Dokku is a “Docker powered mini-Heroku in around 100 lines of Bash”. It’s really awesome as it allows you to get your own application platform up and running under an hour! In writing this post and trying out Dokku, I used an existing Rails 4 application that is currently running on Heroku. Because the application adheres to most of the concepts from the 12 factor methodology, I didn’t have to change a single thing in the application to get it running on Dokku. If you find your application relies too much on server specifics, this might be a good time to take a look at the 12 factor methodology.
This post covers the issues I met when deploying an existing Rails 4.1 application using PostgreSQL to a server running Dokku.
You need a server with Dokku installed, I recommend following this guide. Alternatively, you can follow the steps on the Dokku wiki.
In order to get up and running fast, I recommend using the Dokku image provided by DigitalOcean. It’s dead easy to get going, and can easily run on a small droplet for $5 per month.
You can add a PostgreSQL container to your server by installing a Dokku plugin. Once you have followed the steps on the wiki, you’re almost ready to deploy your application.
Running the following commands on the server worked for me:
When you have linked you database with the application, a
DATABASE_URL is set
and Dokku will automatically change your Rails configuration on deploy to use that.
In order to install the
pg gem, you need to ensure you have the PostgreSQL
libraries installed. On Ubuntu you can install them with this command:
sudo apt-get install libpq-dev.
Preparing your Rails application
First you need to add your Dokku server as a git remote:
git remote add dokku dokku@<server>:<app-name>, replacing
app-name with your Dokku server and application name.
You need to add a
Procfile for Dokku to know how your application is started.
This is an example
Procfile for a Rails application using Unicorn:
Setting application configuration variables
I’m using Dokku to setup a staging environment, so I need the server to have
specific environment variables set. This is easily done on the server by
dokku config:set <app-name> rails_env=staging
Deploying to Dokku
You can now deploy your application via
git push dokku master. This should
look very familiar if you’ve used Heroku before.
Once your app is deployed, you can migrate the database by SSH’ing onto the
server and running
dokku run <app-name> bundle exec rake db:migrate.
By now you should have your app running on Dokku! The url is printed at the end of the deployment.
Dealing with memory issues on deploy
If you get an error like
cannot allocate memory when installing gems, you need
to either upgrade your server to have more memory, or create a swap drive. I
found creating a swap drive the easiest approach:
I hope this gave you a quick overview on how easy it is to get your own mini-Heroku running using Dokku. For more advanced setups I’d recommend looking at the documentation, and please share anything you find in the comments below.