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Tool Labs is a hosting environment for community developers working on tools and bots that help users maintain and use wikis. Tool Labs provides access to replicas of Wikimedia databases, allowing developers to easily re-use this information, for analytics, bot work, or by creating tools that help editors and other volunteers in their work. The infrastructure is supported by a dedicated group of Wikimedia Foundation staff and volunteers.

Quick start

  1. On wikitech, visit Create an account and create your Labs wiki account.
    • make careful note of the wiki username and "Instance shell account name" you choose
  2. On wikitech, Fill out an access request for the Tools project.
  3. In a command-line terminal, generate an SSH-2 RSA key. See Generating and uploading an SSH key if you don't know how.
  4. In a command-line terminal, enter: $ cat ~/.ssh/ (or similar) to display your public SSH key that you created above, then copy it.
  5. On wikitech, log in with your labs wiki account, visit Preferences > OpenStack tab and paste in your public SSH key.
  6. Wait for your requests to be completed (you should receive messages on your wikitech talk page).

Once this is all done you should be able to

  • Use SSH to login to Tool Labs. In a command-line terminal, enter: ssh
  • Use SSH-based utilities such as scp and sftp to transfer files between Tool Labs and your computer.
  • Create tools (see § Creating a new Tool account).


  • Your wikitech wiki username and your shell login username may be different. Visit Preferences > User profile and check "Instance shell account name".
  • The passwords you chose for your wikitech login and SSH key may be different.
  • When you login with SSH you are in your personal folder. To quickly go to your tool account enter: become tool_name
  • You will also notice that web service for your tool is not started by default. To start it enter: webservice start

What is Tool Labs


Tool Labs was developed in response to the need to support external tools and their developers and maintainers. The system is designed to make it easy for maintainers to share responsibility for their tools and bots, which helps ensure that no useful tool gets ‘orphaned’ when one person needs a break. The system is designed to be reliable, scalable and simple to use, so that developers can hit the ground and start coding.


Shared storage

Help:Shared storage

Architecture and terminology

Bastion hosts =
The grid

The Tool Labs grid, implemented with Open Grid Engine (the open-source fork of Sun Grid Engine) permits users to submit jobs from either a log-in account on the bastion host or from a web service. Submitted jobs are added to a work queue, and the system finds a host to execute them. Jobs can be scheduled synchronously or asynchronously, continuously, or simply executed once. If a continuous job fails, the grid will automatically restart the job so that it keeps going. For more information about the grid, please see § Submitting, managing and scheduling jobs on the grid.

Getting access to Tool Labs

See: SSH Help and Getting Started with Tool Labs

We strongly recommend against saving data or tools in any space that is accessible to individuals only. Tools and bots should be maintained in Tool accounts, which have flexible memberships (i.e., multiple people can help maintain the code!).

Using Tool Labs and managing your files

Tool Labs can be accessed in a variety of ways – from its public IP to a GUI client. Please see Help:Access for general information about accessing Labs.

The tools list

The Tool labs tools list page is publicly available and contains a list of all currently-hosted Tool accounts along with their maintainers. Tool accounts that have an associated web page appear as links. Users with access to the 'tools' project can create new tool accounts here, and add or remove maintainers to and from existing tool accounts.


Once set up, you ssh to Tool Labs via its bastion host, provided that a public SSH key has been uploaded to the Labs account.


if you get disconnected frequently during ssh, consider setting the ServerAliveInterval option to a smaller number (~5-20 seconds) when connecting:

ssh -o ServerAliveInterval=5

Updating files

After you can ssh successfully, you can transfer files via sftp and scp. Note that the transferred files will be owned by you. You will likely wish to transfer ownership to your tool account. To do this:

1. become your tool account:

yourshellaccountname@tools-login:~$ become toolaccount

2. As your tool account, take ownership of the files:

tools.toolaccount@tools-login:~$ take FILE

The take command will change the ownership of the file(s) and directories recursively to the calling user (in this case, the tool account).

