Capistrano: A deployment automation tool built on Ruby, Rake, and SSH.
Capistrano is framework for building automated deployment scripts. Although Capistrano itself is written in Ruby, it can easily be used to deploy projects of any language or framework, be it Rails, Java, or PHP.
Once installed, Capistrano gives you a
cap tool to perform your deployments from the comfort of your command line.
$ cd my-capistrano-enabled-project
$ cap production deploy
When you run
cap, Capistrano dutifully connects to your server(s) via SSH and executes the steps necessary to deploy your project. You can define those steps yourself by writing Rake tasks, or by using pre-built task libraries provided by the Capistrano community.
Tasks are simple to make. Here’s an example:
task :restart_sidekiq do
on roles(:worker) do
execute :service, "sidekiq restart"
after "deploy:published", "restart_sidekiq"
Note: This documentation is for the current version of Capistrano (3.x). If you are looking for Capistrano 2.x documentation, you can find it in this archive.
There are many ways to automate deployments, from simple rsync bash scripts to complex containerized toolchains. Capistrano sits somewhere in the middle: it automates what you already know how to do manually with SSH, but in a repeatable, scalable fashion. There is no magic here!
Here’s what makes Capistrano great:
Capistrano defines a standard deployment process that all Capistrano-enabled projects follow by default. You don’t have to decide how to structure your scripts, where deployed files should be placed on the server, or how to perform common tasks: Capistrano has done this work for you.
Define your deployment once, and then easily parameterize it for multiple stages (environments), e.g.
production. No copy-and-paste necessary: you only need to specify what is different for each stage, like IP addresses.
Deploying to a fleet of app servers? Capistrano can run each deployment task concurrently across those servers and uses connection pooling for speed.
Your application may need many different types of servers: a database server, an app server, two app servers, and a job queue work server, for example. Capistrano lets you tag each server with one or more roles, so you can control what tasks are executed where.
Capistrano is easily extensible using the rubygems package manager. Deploying a Rails app? Wordpress? Laravel? Chances are, someone has already written Capistrano tasks for your framework of choice and has distributed it as a gem. Many Ruby projects also come with Capistrano tasks built-in.
It’s just SSH
Everything in Capistrano comes down to running SSH commands on remote servers. On the one hand, that makes Capistrano simple. On the other hand, if you aren’t comfortable SSH-ing into a Linux box and doing stuff on the command-line, then Capistrano is probably not for you.
While Capistrano ships with a strong set of conventions that are common for all types of deployments, it needs help understanding the specifics of your project, and there are some things Capistrano is not suited to do.
Out of the box, Capistrano can deploy your code to server(s), but it does not know how to execute your code. Does
foreman need to be run? Does Apache need to be restarted? You’ll need to tell Capistrano how to do this part by writing these deployment steps yourself, or by finding a gem in the Capistrano community that does it for you.
Capistrano depends on connecting to your server(s) with SSH using key-based (i.e. password-less) authentication. You’ll need this working before you can use Capistrano.
Likewise, your server(s) will likely need supporting software installed before you can perform a deployment. Capistrano itself has no requirements other than SSH, but your application probably needs database software, a web server like Apache or Nginx, and a language runtime like Java, Ruby, or PHP. These server provisioning steps are not done by Capistrano.
Capistrano is designed to deploy using a single, non-privileged SSH user, using a non-interactive SSH session. If your deployment requires
sudo, interactive prompts, authenticating as one user but running commands as another, you can probably accomplish this with Capistrano, but it may be difficult. Your automated deployments will be much smoother if you can avoid such requirements.
- Ruby version 2.0 or higher on your local machine (MRI or Rubinius)
- A project that uses source control (Git, Mercurial, and Subversion support is built-in)
- The SCM binaries (e.g.
hg) needed to check out your project must be installed on the server(s) you are deploying to
- Bundler, along with a Gemfile for your project, are recommended
Install the Capistrano gem
Add Capistrano to your project’s Gemfile:
group :development do
gem "capistrano", "~> 3.4"
Then run Bundler to ensure Capistrano is downloaded and installed:
$ bundle install
“Capify” your project
Make sure your project doesn’t already have a “Capfile” or “capfile” present. Then run:
$ bundle exec cap install
This creates all the necessary configuration files and directory structure for a Capistrano-enabled project with two stages,
│ ├── deploy
│ │ ├── production.rb
│ │ └── staging.rb
│ └── deploy.rb
To customize the stages that are created, use:
$ bundle exec cap install STAGES=local,sandbox,qa,production
Note that the files that Capistrano creates are simply templates to get you started. Make sure to edit the
deploy.rb and stage files so they contain values appropriate for your project and your target servers.
``` sh # list all available tasks $ bundle exec cap -T
deploy to the staging environment
$ bundle exec cap staging deploy
deploy to the production environment
$ bundle exec cap production deploy
simulate deploying to the production environment
# does not actually do anything $ bundle exec cap production deploy –dry-run
list task dependencies
$ bundle exec cap production deploy –prereqs
trace through task invocations
$ bundle exec cap production deploy –trace
lists all config variable before deployment tasks
$ bundle exec cap production deploy –print-config-variables ```
Finding help and documentation
Capistrano is a large project encompassing multiple GitHub repositories and a community of plugins, and it can be overwhelming when you are just getting started. Here are resources that can help:
- The Capistrano website is the best place for official documentation
- Stack Overflow has a Capistrano tag with lots of activity
- The Capistrano mailing list is low-traffic but is monitored by Capistrano contributors
- CodersClan has Capistrano experts available to solve problems for bounties
Related GitHub repositories:
- capistrano/sshkit provides the SSH behavior that underlies Capistrano (when you use
executein a Capistrano task, you are using SSHKit)
- capistrano/documentation is what generates the official Capistrano website
- capistrano/rails is a very popular gem that adds Ruby on Rails deployment tasks
- mattbrictson/airbrussh provides Capistrano’s default log formatting
GitHub issues are for bug reports and feature requests. Please refer to the CONTRIBUTING document for guidelines on submitting GitHub issues.
How to contribute
Contributions to Capistrano, in the form of code, documentation or idea, are gladly accepted. Read the DEVELOPMENT document to learn how to hack on Capistrano’s code, run the tests, and contribute your first pull request.
MIT License (MIT)
Copyright (c) 2012-2015 Tom Clements, Lee Hambley
Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:
The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.
THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.