celery isn’t dependant on Django in any way - it’s a completely separate application. It does, however, integrate extremely well with Django projects. By installing the django-celery package and then adding djcelery to the list of INSTALLED_APPS, Celery can be run and managed through Django itself - thanks to a set of handy management commands.
This post isn’t about how to get Celery working, so I’ll skip over the details. For a more information on using Celery with Django, the project’s documentation is excellent.
Celery In Production
Running Celery locally is easy: a simple python manage.py celeryd does the trick. In production, though, something a little more robust is needed.
Thankfully, it’s not difficult at all. Just like Gunicorn, Celery can be overseen by Supervisor.
To add Celery to our Supervisor configuration, the following is all that’s required:
[program:app_name_celery_worker] command=/path/to/env/bin/python manage.py celeryd -E -l info directory=/path/to/app/ user=www-data autostart=true autorestart=true stdout_logfile=/path/to/app/django_logs/celeryd.log redirect_stderr=true
In fact, Celery even comes with some example Supervisor configuration files, which can be adapted to suit the particular needs of a production setup.
This configuration can be added to the same file which contains the application server’s program directives. This keeps all the daemons for an application neatly together in one file.
In development, a Celery worker would typically be spun up in another terminal window, alongside the development server. This same technique can’t be assumed though, for a production setup.
At first, perhaps, the task queue worker(s) might be running on the same server as the application itself. As an application grows, there comes a point where it makes sense to have at least one server dedicated to running asynchronous tasks. This can then be scaled out to suit, by adding more and more worker servers as required.
Celery uses message passing to queue tasks for the workers to consume. This is provided by an altogether separate application - the message broker.
Celery’s most commonly used message broker, and that with the most support, is RabbitMQ. The details of how to setup RabbitMQ are a little out of the scope of this post, but the server documentation are complete and provide a good starting point.
In a large application with more than one worker node, the message broker would typically sit on a dedicated host (or even be clustered over multiple hosts). In this case, multiple applications might share the same message broker.
RabbitMQ supports this type of configuration through the use of virtual hosts (or VHosts). Much like virtual hosts used in Apache, these allow a single broker to be “split” into multiple, distinct parts. Access control can be configured on a per-vhost basis, so any single application is prevented from affecting another through the use of a shared broker.
Even if your message broker is only used by one application, that application should be configured with its own virtual host and credentials.
It’s difficult to know exactly what a task queue like Celery is doing, as it doesn’t present a pretty web interface for us to watch. It can, however, be monitored - and this is something I’ll be talking about in detail in the next post of this series.
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