This guide will step you through setting up a Python-based virtualenv, installing the required packages, and configuring the basic web service. This guide assumes a clean Ubuntu 14.04 instance, commands may differ based on the OS and configuration being used.

Pressed for time? See the Lemur docker file on Github.


Some basic prerequisites which you’ll need in order to run Lemur:

  • A UNIX-based operating system (we test on Ubuntu, develop on OS X)
  • Python 3.5 or greater
  • PostgreSQL 9.4 or greater
  • Nginx


Lemur was built with in AWS in mind. This means that things such as databases (RDS), mail (SES), and TLS (ELB), are largely handled for us. Lemur does not require AWS to function. Our guides and documentation try to be as generic as possible and are not intended to document every step of launching Lemur into a given environment.

Installing Build Dependencies

If installing Lemur on a bare Ubuntu OS you will need to grab the following packages so that Lemur can correctly build it’s dependencies:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install nodejs python-pip python-dev python3-dev libpq-dev build-essential libssl-dev libffi-dev libsas12-dev libldap2-dev nginx git supervisor npm postgresql


PostgreSQL is only required if your database is going to be on the same host as the webserver. npm is needed if you’re installing Lemur from the source (e.g., from git).


Installing node from a package manager may creat the nodejs bin at /usr/bin/nodejs instead of /usr/bin/node If that is the case run the following $ sudo ln -s /user/bin/nodejs /usr/bin/node

Now, install Python virtualenv package:

$ sudo pip install -U virtualenv

Setting up an Environment

In this guide, Lemur will be installed in /www, so you need to create that structure first:

$ sudo mkdir /www
$ cd /www

Clone Lemur inside the just created directory and give yourself write permission (we assume lemur is the user):

$ sudo useradd lemur
$ sudo passwd lemur
$ sudo mkdir /home/lemur
$ sudo chown lemur:lemur /home/lemur
$ sudo git clone https://github.com/Netflix/lemur
$ sudo chown -R lemur lemur/

Create the virtual environment, activate it and enter the Lemur’s directory:

$ su lemur
$ virtualenv -p python3 lemur
$ source /www/lemur/bin/activate
$ cd lemur


Activating the environment adjusts your PATH, so that things like pip now install into the virtualenv by default.

Installing from Source

Once your system is prepared, ensure that you are in the virtualenv:

$ which python

And then run:

$ make release


This command will install npm dependencies as well as compile static assets.

You may also run with the urlContextPath variable set. If this is set it will add the desired context path for subsequent calls back to lemur. This will only edit the front end code for calls back to the server, you will have to make sure the server knows about these routes.

  /api/1/auth/providers -> /lemur/api/1/auth/providers
$ make release urlContextPath={desired context path}

Creating a configuration

Before we run Lemur, we must create a valid configuration file for it. The Lemur command line interface comes with a simple command to get you up and running quickly.

Simply run:

$ lemur create_config


This command will create a default configuration under ~/.lemur/lemur.conf.py you can specify this location by passing the config_path parameter to the create_config command.

You can specify -c or --config to any Lemur command to specify the current environment you are working in. Lemur will also look under the environmental variable LEMUR_CONF should that be easier to setup in your environment.

Update your configuration

Once created, you will need to update the configuration file with information about your environment, such as which database to talk to, where keys are stored etc.

$ vi ~/.lemur/lemur.conf.py


If you are unfamiliar with the SQLALCHEMY_DATABASE_URI string it can be broken up like so: postgresql://userame:password@<database-fqdn>:<database-port>/<database-name>

Before Lemur will run you need to fill in a few required variables in the configuration file:

#/the e-mail address needs to be enclosed in quotes

Setup Postgres

For production, a dedicated database is recommended, for this guide we will assume postgres has been installed and is on the same machine that Lemur is installed on.

First, set a password for the postgres user. For this guide, we will use lemur as an example but you should use the database password generated by Lemur:

$ sudo -u postgres -i
$ psql
postgres=# CREATE USER lemur WITH PASSWORD 'lemur';

Once successful, type CTRL-D to exit the Postgres shell.

