Deploying on a single server

Open Zaak can be deployed on a single machine - either a dedicated server (DDS) or virtual private server (VPS). The required hardware can be rented from a hosting provider or be provided in your environment. Please see Hardware requirements to determine the hardware requirements.

This documentation describes the architecture, prerequisites and how to deploy Open Zaak on a server. Additionally, it documents the possible configuration options.


The default settings allow Open Zaak to be deployed to the same machine as Open Notificaties.


The application is deployed as Docker containers, of which the images are available on Docker hub. Traffic is routed to the server, where the web server (nginx) handles SSL termination and proxies the requests to the application containers.

Data is stored in a PostgreSQL database. By default, the database is installed on the same machine (running on the host), but you can make use of a hosted database (Google Cloud, AWS, Azure…). See the Configuration parameters for more information.


Before you can deploy, you need:

A server

Ensure you have a server with root privileges. We assume you can directly ssh to the machine as root user. If that’s not the case, a user with sudo will also work. Python 3 must be available on the server.


Make sure there is enough space in /var/lib/docker. You need at least 8 GB to download all Docker containers. We recommend placing the Docker folder wherever you also want to store your documents that are uploaded via the Documenten API.

Supported operating systems

Support for different Linux flavours is maintained in the Ansible collection used for deployment.

Currently the following OS flavours are supported:

  • Debian: buster (10, actively supported), stretch (9, actively supported), jessie (8)

  • Ubuntu: eoan (EOL), disco (EOL), cosmic (EOL), bionic (18.04 LTS). focal (20.04 LTS) is not tested yet

  • SUSE Enterprise Linux: 15 (actively supported)

  • OpenSUSE: 15.1

  • Red Hat: 7, 8

  • CentOS: 7, 8 (actively supported)

A copy of the deployment configuration

You can either clone the repository, or download and extract the latest ZIP:

Python and a Python virtualenv

You will need to have at least Python 3.5 installed on your system. In the examples, we assume you have Python 3.6.

Create a virtualenv with:

[user@laptop]$ python3.6 -m venv env/
[user@laptop]$ source env/bin/activate

Make sure to install the deployment tooling. In your virtualenv, install the dependencies:

(env) [user@laptop]$ pip install -r deployment/requirements.txt
(env) [user@laptop]$ cd deployment/single-server
(env) [user@laptop]$ ansible-galaxy collection install -r requirements.yml
(env) [user@laptop]$ ansible-galaxy role install -r requirements.yml


Deployment is done with an Ansible playbook, performing the following steps:

  1. Install and configure PostgreSQL database server

  2. Install the Docker runtime

  3. Install the SSL certificate with Let’s Encrypt

  4. Setup Open Zaak with Docker

  5. Install and configure nginx as reverse proxy

Initial steps

Make sure the virtualenv is activated:

[user@laptop]$ source env/bin/activate

Navigate to the correct deployment directory:

(env) [user@laptop]$ cd deployment/single-server

Create the vars/open-zaak.yml file - you can find an example in vars/open-zaak.yml.example. Generate a secret key using the Django secret key generator and put the value between single quotes.

Configure the host by creating the hosts file from the example:

(env) [user@laptop]$ cp hosts.example hosts

In the hosts file, edit the to point to your actual domain name. You must make sure that the DNS entry for this domain points to the IP address of your server.


It’s important to use the correct domain name, as the SSL certificate will be generated for this domain and only this domain will be whitelisted by Open Zaak! If you are using a private DNS name, then no SSL certificate can be created via Letsencrypt - make sure to disable it by setting certbot_create_if_missing=false or openzaak_ssl=false if you don’t plan on using HTTPS at all.

Running the deployment

Execute the playbook by running:

(env) [user@laptop]$ ansible-playbook open-zaak.yml


  • If you have your secrets Ansible vault encrypted, make sure you have either:

    • set the ANSIBLE_VAULT_PASSWORD_FILE environment variable, or

    • pass --ask-vault-pass flag to ansible-playbook.

  • If you need to override any deployment variables (see Configuration parameters), you can pass variables to ansible-playbook using the syntax: --extra-vars "some_var=some_value other_var=other_value".

  • If you want to run the deployment from the same machine as where it will run (ie. install to itself), you can pass --connection local to ansible-playbook.

