Easily deploy new versions of websites that run using NGINX.
Last updated 2 years ago by saibotsivad .
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$ cnpm install spin-nginx 
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Easily deploy new versions of websites that run using NGINX.

The gist of it is that instead of typing a bunch of commands, you can type spin-nginx deploy mysite.com and it'll deploy the updates site with zero-downtime, with pre-deploy testing built in.


This is a mildly opinionated utility, so here's some explanation of the opinions:

load balancer

Use NGINX as a middle-man proxy, kind of like a load balancer. This means you might run several server applications on one computer, and NGINX distributes incoming requests to those applications.

nginx opinions

Each application is responsible for it's own NGINX configuration. Each site is different, and I don't know enough about NGINX to try enforcing opinions about how to use it.

The only enforced opinion is that each site has an individual NGINX config file placed in one collective folder.

Note: The default NGINX install in Ubuntu puts a folder in /usr/local/etc/nginx/sites-enabled and then the main NGINX config imports *.conf from that folder. This seems like a good idea.

apps are given the ports they should use

When you launch a web app, you'll almost always need to listen on some port to handle requests. NGINX listens on port 80 and hands requests to your web app over some other port.

When your app launches, it tells spin-nginx how many ports it needs, and spin-nginx will register those ports for that app.

In this way, you can very easily deploy even hundreds of apps on one box, and not need to worry about mapping ports to apps.

use psy to run apps

If you run a web service, you'll have to deal with the main process possibly crashing. In those cases you will want something which automatically restarts your service, and this project has decided to use psy.

However, this is an opinion I am not too confident on, so if it can be made configurable it will be, eventually.

toggling between deployed versions using spins

If you have an API running and you want to deploy a new version, in the general ideal case you don't want to shut down the existing version prior to starting and making active the new version.

Ideally you'd want to do something like this, which gives you true zero-downtime for deploying, and is what spin-nginx does:

  1. start up the new API, independent of the currently deployed version
  2. poke at the new API to make sure it's running
  3. use the magic of NGINX to switch incoming requests to the new API
  4. shut down the old API (spin-nginx doesn't do this step)

This approach means that, at any time during the rollout, you can either stop or roll back very easily.

Of course, sometimes you'll need a full shutdown before deploying a new version, like if you need to run database update scripts prior to starting the new version. But you should really strive to find ways to make this general flow work.


Although there's an API you can interact with programmatically, you'll probably want to install it globally:

npm install -g spin-nginx

settings file

When you run spin-nginx you'll need to pass in the path to a JSON file which holds your personal configuration details. Normally it looks like this:

spin-nginx --settings=/path/to/settings.json [actions]

What you will probably want to do is add an alias so that you don't have to do that each time. E.g. add this to your ~/.profile or ~/.bashrc file:

alias spin="spin-nginx --settings=/path/to/settings.json"

Now you can run spin [actions] instead, and your configuration file will be referenced correctly.

configure it

Run this:

spin-nginx setup

It'll prompt you for the things you'll need to decide:

minimum/maximum port number

This is the range (inclusive) of ports that your apps can use.

E.g. if you had the range 4000 to 5000 and each app reserved 1 port, you could run 1000 apps at the same time.

The range of ports that you reserve must not be used by other apps. This isn't usually too difficult if you run all your apps through spin-nginx, but if you run other apps you'll need to be careful with that.

git clone folder

When an app is deployed, spin-nginx will run git clone to get the latest version. You'll probably want to have a folder like /var/spin-nginx or something that will hold the deployed application files.

nginx folder

When a site is deployed, the NGINX config file gets generated and copied out to a single folder. Each config file is given a name based on the registered app name.

It is recommended that you make a sub-folder dedicated to sites managed by spin-nginx, and make your root NGINX config file import *.conf from that folder.

register a site

You add named sites which are pointed at a git repo. Run it like this:

spin-nginx register [app name]


spin-nginx register myapp

TODO: Pushing commits to branches is not currently supported.

When you register a site, you'll need to give it a unique name--the domain of the site usually works well. You'll also need to tell it the three branches it will use.