Handling permissions

if you're getting permission errors, note that you can also transfer files the other way around: copy the files as your tool account to /data/projects/<projectname>.

Another, probably easier, way is to set the permission to group-writable for the tools directory. For example, if your shell account's name is alice and your tool name is alicetools you could do something like this after logged in as a shell user

become alicetools
chmod -R g+w /data/project/alicetools
cp -rv /home/alice/* /data/project/alicetools/
One-time steps per tool

First, you have to do some preparatory steps which you need only once per tool.

become <YOURTOOL>

If you have not installed composer yet:

mkdir ~/bin
curl -sS | php -- --install-dir=$HOME/bin --filename=composer

If your local bin directory it not in your $PATH (use echo $PATH to find out), then create or alter the file ~/.profile and add the lines:

# set PATH so it includes user's private bin if it exists
if [ -d "$HOME/bin" ] ; then

Finish your session as <YOURTOOL> and start a new one, or:

. ~/.profile

Now you are done with the one-time preparations.

For each instance of core

The following steps are needed for each new installation of MediaWiki. We assume that you want to access MediaWiki via the web in a directory named MW — you are free to use another name. If not already done:

become <YOURTOOL>


cd ~/public_html

If you plan to submit changes:

git clone ssh://<YOURUSERNAME> MW

or else, if you only want to use MediaWiki without submitting changes:

git clone MW

will do and spares resources. Next, recent versions of MediaWiki have external dependencies, so you need to install those:

cd MW
composer install
git review -s

Now you should be able to access the initial pre-install screen of MediaWiki from your web browser as:<YOURTOOL>/MW/

and proceed as usual. See how to create new databases for your MediaWiki installations.

Joining and creating a Tool account

What is a Tool account?

A Tool account is the "user" associated with a Tool on Tool labs. Although each tool account has a user ID, they are not personal accounts (like a Labs account), rather services that consist of a user and group ID (i.e., a unix uid-gid pair) that are intended to run the actual tool or bot. Anyone who has access to Tool Labs can create a Tool account.

  • Unix user: tools.toolname
  • Unix group: tools.toolname

Members of the Tool account's Unix group include:

  • the tool account creator
  • the tool account itself
  • (optionally, but encouraged!) additional tool maintainers

Maintainers may have more than one tool account, and tool accounts may have more than one maintainer. Every member of the group has the authorization to sudo to the tool account. By default, only members of the group have access to tool account's code and data.

A simple way for maintainers to switch to the tool account is with become:

maintainer@tools-login:~$ become toolname

In addition to the user/group pair, each tool account includes:

  • A home directory on shared storage: /data/project/toolname
  • A ~/public_html/ directory, which is visible at
  • Database access credentials: ~/, which provide access to the production database replicas as well as to project-local databases.
  • Access to the continuous and task queues of the compute grid

Joining an existing Tool account

All tool accounts hosted in Tool Labs are listed on the Tools list. If you would like to be added to an existing account, you must contact the maintainer(s) directly.

If you would like to add (or remove) maintainers to a tool account that you manage, you may do so with the 'add' link found beneath the tool name on the Tools home page.

Creating a new Tool account

Members of the ‘tools’ project can create tool accounts from the Tools home page:

  1. Navigate to the Tools home page.
  2. Select the "create new tool" link (found in the "Develop your own tool" section).
  3. Enter a "Service group name". The service group name will be used as the name of your tool account.

Customizing a Tool account

Once you have created a tool account, there are a few things that you can customize to make the tool more easily understood and used by other users. These include:

  • adding a tool account description (the description will appear on the Tools home page beside the tool name)
  • creating a home page for your tool (if you create a home page for the tool, it will be linked from the Tools home page automatically)

Creating a tool web page

To create a web page for your tool account, simply place an index.html file in the tool account's ~/public_html The page can be a simple description of the tool or bot with basic information on how to set it up or shut it down, or it contain an interface for the web service. To see examples of existing tool web pages, click any of the linked tool names on the Tools list.

You will also need to start a webservice for your tool.

