Package your Node.js app for Cloud with Appsody

Chris Bailey
Jul 15, 2019 · 10 min read

The use of Appsody’s tools and provided Stacks greatly simplifies the steps and knowledge required to build “cloud packaged”, “cloud native” and “cloud functions” based applications.

Appsody’s nodejs Stack makes it easy to take any existing Node.js application and make it “cloud packaged”.

In the following post, you’ll see how to take a sample Node.js application, and package it into a best-practise container image using the Appsody CLI and the nodejsStack.

Pre-requisites

In order to follow this tutorial, you’ll need to install the Appsody CLI, which also requires you to have Docker installed, along with a Node.js application to cloud package.

Install the Appsody CLI
Before getting started, you’ll need to install the Appsody CLI.

1. Follow the Installing Appsody guide to install the CLI for your platform.

Create a sample application
Additionally, you’ll need a Node.js app to package. You can either use one you already have, or create an sample Express.js using the following steps:

1. Install the Express.js Application Generator:

npm install -g express-generator

2. Create a directory for your application:

mkdir nodejs-app
cd nodejs-app

3. Run the Express Application Generator to build a sample application:

express

4. Run your generated Express.js application:

npm install
npm start

5. Open your browser to see the application running: http://localhost:3000
This will display:

“Express” and “Welcome to Express” displayed in the browser window.
“Express” and “Welcome to Express” displayed in the browser window.
Express: Welcome to Express

6. Stop the Express.js application using Ctrl-C

Your sample application is now ready to use!

Enabling your application with the nodejs Appsody Stack

New Appsody based applications are created using appsody init <stack>, where the name of the stack is one of those listed when running appsody list. This both downloads the most recent copy of the Appsody Stack, and populates the project directory with a template that provides a basic project structure.

In order to enable an existing application with a stack, the same steps can be followed, but using the --no-template option to appsody init as a project structure is not required.

1. Enable the Node.js Application:

appsody init nodejs --no-template

This will print output similar to the following to the console:

Running appsody init…
Downloading nodejs template project from https://github.com/appsody/stacks/releases/download/0.2.0/incubator.nodejs.templates.simple.tar.gz
Download complete. Extracting files from nodejs.tar.gz
Setting up the development environment
Running command: docker[pull appsody/nodejs:0.2]
Running command: docker[run — rm — entrypoint /bin/bash appsody/nodejs:0.2 -c find /project -type f -name .appsody-init.sh]
Successfully initialized Appsody project

As well as downloading the latest version of the Appsody Stack (in this case version 0.2), this has added a .appsody-config.yaml file to the project, which configures the versions of the Stack that the project will use.

At this point, your application has been enabled, which means you can now run , test and debug your application in a continuous containerized environment provided by the Appsody Stack, to build it into a optimized container image, and to deploy it to Kubernetes.

Developing your application with Appsody

Now that your application has been enabled, you can use the run, test and debugcommands to the Appsody CLI to work with your application in a continuous containerized environment provided by the Appsody Stack.

Working with your application in Run mode

Appsody’s run mode provides a continuous development environment, where changes that are saved to your project cause your application to be restarted. This is similar to the experience you get from tool like nodemon, but this occurs inside the containerised environment. The only requirement is that your applications’ package.json file needs to include a start script.

The following steps show you how that works for your application:

  1. Open your application in your favourite IDE
    Alternatively you can open a second terminal window so that you can edit the application files.
appsody run

3. Open your browser to see the application running: http://localhost:3000
This will display:

“Express” and “Welcome to Express” displayed in the browser window.
“Express” and “Welcome to Express” displayed in the browser window.

As appsody run provides a continuous development environment, any code changes you make will cause an automatic restart of the application.

4. Make a code change to your project that will be reflected in the browser:

a) Open views > index.jade

b) Change the file contents to:

extends layout

block content
h1= title
p Welcome to #{title}!!!!!!!

c) Save the file

5. Open your browser to see the application running: http://localhost:3000
This will display:

Express: Welcome to Express!!!!!!!

This provides a continuous, containerized development environment where you can almost instantly see any changes you make reflected in the application running in the browser.

Carrying out Performance Analysis of your application

As well as providing the development environment, both appsody run and appsody debug also injects a development-time only feature that adds a performance monitoring and profiling dashboard using the appmetrics-dash module, which enables you to do analysis of your application.

  1. Open the Performance dashboard: http://localhost:3000/appmetrics-dash/

This provides a display similar to the following, which provides data for:

  • HTTP request responsiveness and HTTP throughput
Performance Monitoring and Analysis Dashboard

2. Click on the Profiling tab to open the profiling view

3. Click on the “Hamburger Menu” (the three horizontal lines in the top left-hand corner” and select Enable Profiling

This starts to collect function profiling data from the application, and to visualize it using a flame graph, which providing a visualization of the stacks and functions that are using most CPU time.

Flame Graph generated from Performance Profiling Data

4. Click on the “Hamburger Menu”(the three horizontal lines in the top left hand corner” and select Disable Profiling

As well as providing performance monitoring and profiling, you can also trigger Heap Dumps and Node Reports through the menu,and see an overview of your application in the Summary tab.

5. Finally, stop the continuous `run` environment by either:

  • Using Ctrl-C in the terminal window where appsody run is executing

Working with your application in Debug mode

Appsody’s debug mode provides the same continuous development environment that you get with the run environment, with the addition of running the application in debug mode and providing the correct configuration to enable remote access from a local debugger.

