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Machine architect for software deployment.

Project description

Marchitect Latest Version

A tool for uploading files to and running commands on remote hosts.


$ pip3 install marchitect


Let's write a couple of files to your machine assuming that it could easily be made to be a remote machine.

from marchitect.site_plan import SitePlan, Step
from marchitect.whiteprint import Whiteprint

class HelloWorldWhiteprint(Whiteprint):

    name = 'hello_world'  

    def _execute(self, mode: str) -> None:
        if mode == 'install':
            # Write file by running remote shell commands.
            self.exec('echo "hello, world." > /tmp/helloworld1')
            # Write file by uploading
                b'hello, world.', '/tmp/helloworld2')

class MyMachine(SitePlan):
    plan = [
if __name__ == '__main__':
    # SSH into your own machine, prompting you for your password.
    import getpass
    import os
    user = os.getlogin()
    password = getpass.getpass('%s@localhost password: ' % user)
    sp = MyMachine.from_password('localhost', 22, user, password, {}, [])
    # If you want to auth by private key, use the below:
    # (Note: The password prompt will be for your private key, empty for none.)
    #sp = MyMachine.from_private_key(
    #    'localhost', 22, user, '/home/%s/.ssh/id_rsa' % user, password, {}, [])
    sp.install()  # Sets the mode of _execute() to install.

This example requires that you can SSH into your machine via password. To use your SSH key instead, uncomment the lines above. After execution, you should have /tmp/helloworld1 and /tmp/helloworld2 on your machine.

Hopefully it's clear that whiteprints let you run commands and upload files to a target machine. A whiteprint should contain all the operations for a common purpose. A site plan contains all the whiteprints that should be run on a single machine class.

Steps for deploying your code repository to a machine would make for a good whiteprint. A site plan for a machine that runs your web servers might use that whiteprint and others.


  • Easy to get started.
  • Templating of configuration files.
  • Mix of imperative and declarative styles.
  • Arbitrary execution modes (install, update, clean, start, stop, ...).
  • Interface for validating machine state.
  • Be lightweight because most complex configurations are happening in containers anyway.


  • Making whiteprints and site plans share-able with other people and companies.
  • Non-Linux deployment targets.



To create a whiteprint, extend Whiteprint and define a name class variable and an _execute() method; optionally define a validate() method. name should be a reasonable name for the whiteprint. In the example above, the HelloWorldWhiteprint class's name is simply hello_world. name is important for file resolution which is discussed below.

_execute() is where all the magic happens. The method takes a string called mode. Out of convention, your whiteprints should handle the following modes:

  • install (installing software)
  • update (updating software)
  • clean (removing software, if needed, but generally impractical)
  • start (starting services)
  • stop (stopping services).

Despite this convention, mode can be anything as you'll be choosing the modes to execute your site plans with.

Within _execute(), you're given all the freedom to shoot yourself in the foot. Use self.exec() to run any command on the target machine.

exec() returns an ExecOutput object with variables exit_status (int), stdout (bytes), and stderr (bytes). You can use these outputs to control flow. If the exit status is non-zero, a RemoteExecError is raised. To suppress the exception, set error_ok=True.

_execute() has access to self.cfg which are the config variables for the whiteprint. See the Templates & Config Vars section below.

Use the variety of functions to copy files to and from the host:

  • scp_up() - Upload a file from the local host to the target.
  • sp_up_from_bytes() - Create a file on the target host from the bytes arg.
  • scp_down() - Download a file from the target to the local host.
  • scp_down_to_bytes() - Download a file from the target and return it.

Templates & Config Vars

You can upload files that are jinja2 templates. The templates will be filled by the config variables passed to the whiteprint. Config variables can be set in a few ways, which we'll explore.

