Last year I wrote some tutorials on simple deployments of Jupyterhub on Ubuntu 16.04 on the OpenStack deployment SDSC Cloud, even if most of the steps would also be suitable on other resources like Amazon EC2.

In more detail:

The Jupyter team has released an automated script to deploy Jupyterhub on a single server, see Jupyterhub-deploy-teaching.

In this tutorial we will use this script to deploy Jupyterhub to SDSC Cloud using:

  • NGINX handling HTTPS with Letsencrypt certificate
  • Github authentication
  • Local or Docker user notebooks
  • Grading with nbgrader
  • Memory limit for Docker containers

Setup a Virtual Machine to run Jupyterhub

Create first a Ubuntu 16.04 Virtual Machine, a default server image works fine.

In case you are deploying on SDSC Cloud, follow the steps in "Create a Virtual Machine in OpenStack" on my first tutorial at

You will also need a DNS entry pointing to the server to create a SSL certificate with Let's Encrypt. Either ask your institution to provide a DNS A entry, e.g., that points to the Public IP of the server. SDSC Cloud already provides a DNS entry in the form

If you plan on using nbgrader, you need to create the home folder for the instructor beforehand, so SSH into the server and create a user with your Github username, i.e. I had to execute sudo adduser zonca

Setup your local machine to run the automation scripts

Automation of the server setup is provided by the Ansible software tool, it allows to describe a server configuration in great detail (a "playbook") and then connects via SSH to a Virtual Machine and runs Python to install and setup all the required software.

On your local machine, install Ansible, at least version 2.1, see Ansible docs, for Ubuntu just add the Ansible PPA repository. I tested this with Ansible version

Then you need to configure passwordless SSH connection to your Virtual Machine. Download your SSH key from the OpenStack dashboard, copy it to your ~/.ssh folder and then add an entry to .ssh/config for the server:

    User ubuntu
    IdentityFile "~/.ssh/sdsccloud.key"

At this point you should be able to SSH into the machine without typing any password with ssh

Configure and run the Ansible script

Follow the Jupyterhub-deploy-teaching documentation to checkout the script, configure and run it.

The only modification you need to do if you are on SDSC Cloud is that the remote user is ubuntu and not root, so modify ansible.cfg in the root of the repository, replace remote_user=root with remote_user=ubuntu.

As an example, see the configuration I used, just:

  • copy it into host_vars
  • rename it to your public DNS record
  • fill in proxy_auth_token, Github OAuth credentials for authentication
  • replace zonca with your Github username everywhere

The exact version of the jupyterhub-deploy-teaching code I used for testing is on the sdsc_cloud_jan_17 tag on Github

Test the deployment

Connect to on your browser, you should be redirected to Github for authentication and then access a Jupyter Notebook instance with the Python 3, R and bash kernels running locally on the machine.

Optional: Docker

In order to provide isolation and resource limits to the users, it is useful to run single user Jupyter Notebooks inside Docker containers.

You will need to SSH into the Virtual Machine and follow the next steps.

Install Docker

First of all we need to install and configure Docker on the machine, see:

Install dockerspawner

Then install the Jupyterhub plugin dockerspawner that handles launching single user Notebooks inside Docker containers, we want to install from master instead of pypi to avoid an error setting the memory limit.

pip install git+

Setup the Docker container to run user Notebooks

We can first get the standard systemuser container, this Docker container mounts the home folder of the users inside the container, this way we can have persistent data even if the container gets deleted.

docker pull jupyterhub/systemuser

If you do not need nbgrader this image is enough, otherwise we have to build our own image, first checkout my Github repository in the home folder of the ubuntu user on the server with:

git clone

then edit the file to set the correct course_id, and build the container image running inside the systemuser-nbgrader folder:

docker build -t systemuser-nbgrader .

Configure Jupyterhub to use dockerspawner

Then add some configuration for dockerspawner to /etc/jupyterhub/

c.JupyterHub.spawner_class = 'dockerspawner.SystemUserSpawner'
c.DockerSpawner.container_image = "systemuser-nbgrader" # delete this line if you just need `jupyterhub/systemuser`
                                                                                                          c.Spawner.mem_limit = '500M' # or 1G for GB, probably 300M is minimum required just to run simple calculations
c.DockerSpawner.volumes = {"/srv/nbgrader/exchange":"/tmp/exchange"} # this is necessary for nbgrader to transfer homework back and forth between students and instructor
c.DockerSpawner.remove_containers = True

# The docker instances need access to the Hub, so the default loopback port doesn't work:
from IPython.utils.localinterfaces import public_ips
c.JupyterHub.hub_ip = public_ips()[0]

Test the deployment with Docker

Connect to on your browser, you should be redirected to Github for authentication and then access a Jupyter Notebook instance with the Python 2 or Python 3, open a Notebook and run !hostname in the first cell, you should find out that you get a Docker hash instead of the machine name, you are inside a container.

SSH into the machine run docker ps to find the hash of a running container and then docker stat HASH to check memory usage and the current limit.

Check that you can connect to the nbgrader formgrade service that allows to manually grade assignments at, replace COURSEID with the course identifier you setup in the Ansible script.

Pre-built image

I also have a saved Virtual Machine snapshot on SDSC Cloud named jupyterhub_ansible_nbgrader_coleman