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Django application on Google Cloud Platform.

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Cloud is consistently growing and it may be worth considering for your next Python project. But Cloud is also very complex and the number of available services is still growing, as well as the number of decisions that have to be made when you want to create configuration for your project. If you want to learn how to run a simple, basic Django app in the Google Cloud Platform [GCP] and see how easy it can be as well as to get the underlying services in the form of the code (Infrastructure as Code [IaC]), this is a place for you.

There are many ways to deploy a Django application on the GCP:

  • App Engine (covered here)
  • Cloud Run (covered here)
  • Kubernetes (TODO)
  • Compute Engine (not covered here)

Most of them are covered in GCP documentation which is quite good in my opinion, however if you are not familiar with the Cloud, all these services and operations may seem confusing (and redundant). Django apps mentioned in these tutorials are almost the same, they have changes dependent on the service type on which they were supposed to be running, nevertheless some changes are not related. Moreover, I found some of the tutorials and apps to contain tiny bugs.

So what I have done here is a simple Django application (based on Django project tutorial: Writing your first Django app, where all changes specific to given GCP services are grouped and can be found in the possible fewest number of places for an easy analysis. Additionally, infrastructure is wrapped in the Terraform (IaC tool) which allows you to easily create (and destroy) all necessary resources. The process of deploying application itself is not handled by Terraform (Don’t Deploy Applications with Terraform - Paul Durivage), but it is wrapped in the easy to follow Google Cloud Build [GCB] pipelines, separate for each service. Due to the fact that inheritance between GCB pipelines is not possible, they have a lot in common but analysis of differences between them should not be a problem for you. For GCB purposes I wrapped the app in Docker, even though the App Engine does not require it, but it was the easiest way to provide a proxy connection to Cloud SQL database (app-engine-exec-wrapper,).

Hopefully such a condensed project may help you learn how GCP services may be used along with Python projects, so some ideas could be picked up in the future.

Google Cloud options

App Engine

App Engine is a fully managed, serverless platform for developing and hosting web applications at scale. You can choose from several popular languages, libraries, and frameworks to develop your apps, and then let App Engine take care of provisioning servers and scaling your app instances based on demand.

-- App Engine documentation

App Engine

This architecture consists of:

  • App Engine - the main service which provides Django app directly to the users
  • Secrets - stores sensitive data (secret key, database credentials, bucket name, etc.)
  • Cloud SQL - relational database (PostgreSQL)
  • Cloud Storage - file storage (static files could optionally be served by App Engine directly)

Cloud Run

Cloud Run is a managed compute platform that enables you to run containers that are invocable via requests or events. Cloud Run is serverless: it abstracts away all infrastructure management, so you can focus on what matters most — building great applications.

-- Cloud Run documentation

Cloud RUn

This architecture consists of:

  • Cloud Run- the main service which provides Django app directly to the users
  • Secrets - stores sensitive data (secret key, database credentials, bucket name, etc.)
  • Cloud SQL - relational database (PostgreSQL)
  • Cloud Storage - file storage

Django app changes specific for Google Cloud Platform

All changes to the fresh Django app are located in mysite/settings.py file and are related to three areas: secrets, database and storage. I will describe each of them.

  1. Secrets

    As depicted in diagrams from the previous point, the application connects to the Google Secrets service to obtain some sensitive information.

    import io
    import os
    from pathlib import Path
    
    import environ
    from google.cloud import secretmanager
    
    BASE_DIR = Path(__file__).resolve().parent.parent
    
    
    env = environ.Env(DEBUG=(bool, False))
    env_file = os.path.join(BASE_DIR, ".env")
    
    
    if os.path.isfile(env_file):
        env.read_env(env_file)
    # Pull secrets from Google Secret Manager
    elif os.environ.get("GOOGLE_CLOUD_PROJECT", None):
        project_id = os.environ.get("GOOGLE_CLOUD_PROJECT")
        settings_name = os.environ.get("SETTINGS_NAME", "django_settings")
        client = secretmanager.SecretManagerServiceClient()
        name = f"projects/{project_id}/secrets/{settings_name}/versions/latest"
        payload = client.access_secret_version(name=name).payload.data.decode("UTF-8")
        env.read_env(io.StringIO(payload))
    else:
        raise Exception("No local .env or GOOGLE_CLOUD_PROJECT detected. No secrets found.")

    Environmental variables are handled by django-environ package.

    If the .env file exists it is treated as the source of secrets (extends environmental variables).

    Otherwise, if GOOGLE_CLOUD_PROJECT environmental variable existence check is positive, then client of Google Secrets fetches the secret (with default name django_settings) and extends environmental variables with values from it.

