Installation and configuration


The supported approach for deploying SFM is Docker containers. For more information on Docker, see Docker.

Each SFM service will provide images for the containers needed to run the service (in the form of Dockerfile s). These images will be published to Docker Hub. GWU created images will be part of the GWUL organization and be prefixed with sfm-.

sfm-docker provides the necessary docker-compose.yml files to compose the services into a complete instance of SFM.

The following will describe how to setup an instance of SFM that uses the latest release (and is suitable for a production deployment.) See the development documentation for other SFM configurations.

SFM can be deployed without Docker. The various Dockerfile s should provide reasonable guidance on how to accomplish this.

Local installation

Installing locally requires Docker and Docker-Compose. See Installing Docker.

  1. Either git clone the sfm-docker repository and copy the example configuration files:

    git clone
    cd sfm-docker
    # Replace 2.3.0 with the correct version.
    git checkout 2.3.0
    cp docker-compose.yml
    cp example.env .env

or just download and example.env (replacing 2.3.0 with the correct version):

curl -L > docker-compose.yml
curl -L > .env
  1. Update configuration in .env as described in Configuration.

  2. Download containers and start SFM:

    docker-compose up -d

It may take several minutes for the images to be downloaded and the containers to start. These images are large (roughly 12GB) so make sure you have enough disk space and a high-speed connection is recommended.

  1. It is also recommended that you scale up the Twitter REST Harvester container:

    docker-compose scale twitterrestharvester=2 twitterpriorityrestharvester=2


  • The first time you bring up the containers, their images will be pulled from Docker Hub. This will take several minutes.
  • For instructions on how to make configuration changes after the containers have been brought up, see Configuration.
  • To learn more about scaling , see Scaling up with Docker.
  • For suggestions on sizing your SFM server, see Server sizing.
  • For help with other Docker commands (e.g., to stop SFM) see Helpful commands.

Amazon EC2 installation

To launch an Amazon EC2 instance running SFM, follow the normal procedure for launching an instance. In Step 3: Configure Instance Details, under Advanced Details paste the following in user details and modify as appropriate as described in Configuration. Also, in the curl statements change master to the correct version, e.g., 2.3.0:

repo_update: true
repo_upgrade: all

 - python-pip

 - curl -sSL | sh
 - usermod -aG docker ubuntu
 - pip install -U docker-compose
 - mkdir /sfm-data
 - mkdir /sfm-processing
 - cd /home/ubuntu
# This brings up the latest production release. To bring up master, remove prod.
 - curl -L > docker-compose.yml
 - curl -L > .env
# Set config below by uncommenting.
# Don't forget to escape $ as \$.
# - echo TZ=America/New_York >> .env
# Don't change these.
 - echo DATA_VOLUME=/sfm-data:/sfm-data >> .env
 - echo PROCESSING_VOLUME=/sfm-processing:/sfm-processing >> .env
# Don't change this.
 - echo SFM_HOSTNAME=`curl` >> .env
 - echo SFM_PORT=80 >> .env
# Provide your institution name display on sfm-ui footer
# - echo SFM_INSTITUTION_NAME=yourinstitution >> .env
# Provide your institution link
# - echo SFM_INSTITUTION_LINK= >> .env
# Set to True to enable the cookie consent popup
# - echo SFM_ENABLE_COOKIE_CONSENT=False >> .env
# Provide the text you would like to appear on the cookie popup
# - echo SFM_COOKIE_CONSENT_HTML=<b>Do you like cookies?</b> &#x1F36A; We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. <a href="" target="_blank">Learn more</a> >> .env
# Provide the wording you would like to appear on the cookie button
# - echo SFM_COOKIE_CONSENT_BUTTON_TEXT=I consent >> .env
# Set to True to enable the GW footer
# - echo SFM_ENABLE_GW_FOOTER=False >> .env
# To send email, set these correctly.
# - echo >> .env
# - echo >> .env
# - echo SFM_EMAIL_PASSWORD=password >> .env
# An optional contact email at your institution that is provided to users.
# - echo >> .env
# To enable connecting to social media accounts, provide the following.
# - echo TWITTER_CONSUMER_KEY=mBbq9ruffgEcfsktgQztTHUir8Kn0 >> .env
# - echo TWITTER_CONSUMER_SECRET=Pf28yReB9Xgz0fpLVO4b46r5idZnKCKQ6xlOomBAjD5npFEQ6Rm >> .env
# - echo WEIBO_API_KEY=13132044538 >> .env
# - echo WEIBO_API_SECRET=68aea49fg26ea5072ggec14f7c0e05a52 >> .env
# - echo TUMBLR_CONSUMER_KEY=Fki09cW957y56h6fhRtCnig14QhpM0pjuHbDWMrZ9aPXcsthVQq >> .env
# - echo TUMBLR_CONSUMER_SECRET=aPTpFRE2O7sVl46xB3difn8kBYb7EpnWfUBWxuHcB4gfvP >> .env
# For automatically created admin account
# - echo SFM_SITE_ADMIN_NAME=sfmadmin >> .env
# - echo >> .env
# - echo SFM_SITE_ADMIN_PASSWORD=password >> .env
# - echo RABBITMQ_USER=sfm_user >> .env
# - echo RABBITMQ_PASSWORD=password >> .env
# - echo RABBITMQ_MANAGEMENT_PORT=15672 >> .env
# - echo POSTGRES_PASSWORD=password >> .env
 - docker-compose up -d
 - docker-compose scale twitterrestharvester=2 twitterpriorityrestharvester=2

When the instance is launched, SFM will be installed and started.

