Developing on Open edX named release branches#

By default, the startup steps in Getting Started will install the devstack using the master branch of all repos. If you want to install a named release instead, follow these steps before the step that pulls the docker images:

  1. Set the OPENEDX_RELEASE environment variable to the appropriate image tag; “hawthorn.master”, “zebrawood.rc1”, etc. Note that unlike a server install, OPENEDX_RELEASE should not have the “open-release/” prefix.

  2. Check out the appropriate branch in devstack, e.g. git checkout open-release/ironwood.master

  3. Use make dev.checkout to check out the correct branch in the local checkout of each service repository

  4. Continue with step 3 in Getting Started to pull the correct docker images.

All make target and docker compose calls should now use the correct images until you change or unset OPENEDX_RELEASE again. To work on the master branches and latest images, unset OPENEDX_RELEASE or set it to an empty string. Note that older versions of devstack may have different prerequisites. In particular, releases before Quince will need support for the docker-compose syntax as well as the newer docker compose. The easiest way to do this is to add is to add a shell script with the following and put it on the PATH under the name docker-compose:

docker compose "$@"

How do I run multiple named Open edX releases on same machine?#

You can have multiple isolated Devstacks provisioned on a single computer now. Follow these directions after installing at least two devstacks to switch between them.

  1. If you haven’t done so, follow the steps in Getting Started, to install the master devstack or any other named release. We recommend that you have at least one devstack on the master branch.

  2. Change directory to your devstack and activate the virtual env.

  3. Stop any running containers by issuing a make dev.stop.

  4. Follow the steps in Getting Started again, setting the additional OPENEDX_RELEASE you want to install in step 2

The implication of this is that you can switch between isolated Devstack databases by changing the value of the OPENEDX_RELEASE environment variable.

Switch between your Devstack releases by doing the following:#

  1. Stop the containers by issuing a make dev.stop for the running release.

  2. Edit the project name in or set the OPENEDX_RELEASE environment variable and let the COMPOSE_PROJECT_NAME be assigned automatically.

  3. Check out the appropriate branch in devstack, e.g. git checkout open-release/ironwood.master

  4. Use make dev.checkout to check out the correct branch in the local copy of each service repository

  5. Bring up the containers with make dev.up.

NOTE: Additional instructions on switching releases using direnv can be found in How do I switch releases using ‘direnv’? section.

Examples of Docker Service Names After Setting the COMPOSE_PROJECT_NAME variable. Notice that the devstack-juniper.master name represents the COMPOSE_PROJECT_NAME.

  • edx.devstack-juniper.master.lms

  • edx.devstack-juniper.master.mysql57

Each instance has an isolated set of databases. This could, for example, be used to quickly switch between versions of Open edX without hitting as many issues with migrations, data integrity, etc.

Unfortunately, this does not currently support running Devstacks simultaneously, because we hard-code host port numbers all over the place, and two running containers cannot share the same host port.

Questions & Troubleshooting – Multiple Named Open edX Releases on Same Machine#

This broke my existing Devstack!#

See if the troubleshooting of this readme can help resolve your broken devstack first, then try posting on the Open edX forums to see if you have the same issue as any others. If you think you have found a bug, file a CR ticket.

I have custom scripts/compose files that integrate with or extend Devstack. Will those still work?#

With the default value of COMPOSE_PROJECT_NAME = devstack, they should still work. If you choose a different COMPOSE_PROJECT_NAME, your extensions will likely break, because the names of containers change along with the project name.

How do I switch releases using ‘direnv’?#

Follow directions in Switch between your Devstack releases by doing the following: then make the following adjustments.

Make sure that you have setup each Open edX release in separate directories using How do I enable environment variables for current directory using ‘direnv’? instructions. Open the next release project in a separate code editor, then activate the direnv environment variables and virtual environment for the next release by using a terminal shell to traverse to the directory with the corresponding release .envrc file. You may need to issue a direnv allow command to enable the .envrc file.

# You should see something like the following after successfully enabling 'direnv' for the Juniper release.

direnv: loading ~/open-edx/
(venv)username@computer-name %

NOTE: Setting of the OPENEDX_RELEASE should have been handled within the .envrc file for named releases only and should not be defined for the master release.

How do I enable environment variables for current directory using ‘direnv’?#

We recommend separating the named releases into different directories, for clarity purposes. You can use direnv to define different environment variables per directory:

.. code::

    # Example showing directory structure for separate Open edX releases.

    /Users/<username>/open-edx – root directory for platform development
    |_ ./devstack.master  – directory containing all repository information related to the main development release.
    |_ ./ – directory containing all repository information related to the Juniper release.
  1. Install direnv using instructions on Below you will find additional setup at the time of this writing so refer to latest of direnv site for additional configuration needed.

  2. Setup the following configuration to hook direnv for local directory environment overrides. There are two examples for BASH or ZSH (Mac OS X) shells.

    ## ~/.bashrc for BASH shell
    ## Hook in `direnv` for local directory environment overrides.
    eval "$(direnv hook bash)"
    show_virtual_env() {
    if [[ -n "$VIRTUAL_ENV" && -n "$DIRENV_DIR" ]]; then
        echo "($(basename $VIRTUAL_ENV))"
    export -f show_virtual_env
    # ---------------------------------------------------
    ## ~/.zshrc for ZSH shell for Mac OS X.
    ## Hook in `direnv` for local directory environment setup.
    eval "$(direnv hook zsh)"
    setopt PROMPT_SUBST
    show_virtual_env() {
    if [[ -n "$VIRTUAL_ENV" && -n "$DIRENV_DIR" ]]; then
        echo "($(basename $VIRTUAL_ENV))"
  3. Setup layout_python-venv function to be used in local project directory .envrc file.

    ## ~/.config/direnv/direnvrc
    realpath() {
        [[ $1 = /* ]] && echo "$1" || echo "$PWD/${1#./}"
    layout_python-venv() {
        local python=${1:-python3}
        [[ $# -gt 0 ]] && shift
        unset PYTHONHOME
        if [[ -n $VIRTUAL_ENV ]]; then
            VIRTUAL_ENV=$(realpath "${VIRTUAL_ENV}")
            local python_version
            python_version=$("$python" -c "import platform; print(platform.python_version())")
            if [[ -z $python_version ]]; then
                log_error "Could not detect Python version"
                return 1
        export VIRTUAL_ENV
        if [[ ! -d $VIRTUAL_ENV ]]; then
            log_status "no venv found; creating $VIRTUAL_ENV"
            "$python" -m venv "$VIRTUAL_ENV"
        export PATH
  4. Example .envrc file used in project directory. Need to make sure that each release root has this unique file.

    # Open edX named release project directory root.
    ## <project-path>/
    # This is handled when OPENEDX_RELEASE is set. Leaving this in for manual override.
    # export COMPOSE_PROJECT_NAME=devstack-juniper
    export DEVSTACK_WORKSPACE="$(pwd)"
    export OPENEDX_RELEASE=juniper.master
    export VIRTUAL_ENV="$(pwd)/devstack/venv"
    layout python-venv