Nicolas Dandrimont


16th October 2013

Table of Contents

A bit about myself

In the free-software world

Free software user since the early 2000's

Debian packager since 2011, developer since 2013

GSoC mentor for Debian since 2012, admin in 2013

mentors.debian.net admin (code + system) since 2012


Sysadmin for a student ISP, 2007-2012

Sysadmin for a French University, since 2012

The problem with distro infra

Services are like people

Dozens of services, developed by many people

Each service has its own way of communicating with the rest of the world

Meaning that a service that needs to interact (yep, that's all of them) will need to implement a bunch of communication systems

Debian infrastructure comms

dak, our archive software, uses emails and databases to communicate. Metadata is available in a RFC822 format, no real API (the DB is not public either)

wanna-build, our build queue management software, polls a database every few minutes to know what needs to get built. No API outside of its database

debbugs, our bug tracking system, works via email, stores its data in flat files, and exposes a read-only SOAP API

SCM pushes in the distro-provided repos (on alioth) can trigger an IRC bot (KGB), some mails. No central notification mechanism

Fedora infra before fedmsg

In the packaging pipeline: transition from service to service:

  • Either done by a developer
  • Or some ad-hoc hooks would trigger the next service in the pipeline

Not maintainable

Adding new services is annoying (you need to touch everything)

Some kludges are available

UDD (the Ultimate Debian Database)

wiki page

Contains a snapshot of a lot of the databases undelying the Debian infrastructure at a given time (even some Ubuntu bits)

A lot of cron-triggered importers

Useful for distro-wide QA purposes, not so much for real-time updates

The PTS (Package Tracking System)

http://packages.qa.debian.org/ (and http://pts.debian.net)

Cron-triggered updates on source packages

Subscribe for email updates on a given packages

Messages not uniform, contain some headers for filtering and machine parsing

Not real-time

A proposed solution: fedmsg

What is fedmsg?

Jesse Keating's talk in 2009 at NorthWest Linux Fest

A unified message bus, reducing the coupling of interdependent services

Services subscribe to one (or several) message topic(s), register callbacks, and respond to events

What you get (almost) for free

  • A stream of data representing the infrastructure activity (stats)
  • De-coupling of interdependent services
  • Desktop notifications for devs
  • Live web dashboard of events
  • IRC feeds (#fedora-fedmsg @ freenode, #debian-fedmsg @ OFTC)
  • identi.ca and twitter accounts that get banned for flooding :-)

fedmsg inception

First candidate: AMQP



  • SPOF at the central broker
  • brokers weren't very reliable

Actual message bus: 0mq


No broker, each service binds to a port and starts publishing messages

Other services connect to those ports and start consuming messages


  • No central broker
  • 100-fold speedup over AMQP

Main issue with a brokerless system: service discovery

Three options

  • Writing a broker (→ hello SPOF)
  • Using DNS (most elegant solution)
  • Distribute a text file

Fedora uses option #3, and the Debian GSoC student implemented option #2

Using the bus

Bus topology


Message topics

Event topics follow the rule:



  • ENV is one of dev, stg, or production.
  • SERVICE is something like koji, bodhi, mentors, …
  • OBJECT is something like package, user, or tag
  • SUBOBJECT is something like owner or build (in the case where OBJECT is package, for instance)
  • EVENT is a verb like update, create, or complete.

Publishing messages

From python:

import fedmsg
fedmsg.publish(topic='testing', modname='test', msg={
    'test': "Hello World",

From the shell:

$ echo "Hello World." | fedmsg-logger --modname=git --topic=repo.update
$ echo '{"a": 1}' | fedmsg-logger --json-input
$ fedmsg-logger --message="This is a message."
$ fedmsg-logger --message='{"a": 1}' --json-input

Receiving messages

From python:

import fedmsg

# Read in the config from /etc/fedmsg.d/
config = fedmsg.config.load_config([], None)

for name, endpoint, topic, msg in fedmsg.tail_messages(**config):
    print topic, msg  # or use fedmsg.encoding.pretty_dumps(msg)

In the shell, you can use the fedmsg-tail command (demo time)


  • All the stuff listed in What you get (almost) for free is implemented
  • Cryptographic message signing: either via X.509 (Fedora) or GnuPG (Debian, implemented during GSoC13)
  • Replay mechanism: detect if a message was missed (sequence id mismatch) and ask the sender for the remaining messages (implemented during GSoC13)


Status of deployment

In Fedora: fedmsg is used in production for more and more infra services (see the Gamification talk by Haikel later)

In Debian: Simon wrote mail gateways to get package uploads and bug changes on a stub-bus. Infrastructure integration is mostly blocking on me not having enough time to discuss the specifics with our sysadmin team

What's next

More distros adopting the fedmsg bus?

Cross-distro messaging?

fedmsg gives a new meaning to an "open infrastructure"!

Next session, other Distro track room: fedmsg workshop: please come play with the bus!