A light deployment system that takes care of the heavy lifting.
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Fezzik (or fez) is a slim and snappy way to run commands on servers. This is useful for many tasks, including deployment.

It wraps a rake-based rsync workflow and tries to keep things simple.

If upgrading to 0.8 from an earlier version of Fezzik, see Upgrading.


gem install fezzik

Basic setup

Require Fezzik in your project Rakefile and define a destination:

require "fezzik"
include Fezzik::DSL

destination :prod do
  set :user, "root"
  set :domain, "myapp.com"

A host task is similar to a normal Rake task, but will run once for every host defined by :domain. The body of a host task exposes two methods:

run <command> Run a shell command on the remote host
host          The domain that the currently running host task is targeting

Write some host tasks that will execute on the specified destination:

namespace :fezzik do
  host_task :echo do
    run "echo 'Running on #{host}'"

Run your host tasks with fezzik by passing a destination and list of tasks to run:

$ fez prod echo


The host_task method is similar to Rake's task in functionality, but has a slightly different API due to its additional options. A host task is defined with a name and some (optional) options. The three primary ones are :args, :deps, and :roles. :args and :deps correspond to Rake's task arguments and task dependencies, and :roles is a Fezzik-specific option explained later. There are also three additional options which can be passed to Weave, Fezzik's underlying ssh library, by specifying them in a :weave_options hash. They control how host tasks run concurrently:

  • :num_threads: The number of threads used to run this task in parallel, or :unlimited to use a thread for every host. Defaults to 10.
  • :serial: Whether to process the command for each connection one at a time. Defaults to false.
  • :batch_by: If set, group the connections into batches of no more than this value.

A Rake task that looks like this:

task :echo, [:arg1, :arg2] => [:dep1, :dep2] do |t, args|

would look like this as a host task:

host_task :echo, :args => [:arg1, :arg2],
                 :deps => [:dep1, :dep2] do |t, args|

And with Weave options:

host_task :echo, :args => [:arg1, :arg2],
                 :deps => [:dep1, :dep2],
                 :weave_options => {:num_threads => 20} do |t, args|

To avoid repeating the same weave_options on every host_task, set Fezzik.default_weave_options, which will be merged with the :weave_options hash of a host_task.

Fezzik.default_weave_options = { :num_threads => :unlimited }


One of the more useful things you can use Fezzik for is handling deployments.

require "fezzik"
include Fezzik::DSL

# Fezzik will automatically load any .rake files it finds in this directory.
Fezzik.init(:tasks => "config/tasks")

# The only special settings are `:domain` and `:user`. The rest are purely convention. All settings can be
# retrieved in your tasks with `get` (e.g., `get :current_path`).
set :app, "myapp"
set :user, "root"
set :deploy_to, "/opt/#{get :app}"
set :release_path, "#{get :deploy_to}/releases/#{Time.now.strftime("%Y%m%d%H%M")}"
set :current_path, "#{get :deploy_to}/current"

destination :staging do
  set :domain, "myapp-staging.com"

destination :prod do
  set :domain, "myapp.com"

Fezzik comes bundled with some useful tasks for common things like deployment. You can download the ones you need:

$ cd config/tasks
$ fez get deploy
    [new] deploy.rake

You'll need to edit the fezzik:start and fezzik:stop tasks in deploy.rake since those are specific to your project.

namespace :fezzik do
  desc "runs the executable in project/bin"
  host_task :start do
    puts "starting from #{(run "readlink #{get :current_path}", :output => capture)[:stdout] }}"
    run "cd #{get :current_path} && ./bin/run_app.sh"

  desc "kills the application by searching for the specified process name"
  Fezzik.host_task :stop do
    puts "stopping app"
    run "(kill `ps aux | grep 'myapp' | grep -v grep | awk '{print $2}'` || true)"

Deploy win!

$ fez prod deploy
[out|myapp.com] myapp deployed!


Configuration often changes when you deploy your project. Fezzik lets you set environments for your hosts.

$ cd config/tasks
$ fez get deploy
    [new] deploy.rake
destination :prod do
  set :domain, "myapp.com"
  env :rack_env, "production"

This will be exposed in the form of an environment.sh file and an environment.rb file in your project root directory when you deploy. You can source the .sh file before running your app or require the .rb file in your project directly.

  desc "runs the executable in project/bin"
  host_task :start do
    run "cd #{get :current_path} && (source environment.sh || true) && ./bin/run_app.sh"

You can assign different environments to subsets of hosts:

destination :prod do
  set :domain, ["myapp1.com", "myapp2.com"]
  env :rack_env, "production"
  env :is_canary, "true", :hosts => ["myapp1.com"]

Fezzik accepts multiple destinations in the call to destination. This can be useful if you have common environment variables shared across destinations.

destination :staging, :prod do
  env :unicorn_workers, 4

You can access the environment settings in your tasks, if you like. It's a hash.

task :inspect_all_environments do
  puts Fezzik.environments.inspect

To access the environment for the currently targeted host:

host_task :inspect_environment do
  puts Fezzik.environments[host].inspect


Fezzik supports role deployments. Roles allow you to assign host tasks different configurations according to their purpose. For example, you might want to perform your initial package installations as root, but run your app as an unprivileged user.

destination :prod do
  set :domain, "myapp.com"
  role :root_user, :user => "root"
  role :run_user, :user => "app"

host_task :install, :roles => :root_user
  # Install all the things.

host_task :run, :roles => :run_user
  # Run all the things.

