2019-08-16: This needs to be updated.

We deploy Ichnaea in an Amazon AWS environment, and there are some optional dependencies on specific AWS services like Amazon S3. The documentation assumes you are also using a AWS environment, but Ichnaea can be run in non-AWS environments as well.


A full deployment of the application in an AWS environment can include all of the parts shown in the diagram, but various of these parts are optional:

Deployment Diagram

Specifically Amazon CloudFront and S3 are only used for backup and serving image tiles and public data downloads for the public website. Using Combain, Datadog, OpenCellID and Sentry is also optional. Finally there doesn’t have to be a admin EC2 box, but it can be helpful for debug access and running database migrations.

MySQL / Amazon RDS

The application is written and tested against MySQL 5.7.x or Amazon RDS of the same versions. The default configuration works for the most part. There are just a couple of changes you need to do.

For example via the my.cnf:

character-set-server = utf8
collation-server = utf8_general_ci
init-connect='SET NAMES utf8'

The web frontend role only needs access to a read-only version of the database, for example a read-replica. The worker backend role needs access to the read-write primary database.

You need to create a database called location and a user with DDL privileges for that database.

Redis / Amazon ElastiCache

The application uses Redis as a queue for the asynchronous task workers and also uses it directly as a cache and to track API key rate limitations.

You can install a standard Redis or use Amazon ElastiCache (Redis). The application is tested against Redis 3.2.

Amazon S3

The application uses Amazon S3 for various tasks, including backup of observations, export of the aggregated cell table and hosting of the data map image tiles.

All of these are triggered by asynchronous jobs and you can disable them if you are not hosted in an AWS environment.

If you use Amazon S3 you might want to configure a lifecycle policy to delete old export files after a couple of days and observation data after one year.

Statsd / Sentry

The application uses Statsd to aggregate metrics and Sentry to log exception messages.

To use Statsd and Sentry, you need to configure them via environment variables as detailed in the config section.

Installation of Statsd and Sentry are outside the scope of this documentation.

Image Tiles

The code includes functionality to render out image tiles for a data map of places where observations have been made.

You can trigger this functionality periodically via a cron job, by calling the application container with the map argument.

Docker Config

The the development section describes how to set up an environment used for working on and developing Ichnaea itself. For a production install, you should use pre-packaged docker images, instead of installing and setting up the code from Git.

Start by looking up the version number of the last stable release on

Than get the corresponding docker image:

docker pull mozilla/location:2.1.0

To test if the image was downloaded successfully, you can create a container and open a shell inside of it:

docker run -it --rm mozilla/location:2.1.0 shell

Close the container again, either via exit or Ctrl-D.

Next up create the application config as a docker environment file, for example called env.txt:

You can use either a single database user with DDL/DML privileges (DB_USER / DB_PASSWORD) or separate users for DDL, read-write and read-only privileges as detailed in the config section.

Database Setup

The user with DDL privileges and a database called location need to be created manually. If multiple users are used, the initial database setup will create the read-only / read-write users.

Next up, run the initial database setup:

docker run -it --rm --env-file env.txt \
    mozilla/location:2.1.0 alembic stamp base

And update the database schema to the latest version:

docker run -it --rm --env-file env.txt \
    mozilla/location:2.1.0 alembic upgrade head

The last command needs to be run whenever you upgrade to a new version of Ichnaea. You can inspect available database schema changes via alembic with the history and current sub-commands.


The application uses a Maxmind GeoIP City database for various tasks. It works both with the commerically available and Open-Source GeoLite databases in binary format.

You can download the GeoLite database from

Download and untar the downloaded file. Put the GeoLite2-City.mmdb into a directory accessible to docker (for example /opt/geoip). The directory will get volume mounted into the running docker containers.

You can update this file on a regular basis. Typically once a month is enough for the GeoLite database. Make sure to stop any containers accessing the file before updating it and start them again afterwards. The application code doesn’t tolerate having the file being changed underneath it.

Docker Runtime

Finally you are ready to start containers for the three different application roles.

There is a web frontend, a task worker and a task scheduler role. The scheduler role is limited to a single running container. You need to make sure to never have two containers for the scheduler running at the same time. If you use multiple physical machines, the scheduler must only run on one of them.

The web app and task worker roles both scale out and you can run as many of them as you want. They internally look at the number of available CPU cores in the docker container and run an appropriate number of sub-processes. So you can run a single docker container per physical/virtual machine.

All roles communicate via the database and Redis only, so can be run on different virtual or physical machines. The task workers load balance their work internally via data structures in Redis.

If you run multiple web frontend roles, you need to put a load balancer in front of them. The application does not use any sessions or cookies, so the load balancer can simply route traffic via round-robin.

You can configure the load balancer to use the /__lbheartbeat__ HTTP endpoint to check for application health.

If you want to use docker as your daemon manager run:

docker run -d --env-file env.txt \
    --volume /opt/geoip:/app/geoip
    mozilla/location:2.1.0 scheduler

The /opt/geoip directory is the directory on the docker host, with the GeoLite2-City.mmdb file inside it. The /app/geoip/ directory corresponds to the GEOIP_PATH config section in the env.txt file.

The two other roles are started in the same way:

docker run -d --env-file env.txt \
    --volume /opt/geoip:/app/geoip
    mozilla/location:2.1.0 worker

docker run -d --env-file env.txt \
    --volume /opt/geoip:/app/geoip
    -p 8000:8000/tcp
    mozilla/location:2.1.0 web

The web role can take an additional argument to map the port 8000 from inside the container to port 8000 of the docker host machine.

You can put a web server (e.g. Nginx) in front of the web role and proxy pass traffic to the docker container running the web frontend.

Runtime Checks

To check whether or not the application is running, you can check the web role, via:

curl -i http://localhost:8000/__heartbeat__

This should produce output like:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: gunicorn/19.7.1
Date: Tue, 04 Jul 2017 13:27:13 GMT
Connection: close
Access-Control-Allow-Origin: *
Access-Control-Max-Age: 2592000
Content-Type: application/json
Content-Length: 125

{"database": {"up": true, "time": 2},
 "geoip": {"up": true, "time": 0, "age_in_days": 389},
 "redis": {"up": true, "time": 0}}

The __lbheartbeat__ endpoint has simpler output and doesn’t check the database / Redis backend connections. The application is designed to degrade gracefully and continue to work with limited capabilities without working database and Redis backends.

The __version__ endpoint shows what version of the software is currently running.

To test one of the HTTP API endpoints, you can use:

curl -H "X-Forwarded-For:" \

This should produce output like:

{"location": {"lat": 51.5142, "lng": -0.0931}

Test this with different IP addresses like to make sure the database file was picked up correctly.


In order to upgrade a running installation of Ichnaea to a new version, first check and get the docker image for the new version, for example:

docker pull mozilla/location:2.2.0

Next up stop all containers running the scheduler and task worker roles. If you use docker’s own daemon support, the ps, stop and rm commands can be used to accomplish this.

Now run the database migrations found in the new image:

docker run -it --rm --env-file env.txt \
    mozilla/location:2.2.0 alembic upgrade head

The web app role can work with both the old database and new database schemas. The worker role might require the new database schema right away.

Start containers for the scheduler, worker and web roles based on the new image.

Depending on how you run your web tier, swich over the traffic from the old web containers to the new ones. Once all traffic is going to the new web containers, stop the old web containers.