    If there is no .env file and no GOOGLE_CLOUD_PROJECT variable, then an exception is raised and the app will not be able to start.

    The secret (mentioned django_settings from Google Secrets) consists of three variables:

    • SECRET_KEY - which is used to provide cryptographic signing.
    • DATABASE_URL - database connection information and credentials.
    • GS_BUCKET_NAME - Google Cloud Storage bucket name (may be empty for Google App Engine standard environment).
  2. Database

    default_sqlite3_database = "sqlite:///" + str(BASE_DIR / "db.sqlite3")
    DATABASES = {"default": env.db("DATABASE_URL", default=default_sqlite3_database)}
    
    # If the flag as been set, configure to use proxy
    if os.getenv("USE_CLOUD_SQL_AUTH_PROXY", None):
        DATABASES["default"]["HOST"] = "127.0.0.1"
        DATABASES["default"]["PORT"] = 5432

    Database connection string is obtained from the DATABASE_URL environment variable. Otherwise, the default sqlite3 database is used.

    Then, if the USE_CLOUD_SQL_AUTH_PROXY environmental variable exists, the database connection will be modified to make it work with Cloud SQL Auth proxy.

  3. Storage

    GS_BUCKET_NAME = env("GS_BUCKET_NAME", default=None)
    
    STATIC_URL = "/static/"
    
    if GS_BUCKET_NAME:
        DEFAULT_FILE_STORAGE = "storages.backends.gcloud.GoogleCloudStorage"
        STATICFILES_STORAGE = "storages.backends.gcloud.GoogleCloudStorage"
        GS_DEFAULT_ACL = "publicRead"
    else:
        STATIC_ROOT = "static"
        STATICFILES_DIRS = []

    If GS_BUCKET_NAME environment variable exists, then the relevant storage backend will be set with the help of django-storages package.

Prerequisites

Topics you should be familiar with since they will be not covered:

What you should prepare:

  • Google Cloud Project - create a fresh GCP project or use an existing one (but it may cause Terraform exceptions)
  • gcloud - install GCP cli and authorize it with a relevant GCP Project
  • Terraform - install the latest version
  • Python [optionally] - Python 3.9 in virtual environment if you want to run Django app locally

Instruction

Most of the terminal commands stated here are executed within the Terraform environment folder relevant to the chosen solution.

1. Types of deployments

Terraform environment folder Description GCS CLOUD_BUILD_FILE variable Config file Used Terraform module
terraform/envs/gae_standard App Engine Standard environment without GCS storage cloudbuild/gae_standard.yaml gae_standard.yaml terraform/modules/django_gae_standard
terraform/envs/gae_standard_with_gcs App Engine Standard environment cloudbuild/gae_standard_with_gcs.yaml gae_standard_with_gcs.yaml terraform/modules/django_gae_standard
terraform/envs/gae_flexible App Engine Flexible environment cloudbuild/gae_flexible.yaml gae_flexible.yaml terraform/modules/django_gae_flexible
terraform/envs/cloud_run Cloud Run cloudbuild/cloud_run.yaml - terraform/modules/django_cloud_run

2. Variables specific for your GCP project

  1. Shell environmental variables

    Set environmental variables. Some values you have to know beforehand, like PROJECT_ID. Others you can generate on the fly, like DJANGO_SECRET_KEY however, remember to keep them somewhere (see the next step). They will be used to provide input variables for Terraform and for gcloud commands.

    export PROJECT_ID=django-cloud-tf-test-001
    export REGION=europe-central2
    export ZONE=europe-central2-a
    export SQL_DATABASE_INSTANCE_NAME="${PROJECT_ID}-db-instance"
    export SQL_DATABASE_NAME="${PROJECT_ID}-db"
    export SERVICE_NAME=polls-service
    export SERVICE_ACCOUNT_NAME=polls-service-account  # for cloud run
    export SERVICE_ACCOUNT="${SERVICE_ACCOUNT_NAME}@${PROJECT_ID}.iam.gserviceaccount.com"   # for cloud run
    
    export DJANGO_SECRET_KEY=$(cat /dev/urandom | LC_ALL=C tr -dc '[:alpha:]'| fold -w 50 | head -n1)
    export SQL_USER=$(cat /dev/urandom | LC_ALL=C tr -dc '[:alpha:]'| fold -w 10 | head -n1)
    export SQL_PASSWORD=$(cat /dev/urandom | LC_ALL=C tr -dc '[:alpha:]'| fold -w 10 | head -n1)
  2. gcloud project configuration

    gcloud config set project $PROJECT_ID
  3. Terraform variables

    Terraform can read variables from environment variables. Naming convention is TF_VAR_variable_name.

