I have read all the questions and answers I can find regarding Django and HTTP Push. Yet, none offer a clear, concise, beginning-to-end solution about how to accomplish a basic “hello world” of so-called “comet” functionality.
First question (1): To what extent is the problem that HTTP simply isn’t (at least so far) made for this? Are all the potential solutions essentially hacks?
2) What’s the best currently available solution?
- Some other Twisted-based solution?
- XMPP w/ BOSH?
Some other solution?
3) How does nginx push module play into this discussion?
4) Which of these solutions require replacement of the typical mod_wsgi / nginx (or apache) deployment model? Why do they require this? Is this a favorable transition in any case?
5) How significant are the advantages of using a solution that is already in Python?
Alex Gaynor’s presentation from PyCon 2010, which I just watched on blip.tv, is amazing and informative, but not terrifically specific on the current state of HTTP Push in Django. One thing that he said that gave me some confidence was this: Orbited does a good job of abstracting and simulating the concept of network sockets. Thus, when WebSockets actually land, we’ll be in a good place for a transition.
6) How does HTML5 Websockets differ from current solutions? Is Gaynor’s assessment of the ease of transition from Orbited accurate?
I’d take a look at evserver (http://code.google.com/p/evserver/) if all you need is comet.
It “supports [the] little known Asynchronous WSGI extension” and is build around libevent. Works like a charm and supports django. The actual handler code is a bit ugly, but it scales well as it really is async io.
I have used evserver and I’m currently moving to cyclone (tornado on twisted) because I need a little more than evserver offsers. I need true bidirectional io (think socket.io (http://socket.io/)) and while evserver could support it I thought it was easier to reimplement tornado’s socket.io in cyclone (I opted for cyclone instead of tornado as cyclone is build on twisted, thus allowing for more transports that aren’t implemented in twisted (i.c. zeromq)) Socket.io supports websockets, comet style polling, and, much more interseting, flash based websockets. I think that in most practical situations websockets + flash based websockets are enough to support 99% (according to adobe flash penetration is about 99% (http://www.adobe.com/products/player_census/flashplayer/version_penetration.html)) of a websites visitors (only people not using flash need to fallback to one of socket.io its (less perfomant and resource hogging) backup transports)
Be aware though websockets are not an http transport thus putting them behind http based proxies (e.g haproxy in http mode) breaks the connection. Better serve them on an alternate ip or port so you can proxy in tcp mode (e.g haproxy in tcp mode).
To answer your questions:
(1) If you don’t need a bidirectional transport longpolling based solutions are good enough (all they do is keep a connection open). Things do get iffy when you need your connection to be statefull or you need to be able to both send and receive data. In the latter case socket.io helps. However websockets are made for this scenario and with the support of flash its available to most of a websites vistors (via socket.io or standalone, however socket.io has the added benefit of backup transports for those people not wanting to install flash)
(3) It’s just one other server implementation. If i read it correctly it’s push only. pushing data to a client is done by making http equest from your app to the nginx server. (nginx then takes care they reach the client). If you’re inteersted in this, look at mongrel2 (http://mongrel2.org/home) it not only has handlers for longpolling but also for websockets.(instead of making http request to mongrel, this time you use zeromq handlers to get data to your mongrel server) (Do take note of the developer’s lack of enthusiasm for websockets and flash based websockets. Especially taking into account that the websocket protocol tends to evolve you might, at some point, need to recode mongrel2’s websocket support yourself keep having support for websockets)
(4) All solutions except evserver replace wsgi with something else. Though most servers also have some wsgi support ontop of this “something else”. No matter what solution you choose be careful that one cpu intensive or otherwise io blocking request doesn’t block the server. (you either need multiple instances or threads).
