Different ways & strategies to build and deploy Node.js for Production

ganesh mani
9 min readJan 24, 2022

Ever wondered what are all the different ways to build and deploy your Node.js application for production?. If you’re a backend developer or Node.js developer, Knowing how to build and deploy your Node.js application in production helps you in many ways. For example, it can improve your profile value or give you a different perspective on building applications or even your product.

Let me ask you something. How do you usually build and deploy your application?

If your answer is ‘PM2’. I recommend you to read this article till the end. I was in the same stage where I thought PM2 was the only way to deploy Node.js applications. But, then I realized there are several advanced ways to deploy the Node.js application. We will cover a few of them in this article. Let’s start with different ways to build and deploy Nodejs in production.

PM2 Deployment

Before we start with more advanced deployment strategies, we will see the Pm2 deployment along with test coverages. In that way, it helps you to understand the entire flow of the strategy.

Here’s a source code for the Node.js application: Nodejs API. You can follow up along with the tutorial.

To create the configuration for Pm2, run the init command,

It creates a configuration ecosystem.config.js for pm2 deployment. Change it to the following config,

1module.exports \= {

2 apps : \[{

3 name: "app",

4 script: "./server.js",

5 instances: "max",

6 env: {

7 NODE\_ENV: "development",

8 },

9 env\_production: {

10 NODE\_ENV: "production",

11 }

12 }\]

13}

After that, you need to change the script in package.json to run the application via pm2.

1"start": "pm2-runtime start ecosystem.config.js --env production",

Since we are using Heroku, Create a new app either via Heroku CLI or dashboard.

Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 9.56.10 AM.png

An important thing to note here is, we need to test suits before merging the change to the main branch, i.e., the Continous Integration process(CI). Fortunately, Heroku provides a CI pipeline as an add-on.

Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 9.58.40 AM.png

Once you create an application in Heroku, Go to settings ⇒ Connect to Github and select the repository. Make sure to select Wait for CI to pass before deploy. It's important because we are deploying the application to the production environment.

Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 10.01.00 AM.png

Now, it’s time to configure the CI pipeline for the application. Go to Pipeline and connect to the Github repository.

Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 10.13.31 AM.png

Once you connect the GitHub Repository, you need to configure app.json to run tests on this pipeline. It configures whether we need any add-ons such as test databases or caching for test suits. You need to configure them. Also, make sure you enable Heroku CI.

Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 10.14.13 AM.png

add app.json with the following configuration,

1{

2 "environments": {

3 "test": {

4 "addons":\[

5 "Heroku-PostgreSQL:in-dyno"

6 \]

7 }

8 }

9 }

After that, create a pull request and merge the changes to the main branch. Heroku CI will run the test cases and deploy them to production.

Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 10.19.31 AM.png

Docker Container Deployment

Let’s see how to deploy the Node.js application by containerizing it along with CI, CD pipeline. There are different ways to deploy docker containers to the production environment. For example, you can deploy to AWS on-premise or use managed services like AWS ECS to deploy and manage containers or use Hosting services like DigitalOcean, Heroku.

Here we are going to use Heroku and GitHub Actions to deploy docker containers to production. We will see how to deploy to AWS ECS in upcoming articles.

If you’re new to docker/containerization world as Nodejs developer, I recommend you to checkout this article first.

First and foremost, we need a Dockerfile for the application. create Dockerfile and add the following configuration.

1FROM node:14\-alpine

2WORKDIR /usr/src/app

3COPY package.json ./

4COPY . /usr/src/app/

5RUN npm install \-\-production

6USER node

7EXPOSE 80

8

9CMD \["node","index.js"\]

To run containers for development, we can use docker-compose that works well while developing an application.

Here’s a docker-compose-yml for development purposes,

1version: "3.6"

2services:

3 web:

4 build:

5 context: .

