Upgrading JupyterHub and its database

From time to time, you may wish to upgrade JupyterHub to take advantage of new releases. Much of this process is automated using scripts, such as those generated by alembic for database upgrades. Before upgrading a JupyterHub deployment, it’s critical to backup your data and configurations before shutting down the JupyterHub process and server.

Databases: SQLite (default) or RDBMS (PostgreSQL, MySQL)

The default database for JupyterHub is a SQLite database. We have chosen SQLite as JupyterHub’s default for its lightweight simplicity in certain uses such as testing, small deployments and workshops.

When running a long term deployment or a production system, we recommend using a traditional RDBMS database, such as PostgreSQL or MySQL, that supports the SQL ALTER TABLE statement.

For production systems, SQLite has some disadvantages when used with JupyterHub:

  • upgrade-db may not work, and you may need to start with a fresh database
  • downgrade-db will not work if you want to rollback to an earlier version, so backup the jupyterhub.sqlite file before upgrading

The sqlite documentation provides a helpful page about when to use sqlite and where traditional RDBMS may be a better choice.

The upgrade process

Five fundamental process steps are needed when upgrading JupyterHub and its database:

  1. Backup JupyterHub database
  2. Backup JupyterHub configuration file
  3. Shutdown the Hub
  4. Upgrade JupyterHub
  5. Upgrade the database using run jupyterhub upgrade-db

Let’s take a closer look at each step in the upgrade process as well as some additional information about JupyterHub databases.

Backup JupyterHub database

To prevent unintended loss of data or configuration information, you should back up the JupyterHub database (the default SQLite database or a RDBMS database using PostgreSQL, MySQL, or others supported by SQLAlchemy):

  • If using the default SQLite database, back up the jupyterhub.sqlite database.
  • If using an RDBMS database such as PostgreSQL, MySQL, or other supported by SQLAlchemy, back up the JupyterHub database.

Losing the Hub database is often not a big deal. Information that resides only in the Hub database includes:

  • active login tokens (user cookies, service tokens)
  • users added via GitHub UI, instead of config files
  • info about running servers

If the following conditions are true, you should be fine clearing the Hub database and starting over:

  • users specified in config file
  • user servers are stopped during upgrade
  • don’t mind causing users to login again after upgrade

Backup JupyterHub configuration file

Additionally, backing up your configuration file, jupyterhub_config.py, to a secure location.

Shutdown JupyterHub

Prior to shutting down JupyterHub, you should notify the Hub users of the scheduled downtime. This gives users the opportunity to finish any outstanding work in process.

Next, shutdown the JupyterHub service.

Upgrade JupyterHub

Follow directions that correspond to your package manager, pip or conda, for the new JupyterHub release. These directions will guide you to the specific command. In general, pip install -U jupyterhub or conda upgrade jupyterhub

Upgrade JupyterHub databases

To run the upgrade process for JupyterHub databases, enter:

jupyterhub upgrade-db

Upgrade checklist

  1. Backup JupyterHub database:
    • jupyterhub.sqlite when using the default sqlite database
    • Your JupyterHub database when using an RDBMS
  2. Backup JupyterHub configuration file: jupyterhub_config.py
  3. Shutdown the Hub
  4. Upgrade JupyterHub
    • pip install -U jupyterhub when using pip
    • conda upgrade jupyterhub when using conda
  5. Upgrade the database using run jupyterhub upgrade-db