PEX Recipes and Notes

Uvicorn and other customizable application servers

Often you want to run a third-party application server and have it use your code. You can always do this by writing a shim bit of python code that starts the application server configured to use your code. It may be simpler though to use --inject-env and --inject-args to seal this configuration into a PEX file without needing to write a shim.

For example, to package up a uvicorn-powered server of your app coroutine in that ran on port 8888 by default you could:

$ pex "uvicorn[standard]" -c uvicorn --inject-args 'example:app --port 8888' -oexample-app.pex
$ ./example-app.pex
INFO:     Started server process [2014]
INFO:     Waiting for application startup.
INFO:     ASGI 'lifespan' protocol appears unsupported.
INFO:     Application startup complete.
INFO:     Uvicorn running on (Press CTRL+C to quit)
^CINFO:     Shutting down
INFO:     Finished server process [2014]

You could then over-ride the port with:

$ ./example-app.pex --port 0
INFO:     Started server process [2248]
INFO:     Waiting for application startup.
INFO:     ASGI 'lifespan' protocol appears unsupported.
INFO:     Application startup complete.
INFO:     Uvicorn running on (Press CTRL+C to quit)

Long running PEX applications and daemons

If your PEXed application will run a long time, at some point you’ll likely need to debug or otherwise inspect it using operating system tools. Unless you built your application as a non---venv --layout loose PEX, its final process information will be inscrutable in ps output since all other PEX forms re-execute themselves against an installed version of themselves in the configured PEX_ROOT.

You’ll see something like this as a result:

$ ./my.pex --foo bar &
$ ps -o command | grep pex
/home/jsirois/.pyenv/versions/3.10.2/bin/python3.10 /home/jsirois/.pex/unzipped_pexes/94790b07dc3768a9926dab999b41a87e399e0aa9 --foo bar

The original PEX file is not mentioned anywhere in the ps output. Worse, if you have many PEX processes it will be unclear which process corresponds to which PEX.

To remedy this, simply add setproctitle as a dependency for your PEX. The PEX runtime will then detect the presence of setproctitle and alter the process title so you see both the Python being used to run your PEX and the PEX file being run:

$ ./my.pex --foo bar &
$ ps -o command | grep pex
/home/jsirois/.pyenv/versions/3.10.2/bin/python3.10 /home/jsirois/dev/pantsbuild/jsirois-pex/my.pex --foo bar

PEX app in a container

If you want to use a PEX application in a container, you can get the smallest container footprint and the lowest latency application start-up by installing it with the venv Pex tool. First make sure you build the pex with --include-tools (or --venv), and then install it in the container like so:

FROM python:3.10-slim as deps
COPY /my-app.pex /
RUN PEX_TOOLS=1 /usr/local/bin/python3.10 /my-app.pex venv --scope=deps --compile /my-app

FROM python:3.10-slim as srcs
COPY /my-app.pex /
RUN PEX_TOOLS=1 /usr/local/bin/python3.10 /my-app.pex venv --scope=srcs --compile /my-app

FROM python:3.10-slim
COPY --from=deps /my-app /my-app
COPY --from=srcs /my-app /my-app
ENTRYPOINT ["/my-app/pex"]

Here, the first two FROM images are illustrative. The only requirement is they need to contain the Python interpreter your app should be run with (/usr/local/bin/python3.10 in this example).

The Pex venv tool will:

  1. Install the PEX as a traditional venv at /my-app with a script at /my-app/pex that runs just like the original PEX.

  2. Pre-compile all PEX Python code installed in the venv.

Notably, the PEX venv install is done using a multi-stage build to ensure only the final venv remains on disk and it uses two layers to ensure changes to application code do not lead to re-builds of lower layers. This accommodates the common case of modifying and re-deploying first party code more often than third party dependencies.

PEX-aware application

If your code benefits from knowing whether it is running from within a PEX or not, you can inspect the PEX environment variable. If it is set, it will be the absolute path of the PEX your code is running in. Normally this will be a PEX zip file, but it could be a directory path if the PEX was built with a --layout of packed or loose.

Gunicorn and PEX

Normally, to run a wsgi-compatible application with Gunicorn, you’d just point Gunicorn at your application, tell Gunicorn how to run it, and you’re ready to go - but if your application is shipping as a PEX file, you’ll have to bundle Gunicorn as a dependency and set Gunicorn as your entry point. Gunicorn can’t enter a PEX file to retrieve the wsgi instance, but that doesn’t prevent the PEX from invoking Gunicorn.

This retains the benefit of zero pip install’s to run your service, but it requires a bit more setup as you must ensure Gunicorn is packaged as a dependency. The following snippets assume Flask as the wsgi framework, Django setup should be similar:

$ pex flask gunicorn myapp -c gunicorn -o ~/service.pex

Once your pex file is created, you need to make sure to pass your wsgi app instance name to the CLI at runtime for Gunicorn to know how to hook into it, configuration can be passed in the same way:

$ service.pex myapp:appinstance -c /path/to/

And there you have it, a fully portable python web service.

PEX and Proxy settings

While building pex files, you may need to fetch dependencies through a proxy. The easiest way is to use pex cli with the requests extra and environment variables. Following are the steps to do just that:

  1. Install pex with requests

$ pip install pex[requests]
  1. Set the environment variables

$ # Hopefully your proxy supports https! If not, you can export HTTP_PROXY:
$ # export HTTP_PROXY='http://user:pass@address:port'
$ export HTTPS_PROXY='https://user:pass@address:port'
  1. Now you can test by running

$ pex -v pex

For more information on the requests module support for proxies via environment variables, see the official documentation here: