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How do you deploy applications?

30 May 2011 21:50

I've got a few projects which are hosted in mercurial repositories. To deploy them I manually checkout the repository, create symlinks by hand, then update apache thttpd to make them work.

When I want to update my applications I manually become the correct user, find the repository and run "hg pull --update".

I think it is about time that I sat down and started doing things neatly. I made a start at this by writing a shell script for each site called .deploy then I drive it like so:

# ~/bin/deploy  execute the .deploy file associated with this project.
while true; do

    #  If we're at the root directory we're done.
    if [ $PWD = "/" ]; then
        echo "Reached /"

    # found our file?
    if [ -x ".deploy" ]; then


    cd ..

It seems the main candidate is capistrano, which was previously very Ruby on Rails centric, but these days seems to be divorced from it.

Alternatively there is the python-based fabric project which has been stalled for two years, vlad the deployer (great name!) which is another Rake-based and thus Ruby-loving system, and finally whiskey disk which is limited to Git-based projects as far as I can tell.

In short each of these projects is very similar, and each relies upon being able to do two things:

  • SSH to remote machine(s) and run a command.
  • Copy files to the remote command / pull a repository from a known location.

I've automated SSH before, and I've automed SCP/rsync. The hard part is doing both "copy" and "command" over one SSH channel - such that you don't get prompted for passwords multiple times - and handling the case of runnign sudo where appropriate. Still most of the initial stages are trivial.

I wonder what project I should be using:

  • I like perl. Perl is good.
  • I use mercurial. Mercurial is good.
  • Rake is perhaps permissable, but too ruby-centric == not for me.

Anything I've missed? Or pointers to good documentation?

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