What is Channels?¶
Channels extends Django to add a new layer that allows two important features:
- WebSocket handling, in a way very similar to normal views
- Background tasks, running in the same servers as the rest of Django
It allows other things too, but these are the ones you’ll use to start with.
It separates Django into two process types:
- One that handles HTTP and WebSockets
- One that runs views, websocket handlers and background tasks (consumers)
They communicate via a protocol called ASGI, which is similar to WSGI but runs over a network and allows for more protocol types.
Channels does not introduce asyncio, gevent, or any other async code to your Django code; all of your business logic runs synchronously in a worker process or thread.
I have to change how I run Django?¶
No, all the new stuff is entirely optional. If you want it, however, you’ll change from running Django under a WSGI server, to running:
- An ASGI server, probably Daphne
- Django worker servers, using
- Something to route ASGI requests over, like Redis.
Even when you’re running on Channels, it routes all HTTP requests to the Django view system by default, so it works like before.
What else does Channels give me?¶
Other features include:
- Easy HTTP long-poll support for thousands of clients at once
- Full session and auth support for WebSockets
- Automatic user login for WebSockets based on site cookies
- Built-in primitives for mass triggering of events (chat, live blogs, etc.)
- Zero-downtime deployment with browsers paused while new workers spin up
- Optional low-level HTTP control on a per-URL basis
- Extendability to other protocols or event sources (e.g. WebRTC, raw UDP, SMS)
Does it scale?¶
Yes, you can run any number of protocol servers (ones that serve HTTP and WebSockets) and worker servers (ones that run your Django code) to fit your use case.
The ASGI spec allows a number of different channel layers to be plugged in between these two components, with different performance characteristics, and it’s designed to allow both easy sharding as well as the ability to run separate clusters with their own protocol and worker servers.
Why doesn’t it use my favourite message queue?¶
Channels is deliberately designed to prefer low latency (goal is a few milliseconds) and high throughput over guaranteed delivery, which doesn’t match some message queue designs.
Some features, like guaranteed ordering of messages, are opt-in as they incur a performance hit, but make it more message queue like.
Do I need to worry about making all my code async-friendly?¶
No, all your code runs synchronously without any sockets or event loops to block. You can use async code within a Django view or channel consumer if you like - for example, to fetch lots of URLs in parallel - but it doesn’t affect the overall deployed site.
What version of Django does it work with?¶
You can install Channels as a library for Django >= 1.8. It has a few
extra dependencies, but these will all be installed if you use
Channels is not in the Django core as initially planned, but it’s an official Django project since September 2016. More information about Channels being adopted as an official project are available on the Django blog.