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Core Django Setup

This section documents setting up a Django project with only core Python functionality responding to HTTP calls. The value of this core walkthrough could be to power an API driven compute engine or a event-driven data processing tool without the need to provide a UI.

Expectations and Goals

After going through this section the following will work:

  • URL Routes in your Django projects
  • Views can produce html / json / data output
  • Management Commands

What will not work (yet - see other walkthroughs for this functionality)

  • Static Files will not be served (More on that here)
  • There is no database connection available (not even SQLite)
  • Custom domain names (More on that here)

Setup AWS Account Credentials

Make sure you setup access to your AWS account from your local command line. See: Setup Local Account Credentials

Create local environment

See Setup your Environment

Create very basic Django project

For the purposes of this walkthrough we are taking the most basic Django project. From within your project working directory type the following. We are creating a fictional Django project called 'frankie'

django-admin startproject frankie .

Testing the basic Django project

At this point if you run

python runserver

And visit with your browser you should see the standard Django 'It Worked!' page

Now quit the server using Control-C. You should be back at the console prompt

Setup Zappa

zappa init

You will encounter a series of prompts:

  • Name of environment - just accept the default 'dev'
  • S3 bucket for deployments. If the bucket does not exist, zappa will create it for you. You can use an existing bucket name if you'd like. Note that this bucket just holds the zappa package temporarily while it is being transferred to AWS lambda. The zappa package is then removed after deployment. For the purposes of the walkthrough we are using zappatest-code
  • Zappa should automatically find the correct Django settings file so accept the default
  • Say 'no' to deploying globally
  • If everything looks ok, then accept the info

Here's a transcript of what you should see:

(ve) $ zappa init

███████╗ █████╗ ██████╗ ██████╗  █████╗
  ███╔╝ ███████║██████╔╝██████╔╝███████║
 ███╔╝  ██╔══██║██╔═══╝ ██╔═══╝ ██╔══██║
███████╗██║  ██║██║     ██║     ██║  ██║
╚══════╝╚═╝  ╚═╝╚═╝     ╚═╝     ╚═╝  ╚═╝

Welcome to Zappa!

Zappa is a system for running server-less Python web applications on AWS Lambda and AWS API Gateway.
This `init` command will help you create and configure your new Zappa deployment.
Let's get started!

Your Zappa configuration can support multiple production environments, like 'dev', 'staging', and 'production'.
What do you want to call this environment (default 'dev'):

Your Zappa deployments will need to be uploaded to a private S3 bucket.
If you don't have a bucket yet, we'll create one for you too.
What do you want call your bucket? (default 'zappa-v20ssav8g'): zappatest-code

It looks like this is a Django application!
What is the module path to your project's Django settings?
We discovered: frankie.settings
Where are your project's settings? (default 'frankie.settings'):

You can optionally deploy to all available regions in order to provide fast global service.
If you are using Zappa for the first time, you probably don't want to do this!
Would you like to deploy this application to globally? (default 'n') [y/n/(p)rimary]: n

Okay, here's your zappa_settings.js:

    "dev": {
        "django_settings": "frankie.settings",
        "s3_bucket": "zappatest-code"

Does this look okay? (default 'y') [y/n]: y

Done! Now you can deploy your Zappa application by executing:

    $ zappa deploy dev

After that, you can update your application code with:

    $ zappa update dev

To learn more, check out our project page on GitHub here:
and stop by our Slack channel here:

 ~ Team Zappa!
(ve) $

Testing the Zappa Setup

So now if we run

zappa deploy dev

But unfortunately we encounter an error:

(ve) $ zappa deploy dev
Calling deploy for environment dev..
Warning! AWS Lambda may not be available in this AWS Region!
Warning! AWS API Gateway may not be available in this AWS Region!
Oh no! An error occurred! :(


Traceback (most recent call last):
    [boring callback removed]
NoRegionError: You must specify a region.


Need help? Found a bug? Let us know! :D
File bug reports on GitHub here:
And join our Slack channel here:
 ~ Team Zappa!
(ve) $

Aw man, the error NoRegionError: You must specify a region. is holding us back. Zappa is complaining that no AWS region is specified. So we need to specify a region. In this walkthrough we are leveraging us-east-1 which corresponds to the same region we used above for the S3 bucket.

You have options:

  1. Specify a default region using environment variables

    Again, the drawback here is this must be set for every console

    export AWS_DEFAULT_REGION=us-east-1
  2. Add default region in your ~/.aws/credentials file

    Better but this will affect all AWS scripts and programs on your machine.

    aws_access_key_id = your_access_key_id
    aws_secret_access_key = your_secret_access_key
  3. Edit the zappa_settings.json file to have an AWS region.

