Dynamic Fabric Commands For Managing Cloud Servers

February 17, 2011 at 11:07 PM

Fabric is a Python CLI tool for interacting with remote servers, that I’ve been pushing at work the last few months. It’s great for organizing simple tasks to run locally or remotely, this blog is even being deployed using Fabric currently! It’s a great tool.

The two main ideas of Fabric are that you have hosts and tasks you apply to those hosts. Fabric uses fabfile.py as its default instruction file, similar to a Rakefile or makefile. From a command line, you can call multiple tasks on a host and they will get applied in the order you called them. Hosts can be defined staticly in the fabfile through a variety of methods, but this gets hard once you have multiple hosts that can change easily with cloud computing/VPS solutions. I found a straight foward way to handle this was to have a task which defines which host I want to use, then the actual task I want to run on that host; calling fab production task1 or fab staging task1 to run task1 on my production or staging server.

This is great for 1-2 static servers, but becomes more work to manage when in a dynamic cloud based server environment. I wanted a better solution, but Fabric doesn’t easily fit to this pattern. I found dynamic tasks had been attempted before before with Fabric and used that idea as a start. Here is what I came up with to create dynamic host tasks:

import sys
from fabric.api import *

### Before
def prod():
    """HOST: prod"""
    env.hosts = ['user@foo.com']

def staging():
    """HOST: staging"""
    env.hosts = ['user@bar.com']

### After
hosts = {
    'prod'    : ['user@foo.com'],
    'staging' : ['user@bar.com'],

def _createHost(hostName, hostList):
    moduleObj = sys.modules[__name__]
    def setHost():
        env.hosts = hostList
    #Doc string is readonly during creation?
    setHost.__doc__ = 'HOST: %s ' % hostName
    setattr(moduleObj, hostName, setHost)

for host, hostList in hosts.iteritems():
    _createHost(host, hostList)

def test():

So when Fabric runs, each host task is added as a function on the Fabric module and available to call.

Now my current blog server is hosted on Linode and a good portion of my work servers are on Linode as well. Linode has a decent JSON api, and Python library using that api, which I can use to used to get a list of all currently running Linode servers and their IPs. Extending my code above, you can get a dynamic list of your Linode servers in Fabric!

def _createHost(hostName, hostSize, hostList):
    moduleObj = sys.modules[__name__]
    def setHost():
        env.hosts = hostList
    #Doc string is readonly during creation?
    setHost.__doc__ = 'HOST: %sMB' % hostSize
    setattr(moduleObj, hostName, setHost)

def _generateLinodeHosts():
    # Import api locally to hide from Fabric
    import api as linodeApi
    linode = linodeApi.Api(LINODE_KEY)
    linodeList = [(x['LINODEID'],x['LABEL'], x['TOTALRAM']) for x in linode.linode_list()]
    for server in linodeList:
        ipList = linode.linode_ip_list(LinodeID=int(server[0]))
        publicIps = [x['IPADDRESS'] for x in ipList if x['ISPUBLIC']]
        _createHost(server[1], server[2], [publicIps[0]])

def test():

You will want to add caching around your Linode calls, otherwise every usage of Fabric will generate a dozen api calls and be incredibly slow. I used pickle in my production setup, to save the Linode server list until I wanted to refresh it. This idea could easily be ported to Amazon EC2 or Slicehost or any other cloud provider, so happy hacking!

You can view all of this code on github here.

Powered by Middleman.