Setting up a production rails server step-by-step

Posted by unixmonkey on December 27, 2007

Pushing your app to the real world with Rails can be a very daunting task to someone who is used to just uploading flat html or php files.

If you’ve never dealt with Apache, mod_rewrite, or proxy servers, prepare to spend a lot of time hammering out a solution. Worried about performance, or your need to scale out at a later date? Pick a solution that won’t leave you wondering if your site will be able to take a spike in traffic.

For Rails, there are lots of deployment strategies, some are tuned for compatibility with shared hosting (fastcgi), and some are built for speed and minimum configuration (Litespeed Nginx and Lighttpd), and some are built to leverage the strength and flexibility of stable and established server software (Apache+Mongrel).

If you want to scale, you’re going to need a load balancing proxy. The choices here are pound, pen, and apache’s mod_proxy_balancer.

An abundance of choice is a double-edged sword. Competition is good in any arena, but it makes it very hard for someone who hasn’t tried them all to choose one.

I’ve chosen to setup my Rails server using the Apache+Mongrel+mod_proxy_balancer combination.

For the operating system, I’ve chosen the newest Ubuntu 7.10 (Gusty) server. Ubuntu uses the Debian-style apt package management, but with more current packages than Debian stable, and is the current cool kid on the block for Linux systems. I have been using Ubuntu for years and can attest to its stability and cutting edge (but not bleeding edge) packages.

I’ve gone through and built a Rails server by hand before, but poorly documenting what I had done, and not securing it properly. When I stumbled upon Slicehost’s server setup articles, I knew I had found exactly what I needed to build a server configured like a pro, and all the documentation I should have written in the first place.

Here is the step-by-step setup for a production Rails server. I’ve tested this setup and can vouch for its awesomeness. I encourage you to make some changes specific to your setup where appropriate. You should be able to skip unneccesary stuff like php and virtual hosts if you don’t need them.

Ubunty Setup – part 1
Ubunty Setup – part 2
Myql and Rails
Apache and PHP
Apache Virtual Hosts
Vhosts and permissions
Apache Vhosts, Rails and Mongrels
Mongrel Clustering
Subversion intro
Setting up svnserve
Securing svnserve with ssh
Setting up Capistrano
Setting up Piston to manage plugins

As you can see, most of these are from Slicehost’s documentation articles. They also detail setup for several other major linux distributions and other deployment strategies like nginx. Major props to slicehost for putting such excellent documentation together.


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