    Probably best option because now the zappa configuration has minimal dependencies on external user environment.

     "dev": {
         "aws_region": "us-east-1",
         "django_settings": "frankie.settings",
         "s3_bucket": "zappatest-code"

    Don't forget to put commas in the proper place - JSON is fiddly!

Deploy your project using Zappa

Now it's easy to do the initial deployment

zappa deploy dev

Zappa will automatically create an AWS API gateway that will route HTTP requests to your lambda Django project. You should see something like:

(ve) $ zappa deploy dev
Calling deploy for environment dev..
Downloading and installing dependencies..
100%|███████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████| 27/27 [00:07<00:00,  3.91pkg/s]
Packaging project as zip..
Uploading (13.1MiB)..
100%|████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████| 13.8M/13.8M [00:25<00:00, 603KB/s]
Scheduled zappatest-dev-zappa-keep-warm-handler.keep_warm_callback!
Uploading zappatest-dev-template-1482425980.json (1.5KiB)..
100%|███████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████| 1.58K/1.58K [00:00<00:00, 2.08KB/s]
Waiting for stack zappatest-dev to create (this can take a bit)..
100%|█████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████| 4/4 [00:18<00:00,  4.69s/res]
Deploying API Gateway..
Deployment complete!:

Brilliant! We should be able to use a browser to visit the URL provided at the end of the script.

Once we do, however, we get:

DisallowedHost at /
Invalid HTTP_HOST header: ''.
You may need to add' to ALLOWED_HOSTS.

The built-in Django security settings are kicking in and preventing bad stuff from happening. So we need to modify our Django settings file to accommodate the default hostname that AWS API Gateway uses. Note that the AWS region is part of the hostname and thus should match your selected region.

Now edit frankie/ and change ALLOWED_HOSTS to;

ALLOWED_HOSTS = [ '', '', ]

As an aside, for best security practices, put the full domain of the API Gateway here. Less secure would be to use just

Once done, we can again deploy to AWS Lambda. But this time, since we've already pushed the initial deploy, we use the update action on the zappa command line.

zappa update dev

After this completes, you should be able to see your Django site in action. Note that you will actually get a Page not found (404) response. This indicates that your Django site is functional and working.


How is this functional?

Wait, what? A 404 page is functional? Well yes, it is. The Lambda function is working fine. A whole series of AWS systems are working in concert to load your python Django code and running the view. Because we've cut to the bare minimum Django project, there is no application ready to handle the url paths. The only thing we see is the admin application.

So from here we are ready to start working on views and providing data. However, if you wish to host a website with static files and databases, continue onward to the subsequent walkthroughs:

Why is the URL path appended with 'dev'?

Astute readers will notice that the url in the image shown above indeed has the root domain with the suffix of 'dev' which happens to be the name of the zappa environment. Indeed, the url domain is based on the generated API Gateway and the path of the URL is the 'Stage Name' of the API Gateway - it matches the name of the Zappa environment you chose above.
        ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^                         ^^^
      Auto Generated API Gateway              Your Zappa Environment

While this url may be considered functional, most would regard it as extremely unfriendly to users. To improve this and use your own custom domain name see the section on using a Custom Domain.

Checking up on the deployment

If, at any time, you would like to get information on the deployment, the command to run is

zappa status dev

And you will get a plethora of data about your deployment:

    Lambda Versions:      2
    Lambda Name:          zappatest2-dev
    Lambda ARN:           arn:aws:lambda:us-east-1:738351236015:function:zappatest2-dev
    Lambda Role ARN:      arn:aws:iam::738351236015:role/ZappaLambdaExecution
    Lambda Handler:       handler.lambda_handler
    Lambda Code Size:     11919234
    Lambda Version:       $LATEST
    Lambda Last Modified: 2017-04-02T12:56:32.663+0000
    Lambda Memory Size:   512
    Lambda Timeout:       30
    Lambda Runtime:       python2.7
    Lambda VPC ID:        None
    Invocations (24h):    6
    Errors (24h):         0
    Error Rate (24h):     0.00%
    API Gateway URL:
    Domain URL:           None Supplied
    Num. Event Rules:     1
    Event Rule ARN:       arn:aws:events:us-east-1:1111111111:rule/zappatest2-dev-zappa-keep-warm-handler.keep_warm_callback
    Event Rule Name:      zappatest2-dev-zappa-keep-warm-handler.keep_warm_callback
    Event Rule State:     Enabled
    Event Rule Schedule:  rate(4 minutes)

It includes the API Gateway URL which is important in case you ever forget the URL