    export TF_VAR_project_id=$PROJECT_ID
    export TF_VAR_region=$REGION
    export TF_VAR_zone=$ZONE
    export TF_VAR_django_secret_key=$DJANGO_SECRET_KEY
    export TF_VAR_sql_database_instance_name=$SQL_DATABASE_INSTANCE_NAME
    export TF_VAR_sql_database_name=$SQL_DATABASE_NAME
    export TF_VAR_sql_user=$SQL_USER
    export TF_VAR_sql_password=$SQL_PASSWORD
    export TF_VAR_cloud_run_service_account_name=$SERVICE_ACCOUNT_NAME

    Another way to provide input variables is the '.tfvars' file. With variables set in the previous step, such file could be generated with the following command:

    cat << EOF > terraform.tfvars
    project_id                     = "$PROJECT_ID"
    region                         = "$REGION"
    zone                           = "$ZONE"
    django_secret_key              = "$DJANGO_SECRET_KEY"
    sql_database_instance_name     = "$SQL_DATABASE_INSTANCE_NAME"
    sql_database_name              = "$SQL_DATABASE_NAME"
    sql_user                       = "$SQL_USER"
    sql_password                   = "$SQL_PASSWORD"
    cloud_run_service_account_name = "$SERVICE_ACCOUNT_NAME"
    EOF

    More about variables: Input Variables and Variable Definition Precedence

3. Set up infrastructure

Set up infrastructure with basic Terraform commands:

terraform init
terraform plan
terraform apply

Known issues:

  • No way to delete an application - 13 years old Google issue:

    Error: Error creating App Engine application: googleapi: Error 409: This application already exists and cannot be re-created., alreadyExist

    After destroying infrastructure and recreating it again this error occurs since the App Engine app was (silently) not deleted as intended. It could be fixed by importing the existing App Engine app into Terraform state:

    terraform import module.$TERRAFORM_MODULE_NAME.google_app_engine_application.app "${PROJECT_ID}"

    Replace $TERRAFORM_MODULE_NAME with the relevant module name (see main.tf in env of your choice).

    Example for django_gae_standard:

    terraform import module.django_gae_standard.google_app_engine_application.app "${PROJECT_ID}"

    More about importing: Terraform - import

  • random null occurrence for data.google_project.project.number (my comment on hashicorp/terraform-provider-google - data.google_project.project.project_id sometimes null issue):

    The expression result is null. Cannot include a null value in a string template.

    The only solution here is to retry until it works and wait until the new version of the hashicorp/terraform-provider-google has it eliminated.

4. Deploy app

I share the opinion that Terraform should only be used to provide the infrastructure and the deployment of the application itself should be handled separately (see Don’t Deploy Applications with Terraform - Paul Durivage).

GCB pipelines handle the operation of deploying and/or updating the application.

  1. Set GCB pipeline relevant to the chosen deployment

    Substitute the path with the value taken from the Types of deployments table

    export CLOUD_BUILD_FILE=<put value here>
  2. Deploy

    Commands should be run from the root repository directory (see CLOUD_BUILD_FILE variable).

    • App Engine

      Run GCB pipeline:

      gcloud builds submit \
        --project $PROJECT_ID \
        --config $CLOUD_BUILD_FILE \
        --substitutions _INSTANCE_NAME=$SQL_DATABASE_INSTANCE_NAME,_REGION=$REGION,_SERVICE_NAME=$SERVICE_NAME

      Display GAE application url:

      gcloud app describe --format "value(defaultHostname)"

      Known issues:

      • ambiguous error occurrence during the last step, a Terraform Google provider issue, wait a while and retry

        Step #5 - "deploy app": ERROR: (gcloud.app.deploy) NOT_FOUND: Unable to retrieve P4SA: [service-123456789101@gcp-gae-service.iam.gserviceaccount.com] from GAIA. Could be GAIA propagation delay or request from deleted apps.
        Finished Step #5 - "deploy app"
    • Cloud Run

      Run GCB pipeline:

      gcloud builds submit \
        --project $PROJECT_ID \
        --config $CLOUD_BUILD_FILE \
        --substitutions _INSTANCE_NAME=$SQL_DATABASE_INSTANCE_NAME,_REGION=$REGION,_SERVICE_NAME=$SERVICE_NAME,_SERVICE_ACCOUNT_NAME=$SERVICE_ACCOUNT_NAME

      Display Cloud Run application url:

      gcloud run services list --filter SERVICE:$SERVICE_NAME --format "value(status.address.url)"

5. Destroy infrastructure

terraform destroy

Extra: Create Django superuser

Superuser credentials are intended to be stored as Google Secret. Default name for the secret is superuser_credentials. These credentials are used by cloudbuild/create_superuser.yaml GCB pipeline for superuser creation.