Here's a sample test.toml file that uses the jinja2 notation to specify a name variable with a default of John Doe:

name = "{{ name|default('John Doe') }}"

A whiteprint can populate a template for upload as follows:

from marchitect.whiteprint import Whiteprint

class WhiteprintExample(Whiteprint):

    default_cfg = {'name': 'Alice'}

    def _execute(self, mode: str) -> None:
        if mode == 'install':
            self.scp_up_template('/path/to/test.toml', '~/test.toml')

A whiteprint can also upload a populated template that's stored in a string rather than a file:

from marchitect.whiteprint import Whiteprint

class WhiteprintExample(Whiteprint):

    default_cfg = {'name': 'Alice'}

    def _execute(self, mode: str) -> None:
        if mode == 'install':
                'name = "{{ name }}"', '~/test.toml')

A config var can be overriden in scp_up_template_from_str:

from marchitect.whiteprint import Whiteprint

class WhiteprintExample(Whiteprint):

    default_cfg = {'name': 'Alice'}

    def _execute(self, mode: str) -> None:
        if mode == 'install':
            # 'Bob' overrides 'Alice'
                'name = "{{ name }}"', '~/test.toml',
                cfg_override={'name': 'Bob'})

Config vars can also be set by the SitePlan in the plan or during instantiation.

from marchitect.site_plan import Step, SitePlan

class MyMachine(SitePlan):
    plan = [
        Step(WhiteprintExample, {'name': 'Eve'})

if __name__ == '__main__':
    MyMachine.from_password(..., cfg={WhiteprintExample: {'name': 'Foo'}})

In the above, Foo takes precedence over Eve which takes precedence over any values for name defined in the whiteprint.

Config Override by Alias

Finally, a Step can be given an alias as another identifier for specifying config vars. This is useful when a whiteprint is used multiple times in a site plan.

from marchitect.site_plan import Step, SitePlan

class MyMachine(SitePlan):
    plan = [
        Step(WhiteprintExample, alias="ex1"),
        Step(WhiteprintExample, alias="ex2"),

if __name__ == '__main__':
    MyMachine.from_password(..., cfg={'ex1': 'Eve', 'ex2': 'Foo'})

In the above, the first WhiteprintExample uploads Eve and the second replaces it with Foo.

Auto-Derived Configs

Auto-derived config variables are always available without specification. These are stored in self.cfg['_target']:

  • user: The login user for the SSH connection.
  • host: The target host for the SSH connection.
  • kernel: The kernel version of the target host. Ex: 4.15.0-43-generic
  • distro: The Linux distribution of the target host. Ex: ubuntu
  • disto_version: The version of the Linux distribution. Ex: 18.04
  • hostname: The hostname of the target host.
  • fqdn: The fully-qualified domain name of the target host.
  • cpu_count: The number of CPUs on the target host. Ex: 8

Config Var Schema

Because config vars may be used in external template files, it's not readily observable what vars are used by a whiteprint. To make config vars explicit, a schema can be set using cfg_schema:

from marchitect.whiteprint import Whiteprint
import schema

class WhiteprintExample(Whiteprint):

    cfg_schema = {
        'name': str,
        schema.Optional('path'): str,
        'targets': [str],

The schema is enforced on execution of the whiteprint.

For more info on expressing schemas (nesting, lists, optionals), see schema.

File Resolution

Methods that upload local files (scp_up() and scp_up_template()) will search for the files according to the rsrc_paths argument in the SitePlan constructor. The search proceeds in order of the rsrc_paths and the name of the whiteprint is expected to be the name of a subfolder in the rsrc_path.

For example, assume rsrc_paths is [Path('/srv/rsrcs')], the whiteprint has a name of foobar, and the file c is referenced as a/b/c. The resolver will look for the existence of /srv/rsrcs/foobar/a/b/c.

If a file path is specified as absolute, say /a/b/c, no rsrc_path will be prefixed. However, this form is not encouraged for portability across machines as resources may live in different folders on different machines.


