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Ellis - Development Guide

This document describes how to build and test Ellis.


To build Ellis, you need to install a number of packages. On Ubuntu, the following commands install them all - similar commands should work on other systems.

  1. Update the package list.

    sudo apt-get update
  2. Install the packages you need.

    sudo apt-get install ntp build-essential autoconf scons pkg-config libtool libcloog-ppl1 dpkg-dev devscripts dh-make python-setuptools python-virtualenv python-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev libmysqlclient-dev libgmp10 libgmp-dev libc-ares-dev ncurses-dev libxml2-dev libxslt1-dev libzmq3-dev

The build has been tested on Ubuntu 14.04, with Python 2.7.3. Other environments should work but have not been tested.


The code consists of the ellis repository and its submodules as defined in .gitmodules:

  • python-common, which appears at common/, contains Python utility code shared between the Python components of Clearwater.
  • clearwater-build-infra, which appears at build-infra/, contains support for building Debian packages which is shared between all components of Clearwater.

If you are using git, you can check out the Ellis codebase with

git clone --recursive

This accesses the repository over SSH on Github, and will not work unless you have a Github account and registered SSH key. If you do not have both of these, you will need to configure Git to read over HTTPS instead:

git config --global url."".insteadOf
git clone --recursive


The build requires GNU Make. It uses virtualenv to create a virtual Python environment in _env/ containing only the required dependencies, at the expected versions, and then install the Ellis code into it.

As part of the environment, a special python executable is generated in the bin/ subdirectory. That executable is preconfigured to use the correct PYTHONPATH to pick up the dependencies in the _env/ directory.

To create the virtual environment and install the code, run make env in the top level Ellis directory.

To build the Debian package, type make deb (or make deb-only if you have already built the code). This creates a Debian package in ${HOME}/www/repo/binary/ which you can install with dpkg -i.

Setting up the database

The database is configured automatically if you are using the Debian package install.

Ellis expects access to a MySQL database. The credentials can be configured in (see comments in for details). The database is initialised by invoking

mysql < src/metaswitch/ellis/data/schema.sql
mysql < src/metaswitch/ellis/data/apply_db_updates.sql

It is safe to apply these to an existing database. In fact, this is how we upgrade the database.

The database is called ellis, so you can examine it as follows:

sudo mysql
use ellis;
SELECT * FROM users WHERE email = '';
SELECT * FROM numbers WHERE number = '';


Ellis reads its configuration on startup from src/metaswitch/ellis/ and src/metaswitch/ellis/ Per-host or per-deployment changes should be made to, because these override the global settings in

The Debian package installation reads the Clearwater configuration file at /etc/clearwater/config and transcribes the necessary information into the Ellis local settings file.

Available numbers configuration

The available numbers (from which new telephone numbers are assigned) are stored in the database. The range of available numbers can be initialized or updated using the tool.

If you are installing manually or via Debian package you must invoke this tool yourself. The Chef installation invokes this automatically as part of the ellis recipe. It configures 100 local and 10 PSTN numbers.

Email configuration

If you want Ellis to be able to send emails to users who have forgotten their password, you need to set up email. To do this, Ellis needs access to an SMTP smarthost. To avoid being blacklisted, Ellis limits the rate of emails it sends, throttling any excess. Replies and bounces are directed to a configured email address.

Ellis has been tested with Amazon SES - see instructions - but it should work with any SMTP service, such as the SMTP server provided by your ISP or hosting provider. The necessary settings are described in under SMTP_* and EMAIL_RECOVERY_*. These include the name of the SMTP server, the username and password to use with it, and whether or not to use TLS. These should be configured in


If you are using the Debian package, installing it will install the usual init.d script at /etc/init.d/ellis, along with a Monit script which starts it on installation and boot and restarts it if it stops.

Ellis is installed to /usr/share/clearwater/ellis/.

Startup logs (from Monit) are written to /var/log/monit.log and /var/log/syslog.

Ellis logs are written to /var/log/ellis/. The logging level is set to INFO by default. To also view DEBUG logs, add log_level=5 to /etc/clearwater/user_settings - creating this file if it doesn't exist, and then restarting ellis.


This project has unit tests and code coverage. Unit tests are in src/metaswitch/ellis/test/, parallel to the packages being tested, e.g., the tests for src/metaswitch/ellis/api/ are in src/metaswitch/ellis/test/api/.

To run the unit tests, do:

make test

To run coverage, do:

make coverage

You should aim for 100% coverage on newly-written code. At the very least, you shouldn't reduce the coverage level when adding new code.


  • src/ contains the source code for the Ellis application.
  • web-content/ contains the HTML, Javascript, CSS, etc files for the Ellis web GUI.
  • build-infra/ and common/ are submodules, described above.
  • scripts/ contains scripts intended for manual or cron use.
  • docs/ contains this documentation.
  • backup/ contains the Ellis backup system.
  • debian/ and root/, as well as the repository root, contain files used for building the install package.
  • The remaining directories are mostly related to Python packaging.