Skip to content

Deploying ColdFront in Production

This document outlines how to run ColdFront in production. ColdFront is written in python3 and uses the Django web framework. Here we showcase deploying ColdFront using Gunicorn and nginx but any method for deploying Django in production could be used. For a more comprehensive list of methods see here.


It's recommended to create a non-root user for running ColdFront. The Gunicorn worker processes will run under this user account. Also, create a directory for installing ColdFront and related files.

# useradd --system -m coldfront
# mkdir /srv/coldfront
# chown coldfront.coldfront /srv/coldfront
# mkdir /etc/coldfront


This guide uses nginx. So be sure you have nginx installed:

# yum/apt install nginx

Install ColdFront in a virtual environment

# cd /srv/coldfront
# python3 -mvenv venv
# source venv/bin/activate
# pip install --upgrade pip
# pip install coldfront

Configure ColdFront

Create a config file for ColdFront. For a complete list of settings see here.


The config file needs to be readable by nginx user. Ensure you have the appropriate permissions set. For example:

$ chmod 640 /etc/coldfront/coldfront.env
$ chgrp nginx /etc/coldfront/coldfront.env

Create the file /etc/coldfront/coldfront.env and set at least the following variables:

# Database connection

# Path to store static assets

# Name of your center
CENTER_NAME='University HPC'

# Cryptographic secret key


Never set DEBUG to True in production. You also MUST set SECRET_KEY in production or else each time ColdFront is started a new one will be generated. You can create a good secret key using the following command:

$ python3 -c "import secrets; print(secrets.token_urlsafe())"

Choosing a database backend: ColdFront supports MariaDB/MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQLite. If you don't configure a database, it will use SQLite by default and will place the database in the ColdFront working directory. You may not want this for a production installation.

Install your preferred database and set the connection details using the DB_URL variable as shown above.

Note: Install python database drivers

Be sure to install the database drivers associated with your db. For example:

$ source /srv/coldfront/venv/bin/activate
$ pip install mysqlclient
$ pip install psycopg2

Initializing the ColdFront database

$ source /srv/coldfront/venv/bin/activate
$ coldfront initial_setup
Running migrations:
  Applying contenttypes.0001_initial... OK
  Applying auth.0001_initial... OK

This should only be done once

You only need to initialize the ColdFront database once after you first install.

Create the super user account

Run the command below to create a new super user account with a secure password:

$ source /srv/coldfront/venv/bin/activate
$ coldfront createsuperuser

Deploy static files

This step allows serving all of ColdFront static assets (CSS/JavaScript/Images) using nginx. For more information see here. This command will deploy all static assets to the STATIC_ROOT path in the configuration step above.

$ source /srv/coldfront/venv/bin/activate
$ coldfront collectstatic

Install Gunicorn

$ source /srv/coldfront/venv/bin/activate
$ pip install gunicorn

Create systemd unit file for ColdFront Gunicorn workers

Create file /etc/systemd/system/gunicorn.service:

Description=Gunicorn instance to serve Coldfront mariadb.service

ExecStart=/srv/coldfront/venv/bin/gunicorn --workers 3 --bind unix:coldfront.sock -m 007 coldfront.config.wsgi



Adjust the number of workers for your site specific needs using the --workers flag above.

Start/enable ColdFront Gunicorn workers

# systemctl start gunicorn.service
# systemctl enable gunicorn.service

# Check for any errors
# systemctl status gunicorn.service

Create systemd unit file for ColdFront qcluster scheduled tasks

ColdFront uses Django Q to run scheduled tasks such as sending allocation expiration warning emails. We need to create a unit file to run the qserver process or these tasks will never run.

Create file /etc/systemd/system/coldfrontq.service:

Description=DjangoQ instance to run Coldfront scheduled tasks mariadb.service gunicorn.service

ExecStart=/srv/coldfront/venv/bin/coldfront qcluster


Start/enable ColdFront qcluster

# systemctl start coldfrontq.service
# systemctl enable coldfrontq.service

# Check for any errors
# systemctl status coldfrontq.service

Configure nginx

We now configure nginx to proxy requests to the ColdFront Gunicorn workers via unix domain socket.

Create file /etc/nginx/conf.d/coldfront.conf:

server {
    listen 443 ssl http2 default_server;

    # Note set these to the path of your SSL certs
    ssl_certificate /srv/coldfront/tls/coldfront.crt;
    ssl_certificate_key /srv/coldfront/tls/coldfront.key;
    ssl_session_timeout 1d;
    ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:50m;
    ssl_session_tickets off;

    # modern configuration. tweak to your needs.
    ssl_protocols TLSv1.2;
    ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;

    # HSTS (ngx_http_headers_module is required) (15768000 seconds = 6 months)
    add_header Strict-Transport-Security max-age=15768000;

    location /static/ {
        alias /srv/coldfront/static/;

    location / {
        proxy_set_header Host $http_host;
        proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;
        proxy_pass http://unix:/srv/coldfront/coldfront.sock;

Use SSL in Production

Be sure to configure nginx with ssl when running in production. Creating and setting up SSL certificates is outside the scope of this document.

Start/enable nginx

# systemctl restart nginx.service
# systemctl enable nginx.service