An easy way to quickly create and destroy Google Secrets is to use the gcloud cli. Optionally, resources could be created in TF as well, however if superuser credentials are needed only once, it does not seem to be the best idea to store it as IaC.

  1. Create the secret:

    export SECRET_NAME="superuser_credentials"
    export SUPERUSER_USERNAME="super_username"
    export SUPERUSER_PASSWORD="super_password"
    
    gcloud secrets create $SECRET_NAME --replication-policy="automatic"
    echo -n "USERNAME=${SUPERUSER_USERNAME}\nPASSWORD=${SUPERUSER_PASSWORD}\n" | \
      gcloud secrets versions add $SECRET_NAME --data-file=-

    Optionally, you can read the secret to verify if it is correct:

    gcloud secrets versions access latest --secret=$SECRET_NAME
  2. Run GCB pipeline which creates Django superuser:

    gcloud builds submit \
      --project $PROJECT_ID \
      --config cloudbuild/create_superuser.yaml \
      --substitutions _INSTANCE_NAME=$SQL_DATABASE_INSTANCE_NAME,_REGION=$REGION,_SERVICE_NAME=$SERVICE_NAME
  3. Delete the secret:

    gcloud secrets delete $SECRET_NAME

Optionally create Secret as a Terraform resource (credentials provided as variables):

variable "django_superuser_username" {
  description = "Django superuser username"
  type        = string
}

variable "django_superuser_password" {
  description = "Django superuser password"
  type        = string
}

resource "google_secret_manager_secret" "superuser_credentials" {
  secret_id  = var.django_settings_name
  depends_on = [google_project_service.gcp_services]
  labels = {
    label = "superuser_credentials"
  }

  replication {
    automatic = true
  }
}

resource "google_secret_manager_secret_version" "superuser_credentials_version" {
  secret = google_secret_manager_secret.django_settings.id

  secret_data = <<-EOF
  USERNAME=${var.django_superuser_username}
  PASSWORD=${var.django_superuser_password}
  EOF

  depends_on = [module.django_cloud_run]  # relevant module for your case
}

How to run app locally

Instruction on how to run this app locally with or without connection to the cloud services. If you want to run the app with connection to the cloud services you have to set up the infrastructure first (steps 1-3 in Instructions).

  1. Create Python virtual environment and install dependencies:

    python -m venv venv
    source venv/bin/activate
    pip install -r requirements.txt
  2. Set up connection to Google Cloud services (if you need them):

  • Authenticate to GCP:

    gcloud auth application-default login
  • Install Cloud SQL Auth proxy:

    # Linux 64-bit
    wget https://dl.google.com/cloudsql/cloud_sql_proxy.linux.amd64 -O cloud_sql_proxy
    # MacOS 64-bit
    curl -o cloud_sql_proxy https://dl.google.com/cloudsql/cloud_sql_proxy.darwin.amd64
    
    chmod +x cloud_sql_proxy
  • Export environment variables:

    export GOOGLE_CLOUD_PROJECT=$PROJECT_ID
    export USE_CLOUD_SQL_AUTH_PROXY=true
  1. Create .env file with secrets:
  • without connection to cloud services:

    echo "DEBUG=True" > .env
  • with connection to cloud services (values fetched from Google Secrets):

    echo "DEBUG=True" > .env
    
    # The output will be formatted as UTF-8 which can corrupt binary secrets.
    # To get the raw bytes, have Cloud SDK print the response as base64-encoded and decode
    gcloud secrets versions access latest --secret=django_settings --format='get(payload.data)' \
      | tr '_-' '/+' | base64 -d >> .env
  1. Run the Django migrations to set up your models and assets:

    python manage.py makemigrations
    python manage.py makemigrations polls
    python manage.py migrate
    python manage.py collectstatic
  2. Start the Django web server:

    python manage.py runserver

Warnings!

  1. Remember to edit .gcloudignore and .dockerignore. It excludes all files except implicitly added.
  2. Running services and operations costs real MONEY. Make sure that you do not leave any resources that consume credits unintentionally.
  3. Examples here are not production-ready and do not provide a sufficient level of security. If you want to run it within your organization, consult it with the person responsible for Cloud (e.g. Cloud Security Officer).

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