Code to make it easy to set up an Ensembl or EnsemblGenomes mirror
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Code to make it easy to install an EnsEMBL webserver on a fresh install of Ubuntu 14.04. The scripts in this repository will fetch dependencies and configure a local mirror of Ensembl/EnsemblGenomes with any combination of existing species using entirely remotely hosted data for minimum footprint, entirely locally hosted data for maximum performance or anywhere in between.

This is a sister project to easy-import, which simplifies the import of genomic data for any species from standard flat files into the Ensembl database schema. The latest and most complete documentation for both projects is available at

Quick instructions

These instructions will get you started with an Ensembl mirror of human and mouse using locally hosted core databases with the remaining data loaded from the ensembl public mysql servers.

Step 1: Install dependencies

This is the only step that requires sudo. If you wish to run the subsequent steps as a different user, add a WEB_USER_NAME and WEB_USER_PASS to the ini file to create this user and transfer ownership of the SERVER_ROOT directory

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install git
cd ~
git clone em
cd em
sudo ./ example.ini

Step 2: Setup databases

At least one local database must be created with write access. These instructions assume that both the webserver and database are on localhost. Use of separate hosts is supported but will require changes to /etc/mysql/my.cnf to allow external connections.

./ databases.ini

Step 3: Update Ensembl code

This step fetches/updates the ensembl code repositories and sets up configuration files in $SERVER_ROOT/public-plugins/mirror/conf.

./ example.ini

Step 4: Reload Ensembl site

The last step starts the webserver and, if necessary, restarts it up to 5 times. Usually this will be enough but sometimes you may need to run this script again before your Ensembl mirror site becomes available at http://localhost:$HTTP_PORT/

./ my.ini

Changing the defaults

To set up an ensembl genomes mirror with four locally hosted Lepidopteran species simply use the provided eg.ini file in place of example.ini and eg-databases.ini in place of databases.ini. You will need to run steps 2 and 3 again after any changes to the database locations.

Hosting more data locally

Provided the relevant dumps are available at or any database on the Ensembl sites can be specified in a databases.ini file to be hosted locally.
using databases-extra.ini or eg-databases-extra.ini in step 2 will fetch more for local hosting by using the SPECIES_DB_AUTO_EXPAND variable to list database types to attempt to retrieve in addition to the core database, or listing additional databases (e.g. compara) to host locally.

Using a separate database host

Using separate webserver and database hosts is supported by changing the ENSEMBL_WEBSITE_HOST variable in databases.ini to something other than localhost, however you will need to update your /etc/mysql/my.cnf file to allow database connections from another server. Leaving the ENSEMBL_WEBSITE_HOST variable empty will set up users allowed to connect from any host.

Editing the .ini files


Configuration options for steps 1, 3 and 4.


Four subsections with DB_[*_]HOST, DB_[*_]PORT, DB_[*_]USER and DB_[*_]PASS variables specify connection settings for:

  • DB_HOST etc. - the primary database host with species/multi-species databases.
  • DB_SESSION_HOST etc. - user-specific information, typically the only database to require read-write access and therefore a password protected connection.
  • DB_FALLBACK_HOST etc. - to reduce the amount of locally hosted data, it is often desirable to use alternate sources for some databases, the DB_FALLBACK_HOST host will be queried to find any required databases that are not available on DB_HOST
  • DB_FALLBACK2_HOST etc. - especially with EnsemblGenomes sites, remote databases may be found on more than one host, the DB_FALLBACK2_HOST host will be queried to find any required databases that are not available on DB_HOST or DB_FALLBACK_HOST


To set up a non-admin user to run steps 2, 3 and 4, specify WEB_USER_NAME and WEB_USER_PASS to create a new user with ownership of the SERVER_ROOT directory


Connection/branch information for the Github repositories to be cloned

  • EG_URL/EG_BRANCH - (optional) EnsemblGenomes code


  • HTTP_PORT - port to run the apache webserver on ( will need to be run with root privileges if this is set to a value below 1024
  • SERVER_ROOT - the directory into which all ensembl code will be cloned and from which the site will be run


Database names to set up config files for/connect to

  • SPECIES_DBS - a space separated list of ensembl core dbs in square braces
  • SPECIES_DB_AUTO_EXPAND - to save listing all dbs for a given species this variable may be used to specify a set of replacement strings to attempt to connect to (e.g. specify SPECIES_DBS = [ homo_sapiens_core_84_38 ] and SPECIES_DB_AUTO_EXPAND = [ variation ] to also load the database homo_sapiens_variation_84_38, if it exists on DB_HOST or a DB_FALLBACK_HOST
  • MULTI_DBS - a space separated list of multispecies databases in square braces


configuration options for step 2.


Root user connection details and user names (and passwords) for database users to be created


The name of the ENSEMBL_WEBSITE_HOST host (on which steps 1, 3 and 4 are run) is used when setting up the database users. If this is anything other than localhost then changes will be required to /etc/mysql/my.cnf to support external connections


Locations and names of database dumps to fetch and load locally.

  • ENSEMBL_DB_URL - the URL containing the Ensembl database dumps
  • ENSEMBL_DB_REPLACE - a flag to specify whether to overwrite databases that already exist on the DB_HOST
  • ENSEMBL_DBS - a space separated list of database dump names in square braces. ensembl_accounts is required, all others are optional

The equivalent variables may be set for EG_DB_URL to fetch and download EnsemblGenomes database dumps and for MISC_DB_URL to support situations where the required databases are spread across multiple hosts.

An additional variable may be set for species databases,
SPECIES_DB_AUTO_EXPAND - a space separated list of database types to use as replacement strings for core to facilitate downloading multiple database types for each species in SPECIES_DBS