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Fast deployment using Capistrano, RVM and more

March 20th, 2012

There is so much confusion around deploying applications using RVM, I went down and verified. The process was quite straight forward, but I found few points that could be improved.

So all my experiments were done using fresh rails app with one model, you can find sources here: https://github.com/mpapis/ad

My goal was to be able to install rails app on server without complicated recipes and doing much on server.

So the boring part first, setup server:

  1. I’m assuming your domain (DNS) is configured and points to the server
  2. I’m assuming you have nginx up and running, most distributions have own instructions for it, but the process should be rather easy like apt-get install nginx
  3. To keep good security levels we assume one user is created per application, I used this command useradd --comment "AD - Example Rails App" -s /bin/bash -m -U ad but you might need other command depending on the system, do not forget to generate and exchange SSH keys
  4. Then I had to create nginx configuration for my site /etc/nginx/sites-available/ad.niczsoft.com`` the code bellow
  5. And finally link the configuration ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/ad.niczsoft.com /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/ad.niczsoft.com, do not forget to restart nginx
server {
  listen 80;
  server_name ad.niczsoft.com;
  access_log /var/log/nginx/ad.niczsoft.com.access.log;
  error_log /var/log/nginx/ad.niczsoft.com.error.log;
  location / {
    proxy_pass http://unix:/home/ad/app/shared/pids/unicorn.socket;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
    proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
    proxy_set_header Host $http_host;  # this is required for HTTPS (another server section):  # proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto https;  }

Server is at this point ready and trying to proxy incoming connections to our application. As mentioned above I have minimal rails application, so locally I have installed capistrano and generated basic setup with capify . and replaced config/deploy.rb with this https://github.com/mpapis/ad/blob/master/config/deploy.rb

We need also few gems to be added to Gemfile and then bundle installed:

group :development do
  gem 'capistrano'
  gem 'capistrano-unicorn'
  gem 'capistrano-file_db'

but feel free to check the whole file: https://github.com/mpapis/ad/blob/master/Gemfile

On the list is one new gem I have created to simplify deployments capistrano-file_db. It’s minimalistic gem to support deployment of file based databases (defaults to sqlite3).

I have reused also existing gem capistrano-unicorn – this one was not so straight and needed minimal hacking, but I was able to get it running in few minutes, I will be fixing the problems I found shortly, hopefully my changes get merged to master soon.

Lets go through the config/deploy.rb, the first section is pretty standard and reflects most of the configuration we did for server:

set :application, "ad"

set :deploy_to, "/home/#{application}/app"
set :user, "#{application}"
set :use_sudo, false
set :scm, :git
set :repository, "git://github.com/mpapis/ad.git"

The fun starts later, first we set ruby version to our current local selected ruby.

set :rvm_ruby_string, ENV['GEM_HOME'].gsub(/.*\//,"")

Next we tell rvm to check for remote installation in user home – as by default it checks system installation.

set :rvm_type, :user

Here we instruct rvm to install head version remotely, this line can get removed after 1.11.0 gets out, it will be defaulting back to stable.

set :rvm_install_type, :head # before rvm 1.11.0 gets released

We tell bundler to omit development dependencies, which of course are our capistrano libraries.

set :bundle_without, [:development]

And finally we instruct unicorn plugin about the proper pid path, unfortunately it was not the only place we needed to setup it, check https://github.com/mpapis/ad/blob/master/config/unicorn/production.rb for more details:

set :unicorn_pid, "#{shared_path}/pids/unicorn.pid"

That’s almost it, now lets tell capistrano where the deploy, and to always do migrations:

server "niczsoft.com", :app, :web, :db, :primary => true

before 'deploy:restart', 'deploy:migrate'

This two steps are important, they tell capistrano to install rvm and ruby on server, it will also create application gemset if used, it will use rvm_ruby_string, so make sure to set it to something useful like `rvm current`:

before 'deploy:setup', 'rvm:install_rvm'
before 'deploy:setup', 'rvm:install_ruby'

And on the end all the capistrano plugins we want to use:

require "rvm/capistrano"
require "bundler/capistrano"
require "capistrano-unicorn"
require "capistrano-file_db"
load 'deploy/assets'

For the deploy/assets to work we have gem 'therubyracer' in Gemfile.

That’s all, let deploy our application, first prepare server

cap deploy:setup

cap deploy:cold

this will take some time so grab a tee/coffee.

After server is prepared we can deploy application after every commit to repository:

cap deploy

And it’s the end of the journey, it takes a lot longer to write this tutorial then to just do the deployment, doing it second time try to fit in 10 minutes !

You can get more details on RVM / Capistrano integration in the freshly updated documentation page: http://beginrescueend.com/integration/capistrano/ also worth reading is the new project files not requiring trusting: http://beginrescueend.com/workflow/projects/#ruby-versions

  1. April 1st, 2012 at 08:59 | #1

    Hello Michal,

    Thanks for this tutorial, but it runs not on our systems. Can you also help us tu solve this problem.
    I opend an newstackoverflow, and worked with your tutorial. But the System doesn’t run.
    Thanks a lot
    amarradi on stackoverflow

  2. March 22nd, 2012 at 08:33 | #2

    @Tanel, that’s interesting, what exactly problems have you experienced, did you reported those errors to https://github.com/wayneeseguin/rvm/issues ?

    A lot of reported problems is fixed within day max two, you can have a look on issues for other projects, pending for now about 5 months with not a single word from author.

    Some people, when confronted with a problem, think “I know, I’ll remove RVM.” Now they have two problems.

  3. Tanel Suurhans
    March 22nd, 2012 at 08:14 | #3

    I would strongly advise against using RVM in production. It causes more problems than its worth (all kinds of path issues with sudo and/or monit etc).

  4. March 22nd, 2012 at 06:24 | #4

    It’s a scripting issue, I’m updating all the code to use:


    which is more realible way to detect current “ruby@gemset” – and also faster

  5. March 22nd, 2012 at 05:46 | #5

    After using set :rvm_ruby_string, `rvm current` I got this message

    RVM is not a function, selecting rubies with ‘rvm use …’ will not work.

    even if my function tests pass:

    ~/Projects/my/project (master) $ type rvm | head -1
    rvm is a function

    Why’s that?

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