How do I run long term (infinite) Python processes?


I’ve recently started experimenting with using Python for web development. So far I’ve had some success using Apache with mod_wsgi and the Django web framework for Python 2.7. However I have run into some issues with having processes constantly running, updating information and such.

I have written a script I call “” that can start and stop all or individual python update loops (Should I call them Daemons?). It does that by forking, then loading the module for the specific functions it should run and starting an infinite loop. It saves a PID file in /var/run to keep track of the process. So far so good. The problems I’ve encountered are:

  • Now and then one of the processes will just quit. I check ps in the morning and the process is just gone. No errors were logged (I’m using the logging module), and I’m covering every exception I can think of and logging them. Also I don’t think these quitting processes has anything to do with my code, because all my processes run completely different code and exit at pretty similar intervals. I could be wrong of course. Is it normal for Python processes to just die after they’ve run for days/weeks? How should I tackle this problem? Should I write another daemon that periodically checks if the other daemons are still running? What if that daemon stops? I’m at a loss on how to handle this.

  • How can I programmatically know if a process is still running or not? I’m saving the PID files in /var/run and checking if the PID file is there to determine whether or not the process is running. But if the process just dies of unexpected causes, the PID file will remain. I therefore have to delete these files every time a process crashes (a couple of times per week), which sort of defeats the purpose. I guess I could check if a process is running at the PID in the file, but what if another process has started and was assigned the PID of the dead process? My daemon would think that the process is running fine even if it’s long dead. Again I’m at a loss just how to deal with this.

Any useful answer on how to best run infinite Python processes, hopefully also shedding some light on the above problems, I will accept

I’m using Apache 2.2.14 on an Ubuntu machine.
My Python version is 2.7.2

Asked By: Hubro



I assume you are running Unix/Linux but you don’t really say. I have no direct advice on your issue. So I don’t expect to be the “right” answer to this question. But there is something to explore here.

First, if your daemons are crashing, you should fix that. Only programs with bugs should crash. Perhaps you should launch them under a debugger and see what happens when they crash (if that’s possible). Do you have any trace logging in these processes? If not, add them. That might help diagnose your crash.

Second, are your daemons providing services (opening pipes and waiting for requests) or are they performing periodic cleanup? If they are periodic cleanup processes you should use cron to launch them periodically rather then have them run in an infinite loop. Cron processes should be preferred over daemon processes. Similarly, if they are services that open ports and service requests, have you considered making them work with INETD? Again, a single daemon (inetd) should be preferred to a bunch of daemon processes.

Third, saving a PID in a file is not very effective, as you’ve discovered. Perhaps a shared IPC, like a semaphore, would work better. I don’t have any details here though.

Fourth, sometimes I need stuff to run in the context of the website. I use a cron process that calls wget with a maintenance URL. You set a special cookie and include the cookie info in with wget command line. If the special cookie doesn’t exist, return 403 rather than performing the maintenance process. The other benefit here is login to the database and other environmental concerns of avoided since the code that serves normal web pages are serving the maintenance process.

Hope that gives you ideas. I think avoiding daemons if you can is the best place to start. If you can run your python within mod_wsgi that saves you having to support multiple “environments”. Debugging a process that fails after running for days at a time is just brutal.

Answered By: jmucchiello

I’ll open by stating that this is one way to manage a long running process (LRP) — not de facto by any stretch.

In my experience, the best possible product comes from concentrating on the specific problem you’re dealing with, while delegating supporting tech to other libraries. In this case, I’m referring to the act of backgrounding processes (the art of the double fork), monitoring, and log redirection.

My favorite solution is

Using a system like supervisord, you basically write a conventional python script that performs a task while stuck in an “infinite” loop.


import sys
import time

def main_loop():
    while 1:
        # do your stuff...

if __name__ == '__main__':
    except KeyboardInterrupt:
        print >> sys.stderr, 'nExiting by user request.n'

Writing your script this way makes it simple and convenient to develop and debug (you can easily start/stop it in a terminal, watching the log output as events unfold). When it comes time to throw into production, you simply define a supervisor config that calls your script (here’s the full example for defining a “program”, much of which is optional:

Supervisor has a bunch of configuration options so I won’t enumerate them, but I will say that it specifically solves the problems you describe:

  • Backgrounding/Daemonizing
  • PID tracking (can be configured to restart a process should it terminate unexpectedly)
  • Log normally in your script (stream handler if using logging module rather than printing) but let supervisor redirect to a file for you.
Answered By: Owen Nelson

You should consider Python processes as able to run “forever” assuming you don’t have any memory leaks in your program, the Python interpreter, or any of the Python libraries / modules that you are using. (Even in the face of memory leaks, you might be able to run forever if you have sufficient swap space on a 64-bit machine. Decades, if not centuries, should be doable. I’ve had Python processes survive just fine for nearly two years on limited hardware — before the hardware needed to be moved.)

Ensuring programs restart when they die used to be very simple back when Linux distributions used SysV-style init — you just add a new line to the /etc/inittab and init(8) would spawn your program at boot and re-spawn it if it dies. (I know of no mechanism to replicate this functionality with the new upstart init-replacement that many distributions are using these days. I’m not saying it is impossible, I just don’t know how to do it.)

But even the init(8) mechanism of years gone by wasn’t as flexible as some would have liked. The daemontools package by DJB is one example of process control-and-monitoring tools intended to keep daemons living forever. The Linux-HA suite provides another similar tool, though it might provide too much “extra” functionality to be justified for this task. monit is another option.

Answered By: sarnold