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Bazel Python rules that package everything in an executable zip


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Unfortunately we decided not to use Bazel, so these rules are effectively unmaintained. If someone would like to take ownership, please push a copy of the code somewhere, and I will be happy to link to it from here. Thanks for the interest!

Bazel Python Zip Rules

This package is an alternative to Bazel's built-in Python rules that work with existing Python packages from PyPI. Eventually the built-in rules or rules_python should replace this, once Google improves them to work with external packages. Until then, these rules work for us.

See the example project for a tiny demonstration.

We named this rules_pyz because originally it built a zip for every pyz_binary and pyz_test. We have since changed it so it only optionally builds a zip.

Using the rules

Add the following lines to your WORKSPACE:

# Load the dependencies required for the rules
    name = "com_bluecore_rules_pyz",
    commit = "eb2527d42664bc2dc4834ee54cb1bb94a1d08216",
    remote = "",

load("@com_bluecore_rules_pyz//rules_python_zip:rules_python_zip.bzl", "pyz_repositories")


To each BUILD file where you want to use the rules, add:


Instead of py_* rules, use pyz_*. They should work the same way. One notable difference is instead of imports to change the import path, you need to use the pythonroot attribute, which only applies to the srcs and data of that rule, and not all transitive dependencies.

PyPI dependencies

If you want to import packages from PyPI, write a pip requirements.txt file, then:

  1. mkdir -p third_party/pypi
  2. mkdir wheels
  3. Add the following lines to third_party/pypi/BUILD:
    load(":pypi_rules.bzl", "pypi_libraries")
  4. Add the following lines to WORKSPACE:
    load("@com_bluecore_rules_pyz//pypi:pip.bzl", "pip_repositories")
  5. Generate the dependencies using the tool:
    bazel build @com_bluecore_rules_pyz//pypi:pip_generate_wrapper
    bazel-bin/external/com_bluecore_rules_pyz/pypi/pip_generate_wrapper \
        -requirements requirements.txt \
        -outputDir third_party/pypi \
        -wheelURLPrefix \
        -wheelDir wheels
  6. If this depends on any Python packages that don't publish wheels, you will need to copy the wheels directory to some server where they are publicly accessible, and set the -wheelURLPrefix argument to that URL. We use a [Google Cloud Storage bucket]( access-public-data) and copy the wheels with: gsutil -m rsync -a public-read wheels gs://public-bucket
  7. Add the following lines to WORKSPACE to load the generate requirements:
    load("//third_party/pypi:pypi_rules.bzl", "pypi_repositories")

Local Wheels

As an alternative to publishing built wheels, you can check them in to your repository. If you omit the wheelURLPrefix flag, pip_generate will generate references relative to your WORKSPACE.

Motivation and problems with existing rules

Bluecore is experimenting with using Bazel because it offers two potential advantages over our existing environment:

  1. Reproducible builds and tests between machines: Today, we use a set of virtualenvs. When someone adds or removes an external dependency, or moves code between "packages", we need to manually run some scripts to build the virtualenvs. This is error prone, and a frequent cause of developer support issues.
  2. Faster tests and CI by caching results.
  3. One tool for all languages: Today our code is primarily Python and JavaScript, with a small amount of Go. As we grow the team, the code base, and add more tools, it would be nice if there was a single way to build and test everything.

The existing rules have a number of issues which interfere with these goals. In particular, we need to be able to consume packages published on PyPI. The existing rules have the following problems:

The bazel_rules_pex rules work pretty well for these cases. However, pex is very slow when packaging targets that have large third-party dependencies, since it unzips and rezips everything. These rules started as an exploration to understand why Pex is so slow, and eventually morphed into the rules as they are today.

Implementation overview

A Python "executable" is a directory tree of Python files, with an "entry point" module that is invoked as __main__. We want to be able to define executables with different sets of dependencies that possibly conflict (e.g. executable foo may want example_module to be imported, but executable bar may need example_module to not exist, or be a different version). To do this, we build a directory tree containing all dependencies, and generate a This makes the directory executable by either running python executable_exedir or python executable_exedir/ To make this more convenient, we also generate a shell script to invoke python with the correct arguments.

For example, if we have an executable named executable, which runs a script called that depends on somepackage.module, it will generate the following files:

executable          (generated shell script: runs executable_exedir)
├──     (generated main script: runs
└── somepackage

The executable_exedir can be zipped into a zip file with a #! interpreter line, so it can be directly executed. This may introduce incompatibilities: many Python programs depend on reading resource files relative to their source files which fails when loaded from a zip. By default for maximum compatibility, the will unzip everything into a temporary directory, execute that, then delete it at execute. You can set zip_safe=True on the pyz_binary to override this behaviour. At build time, if any native code libraries are detected, the rules write a manifest (_zip_info_.json) that instructs to unpack these files because they cannot be loaded from a zip.

Creating an "isolated" Python environment

We want executables generated by these rules to be "isolated": They should only rely on the system Python interpreter and the standard library. Any custom packages or environment variables should be ignored, so running the program always works. It turns out this is tricky: If the default python binary is part of a virtual environment for example, in behaves slightly differently than a "normal" Python interpreter. Users may have added .pth files to their site-packages directory to customize their environment. To resolve this, tries very hard to establish a "clean" environment, which complicates the startup code.

To do it, we execute with the Python flags -E -S -s which ignores PYTHON* environment variables, and does not load site-packages. Unfortunately, to execute a zip, Python needs the runpy module which is in site-packages. Additionally, people might explicitly execute python ..._exedir or python ..._exedir/ In those cases, if we find the site module, we re-execute Python with the correct flags, to ensure the program sees a clean environment.

TODO: pex has code to clean the sys.modules which we should borrow at some point, since it avoids re-executing Python which decreases startup overhead.

Bazel implementation: Runfiles

To make tests run quickly in Bazel, it is best to not copy files into an _exedir. Instead, we build the _exedir in the Bazel .runfiles directory using symlinks. This makes incremental changes much faster. As a disadvantage, it causes some slightly different paths than when things are packaged directly into a zip.

Unscientific comparison

  1. Modify a Python test file:
    • bazel_rules_pex: 5.252s total: 2.686s to package the pex; 2.533s to run the test
    • rules_pyz: ~2.278s to run the test (no rebuild needed: test srcs not packaged)
  2. Modify a lib file dependeded on by a Python test:
    • bazel_rules_pex: 5.276s total: 2.621s to package the pex; 2.624s to run the test
    • rules_pyz: 0.112s to pack the dependencies; 2.180s to run the test
  3. Package numpy and scipy with a main that imports scipy
    • pex: 9.5s ; time to run: first time: 1.3s; next times: 0.4s
    • simplepack: 0.6s; time to run: 0.5s



Bazel Python rules that package everything in an executable zip







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