It's important to strive for the idempotence of your whiteprints. In other words, assume your whiteprint in any mode (install, update, ...) can be interrupted at any point. Can your whiteprint be re-applied successfully without any problems?

If so, your whiteprint is idempotent and is therefore resilient to connection errors and software hiccups. Error handling will be as easy as retrying your whiteprint a bounded number of times. If not, you'll need to figure out an error handling strategy. In the extreme case, you can terminate servers that produce errors and start over with a fresh one, assuming that you're in a cloud environment.


Prefabs are built-in, robust whiteprints you can use in your whiteprints. These make it easy to add common functionality with the _execute() and _validate() methods already defined. These are available out-of-the-box:

  • Apt: Common Linux package manager.
  • Pip3: Python package manager.
  • Folder: Makes a folder exists at the specified path.
  • LineInFile: Ensures the specified line exists in the specified file.
  • FileFromString: Makes a file at a specified path.
  • FileFromPath: Makes a file at a specified path.
  • Symlink: Makes a symlink.
  • FileExistsValidator: Only validates that a file exists at a specified path.

An example:

from marchitect.prefab import Apt
from marchitect.whiteprint import Prefab, Whiteprint

class HelloWorld2Whiteprint(Whiteprint):

    prefabs_head = [
        Prefab(Apt, {'packages': ['curl']}),

    def _execute(self, mode: str) -> None:
        if mode == 'install':
            self.exec('curl > /tmp/nytimes')

prefabs_head are applied before your _execute() and _validate() methods, respectively. Alternatively, prefabs_tail are applied after.

If a prefab depends on a config variable, define a _compute_prefabs_head() class method:

from typing import Any, Dict, List
from marchitect.prefab import Folder
from marchitect.whiteprint import Prefab, Whiteprint

class ExampleWhiteprint(Whiteprint):

    cfg_schema = {
        'temp_folder': str,

    def _compute_prefabs_head(cls, cfg: Dict[str, Any]) -> List[Prefab]:
        return [Prefab(Folder, {'path': cfg['temp_folder']})]

The prefabs returned by_compute_prefabs_head() will be applied after those specified directly in the prefabs_head class variable.

Nested Whiteprints

Whiteprints can use other whiteprints.

from marchitect.whiteprint import Whiteprint

class Example2Whiteprint(Whiteprint):

class ExampleWhiteprint(Whiteprint):
    def _execute(self, mode: str) -> None:
        if mode == 'install':
            self.use_execute(mode, Example2Whiteprint, {})

    def _validate(self, mode: str) -> None:
        if mode == 'install':
            self.use_validate(mode, Example2Whiteprint, {})

Site Plan

Site plans are collections of whiteprints. You likely have distinct roles for the machines in your infrastructure: web hosts, api hosts, database hosts, ... Each of these should map to their own site plan which will install the appropriate whiteprints (postgres for database hosts, uwsgi for web hosts, ...).


Tests are run against real SSH connections, which unfortunately makes it difficult to run in a CI environment. Travis CI is not enabled for this reason. When running tests through py.test or tox, you can specify SSH credentials either as a user/pass pair or user/private_key. For example:

SSH_USER=username SSH_HOST=localhost SSH_PRIVATE_KEY=~/.ssh/id_rsa SSH_PRIVATE_KEY_PASSWORD=*** py.test
SSH_USER=username SSH_HOST=localhost SSH_PASSWORD=*** py.test -sx

Will likely move to mocking SSH commands, but it will be painful to reliably mock the interfaces for ssh2-python.

mypy and lint are also supported: tox -e mypy,lint


  • Add "common" dependencies to minimize invocations of commands like apt update to once per site plan.
  • Write a log of applied site plans and whiteprints to the target host for easy debugging.
  • Add documentation for validate() method.
  • Verify speed wins by using ssh2-python instead of paramiko.
  • Document SitePlan.one_off_exec().
  • File prefabs can use md5sum to decide whether to re-create file.

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