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Utilities for maintaining forwards compatibility with Django releases.

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When deploying large websites, operations teams will sometimes deploy new code across a subset of the entire collection of webservers. This approach is called a “Canary” deployment. Most users will continue to be served using the old code; only those users hitting a “Canary” machine will see the new code.

Large websites will often use a Canary when the perceived risk of an upgrade is high. For example, upgrading the Django version from 1.8 LTS to 1.11 LTS on a complex site will generally be considered a risky upgrade; a Canary will be used to test that the upgrade is working as expected before switching all webservers over to the upgraded codebase.

Unfortunately, while Django has good backwards compatibility guarantees, Canary deployments require forwards compatibility as well. This is beacuse a user may have one request served on the new codebase, but subsequent updates served from the old codebase. If information (such as security tokens) aren’t both backwards and forwards compatible between releases, some users will see errors as the move back and forth between old and new codebases.

Birdcage is a project consisting of tools to help you manage Canary upgrades, by provided forwards compatible shims for known problems in Django.

What does Birdcage address?

Django 1.10: Salted CSRF tokens

Django 1.10 introduced a change to CSRF handling to protect against BREACH attacks. Django 1.10+ can interpret Django < 1.10 CSRF tokens; however, if a user is issued a Django 1.10+ CSRF token, it will be rejected as invalid by Django 1.8.

To address this problem, Birdcage provides a version of Django 1.8’s CsrfViewMiddleware that can interpret Django 1.10’s CSRF tokens.

  • In the settings for your Django 1.8 codebase, replace django.middleware.csrf.CsrfViewMiddleware in your MIDDLEWARE setting with birdcage.v1_11.csrf.CsrfViewMiddleware.
  • In your Django 1.10+ codebase, continue to use the Django CsrfViewMiddleware.

Why is it called Birdcage?

Well you have to put your canaries somewhere to keep them safe… :-)

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