  • If you cannot connect as root to the target machine, you can pass --user <user> --become --become-method=sudo --ask-become-pass which will connect as user <user> that needs sudo-rights on the target machine to install the requirements.

A full example might look like this:

(env) [user@laptop]$ ansible-playbook open-zaak.yml \
    --user admin
    --inventory my-hosts \  # Use inventory file ``my-hosts`` instead of ``hosts``.
    --limit \  # Only pick from the inventory file.
    --extra-vars "openzaak_ssl=false openzaak_db_name=open-zaak-test openzaak_db_username=open-zaak-test" \
    --connection local \
    --become \
    --become-method=sudo \


You can run the deployment multiple times, it will not affect the final outcome. If you decide to change configuration parameters, you do not have to start from scratch.

Changing environment variables

The Open Zaak configuration is templated out to /home/openzaak/.env on the host machine. It’s possible to modify environment variables here, but doing so will not become effective immediately - you need to restart the containers:

[root@host]# docker restart openzaak-0 openzaak-1 openzaak-2

Make sure to do this for every replica - you can see what’s running with docker ps.


If you modify the .env file and then apply the Ansible playbook again, this will overwrite your changes!

Environment configuration

After the initial deployment, some initial configuration is required. This configuration is stored in the database and is only needed once.

Create a superuser

A superuser allows you to perform all administrative tasks.

  1. Log in to the server:

    [user@laptop]$ ssh
  2. Create the superuser (interactive on the shell). Note that the password you type in will not be visible - not even with asterisks. This is normal.

    []# docker exec -it openzaak-0 src/ createsuperuser
    Gebruikersnaam: demo
    Password (again):
    Superuser created successfully.

Configure Open Zaak Admin

See the Open Zaak configuration on how to configure Open Zaak post-installation.

Configuration parameters

At deployment time, you can configure a number of parts of the deployment by overriding variables. You can override variables on the command line (using the -e "..." syntax) or by overriding them in vars/secrets.yml.


Tweaking configuration parameters is considered advanced usage.

Generic variables

  • certbot_admin_email: e-mail address to use to accept the Let’s Encrypt terms and conditions.

  • openzaak_ssl: whether to use Let’s Encrypt to create an SSL certificate for your domain. Set to false if you want to use an existing certificate.

Open Zaak specific variables

The default values can be found in in the Ansible role.

  • openzaak_db_port: database port. If you are running multiple PostgreSQL versions on the same machine, you’ll have to point to the correct port.

  • openzaak_db_host: specify the hostname if you’re using a cloud database or a database on a different server.

  • openzaak_db_name: specify a different database name.

  • openzaak_db_username: specify a different database username.

  • openzaak_db_password: specify a different database username.

  • openzaak_secret_key: A Django secret key. Used for cryptographic operations - this may NOT leak, ever. If it does leak, change it.


The openzaak_replicas variable controls scaling on backend services. If your hardware allows it, you can create more replicas. By default, 3 replicas are running.

The format of each replica is:

name: openzaak-i
port: 800i

The port number must be available on the host - i.e. you may not have other services already listening on that port.

Next steps

You may want to customize the logging setup. The default setup should be sufficient to get started though.

To be able to work with Open Zaak, a couple of things have to be configured first, see Open Zaak configuration for more details.

Updating an Open Zaak installation

Make sure you have the deployment tooling installed - see the installation steps for more details.

If you have an existing environment (from the installation), make sure to update it:

# fetch the updates from Github
[user@host]$ git fetch origin

# checkout the tag of the version you wish to update to, e.g. 1.0.0
[user@host]$ git checkout X.Y.z

# activate the virtualenv
[user@host]$ source env/bin/activate

# ensure all (correct versions of the) dependencies are installed
(env) [user@host]$ pip install -r requirements.txt
(env) [user@host]$ ansible-galaxy install -r requirements.yml

Open Zaak deployment code defines variables to specify the Docker image tag to use. This is synchronized with the git tag you’re checking out.


Make sure you are aware of possible breaking changes or manual interventions by reading the Changelog!

Next, to perform the upgrade, you run the open-zaak.yml playbook just like with the installation in Running the deployment:

(env) [user@laptop]$ ansible-playbook open-zaak.yml


This will instruct the docker containers to restart using a new image. You may notice some brief downtime (order of seconds to minutes) while the new image is being downloaded and containers are being restarted.