Aswin Mohan

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How to Deploy your Phoenix LiveView 1.6 app on Digital Ocean with Docker

One of my clients had a requirement that the LiveView app that I was building for them be hosted on Digital Ocean. I had never hosted an entire app on Digital Ocean, although I had experience with Spaces an S3 alternative from Digital Ocean. Turns out, with the new App Platform it is easy to wire up the github repo and deploy the app as a docker container.

This post outlines the steps required to host your existing Phoenix LiveView apps on the Digital Ocean App platform.

Setting up and Configuring Phoenix

Assuming you have a Phoenix 1.6 let's dockerize it and host it on the Digital Ocean App Platform. Phoenix 1.6 ships with a phx.gen.release mix task to generate the files to dockerize the app, run migrations and start the server.

0️⃣ Phoenix LiveView or Vanilla App

You should have an existing Phoenix 1.6 app. This guide works for both Vanilla and Liveview based app.

1️⃣ Dockerize the application

In the root directory of the project run mix phx.gen.release --docker which generates the required files to dockerize the app.

* creating rel/overlays/bin/server
* creating rel/overlays/bin/server.bat
* creating rel/overlays/bin/migrate
* creating rel/overlays/bin/migrate.bat
* creating lib/digital_ocean_deploy/release.ex
* creating Dockerfile
* creating .dockerignore
  • server : Starts the server in production
  • migrate : Runs the database migrations in production
  • release.ex : Once the application is compiled and built we won't have access to mix tasks on the server. This file includes code to performs migrations and rollbacks on the database without invoking mix. This function is called in the migrate file.
  • Dockerfile : Dockerfile to build and deploy the app as a container.
  • .dockerignore : Standard files to be ignored by docker.

2️⃣ Configure SSL connection to Database

DigitalOcean only allows encrypted SSL connection between the application and the database. Ecto supports SSL based connection , but it is disabled out of the box.

Open up runtime.exs. This file contains the runtime configuration of the language. Configuration here is not compiled into the release.

maybe_ipv6 = if System.get_env("ECTO_IPV6"), do: [:inet6], else: []

config :digital_ocean_deploy, DigitalOceanDeploy.Repo,
  ssl: true,
  url: database_url,
  pool_size: String.to_integer(System.get_env("POOL_SIZE") || "10"),
  socket_options: maybe_ipv6

Uncomment ssl: true. If you have socket_options: [:inet6] instead of the maybe_ipv6 shown here, you have to replace it with socket_options: [ ]. Doing so makes Ecto connect to the database through SSL.

Since connections to the database happen over SSL, we have to make sure SSL is started in the migrate function. In the release.ex file.

  defp load_app do

3️⃣ Run Migrations before Server start

In the current setup, we have to manually run the migration script after pushing any updates to the server. This is tedious, error prone and unneccessary. We will update the script to run the migration before every server start.

Replace the last line of Dockerfile.

USER nobody

CMD ["/app/bin/start"]

Create a start script in rel/overlays/bin/start to run the migration first and then start the server.

cd -P -- "$(dirname -- "$0")"
./migrate && ./server

Now make it executable with

chmod +x rel/overlays/bin/start

Setup Digital Ocean App

Now it's time to setup the server on Digital Ocean App platform. Unlike bare metal servers, Apps are managed by Digital Ocean akin to Heroku. We are going to create a new app that connects to our Github repo, builds our app and releases a new version on every update.

4️⃣ Create a Github or Gitlab repo and upload your code

Upload your code to Github or Gitab. We are going to connect this repo to Digital Ocean.

5️⃣ Create a new Digital Ocean App and deploy

Create a new app and link it to the repo we created in the last step.

  • Go to Digital Ocean and click Apps button from the Create dropdown.

    Create a new app by clicking on Create, Apps link
  • Connect Github or Gitlab where you have hosted the repo.Give Digital Ocean read access to the repo.

    Create a new app by clicking on Create, Apps link Create a new app by clicking on Create, Apps link
  • Set the branch which you want to build from. When building production apps, I create two apps. One to deploy from the develop branch for the staging environment, and master for production. Make sure Autodeploy is checked, so when you push to the repo the app gets rebuilt automatically.

    Create a new app by clicking on Create, Apps link
  • You can click the Edit Plan button to change the pricing of the instance. If you're building a test system, you can provision a smaller instance for $5.00. Click the Add Resource button to create a database.

    Create a new app by clicking on Create, Apps link
  • Remember the name that you give your database, we'll need that later. Create and Attach that database to our app.

    Create a new app by clicking on Create, Apps link
  • We can skip configuring the Environment for now. This will cause our first deployment to fail, but we'll fix it later. Click Next.

    Create a new app by clicking on Create, Apps link
  • You can change the region and the name of app here. Changing the name changes the free subdomain Digital Ocean gives you. It's best to host the app in the region closest to your users for best performance.

    Create a new app by clicking on Create, Apps link
  • Once you have confirmed the cost of the app, click Create Resource. Digital Ocean will then clone your repo and start building.

    Create a new app by clicking on Create, Apps link

6️⃣ Setup Environment

The first deployment of our app will fail since we haven't setup the Environment variables.

Go to the settings page and click on the server component. Also note the name of the database we have setup.

Settings page for the app

Scroll down to the Environment Variables section and click Edit

Settings page for the app

For a LiveView app to function properly we need three environment secrets that we need to provide.

  • SECRET_KEY_BASE : Used by Phoenix to sign your assets. Generate the value by running mix phx.gen.secret in the root of your project.
  • DATABASE_URL : Used by Phoenix to communicate with the database. Since we are provisioning a database with the app from Digital Ocean itself, we can connect it through Digital Ocean. In the values field add ${db.DATABASE_URL} replacing db with the name of your database.

Click Save and wait for the app to finish building.

Settings page for the app

Once the App has finished buildling, it will be deployed with a Digitial Ocean subdomain. You have to add that domain or your custom domain to the PHX_HOST variable.

Settings page for the app

Without adding this, your LiveView Websocket will not be connected. Adding a new variable will rebulid the site and redeploy it.

Wrapping Up

With Docker and managed platforms such as Digital Ocean it is really easy to deploy your Phoenix app to the cloud easily.

Production Tips

  • Upgrade Database to a Production version: Currently we are running a development database with no backups and standby nodes. Digital Ocean has managed Postgres databases.
  • Setup a Staging Environment: Create an identical app, but deploy it from the develop branch to have a staging environment. Keep master as the branch that holds the production code.

Happy Deploying.