Menu Close
v0.32.9 / Operations-Guide / Running Metabase on Debian

Running Metabase on Debian as a service with nginx

For those people who don’t (or can’t) use Docker in their infrastructure, there’s still a need to easily setup and deploy Metabase in production. On Debian-based systems, this means registering Metabase as a service that can be started/stopped/uninstalled.

Note: This is just a bare-bones recipe to get you started. Anyone can take it from here to do what they need to do on their systems, and should follow best practices for setting up and securing the rest of their server.


The core assumption in this guide:

  • You will run Metabase using the metabase.jar file
  • You already have nginx and postgres (or another supported database) running on your server
  • You will use environment variables to configure your Metabase instance
  • You have sudo access on your server

Create a Metabase Service

Every service needs a script that tells systemd how to manage it, and what capabilities it supports. Services are typically registered at etc/init.d/<service-name>. So, a Metabase service should live at /etc/init.d/metabase.

The Metabase service file

Create the /etc/init.d/metabase service file and open it in your editor:

$ sudo touch /etc/init.d/metabase
$ sudo <your-editor> /etc/init.d/metabase

In /etc/init.d/metabase, replace configurable items (they look like <some-var-name>) with values sensible for your system. The Metabase script below has extra comments to help you know what everything is for.

# /etc/init.d/metabase
# Provides:          Metabase
# Required-Start:    $local_fs $network $named $time $syslog
# Required-Stop:     $local_fs $network $named $time $syslog
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:      0 1 6
# Description:       Metabase analytics and intelligence platform

# where is the Metabase jar located?

# where will our environment variables be stored?

# which (unprivileged) user should we run Metabase as?

# where should we store the pid/log files?

start() {
  # ensure we only run 1 Metabase instance
  if [ -f "$PIDFILE" ] && kill -0 $(cat "$PIDFILE"); then
    echo 'Metabase already running' >&2
    return 1
  echo 'Starting Metabase...' >&2
  # execute the Metabase jar and send output to our log
  local CMD="nohup java -jar \"$METABASE\" &> \"$LOGFILE\" & echo \$!"
  # load Metabase config before we start so our env vars are available
  # run our Metabase cmd as unprivileged user
  su -c "$CMD" $RUNAS > "$PIDFILE"
  echo 'Metabase started.' >&2

stop() {
  # ensure Metabase is running
  if [ ! -f "$PIDFILE" ] || ! kill -0 $(cat "$PIDFILE"); then
    echo 'Metabase not running' >&2
    return 1
  echo 'Stopping Metabase ...' >&2
  # send Metabase TERM signal
  kill -15 $(cat "$PIDFILE") && rm -f "$PIDFILE"
  echo 'Metabase stopped.' >&2

uninstall() {
  echo -n "Are you really sure you want to uninstall Metabase? That cannot be undone. [yes|No] "
  local SURE
  read SURE
  if [ "$SURE" = "yes" ]; then
    rm -f "$PIDFILE"
    rm -f "$METABASE_CONFIG"
    # keep logfile around
    echo "Notice: log file is not be removed: '$LOGFILE'" >&2
    update-rc.d -f metabase remove
    rm -fv "$0"

case "$1" in
    echo "Usage: $0 {start|stop|restart|uninstall}"

Environment Variables for Metabase

Environment variables provide a good way to customize and configure your Metabase instance on your server. On Debian systems, services typically expect to have accompanying configs inside etc/default/<service-name>.

The Metabase config file

Create your /etc/default/metabase environment config file and open it in your editor:

$ sudo touch /etc/default/metabase
$ sudo <your-editor> /etc/default/metabase

In /etc/default/metabase, replace configurable items (they look like <some-var-name>) with values sensible for your system. Some Metabase configs have available options, some of which are shown below, separated by | symbols:

# /etc/default/metabase
export MB_PASSWORD_COMPLEXITY=<weak|normal|strong>
export MB_JETTY_HOST=<>
export MB_JETTY_PORT=<12345>
export MB_DB_TYPE=<postgres|mysql|h2>
export MB_DB_DBNAME=<your_metabase_db_name>
export MB_DB_PORT=<5432>
export MB_DB_USER=<your_metabase_db_user>
export MB_DB_PASS=<ssshhhh>
export MB_DB_HOST=<localhost>
export MB_EMOJI_IN_LOGS=<true|false>
# any other env vars you want available to Metabase

Final Steps

The best part of setting up Metabase as a service on a Debian-based system is to be confident it will start up at every system boot. We only have a few more quick steps to finish registering our service and having Metabase up and running.

Ensure your database is ready

If you’re running postgres or some other database, you need to ensure you’ve already followed the instructions for your database system to create a database for Metabase, as well as a user that can access that database. These values should match what you’ve set in your Metabase config for the MB_DB_TYPE, MB_DB_DBNAME, MB_DB_USER, and MB_DB_PASS environment variables. If you don’t have your database properly configured, Metabase won’t be able to start.

Ensure nginx is setup to proxy requests to Metabase

Getting into too much detail about configuring nginx is well outside the scope of this guide, but here’s a quick nginx.conf file that will get you up and running.

Note: The nginx.conf below assumes you are accepting incoming traffic on port 80 and want to proxy requests to Metabase, and that your Metabase instance is configured to run on localhost at port 3000. There are several proxy directives you may care about, so you should check those out further in the Official nginx docs.

# sample nginx.conf
# proxy requests to Metabase instance
server {
  listen 80;
  listen [::]:80;
  location / {

Register your Metabase service

Now, it’s time to register our Metabase service with systemd so it will start up at system boot. We’ll also ensure our log file is created and owned by the unprivileged user our service runs the metabase.jar as.

# ensure our metabase script is executable
$ sudo chmod +x /etc/init.d/metabase

# create the log file we declared in /etc/init.d/metabase
$ sudo touch /var/log/metabase.log

# ensure unprivileged deploy user owns log (or it won't be able to write)
$ sudo chown <your_deploy_user>:<your_deploy_user> /var/log/metabase.log

# add to default services
$ sudo update-rc.d metabase defaults

That’s it!

Now, whenever you need to start, stop, or restart Metabase, all you need to do is:

$ sudo service metabase start
$ sudo service metabase stop
$ sudo service metabase restart