For the last year, we at the Python Packaging Authority have heard these questions continuously from the Python community.
Today we are excited to announce that we have applied for, and been awarded, a grant to help improve the sustainability of the Python Package Index in the amount of $170,000. This has been awarded by Mozilla, through the Foundational Technology track of their Open Source Support Program. We would like to thank Mozilla for their support.
This post will explain both the context for this request, and the work that will be funded.
Specifically, this grant funds several contributors' efforts to finish the development and deployment of Warehouse (pypi.org), the replacement for our legacy codebase that runs pypi.python.org -- which will allow more people to contribute.
There are no paid staff at the PSF who work on PyPI, and there are only a handful of people who contribute regularly. This leads to a situation where we have to depend on volunteers to be on-call for outages and respond to critical security vulnerabilities in core Python Infrastructure. For deeper context, read PyPI maintainer Donald Stufft's May 2016 post "Powering the Python Package Index", (but note that since his job change in the last year his paid time to work on PyPI has decreased significantly).
This isn't a tenable situation for the long term, and we hope that this grant will help us start to change this.
Unfortunately, the codebase that runs PyPI is old, almost entirely lacking in automated test coverage and other common best practices. (PyPI contributor Ernest W. Durbin III goes into this further in his PyGotham 2017 talk "Running Vintage Software: PyPI's Aging Codebase.") The new Warehouse code base is built with Pyramid, and is much easier to maintain. This technical debt has a number of undesirable outcomes, but the one I'd like to focus on is repelling new contributors.
Eric Holscher, like many would-be contributors to the legacy PyPI codebase, once tried to contribute a small feature to PyPI years ago, thinking it would be quite simple. However, as he opened the code base and started looking around, he discovered that the code wasn't written in a modern framework, didn't follow standard conventions or best practices, and he could barely even understand where to start adding something new.
Migrating PyPI to a new codebase will stop this from happening. We hope to gain a number of new contributors who are willing and able to help maintain the code base, and decrease the chance of burnout for the staff.
Operations are the other large sustainability issue that we're hoping to tackle with this grant. There are only two people currently who wear a pager and are on-call for PyPI. They are not currently supported by modern automation tools or served by a continuing project manager. Once all package index activity is going through pypi.org (Warehouse) and we deprecate the old pypi.python.org codebase and site, with a stabilized infrastructure resource load, we can assess our new level of staffing and hosting needs. Based on that assessment, we'll be able to fundraise for staffing and ask our sponsors for financial and in-kind donations to keep PyPI robust.
With the help of many people (especially the Packaging Working Group, our MOSS liaison Gervase Markham, our Mozilla champion Dan Callahan, and Ewa Jodlowska and Mark Mangoba at the PSF), we've been figuring out the timeline for this work.
The first milestone for Warehouse is redirecting portions of the production pypi.python.org to Warehouse including traffic for the simple index and package downloads. At that milestone Warehouse will be the main entryway to Python packages for all but a small fraction of the interactions PyPI sees.
The bulk of the work will be bringing Warehouse to feature parity with the administrative capabilities users need from the Package Index. We'll keep you posted as we figure out when you can expect that to be true.
Please feel free to ask questions about the Warehouse project in the #pypa-dev channel on Freenode, or in the GitHub issues for Warehouse! If you have questions for the PSF about the grant, you can ask via email.
Thanks to Donald Stufft, Ewa Jodlowska, Nathaniel J. Smith, Nick Coghlan, Nicole Harris, Sumana Harihareswara, Ernest W. Durbin III, Dustin Ingram, Mark Mangoba, Kenneth Reitz, Eric Holscher for contributing to this post.