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Daemonize Processes for Prefect Deployments

When running workflow applications, it can be helpful to create long-running processes that run at startup and are robust to failure. In this guide you'll learn how to set up a systemd service to create long-running Prefect processes that poll for scheduled flow runs.

A systemd service is ideal for running a long-lived process on a Linux VM or physical Linux server. We will leverage systemd and see how to automatically start a Prefect worker or long-lived serve process when Linux starts. This approach provides resilience by automatically restarting the process if it crashes.

In this guide we will:

  • Create a Linux user
  • Install and configure Prefect
  • Set up a systemd service for the Prefect worker or .serve process


  • An environment with a linux operating system with systemd and Python 3.8 or later.
  • A superuser account (you can run sudo commands).
  • A Prefect Cloud account, or a local instance of a Prefect server running on your network.
  • If daemonizing a worker, you'll need a Prefect deployment with a work pool your worker can connect to.

If using an AWS t2-micro EC2 instance with an AWS Linux image, you can install Python and pip with sudo yum install -y python3 python3-pip.

Step 1: Add a user

Create a user account on your linux system for the Prefect process. While you can run a worker or serve process as root, it's good security practice to avoid doing so unless you are sure you need to.

In a terminal, run:

sudo useradd -m prefect
sudo passwd prefect

When prompted, enter a password for the prefect account.

Next, log in to the prefect account by running:

sudo su prefect

Step 2: Install Prefect


pip3 install prefect

This guide assumes you are installing Prefect globally, not in a virtual environment. If running a systemd service in a virtual environment, you'll just need to change the ExecPath. For example, if using venv, change the ExecPath to target the prefect application in the bin subdirectory of your virtual environment.

Next, set up your environment so that the Prefect client will know which server to connect to.

If connecting to Prefect Cloud, follow the instructions to obtain an API key and then run the following:

prefect cloud login -k YOUR_API_KEY

When prompted, choose the Prefect workspace you'd like to log in to.

If connecting to a self-hosted Prefect server instance instead of Prefect Cloud, run the following and substitute the IP address of your server:

prefect config set PREFECT_API_URL=http://your-prefect-server-IP:4200

Finally, run the exit command to sign out of the prefect Linux account. This command switches you back to your sudo-enabled account so you will can run the commands in the next section.

Step 3: Set up a systemd service

See the section below if you are setting up a Prefect worker. Skip to the next section if you are setting up a Prefect .serve process.

Setting up a systemd service for a Prefect worker

Move into the /etc/systemd/system folder and open a file for editing. We use the Vim text editor below.

cd /etc/systemd/system
sudo vim my-prefect-service.service
Description=Prefect worker

ExecStart=prefect worker start --pool YOUR_WORK_POOL_NAME


Make sure you substitute your own work pool name.

Setting up a systemd service for .serve

Copy your flow entrypoint Python file and any other files needed for your flow to run into the /home directory (or the directory of your choice).

Here's a basic example flow:
from prefect import flow

def say_hi():

if __name__=="__main__":
    say_hi.serve(name="Greeting from daemonized .serve")

If you want to make changes to your flow code without restarting your process, you can push your code to git-based cloud storage (GitHub, BitBucket, GitLab) and use flow.from_source().serve(), as in the example below.
if __name__ == "__main__":

Make sure you substitute your own flow code entrypoint path.

Note that if you change the flow entrypoint parameters, you will need to restart the process.

Move into the /etc/systemd/system folder and open a file for editing. We use the Vim text editor below.

cd /etc/systemd/system
sudo vim my-prefect-service.service
Description=Prefect serve 



Save, enable, and start the service

To save the file and exit Vim hit the escape key, type :wq!, then press the return key.

Next, run sudo systemctl daemon-reload to make systemd aware of your new service.

Then, run sudo systemctl enable my-prefect-service to enable the service. This command will ensure it runs when your system boots.

Next, run sudo systemctl start my-prefect-service to start the service.

Run your deployment from UI and check out the logs on the Flow Runs page.

You can see if your daemonized Prefect worker or serve process is running and see the Prefect logs with systemctl status my-prefect-service.

That's it! You now have a systemd service that starts when your system boots, and will restart if it ever crashes.

Next steps

If you want to set up a long-lived process on a Windows machine the pattern is similar. Instead of systemd, you can use NSSM.

Check out other Prefect guides to see what else you can do with Prefect!