1. Log into your Labs account and become your tool account:

nn1l2@tools-bastion-03:~$ become nn1l2bot

2. Start the web service:

tools.nn1l2bot@tools-bastion-03:~$ webservice start

Creating a tool description

To create a tool description:

1. Log into your Labs account and become your tool account:

nn1l2@tools-bastion-03:~$ become nn1l2bot

2. Create a .description file in the tool account’s home directory. Note that this file must be HTML:

tools.nn1l2bot@tools-bastion-03:~$ vim .description

3. Add a brief description (no more than 25 words or so) and save the file. You can use basic HTML markup in the file.

4. Navigate to the Tools list. Your tool account description should now appear beside your tool account name.

Configuring bots and tools

Tools and bot code should be stored in your tools account, where it can be managed by multiple users and accessed by all execution hosts. Specific information about configuring web services and bots, along with information about licensing, package installation, and shared code storage, is available at the § Developing on Tool Labs section.

Submitting, managing and scheduling jobs on the grid

Every non-trivial task performed in Toolforge should be dispatched by the Grid Engine, which ensures that the job is run in a suitable place with sufficient resources.

The basic principle of running jobs is fairly straightforward:

  • You submit a job to a work queue from a submission server (for example
  • The grid engine master finds a suitable execution host to run the job on, and starts it there once resources are available
  • As it runs, your job will send output and errors to files until the job completes or is aborted.

Jobs can be scheduled synchronously or asynchronously, continuously, or simply executed once. If a continuous job fails, the grid will automatically restart the job so that it keeps going.

To schedule jobs to be run at specific days or time of days, you can use cron to submit the jobs to the grid.

Scheduling a command more often than every five minutes (e.g. * * * * * command) is highly discouraged, even if the command is "only" jsub. In these cases, you very probably want to use 'jstart' instead. The grid engine ensures that jobs submitted with 'jstart' are automatically restarted if they exit.


Mail to users

Mail sent to (where user is a shell account) will be forwarded to the email address that user has set in their Wikitech preferences, if it has been verified (the same as the 'Email this user' function on wikitech).

Any existing .forward in the user's home will be ignored.

Mail to tools

Mail can also be sent "to a tool" with:

Where "anything" is an arbitrary alphanumeric string. Mail will be forwarded to the first of:

  • The email(s) listed in the tool's ~/.forward.anything, if present;
  • The email(s) listed in the tool's ~/.forward, if present; or
  • The wikitech email of the tool's individual maintainers.

Additionally, is an alias pointing to mostly useful for automated email generating from within Labs.

~/.forward and ~/.forward.anything need to be readable by the user Debian-exim; to achieve that, you probably need to chmod o+r ~/.forward*

Web server


Every Toolforge tool can run a dedicated <toolname> website. Toolforge provides the webservice command which is used to start and stop the web server for each tool. Toolforge supports websites written in several programming languages including PHP, Python, Node.js, Java, Ruby and others. Toolforge also provides some support services which can help you make your website’s visitors safe from tracking by third party services.

The webservice command uses convention over configuration for some aspects of how the website is deployed. You’ll find details for different programming languages below.

Using the webservice command

You can use the webservice command to start, stop, restart, and check the status of a webserver.

webservice command example
$ ssh
$ become my_cool_tool
$ webservice start

Use webservice --help to get a full list of arguments.

Without any additional arguments or configuration files, webservice start will currently start a PHP 7.3 Kubernetes container serving content from your tool's $HOME/public_html directory using lighttpd as the web server software.

Webservice templates

The webservice command has the concept of a "template" file which can be used to store arguments (and eventually other structured content) for starting a webservice. The code will look for a --template=... command line argument and fallback to looking for a $HOME/service.template file. The $HOME/service.template file is what most tools will be expected to use, but we may find interesting uses for multiple templates in a single tool as well.