6 environment:

7 DATABASE\_URL: postgres://postgres:postgres@postgres:5432/postgres

8 depends\_on:

9 \- postgres

10 ports:

11 \- '8080:8080'

12 postgres:

13 image: postgres

14 restart: always

15 environment:

16 POSTGRES\_PASSWORD: postgres

17 ports:

18 \- '5432:5432'

19 volumes:

20 \- todo\-db:/var/lib/postgresql/data

21

22volumes:

23 todo\-db:

Make sure you add .dockerignore to avoid committing unnecessary files into the docker container.

1\*\*/node\_modules/

2\*\*/.git

3\*\*/README.md

4\*\*/LICENSE

5\*\*/.vscode

6\*\*/npm\-debug.log

7\*\*/coverage

8\*\*/.env

9\*\*/.editorconfig

10\*\*/.aws

11\*\*/dist

For Development

To run your application in the local machine, you can use the docker-compose up command that deploys the containers locally.

Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 1.11.37 PM.png

For Production

Deploying docker containers to production is not straightforward, like running the command docker-compose up. Technically, experts don't recommend running docker compose on production in AWS or any other cloud providers. Instead, you need to push the images to container registry like AWS Container Registry, DigitalOcean Container Registry, Heroku Container Registry.

We will deploy our application to Heroku by pushing the image to the Heroku container registry using Github Actions.

If you’re new to GitHub Actions, check out this great tutorial on GitHub Actions from TechWorld with Nana

create a file .github/workflows/deploy.yml and add the following configuration.

1

2name: Deploy container to Heroku Server in Production

3

4

5on:

6

7 push:

8 branches: \[ docker\-aws \]

9 pull\_request:

10 branches: \[ docker\-aws \]

11

12

13 workflow\_dispatch:

14

15

16jobs:

17

18 build:

19

20 runs-on: ubuntu\-latest

21

22

23 steps:

24 \- name: Checkout Repo

25 uses: actions/checkout@v2

26 with:

27 ref : docker\-aws

28

29 \- name: Build, Push and Release a Docker container to Heroku

30 uses: gonuit/heroku\-docker\-deploy@v1.3.3

31 with:

32 email: ${{ secrets.HEROKU\_EMAIL }}

33 heroku\_api\_key: ${{ secrets.HEROKU\_API\_KEY }}

34 heroku\_app\_name: ${{ secrets.HEROKU\_APP\_NAME }}

35 dockerfile\_directory: ./

36 dockerfile\_name: Dockerfile

37 docker\_options: "--no-cache"

38 process\_type: web

Let’s break down the config file. on hook defines the trigger point for the action. In our case, we need to run the GitHub Action when someone pushes or creates a pull request to docker-aws branch here.

1on:

2

3 push:

4 branches: \[ docker\-aws \]

5 pull\_request:

6 branches: \[ docker\-aws \]

7

8

9 workflow\_dispatch:

jobs define the job that we need to run when there is a code push or merging pull requests. An interesting thing about GitHub Actions is that it contains many predefined actions that we can import into our config to use. Likewise, Here we have actions/checkout@v2 action to check out the branch in the server.

1steps:

2 \- name: Checkout Repo

3 uses: actions/checkout@v2

4 with:

5 ref : docker\-aws

Finally, we have gonuit/heroku-docker-deploy@v1.3.3 action to build, push and release docker container to Heroku.

1\- name: Build, Push and Release a Docker container to Heroku

2 uses: gonuit/heroku\-docker\-deploy@v1.3.3

3 with:

4 email: ${{ secrets.HEROKU\_EMAIL }}

5 heroku\_api\_key: ${{ secrets.HEROKU\_API\_KEY }}

6 heroku\_app\_name: ${{ secrets.HEROKU\_APP\_NAME }}

7 dockerfile\_directory: ./

8 dockerfile\_name: Dockerfile

9 docker\_options: "--no-cache"

10 process\_type: web

Once you configure it in your application, you can see the job running in GitHub Actions when you create and merge a PR.

Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 5.41.38 PM.png

Note: Make sure to set up secrets in GitHub Repo.

Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 5.44.58 PM.png

Kubernetes Deployment

So far, we have seen deploying Nodejs application using Pm2, Docker container. Now, we are going to see the enhanced version of Container Deployment. We are still going to deploy the docker container but in a different way.

When deploying Containers by ourselves to the server, We need to consider and manage several aspects. For example, How does the container scale up or scale down based on the traffic?

Orchestrating containers is a tedious task when we do it manually. To solve this problem, we have solutions like Kubernetes. So let’s see how to deploy Nodejs applications using Docker and Kubernetes.

Note: If you’re new to Kubernetes, Checkout this article that is specifically for Nodejs devs. Kubernetes for Nodejs developers

TLDR, To deploy Nodejs application via Kubernetes, we need Configurations for Deployment and Services. Deployment is to build containers; Services define the traffic's load balance across a different replica of containers. There are different types of services in Kubernetes.

If it’s a database, we need another configuration to persist the data in the container. It’s called PersistentVolumeClaim.

Application

create a directory infra and add app-depl.yml . Firstly, create Deployment configuration for Application.

1apiVersion: apps/v1

2kind: Deployment

3metadata:

4 name: node\-app

5spec:

6 replicas: 1

7 selector:

8 matchLabels:

9 app: node\-app

10 template:

11 metadata:

12 labels:

13 app: node\-app

14 spec:

15 containers:

16 \- name: node\-app

17 image: ganeshmani009/node\-deployment\-web

18 resources:

19 limits:

20 memory: "128Mi"

21 cpu: "500m"

22 ports:

23 \- containerPort: 8080

24 env:

25 \- name: DATABASE\_URL

26 value: postgres://postgres:postgres@postgres:5432/postgres

27 imagePullPolicy: Always
Kubernetes_Config.png

Database in Kubernetes

Create pg-depl.yml and add the following configuration.

1apiVersion: v1

2kind: PersistentVolumeClaim

3metadata:

4 name: pg\-claim

5spec:

6 resources:

7 requests:

8 storage: 3Gi

9 accessModes:

10 \- ReadWriteOnce

11\---

12apiVersion: v1

13kind: Service

14metadata:

15 name: postgres

16spec:

17 selector:

18 app: postgres

19 ports:

20 \- port: 5432

21 targetPort: 5432

22\---

23apiVersion: apps/v1

24kind: Deployment

25metadata:

26 name: postgres

27spec:

28 selector:

29 matchLabels:

30 app: postgres

31 template:

32 metadata:

33 labels:

34 app: postgres

35 spec:

36 containers:

37 \- name: postgres

38 image: postgres:13.4\-alpine

39 resources:

40 limits:

41 memory: "128Mi"

42 cpu: "500m"

43 ports:

44 \- containerPort: 5432

45 env:

46 \- name: POSTGRES\_PASSWORD

47 value: postgres

48 volumeMounts:

49 \- mountPath: /data/db

50 name: storage

51 volumes:

52 \- name: storage

53 persistentVolumeClaim:

54 claimName: pg\-claim

One of the major differences between Application config and database configuration is PersistentVolumeClaim. It binds the database data inside Kubernetes. So that, even if there is no container running, it will persist the data.

1apiVersion: v1

2kind: PersistentVolumeClaim

3metadata:

4 name: pg\-claim

5spec:

6 resources:

7 requests:

8 storage: 3Gi

9 accessModes:

10 \- ReadWriteOnce

To test our application deployment in a local machine, you can use Minikube to create and run the Kubernetes cluster. First, Minikube creates a single-node Kubernetes cluster running in a virtual machine.

Note: Minikube is only intended for testing purposes, not for production. Make sure your install kubectl and Minikube.

Once you install minikube, you can create a cluster using the command,

To deploy the application locally, you need to go to the root directory of your application and run the kubectl command,

1kubectl apply \-f <Directory name of config \- Here's its infra\>
Screenshot 2021-09-18 at 6.21.32 PM.png

Here’s the complete source code

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