Blog Post • devops

Musings of using Aegir for deployment

February 29, 2012by Tom Friedhof 4 min read
Blog Post • devops
Musings of using Aegir for deployment
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I have been following the Aegir projectfor some time now, almost 3 years. It’s great to see how far the project has come along, and how easy it is to get an Aegir instance up (it used to be very challenging to install). However, I haven’t really fully embraced Aegir (yet) into our current workflows at ActiveLAMP. I’m still pondering how exactly I want to use the tool. Allow me to describe our current process, before I elaborate on how I want to use Aegir for deployment.

Our current workflow.

Early in 2010 we adopted a workflow for managing and building sites using Drush Make. Several articles inspired this new workflow for us, so I won’t go into detail of why it’s a good idea to use Drush Make for doing your builds, rather than having one giant repository of code in which 80% of that code you don't touch (hack) anyway. On each of our developers machines we have one drupal core (a platform) that runs any number of sites that we may be working on at the time. We may have several platforms (different core versions i.e. 7.9, 7.10, 7.12, etc...) on our development machines. All sites that we work on are essentially a multisite within the specific platform (drupal core version) that we're working within. With every site we have an aliases.drushrc.php within its sites directory. This aliases.drushrc.php file holds meta data regarding what platform the site is running on locally, as well as where the production server is, and where the dev server is. I wrote a custom drush command that actually sets all this up, so we don't have to do too much work. When we start a new site we just type `drush ns` (drush new-site) and that will fire off a number of tasks:

  • Check to see what the latest version of core is
  • Check local platforms directory on developer machine to see if that core version is installed.
    • If the core version is not installed, it is downloaded, a vhost is setup in the apache config, and the /etc/hosts files is edited for the new platform.
  • Then it checks our git repository for a repo called and checks that out into a separate sites directory (not within the platform just downloaded)
    • If the site repo doesn't exist, the drush new-site command creates a new site directory with a few files copied over from the drush new-site command for defaults (site.make, .gitignore, and
    • git init, git add, git commit, and git push origin master are all executed with the initial files at the very end of the drush command.
  • The new sites directory is symlinked to the platform
  • Two drush alias files are created, a global alias file placed in ~/.drush, and an aliases.drushrc.php in the actual site directory.
  • Finally the site is installed with `drush si`

For deployment we use Capistranoinvoked with a custom Drush command. This drush command looks at parameters set in aliases.drushrc.php within the sites directory and then fires off a capistrano command passing in arguments it finds in aliases.drushrc.php. We're only deploying the sites directory to the new environment, and capistrano takes care of symlinking it to the correct platform on the dev or production servers. I'm leaving out a lot of minor details, but in a nutshell that's how our current workflow works for developing sites and deploying.

Thoughts for using Aegir for deployment.

Most people (that I've read about in blog posts and the issue queue) that are using Aegir for deployment, are using install profiles for their custom code, and are utilizing a recursive make file technique to handle the build of the platform, as well as the profile. The process seems to work well, and it makes sense, but I'm not sure I want to handle our deploys this way for a number of reasons:

  • A platform has to be built for every deployment, with the "new" profile.
  • Really only one site is going to run on this platform, unless you put multiple profiles in the platform make file (which then leads to more issues if you have different development cycles for the number of sites you're currently working on.)
  • A whole bunch of extraneous tasks are being fired to build this platform, when only site code could only be deployed.
  • Most important to me, you're getting away from what Aegir does well, host instances of sites on a common platform.

My initial thoughts for handling this with Aegir is just integrating Capistrano with Aegir with a few drush commands and then expose those drush commands to hostmaster. I would also add a sites make file field to the node add form for sites, so that when creating a new site, you can specify a site make file, just like you can when you build a platform. The process of deployment would still be handled by Capistrano, while still utilizing Aegir for creating, managing, and migrating sites. I'm going to start developing this functionality, but I'm curious to hear others thoughts on this, and if there any holes in how I think this could work.

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