A webservice template file is a YAML document. It can contain these settings:

  • backend: the backend to use (equivalent to --backend=...)
  • cpu: the CPU reservation to ask for on Kubernetes (equivalent to --cpu=...)
  • mem: the memory reservation to ask for on Kubernetes (equivalent to --mem=...)
  • replicas: the number of Pod replicas to use (equivalent to --replicas=...)
  • type: the type of webservice to start (equivalent to TYPE)
  • extra_args: extra arguments to pass to the backend (not used by most backends)

By saving desired startup state in a file, the user can use simple webservice stop; webservice start commands again!

Choosing a backend

Toolforge provides two different execution environments for web servers: Kubernetes and Grid Engine.

The Kubernetes backend provides more modern software versions and is the default backend. The Grid Engine backend is used primarily by legacy tools which were developed before Kubernetes was available. Toolforge administrators recommend that you try using Kubernetes first for new tools and only use the Grid Engine backend if there is a technical limitation that prevents your tool from running inside Kubernetes.

Common features

Both the Kubernetes and Grid Engine backends share common infrastructure services for serving web sites. Toolforge has an Nginx server configured as a proxy server which handles all inbound requests to your tool's web server. This proxy server takes care of providing TLS termination and then reverse proxies the inbound request to your tool's web service. Web servers running on Kubernetes have a second Nginx proxy server running as the "Ingress" component inside the Kubernetes cluster. See Portal:Toolforge/Admin/Kubernetes/Networking and ingress for detailed information about the network and web request routing used by the Toolforge Kubernetes cluster.

Toolforge also includes a 404 handler service which will respond to HTTP requests for tools which do not exist and tools which are not currently running a web service. This service is implemented as the fourohfour tool which runs on the Kubernetes backend.


Kubernetes (k8s) is a platform for running containers. Kubernetes web servers have access to newer versions of most software than the Grid Engine provides. K8s also provides a more robust system for restarting tools automatically following an application crash.

Maintainer visible differences from Grid Engine based Web services

  1. Each process runs inside a Docker container, orchestrated by Kubernetes.
    • Provides better resource isolation (one tool can not take down other tools by consuming all RAM or CPU)
    • Better health checking (monitoring built into Kubernetes, not a hack we wrote)
    • Less complex proxy setup, leading to fewer proxy related outages / issues
  2. Containers available based on newer Debian versions (Buster)
    • Newer software versions than those available with Debian Stretch
  3. It is not possible to interact with the Grid Engine from Kubernetes (no jsub...)
  4. Kubernetes backend has specific webservice options:
      -m MEMORY, --mem MEMORY           Set higher Kubernetes memory limit
      -c CPU, --cpu CPU                 Set a higher Kubernetes cpu limit
      -r REPLICAS, --replicas REPLICAS  Set the number of pod replicas to use

Grid Engine

The Grid Engine backend runs your web server as a job on a Debian Stretch grid exec node. This is similar to the way that jsub runs any grid job you submit, but there is a separate exec queue on the grid for running jobs started by webservice.

Switching between Kubernetes and Grid Engine

From Kubernetes to Grid Engine

$ webservice --backend=kubernetes stop
$ webservice --backend=gridengine start

From Grid Engine to Kubernetes

$ webservice --backend=gridengine stop
$ webservice --backend=kubernetes <type> start

Default web server (lighttpd + PHP)

See: Help:Toolforge/Web/Lighttpd


See: Help:Toolforge/Web/PHP


See: Help:Toolforge/Web/Python

Node.js web services

See: Help:Toolforge/Web/Node.js


See: Help:Toolforge/Web/Java

Other / generic web servers

You can run other web servers that are not directly supported. This can be accomplished using the generic webservice type on the Grid Engine backend or a runtime specific type on the Kubernetes backend.

  • webservice --backend=kubernetes golang start|stop|restart|shell SCRIPT
  • webservice --backend=kubernetes jdk11 start|stop|restart|shell SCRIPT
  • webservice --backend=kubernetes ruby25 start|stop|restart|shell SCRIPT
  • webservice --backend=gridengine generic start|stop|restart SCRIPT

To start a webserver that is launched by a script at /data/project/toolname/code/server.bash, you would launch it with:

$ webservice --backend=gridengine generic start /data/project/toolname/code/server.bash

Your script will be passed an HTTP port to bind to in an environment variable named PORT. This is the port that the Nginx proxy will forward requests for to. When using the Kubernetes backend, PORT will always be 8000. When using the Grid Engine backend, PORT will change each time the webservice start or webservice restart command is run.