Next, we will create our new database:

$ sudo -u postgres createdb lemur


For this guide we assume you will use the postgres user to connect to your database, when deploying to a VM or container this is often all you will need. If you have a shared database it is recommend you give Lemur its own user.


Postgres 9.4 or greater is required as Lemur relies advanced data columns (e.g. JSON Column type)

Initializing Lemur

Lemur provides a helpful command that will initialize your database for you. It creates a default user (lemur) that is used by Lemur to help associate certificates that do not currently have an owner. This is most commonly the case when Lemur has discovered certificates from a third party source. This is also a default user that can be used to administer Lemur.

In addition to creating a new user, Lemur also creates a few default email notifications. These notifications are based on a few configuration options such as LEMUR_SECURITY_TEAM_EMAIL. They basically guarantee that every certificate within Lemur will send one expiration notification to the security team.

Additional notifications can be created through the UI or API. See Creating Notifications and Command Line Interface for details.

Make note of the password used as this will be used during first login to the Lemur UI.

$ cd /www/lemur/lemur
$ lemur init


It is recommended that once the lemur user is created that you create individual users for every day access. There is currently no way for a user to self enroll for Lemur access, they must have an administrator create an account for them or be enrolled automatically through SSO. This can be done through the CLI or UI. See Creating Users and Command Line Interface for details.

Setup a Reverse Proxy

By default, Lemur runs on port 8000. Even if you change this, under normal conditions you won’t be able to bind to port 80. To get around this (and to avoid running Lemur as a privileged user, which you shouldn’t), we need setup a simple web proxy. There are many different web servers you can use for this, we like and recommend Nginx.

Proxying with Nginx

You’ll use the builtin HttpProxyModule within Nginx to handle proxying. Edit the /etc/nginx/sites-available/default file according to the lines below

location /api {
     proxy_next_upstream error timeout invalid_header http_500 http_502 http_503 http_504;
     proxy_redirect off;
     proxy_buffering off;
     proxy_set_header        Host            $host;
     proxy_set_header        X-Real-IP       $remote_addr;
     proxy_set_header        X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;

 location / {
     root /www/lemur/lemur/static/dist;
     include mime.types;
     index index.html;


See Production for more details on using Nginx.

After making these changes, restart Nginx service to apply them:

$ sudo service nginx restart

Starting the Web Service

Lemur provides a built-in web server (powered by gunicorn and eventlet) to get you off the ground quickly.

To start the web server, you simply use lemur start. If you opted to use an alternative configuration path you can pass that via the --config option.


You can login with the default user created during Initializing Lemur or any other user you may have created.

# Lemur's server runs on port 8000 by default. Make sure your client reflects
# the correct host and port!
lemur --config=/etc/lemur.conf.py start -b

You should now be able to test the web service by visiting http://localhost:8000/.

Running Lemur as a Service

We recommend using whatever software you are most familiar with for managing Lemur processes. One option is Supervisor.

Configure supervisord

Configuring Supervisor couldn’t be more simple. Just point it to the lemur executable in your virtualenv’s bin/ folder and you’re good to go.

command=/www/lemur/bin/lemur start

See Using Supervisor for more details on using Supervisor.


Lemur uses periodic sync tasks to make sure it is up-to-date with its environment. Things change outside of Lemur we do our best to reconcile those changes. The recommended method is to use CRON:

$ crontab -e
*/15 * * * * lemur sync -s all
0 22 * * * lemur check_revoked
0 22 * * * lemur notify

Additional Utilities

If you’re familiar with Python you’ll quickly find yourself at home, and even more so if you’ve used Flask. The lemur command is just a simple wrapper around Flask’s manage.py, which means you get all of the power and flexibility that goes with it.

Some of the features which you’ll likely find useful are listed below.


Encrypts sensitive key material - this is most useful for storing encrypted secrets in source code.


Decrypts sensitive key material - used to decrypt the secrets stored in source during deployment.

What’s Next?

Get familiar with how Lemur works by reviewing the User Guide. When you’re ready see Production for more details on how to configure Lemur for production.

The above just gets you going, but for production there are several different security considerations to take into account. Remember, Lemur is handling sensitive data and security is imperative.