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buildploy is a deployment preparation tool for projects that have long-running steps in the deployment process or projects that deploy large generated artifacts. It eliminates duplication of work when deploying to multiple servers, permits arbitrary transformations of source code including destructive ones, and maintains a history of code and artifacts actually deployed.


Since 2005 or so, when Capistrano was invented, the deployment workflow that was used in most Ruby projects has been as follows:

  1. Put source code into version control.
  2. Connect to server(s) via SSH.
  3. Check source code out of version control.
  4. Perform any build steps needed.
  5. Symlink and restart.

This works fine for projects that don't do much building in step 4. However this workflow has some disadvantages:

  1. All tools needed for building must be installed on all servers. The most famous "oops" related to this was when Rails started requiring a JavaScript interpreter on all servers to compile CoffeeScript assets, with this interpreter not being used at all by anything else in production.
  2. Build operations are performed by all servers, when most of the time the operations are exactly identical from one server to the next.
  3. If the build step is CPU-intensive, application performance suffers while a new version is being deployed.
  4. There is no record of the code that was actually being used by the application after old releases are cleaned up on the servers.

The solution that is often adopted is to place generated files into (the one and only) source repository. This fixes most of the above issues, but at the cost of creating new ones:

  1. Rebuilding generated files on every commit is unnecessary, therefore there needs to be tracking of whether generated files are up to date.
  2. Because of this, generated files are frequently out of date. This may cause confusion.
  3. Source code repository is littered with files that most of the time nobody cares about, and these files may well take up more space than source code itself.

Deployment Repository

The idea behind buildploy is to maintain a separate repository for built code that is ready to be deployed. This way generated files stay out of the source repository, the files are generated only when a deployment is performed, and it is trivial to maintain history of deployed code.

The only overhead with this approach is that two repositories must be maintained instead of one, and there is a distinct build step in the workflow.


Buildploy automates management of the deployment repositories. It uses configuration specified in the source repository, along with the source repository itself, to create all necessary files in deployment repository. The deployment workflow becomes:

  1. Put source code into version control.
  2. Invoke buildploy to create deployable version of the source code.
  3. Connect to server(s) via SSH.
  4. Check out deployable version of the source code from deployment repository.
  5. Symlink and restart.

Bonus Features

Since buildploy permits arbitrary transformations, this can be exploited to further optimize deployment process:

  1. If original source files are translated into either other source files or binary files, and original files are not used by the running application, then original files may be deleted during the build phase to make deployment process quicker.
  2. Artwork and similar data files that are not directly used by the application but are used by developers working on the code may be similarly removed prior to deployment.
  3. Precompilation that was considered cumbersome to perform on production machines during deployment becomes much less problematic to perform during the dedicated build phase.


To use buildploy, you need:

  1. Your original source repository.
  2. A second, empty repository that will be used for deployable trees.
  3. A configuration file informing buildploy of where the repositories are and how the project should be built.

Configuration files can be in YAML or JSON format. YAML configuration files look like this:

work_prefix: /home/build/foo-build
build_cmd: make

The required items are:

  • src_repo - The source repository. This can be any repository url or path accepted by Git, including a local filesystem path.
  • deploy_repo - Where deployable trees are to be pushed.
  • work_prefix - Path to a local directory that is used for building deployable trees.
  • build_cmd - Command used to perform the build.

Then, execute buildploy path/to/config.yaml.

JSON configuration files use the same schema but serialized in JSON. Buildploy detects configuration file type via its extension: .yaml and .yml files are considered YAML files, .json files are considered JSON files. The default for other extensions is currently YAML, although an automatic detection facility may be added in the future.

JSON is part of Python standard library as of 2.6, and when using it buildploy has no dependencies. Using YAML requires installing PyYAML.

Configuration file format may be explicitly specified using --yaml-config and --json-config command line options.


By default buildploy transforms the master branch of the source repository. Alternate branches may be specified as follows:

  - staging
  - production

If multiple branches are specified in the configuration file, they will be all transformed. To transform a single branch use -b command line argument.

Deploying A Subdirectory Only

It is possible to deploy a subdirectory of the entire repository:

deploy_subdir: build

The specified subdirectory will become the root of the deployable tree.

Deploying A Work Tree / Arbitrary Directories

Rather than deploying a Git repository, buildploy can deploy a work tree. This is typically the work tree part of a non-bare Git repository, however any directory can be used and it does not have to be version-controlled.

To deploy a work tree, the source repository must be a local filesystem path (/path/to/repo) and --work-tree option must be given on the command line.


Buildploy is written in Python, and has no dependencies outside of Python itself.


Buildploy is licensed under the 2 clause BSD license.