Common tasks and guides

Serving static files

Files placed in a tool's $HOME/www/static directory are available directly from the URL This does not require any action on the tool's part — putting the files in the appropriate folder (and making the directory readable) should 'just work'.

You can use this to serve static assets (CSS, HTML, JS, etc) or to host simple websites that don't require a server-side component.

Load external assets using our CDN services

To preserve the privacy of our users, avoid embedding assets (images, css, javascript) from servers outside of Wikimedia Foundation control.

Libraries (Browse libraries)
Toolforge provides an anonymizing reverse proxy to cdnjs.
Fonts (Search fonts)
Toolforge provides an anonymizing reverse proxy to Google fonts.
Maps (Documentation)
Wikimedia provides maps servers with data from OpenStreetMap.

Runtime memory limits

  • Kubernetes: 2GiB for most runtimes (Java's limit is 4GiB).
  • Grid Engine: 4GiB

Requesting additional tool memory

Kubernetes web servers start with a default limit on both runtime memory and cpu power. These limits vary slightly based on which runtime language (PHP, Python, Java, etc) you are using. The --cpu and --mem command line arguments can be used to increase these defaults up to the quota limit for your tool's Kubernetes namespace. See Kubernetes#Quotas and Resources for instructions on requesting an increased quota for your tool.

For Grid Engine webservices, request more tool memory by opening a Phabricator task

  1. Notify #wikimedia-cloud connect freenode irc channel that you have filed a request.

A Cloud Services administrator will review your request and can create a /data/project/.system/config/$TOOLNAME.web-memlimit configuration file that will adjust the limit.

Response buffering

An Nginx proxy sits between your webservice and the user. By default this proxy buffers the response sent from your server. For some use cases, including streaming large quantities of data to the browser, this can be undesirable. Buffering can be disabled on a per-request basis by sending an X-Accel-Buffering: no header in your response.[1]


A default image will be served by the shared proxy layer if your webservice returns a 404 Not Found response when asked for /favicon.ico. This default icon is the same as the one found at


A default response will be served by the shared proxy layer if your webservice returns a 404 Not Found response when asked for /robots.txt. The default robots.txt response denies access to all compliant web crawlers. We decided that this "fail closed" approach would be safer than a "fail open" telling all crawlers to crawl all tools.

Any tool that does wish to be indexed by search engines and other crawlers can serve their own /robots.txt content. Please see for more information on /robots.txt in general.

Communication and support

We communicate and provide support through several primary channels. Please reach out with questions and to join the conversation.

Communicate with us
Connect Best for
Phabricator Workboard #Cloud-Services Task tracking and bug reporting
IRC Channel #wikimedia-cloud connect General discussion and support
Mailing List cloud@ Information about ongoing initiatives, general discussion and support
Announcement emails cloud-announce@ Information about critical changes (all messages mirrored to cloud@)
News wiki page News Information about major near-term plans
Cloud Services Blog Clouds & Unicorns Learning more details about some of our work
Wikimedia Technology Blog News and stories from the Wikimedia technical movement



See also


The 'tools' project, like all labs projects, has access to a directory storing the public Wikimedia datasets (i.e. the dumps generated by Wikimedia). The most recent two dumps can be found in:


This directory is read-only, but you can copy files to your tool's home directory and manipulate them in whatever way you like.

If you need access to older dumps, you must manually download them from the Wikimedia downloads server.

/public/dumps/pagecounts-raw contains some years of the pagecount/projectcount data derived by Erik Zachte from Domas Mituzas' archives.

CatGraph (aka Graphserv/Graphcore)

CatGraph is a custom graph database that provides tool developers fast access to the Wikipedia category structure. For more information, please see the documentation.