The git repo will need a package.json at the root, and spin-nginx will run certain commands in that folder in a sequential order.

Here's how the three branches work (TODO: not yet):

  1. Modify and add commits to the master branch.
  2. Deploy the fermion spin.
  3. After the spin is deployed, a commit is pushed up to the fermion branch (you can name it whatever you want) with the deployment details.

This means you will have two branches representing the history of the app as deployed.

E.g. you can look at your repository fermion branch history for deploy commits, and be able to know at what time and what actual code was deployed.

Note: The supported approach is that you have two branches dedicated only to deployment. You should not push any commits to those branches, they act as a deployment history record.


Right now you have to specify which spin you want deployed. This might change in the future.

spin-nginx deploy [app name] [spin]


spin-nginx deploy myapp fermion

The deployment process follows these steps:

1) shut down selected spin (uses psy)

The selected spin is shut down.

(Note: if fermion is deployed to production, you do not want to run deploy fermion, because this will shut down the production server. TODO: should be able to add a safety check.)

2) blow away selected spin folder

The cloned repo for that spin is completely removed.

3) clone the repo from master branch

The repo is cloned into a folder which is named based on the registered app name and spin.

4) npm install

5) npm test

6) npm run build

The test and build are always run. If you don't have them in your package.json this will be a failure, so you will need to at least add something like:

"build": "echo \"no build\""

7) start that spin (uses psy and npm run start)

The app is started with psy, calling npm run start and setting the registered ports as environment variables. (See the demo app for an example of how this might be used.)

8) make sure the server is running (npm run isup)

When running isup, the ports are passed in as an environment variable as well. (A lot like the npm run start approach.)

9) build the NGINX conf file (npm run nginx)

You will almost always want to generate an NGINX config file for your app. The ports are passed in as environment variables here. Check out the demo app for an example of how you can do this easily.

10) backup the NGINX conf file

The existing NGINX conf file is copied into the repo folder under the name .rollback-${name}.conf so that you can roll back deployed versions very easily.

11) test and reload NGINX

Finally, the commands are run: nginx -t which verifies that the generated NGINX config file is valid, and nginx -s reload which does the zero-downtime reload of NGINX.


Try it out with the demo app that I put together.

First run the setup:

$ spin-nginx setup --settings=settings.json

# Configuring new spinx setup...
# Enter the minimum port number (default 4000): 4000
# Enter the maximum port number (default 5000): 5000
# Enter the folder name where `git clone` happens: /tmp
# Enter the folder where nginx.conf files should go: /usr/local/etc/nginx/sites-enabled
# Done!

Then register, using the demo app git url:

$ spin-nginx register myapp --settings=settings.json

# Registering a new site...
# Enter the URL to the repo (used in `git clone ${url}`): https://github.com/tobiaslabs/simple-crud-demo.git
# Name of production branch (default master): master
# Name of boson branch (default boson): boson
# Name of fermion branch (default fermion): fermion
# Registering site as myapp

Then deploy:

$ spin-nginx deploy myapp fermion --settings=settings.json

# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.455Z] shutting down myapp:fermion
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.457Z] clearing out old files
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.458Z] cloning the repo
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.459Z] running install
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.459Z] running: test
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.459Z] running: build
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.460Z] running: start
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.460Z] running: isup
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.461Z] running: nginx
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.461Z] make copy of existing nginx.conf
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.461Z] exec: cp -f /usr/local/etc/nginx/sites-enabled/myapp.conf /tmp/.rollback-myapp.conf
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.469Z] deploying the new nginx conf
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.469Z] exec: cp /tmp/myapp-fermion/nginx.conf /usr/local/etc/nginx/sites-enabled/myapp.conf
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.483Z] exec: nginx -t
# nginx: the configuration file /usr/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf syntax is ok
# nginx: configuration file /usr/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf test is successful
# [2016-05-09T02:50:22.533Z] exec: nginx -s reload
# nginx: reloaded
# Done deploying myapp with [4000]


Published and released under the Very Open License.


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