Startup process

When a BorgCube command (e.g. borgcubed or borgcube-manage) is invoked, then an entry point function from borgcube.entrypoints is invoked. The very first thing done is to configure Django, which will (indirectly) load the borgcube settings. When the settings are loaded the first phase of plugin discovery begins:

Django applications specified by the borgcube0_apps entry point are added. Since this process takes place before the logging system is initialized it can’t use logging to facilitate debugging. Set the BORGCUBE_DEBUG_APP_LOADING environment variable instead.

The borgcube0_apps entry point could look like this in the of a plugin:

    # ...
    'borgcube0_apps': [
        'my_plugin_app =',

The left hand (my_plugin_app) is only for documentation; the dotted path on the right hand is used for the application.

After this the local settings file is executed to use the settings specified within it. Django will perform it’s initialization at this point, populating the applications registry (among other things, but this part is most important, since only now ORM models become usable).

At this point regular pluggy plugins are discovered and loaded through their entry points.

Before the actual process is executed, the borgcube.core.hookspec.borgcube_startup hook is invoked with the accordant parameters.

Anatomy of a Plugin

The plugin system in BorgCube is based on the excellent pluggy. The two important concepts involved in plugins are

  1. plugins declare themselves, and are loaded automatically
  2. you don’t call us, we call you

Ad 1.): This is done through so-called setuptools entry points. We already touched on this topic above, and it doesn’t really get more complicated. A plugin declares in it’s something like this:

    'borgcube0': [
        'web_builtin_metrics = borgcube.web.core.builtin_metrics',

There are three main elements here:

  1. borgcube0 is the name of the plugin API (0 as in borgcube 0.x)
  2. web_builtin_metrics would be some descriptive name of your plugin
  3. borgcube.web.core.builtin_metrics is the module in your plugin implementing borgcube hooks.

Ad 2.): A plugin implements hooks, which are called by borgcube at various spots. These are regular Python functions, nothing special about them. This also means that there are no classes or interfaces or anything like that you would need to implement - you just pick the hooks you need and implement them. For example, a “Hello World” implementation might look like this:

def borgcube_startup(db, process):
    print("Hello World, I'm in process", process)

To keep things concise you can leave out arguments you don’t need in your hook implementation - they are all passed like keyword-arguments, just that arguments you don’t use won’t raise an error:

def borgcube_startup(process):
    print("Hello World, I'm in process", process)

If you save that into a file named and create an accompanying

from setuptools import setup

    description='A plugin that says Hello World',
        'borgcube0': [
            'hello_plugin = hello_plugin',

This is already a working plugin. You can pip install path/to/the/directory it and see it in action:

$ ls
$ pip install .
(Some relatively verbose output)
$ borgcube-manage
[2016-11-18 23:49:39,890] 13624 DEBUG    borgcube.utils: Loaded plugins: ..., hello_plugin, ...
Hello World, I'm in process manage


$ # To remove it again, type
$ pip uninstall .

See also

The hookspec modules specify the hooks used:

The database

BorgCube uses the ZODB [1] object database, which is somewhat different from the Django ORM, while providing relevant advantages to this particular project (it’s not exactly the most popular database, but it’s mature, stable and very easy to use [2])

Instead of using migration scripts and migration state deduction to perform data migration on-the-fly data migration through the Evolvable system.

The most important differences between RBDMS accessed through an ORM and the ZODB are (this section is not project-specific)

  1. No explicit ORM is required, and fields don’t have to be declared in advance. Object instances referred to by other objects are stored in the database as they are, including all attributes.

    Attributes starting with _p_ (attributes related to handling persistence) and _v_ (volatile attributes) are not preserved.

    Additionally this is further customizable through the standard pickle system, which is normally not required.

  2. There is no autocommit mode. Because the state of your objects and the transactions’ snapshot are the same, autocommit wouldn’t be particularly helpful – the state of your objects would be continuously, uncontrollably be changed as other transactions commit.

  3. There is no refresh_from_db – ZODB ensures that the state of your objects exactly matches the state of the transaction.

  4. ZODB caches (aggressively). In ZODB every database connection has an associated cache, which contains already deserialized and alive objects. This makes read operations often as fast as just accessing a Python object (that already exists), because the database server is not contacted at all, and no additional object allocations need to be performed.

    Rollbacks are normally cheap, because only changed objects need to be re-fetched from the server.

    (In fact, a site will be able to serve common requests indefinitely with a dead database server, as long as no writes happen.)

  5. The database only stores a single object. This object is the “root” object and all objects in the database are (have to be) reachable from the root, through an arbitrary number of objects referring to each other (including object cycles).

[1]Canonically ZODB stands for Zope Object DataBase, but it’s okay if you call it Ze Object Database with a German accent ;)
[2]It’s almost as old as PostgreSQL, and unlike Strozzi ‘the first’ NoSQL it’s really not relational.

Use in BorgCube

Locating and connecting to the database is handled transparently by the data_root function, which returns a ready-to-use DataRoot instance. All other data follows from there. Plugins should use the DataRoot.plugin_data instead of creating their own attributes on the DataRoot.

In borgcube.web view functions the transaction is reset before and after calling the view through the borgcube.web.core.middleware.transaction_middleware, so any modifications to objects in a view have to be explicitly committed. A simple example of this is the repository_add view:

import transaction


def repository_add(request):
    data = request.POST or None
    repository_form = Repository.Form(data)
    if data and repository_form.is_valid():
        repository = Repository(**repository_form.cleaned_data)
        transaction.get().note('Added repository %s' %
        return redirect(repository_view, repository.oid)
    return TemplateResponse(request, 'core/repository/add.html', {
        'repository_form': repository_form,

It’s considered good practice to leave a meaningful transaction note, because in ZODB transactions can be (selectively) undone, which is much easier if the transaction log makes it obvious which transaction was the bad one. [3]

Note how some functions bring their own transactions, eg. Job.force_state or Job.update_state.

[3]We can also associate a user with a transaction, which is done by borgcube.web (TODO). This makes the transaction log of the ZODB similar to a free audit log.

Execution model

Now what’s that you might ask? Since one of the main responsibilities of BC is to run long-running tasks like creating, checking and pruning backups a component that orchestrates this is needed. In BC this is done by a two-tiered approach:

The schedule

It defines what should happen when on a calendric basis, eg. making daily backups. Internally this is implemented through ScheduledActions, which usually create Jobs.

Schedules are stored in the database and can be edited by administrators.

The queue

It is a list of jobs that should run right now, it is never stored in the database and is, as an object, privately owned by the daemon process. It cannot be altered, except for cancelling jobs – if a job is only queued, but not running yet, it is removed from the queue.

The daemon ensures that new jobs added to the database are added to the queue as well, by checking for new jobs in every idle iteration.

The daemon performs a conflict check (whether a job can run given the set of currently running jobs) in FIFO order, and forks a worker for each job that can run.