Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A fresh take on Monorepos in Python

"... What if we had Polylith in Python ..."

For software development in general, it seems to be an ongoing trend towards using Monorepos. You know, organizing code in one big single repo. On the other hand, it seems to be a general trend in going the opposite way too. Developing features into many small repos.

I think that the JavaScript and Python communities in particular, are in favor of the latter approach. Developing features in isolation - in separate repos - and publish versioned libraries to package repositories (such as npm and pypi). That has potential to introduce some headache: versioning, backwards compatibility and keeping dependencies up to date. Probably also duplication of common source code and repeating the deployment infrastructure. You can solve those kind of issues, by using a Monorepo.

🔥 Monorepos

There are already solutions out there on how to develop software in Monorepos. It is my impression that they are mainly about solving the deployment experience. Which is good, because it is a huge problem in a lot of code bases out there. What about the Developer experience?

In the Clojure community, we have a thing called Polylith. It is an architecture, (including a tool) that is developed by Joakim Tengstrand, Furkan Bayraktar and James Trunk. The Polylith architecture is focusing on making both the Developer & Deployment experience great. There is also a very nice tool to help you get started with Polylith. Helping you create & keeping track on components, projects and much more.

🤔 So, what is Polylith?

From the official docs:

"... Polylith is a software architecture that applies functional thinking at the system scale. It helps us build simple, maintainable, testable, and scalable backend systems. ..."

A Polylith code-base is structured in a components-first architecture. Similar to LEGO, components are building blocks. A component can be shared across apps, tools, libraries, serverless functions and services. The components live in the same repository; a Polylith monorepo. The Polylith architecture is becoming popular in the Clojure community.

🐍 What about Python?

Again, I find myself copying some existing Python code - a small module creating a "logger" - into a new repo. I think it’s the third time I do this. The logger code is too tiny to even bother packaging as a library, but still very useful in many code projects.

My mind is wandering. I'm daydreaming:

"What if we had Polylith in Python. I would just simply reuse an existing component."

We have Polylith in Python now

Porting Polylith to Python

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to give porting Polylith to Python a try. I quickly realized that there are some fundamental differences between Python and Clojure to be aware of when implementing an architecture (and developing a tool) like this.

Especially when it comes to namespacing and packaging. Python code is based on the concept of modules. Also, Python code is not compiled into a binary.

Short note on modules, packages, namespaces & libraries

In Python, a file is a module. One or more modules in a folder is a package. If you put a package in a folder, it is now namespaced. One or more packages can also be combined and built into a library to be used as a third party dependency. From my perspective, a Polylith component in Python should be a namespaced package, and not a library.

Almost like Poetry

When trying to figure out how to solve modules, paths & packaging problems I found Poetry. It is a tool that makes Python packaging and dependency management really easy. Out of the box, Poetry supports project based dependencies and references only. But the latest version of Poetry - currently in preview - has support for third party plugins. So I developed a plugin that enables the concept of workspaces, making it possible to reference dependencies outside of a project boundary.

This was the first step. A very important step. Now it became possible to build tooling support for a Python implementation of the Polylith architecture. Earlier this week I released a first version of such a tool. It is a new Poetry plugin, containing the very basic tooling support for the Polylith architecture.


This brand new Poetry plugin will help you create a Polylith workspace and add components, bases & projects to it. Poetry itself will handle the building & packaging. It is still in early development, but you should be able to develop apps, serverless functions and services with it.

As of today, I wouldn’t (at least not yet) recommend building libraries with it, mostly because of how the packaging is done in Poetry & the nature of Python modules. I’ll try to figure out a way to solve this in the future.

There’s also a lot missing & left to do compared to the original poly tool. But hey, you gotta start somewhere 😀

Check out the 10 minute video for a quick overview.

Learning about Polylith

I recommend to read the official docs to learn more about what Polylith is (and what it isn’t) - even though the code examples are about Clojure. You can easily bring the ideas into a Python context, now that we have tooling support for it.

My intentions with this is to introduce the Polylith architecture to the Python community, and I very much hope that it will be useful in your daily work as a developer.

Direct link to the Porting Polylith to Python intro video.

Top photo by Katarzyna Kos on Unsplash

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