The following steps show you how that works for your application:

  1. Open your application in your favourite IDE
    Alternatively you can open a second terminal window so that you can edit the application files.
apposody debug

3. Open your browser to see the application running: http://localhost:3000
This will display:

Express: Welcome to Express!!!!!!!

As appsody debug provides a continuous development environment, any code changes you make will cause an automatic restart of the application. It also sets up the container to allow remote access from a debugger.

4. Attach a debugger to your application
You can either used your favourite debugger for this, or use the one integrated into the Chrome Browser as follows:
a) Open the Chrome Browser
b) Enter chrome://inspect in the search window

chrome://inspect in the search bar

This will display a view similar to the following in the window:

Available targets to inspect with the Chrome Debugger

3. Select the inspect link for the application shown under Remote Target

This will then open a new panel containing the debugger, attached to your application running inside the continues containerized debug environment.

You can now debug as you would normally. Additionally, any code change that you make to the project through changes to its source code with automatically stop and restart your application (after which you will need to restart the debugger connection).

4. Finally, stop the continuous debug environment by either:

  • Using Ctrl-C in the terminal window where appsody debug is executing

Working with your application in Test mode

Appsody’s test mode makes it possible to run any tests that your application has inside the containerized environment. To use this capability, your application needs to be provides some tests, and your package.json file needs to include a test script that runs them.

The steps below show how that works for your application. As the sample application created from the Express Application Generate does not include any tests, you first need to add one.

1. Update your package.json file to add devDependencies for chai, mocha and request, and add a test script:

{
“name”: “test”,
“version”: “0.0.0”,
“private”: true,
“scripts”: {
“start”: “node ./bin/www”,
“test”: “mocha”
},
“dependencies”: {
“cookie-parser”: “~1.4.4”,
“debug”: “~2.6.9”,
“express”: “~4.16.1”,
“http-errors”: “~1.6.3”,
“jade”: “~1.11.0”,
“morgan”: “~1.9.1”
},
“devDependencies”: {
“chai”: “⁴.2.0”,
“mocha”: “~6.1.0”,
“request”: “².88.0”
}
}

2. Create a new test directory in your project:

mkdir test
cd test

3. Create a new test > test.js file containing:

const expect = require(‘chai’).expect;
const request = require(‘request’);
const app = require(‘../app’);
var http = require(‘http’);

const PORT = process.env.PORT || ‘3000’;
const server = app.listen(PORT);
const url = “http://localhost:" + PORT;

describe(“Node.js Stack”, function () {

// Testing / responds with 200 OK
describe(‘/ endpoint OK’, function () {
it(‘status’, function (done) {
request(url + ‘/’, function (error, response, body) {
expect(response.statusCode).to.equal(200);
done();
});
});
});
});

// Stop the server after testing
after(done => {
server.close(done);
});

4. Check that the tests are running locally:

npm install
npm test

This will respond with output similar to the following:

Node.js Stack
/ endpoint OK
GET / 200 309.872 ms — 170
✓ status (341ms)
1 passing (354ms)

5. Run the tests using the Appsody test mode:

appsody test

This will respond with output that includes the following:

[Container] > test@0.0.0 test /project/user-app
[Container] > mocha
[Container]
[Container]
[Container]
[Container] Node.js Stack
[Container] / endpoint OK
[Container] GET / 200 320.079 ms — 170
[Container] null
[Container] ✓ status (359ms)
[Container]
[Container]
[Container] 1 passing (375ms)

Note that, unlike run anddebug, test executes a single run of the tests rather than a continuous container.

Building your application with Appsody

Once you have reached a point that you would like to build a deployable container image for your application, you can do that using appsody build. This creates a production-optimized image that is built using the regular “node” Official Docker image from the Node.js community and then rebased on the communities “node-slim” image. The “node-slim” image is both significantly smaller that the regular “node” image, making it easier and faster to deploy to a cloud, and more secure because it does not include packages like compilers (which are required in the regular “node” image to allow you to use packages with native add-ons).

The steps below show how to build the container image for your application, and then run it locally using Docker:

1. Build the container image for your application:

appsody build

This builds a container image for your application, using the name of your project as the “tag” (which is the name of the folder in which is resides). The final line of the output gives the name of the image:

Built docker image nodejs-app

2. Run the container image using Docker:

docker run — rm -p 3000:3000 -i -t nodejs-app

This runs your container image, using the-p option to map port 3000 from the container to port 3000 on your machine, the -i option to run interactively (so you can use Ctrl-C to stop the container), the --rm option to remove the container when its stopped, and the -t option to run the container image with our “tag” of nodejs-app.

3. Open your browser to see the application running: http://localhost:3000

Note that the Performance Dashboard is not present, as it was injected as a development-only feature.

4. Finally, stop the container by using Ctrl-C in the terminal window where docker run is executing.

You now have a cloud packaged available in a container image that is ready to be deployed to any cloud that supports container images.

You can also use the appsody deploy command to deploy the image to any Kubernetes cluster.

Next Steps

This article covered how to take an existing Node.js application and make it “Cloud Packaged” using the nodejs Appsody Stack. Appsody also provides a higher level nodejs-express stack that additionally provides a pre-configured Express.js server that includes cloud-native capabilities such as liveness and readiness checks, along with metrics and observability.

You can see how to use that stack in the following two articles:

For more information on Appsody, join us on Slack, follow us on Twitter and star us on GitHub.

Appsody

Appsody (https://appsody.dev)

Chris Bailey

Written by

Appsody

Appsody

Appsody (https://appsody.dev) provides tools and capabilities to create, develop, build and deploy cloud-native applications.

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