(5) Not very significant. All solutions depend on some custom handlers to push (and, if applicable, receive) data to the client. All solutions i mentioned allow these handlers to be written in python. If you want to use a completely different framework (node.js) then you have to weigh the ease of node.js (it’s assumed to be easy, but it’s also rather experimental, and i found very few libraries to be actually stable) against the convenience of using your existing code base and the available libraries (e.g. if your app needs a blog ther are plenty django blogs you could plug in, but none for node.js) Also don’t stare yourself blind on performance stats. unless you plan to push dumb predefined data (what all benchmarks do) to the client you’ll find that the actual processing of data adds much more overhead than even the worst async io implementation. (But you still want to use an async io based server if you plan to have many simultaneous clients, threading simply isn’t meant to keep thousands of connections alive)
(6) websockets offer bidirectional communication, long polling/comet only pushes data but does not accept writes. (Socket.io simulates this bidirectional support by using two http requests, one to longpoll, one to send data. It tracks their interdependance by a (session) id that’s part of both requests query string). flash based websockets are similar to real websockets (the difference is that their implementation is in the swf, not your browser). Also the websockets protocol does not follow the http protocol; longpolling/comet stuff does (technically the websocket client sends an upgrade request to websocket server, the upgraded protocol isn’t http anymore)
There is support for WebSockets with django-websocket, but unfortunately there are major issues with it for getting it working; here’s a quote from that page:
BIG FAT DISCLAIMER – right at the moment its technically NOT possible in any way to use a websocket with WSGI. This is a known issue but cannot be worked around in a clean way due to some design decision that were made while the WSGI stadard was written. At this time things like Websockets etc. didn’t exist and were not predictable.
But not only WSGI is the limiting factor. Django itself was designed around a simple request to response scenario without Websockets in mind. This also means that providing a standard conform websocket implemention is not possible right now for django. However it works somehow in a not-so pretty way. So be aware that tcp sockets might get tortured while using django-websocket.
So at the moment, WSGI: no go; Django: hardly any go, even with django-websockets; see also a comment in the author’s original announcement:
I can’t say this looks like a good idea. You’re doing long-lived connections in a way that is going to require threading. django-websocket requires threading setup, and won’t work if you’ve got processes (because you’d just have too many processes) but threads won’t scale for a lot of connections at the same time, either, so its just a false safety. You need an asynchronous platform for long-lived things, and I do this by doing my app in Django and my comet and websocket in Node.js
Personally if trying to use WebSockets (which I expect to be next year), I would try the combination of Twisted and Cyclone first. They’re designed to cope with WebSockets, and scale well. If you write your code properly to remove unnecessary dependencies on Django, you should be able to use much of your code in a Twisted-based system. This is a very distinct advantage over using Node.js or Comet or any system in another language. You could also make a simple push
Finally, you could also just decide it’s too hard and use an external service to provide the push support. That then becomes a matter of sending a simple JSON request to their servers instead of worrying about how to make the connection and how concurrency will work and things like that. Of course, you’ll need to pay for it (though currently it may be free while in Beta), but you don’t need to worry about implementation details; you won’t have the full power of WebSockets that way though – just push support.
Re question #2, I recently was given a tour of the internals of a Django app that uses Comet heavily, and Orbited was the solution they chose.
I can’t believe it’s been over six years since I asked this question.
Async with Django (and the associated network traffic, eg websockets) has been an itch for many of us in the community. I have taken these past few years, to among other things, scratch this itch.
hendrix is a WSGI/ASGI conatiner that runs on Twisted. It has been a project mainly driven by 5 enthusiasts, with help and funding from some visionary organizations. It is in production today at dozens, but not hundreds, of companies.
I’ll leave it to you to read the documentation to see why it’s the best solution to this problem, but a few quick highlights:
- it’s based on Twisted, requires no knowledge or use of Twisted internals, but leaves them all available
- It “just works” in the sense that you don’t need any special server or process configuration to do async and socket traffic from within your Django (or Pyramid, or Flask) app
- It is very likely to be forward-compatible with ASGI, the Django Channels standard, and is in some meaningful ways the first ASGI container
- It ships with simple APIs that maintain the flow of your view logic and are easy to unit test.
Please see this talk that I gave at Django-NYC (at the Buzzfeed offices) for more information about why I think this is the best answer to this question.