Note the following:

  • Starting up the EC2 instance will take several minutes.
  • This has been tested with Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS, but may work with other AMI types.
  • For suggestions on sizing your SFM server, see Server sizing.
  • If you need to make additional changes to your docker-compose.yml, you can ssh into the EC2 instance and make changes. docker-compose.yml and .env will be in the default user’s home directory.
  • Make sure to configure a security group that exposes the proper ports. To see which ports are used by which services, see
  • To learn more about configuring EC2 instances with user data, see the AWS user guide.


Configuration is documented in example.env. For a production deployment, pay particular attention to the following:

  • The data volume strategy is used to manage the volumes that store SFM’s data. By default, normal Docker volumes are used. To use a host volume instead, change the DATA_VOLUME and PROCESSING_VOLUME settings. Host volumes are recommended for production because they allow access to the data from outside of Docker.
  • Set the SFM_HOSTNAME and SFM_PORT appropriately. These are the public hostname (e.g., and port (e.g., 80) for SFM.
  • Email is configured by providing SFM_SMTP_HOST, SFM_EMAIL_USER, and SFM_EMAIL_PASSWORD. (If the configured email account is hosted by Google, you will need to configure the account to “Allow less secure apps.” Currently this setting is accessed, while logged in to the google account, via
  • Application credentials for social media APIs are configured in by providing the TWITTER_CONSUMER_KEY, TWITTER_CONSUMER_SECRET, WEIBO_API_KEY, WEIBO_API_SECRET, and/or TUMBLR_CONSUMER_KEY, TUMBLR_CONSUMER_SECRET. These are optional, but will make acquiring credentials easier for users. For more information and alternative approaches see API Credentials.
  • Set an admin email address with SFM_SITE_ADMIN_EMAIL. Problems with SFM are sent to this address.
  • Set an SFM contact email address with SFM_CONTACT_EMAIL. Users are provided with this address.
  • For branding in the SFM UI footer, provide SFM_INSTITUTION_NAME and SFM_INSTITUTION_LINK. (There is also a GW-specific footer available which, when enabled, appears below the standard footer. The GW-specific footer is disabled by default. The environment variable that controls this is SFM_ENABLE_GW_FOOTER.)
  • To enable the cookie consent popup:
    • Optionally, customize the text of SFM_COOKIE_CONSENT_HTML. HTML tags are allowed in SFM_COOKIE_CONSENT_HTML. For instance, you may wish to use an <a> (anchor tag) to include a link to your institution’s privacy policy web page.
    • Optionally, customize the wording of the cookie consent button in SFM_COOKIE_CONSENT_BUTTON_TEXT.

Note that if you make a change to configuration after SFM is brought up, you will need to restart containers. If the change only applies to a single container, then you can stop the container with docker kill <container name>. If the change applies to multiple containers (or you’re not sure), you can stop all containers with docker-compose stop. Containers can then be brought back up with docker-compose up -d and the configuration change will take effect.


To run SFM with HTTPS:

  1. Create or acquire a valid certificate and private key.
  2. In docker-compose.yml uncomment the nginx-proxy container and set the paths under volumes to point to your certificate and key.
  3. In .env change USE_HTTPS to True and SFM_PORT to 8080. Make sure that SFM_HOSTNAME matches your certificate.
  4. Start up SFM.


  • HTTPS will run on 443. Port 80 will redirect to 443.
  • For more information on nginx-proxy, including advanced configuration see
  • If you receive a 502 (bad gateway), wait until SFM UI has completely started. If the 502 continues, troubleshoot SFM UI.


To stop the containers gracefully:

docker-compose stop -t 180 twitterstreamharvester
docker-compose stop -t 45

SFM can then be restarted with docker-compose up -d.

Server restarts

If Docker is configured to automatically start when the server starts, then SFM will start. (This is enabled by default when Docker is installed.)

SFM will even be started if it was stopped prior to the server reboot. If you do not want SFM to start, then configure Docker to not automatically start.

To configure whether Docker is automatically starts, see Stopping Docker from automatically starting.


Following are general instructions for upgrading SFM versions. Always consult the release notes of the new version to see if any additional steps are required.

  1. Stop the containers gracefully:

    docker-compose stop -t 180 twitterstreamharvester
    docker-compose stop -t 45

This may take several minutes.

  1. Make a copy of your existing docker-compose.yml and .env files:

    cp docker-compose.yml old.docker-compose.yml
    cp .env old.env
  2. Get the latest If you previously cloned the sfm-docker repository then:

    git pull
    # Replace 2.3.0 with the correct version.
    git checkout 2.3.0
    cp docker-compose.yml

otherwise, replacing 2.3.0 with the correct version:

curl -L > docker-compose.yml

4. If you customized your previous docker-compose.yml file, make the same changes in your new docker-compose.yml.

  1. Make any changes in your .env file prescribed by the release notes.

  2. Bring up the containers:

    docker-compose up -d

It may take several minutes for the images to be downloaded and the containers to start.

  1. Deleting images from the previous version is recommended to prevent Docker from filling up too much space. Replacing 2.0.2 with the correct previous version:

    docker rmi $(docker images | grep "2\\.0\\.2" | awk '{print $3}')

You may also want to periodically clean up Docker (>= 1.13) with docker system prune.

Server sizing

While we have not performed any system engineering analysis of optimal server sizing for SFM, the following are different configurations that we use:

Use Server type Processors RAM (gb)
Production   6 16
Sandbox m4.large (AWS) 2 8
Use in a class m4.xlarge (AWS) 4 16
Continuous integration t2.medium (AWS) 2 4
Heavy dataset processing m4.4xlarge (AWS) 16 64
Development Docker for Mac 2 3