Or, you might have different domains for database deployment and app deployment.

destination :prod do
  set :user, "root"
  role :db, :domain => "db.myapp.com"
  role :app, :domain => "myapp.com"

Roles in destination blocks can override global role settings.

role :app, :domain => "localhost"

destination :prod do
  role :app, :domain => "myapp.com"

The role method accepts a role name and a hash of values that you want assigned with the set :var, value syntax. These will override the global or destination settings when a host task is run.


Fezzik exposes some functions that can be useful when running host tasks.

Override hosts from command line

$ domain="example1.com,example2.com" fez prod deploy

Set the "domain" environment variable to override the domains set in your destination block. Useful for running one-off tasks against a subset of your hosts.

Capture or modify output

The output of run can be captured or modified instead of printing directly with the host prefix.

It can return a hash of :stdout, :stderr, or it can stream the raw output without prefixing each host.

# prints "[out|myapp.com] hi"
run "echo 'hi'"

# prints "hi"
run "echo 'hi'", :output => :raw

# output == { :stdout => "hi" :stderr => "" }
output = run "echo 'hi'", :output => :capture

A note on puts

Ruby's puts is not thread-safe. In particular, running multiple puts in parallel can result in the newlines being separated from the rest of the string.

As a helper, any puts used from within a host task will call an overridden thread-safe version of puts. If $stdout.puts or $stderr.puts is used instead, the normal thread-unsafe method will be called.


Fezzik comes with a DSL module that you can optionally include in the top level of your Rakefiles with include Fezzik::DSL. It exposes the following functions:


If you don't want to include these functions in your top-level namespace they can all be called directly on the Fezzik module, e.g., Fezzik.destination.

Included Tasks

Fezzik has a number of useful tasks other than those defined in deploy.rake. These can also be downloaded with $ fez get <task> and placed in the directory you specify with Fezzik.init(:tasks => "config/tasks").

These tasks are meant to be starting points. For example, if you want to save your environment files in a place that's not your project root you can simply edit the task in deploy.rake.

If you write a recipe that would be useful to other developers, please submit a pull request!


$ cd config/tasks
$ fez get command
    [new] command.rake

Sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty and run a shell on your servers. The command.rake tasks give you a prompt that lets you execute shell code on each of your hosts.

$ fez prod command
Targeting hosts:
run command (or "quit"): tail www/myapp/log.txt -n 1
[2011-07-01 00:01:23] GET / 200

You can also run a single command:

$ fez prod "command_execute[ls]"


$ cd config/tasks
$ fez get rollback
    [new] rollback.rake

Emergency! Rollback! Every deployment you make is saved on the server if you use the default tasks defined in deploy.rake. You can move between these deployments (to roll back, for example), with rollback.rake.

$ fez prod rollback
configuring for root@myapp.com
=== Releases ===
0: Abort
1: 201107051328 (current)
2: 201106231408
3: 201106231352
Rollback to release (0):

Rake passthroughs

Because Fezzik is built on Rake it passes through some options directly to Rake. You can use these with the fez command as if you were running rake directly:

--trace    Turn on invoke/execute tracing, enable full backtrace.
--dry-run  Do a dry run without executing actions.



Fezzik 0.8 replaces much of its internal piping with Weave, an excellent parallel SSH library. This allows for cleaner output and faster task execution due to using a shared connection pool, but necessarily introduces a few breaking changes. These are detailed below.

Breaking changes

  • The method target_host is gone and has been replaced by using host in a host task. The old method host has been removed and there should no longer be a reason to use it.

  • The current_path setting is no longer set automatically. To continue using it in your deployments, define it manually:

    set :current_path, "#{get :deploy_to}/current`.
  • The helper method rsync no longer exists. Instead of rsync "..." use system("rsync -az ...")

  • The helper method sudo no longer exists. Instead of sudo "..." use run "sudo ..."


  • The remote_task method is deprecated. Use host_task instead.

  • Using settings defined by set as top-level method calls is deprecated. For example, use get :domain instead of domain.

  • Fezzik::Util.capture_output is deprecated. Pass options directly to run instead:

    run "echo 'hi'", :output => :capture
    run "echo 'hi'", :output => :raw