Primary image for Serving Django Projects (Revisited)

Serving Django Projects (Revisited)

After reading the comments on my last post on the subject, I realized there was definitely some room for improvement in my strategy. This is take two of the original post.


My original strategy had a couple of downfalls:

  • Poisoning the Python Path
    I was adding directories to the Python Path that weren’t Python. This raised the chance of namespace collision and just wasn’t a very clean way to do things.
  • No project source repository
    I was still storing all my source files in one big folder. Tracking which project is using what was more difficult than it needed to be.


The first step to recovery was forgetting about sharing libraries between projects altogether. In theory it sounds great, in practice it was cumbersome to manage. My directory structure now looks like this:

This is much cleaner and allows for simple control over the versioning on third party repositories. For source with stable <span class="caps">API</span>s, like Django 1.0, I still place it in <tt>/usr/local/src</tt>, allowing me to update all sites using the library in one go without worrying about breakage.

Virtualenv is Your New Best Friend

As recommended in the comments on the last post, if you’re hosting multiple projects on one box, virtualenv should be a requirement. Install it on your development machine too. You’ll kick yourself for not using it sooner. Grab virtualenvwrapper while you’re at it too.

After installing and getting a feel for how it works, you can plug it into mod_wsgi. The trouble is it works slightly differently with virtualenv than your interactive sessions. It imports the global site-packages first and then your virtualenv. The other option is a directive to load an empty virtualenv on startup. This hung me up a bit. I need libraries like psycopg2 and PIL and didn’t want to have to build them for each project, but the global site-packages had all sorts of cruft living in it that I didn’t want. I decided to strip it down to the bare essentials and my new policy is that only libraries that I can apt-get live in the global site-packages.

With all this in place, I symlinked the proper modules from into $VIRTUALENV/lib/python2.5/site-packages and as long as I have a clean global python path, I’m good to go in either mod_wsgi or an interactive shell.

What About Static Files?

Not being a server guru, I was pretty proud of myself after I got all this running. There was one rather large wart though. My static files were living in For most sites, users were uploading files into a directory that was under version control and not writeable by the web server by default. Thanks to a suggestion from Vlada Macek, I put them where they belong in /var specifically, /var/www/ I have a folder in there for uploads and symlinks to static, admin or any other site specific static files.


I’m really happy with the new setup and it makes server management considerably easier than the mess I considered “stylish” earlier. What about you? If there are better techniques, I’d love to hear them. I’ll try to follow up with some Nginx and Apache configs soon.

Peter Baumgartner

About the author

Peter Baumgartner

Peter is the founder of Lincoln Loop, having built it up from a small freelance operation in 2007 to what it is today. He is constantly learning and is well-versed in many technical disciplines including devops, …