Deploying a Full-Stack Web Application 🌳
Between lines of code and a website lies the world of DevOps: "Development Operations." Arguably, DevOps is the most overlooked—and challenging—parts of the software development lifecycle. Nevertheless, it is still an equally crucial process, and it involves everything from version control to build to deployment and scaling.
The DevOps cycle is not separate from the code: It is a part of the code. For jadeocr, we used Git for our version control system and GitHub as our remote repository and project management hub. The platform is where we keep track of issues and manage collaborating on code. We also use GitHub as part of our CI/CD pipeline to automatically build the website and server and make the changes live on the website.
Pushing code to the master branch of our GitHub repository triggers numerous GitHub workflows that comprise our CI/CD process. GitHub first sends a ping across the web—an HTTP POST request—to our server. After receiving the request from GitHub, a continuous deployment server written in Node.js—previously in Golang—quickly goes to work, pulling the latest code from the GitHub master branch and uses Docker Compose to build and start the application containers, which are isolated environments called in which application code can run. The server simply executes a series of shell commands after it receives a request at a particular API endpoint; from a technical perspective, therefore, this system is quite simple.
Afterward, a GitHub action builds the jadeocr-next client and the server into their respective Docker images and publishes them to the GitHub Container Registry. These containers solve the common issue of "it works on my machine" and make building, deploying, and scaling applications with Kubernetes relatively straightforward 1. Although I faced several (frustrating) hurdles while writing the initial configuration files for these Docker containers, managing them after the initial setup process has been a breeze.
Perhaps the most complex individual cog in this software development machine is Nginx (Engine-X) server and reverse proxy. Nginx is simply a web server, but it can also function as a reverse proxy to direct web traffic to its intended destination. We use Nginx in two places: in front of the website's static files and in front of the entire website.
Although each system is fairly simple on its own, the confluence of all these tools in a single pipeline creates many moving parts which are challenging—but fun—to manage. Perhaps such a DevOps system is overkill for such a small application, but it provides jadeocr-next with the ability to easily scale and avoid future errors. Most importantly, however, going through this DevOps journey has been a valuable and fulfilling experience for me—even if I do sometimes spend multiple days staring at a terminal window in confusion.
For now, we are running jadeocr-next on a virtual private server (VPS), but we do plan to deploy a Kubernetes cluster in the future.