How I deploy Haskell Code

Posted in: haskell, fp, devops.

How I deploy Haskell Code

Summary: I have recently switched to build my apps using an intermediate
Docker container and then simply drop the executable on the target machine.
This has worked remarkably well.

Deploying Haskell code seems to be a pretty hot topic nowadays. Chatting with people at the Haskell Exchange last October made clear everyone has his own approach to put Haskell code into production. At work an approach I used and worked decently was to use Ansible to build my project to an EC2 development machine, then dump an AMI (Amazon Machine Image) and reuse it across different environments. This had the advantage of making provisioning and rollback easy (at the end of the day you only need deploy a new AMI via the AWS’ EC2 API), but has the big snag of being quite slow if your development machine is a tiny instance or similar (which is typically the case for such kind of environments), as you need to perform a cabal/stack install remotely on the server.

Since switching to stack as my project builder/manager I have adopted a different approach which uses a mixture of old and new Unix tools and - although quite simple - it’s effective. It’s important to notice that this might not work for you if you want a technique which works on ALL the different Linux distros; this technique exploits FPComplete’s stack-build Docker image, which is based, to the best of my knowledge, on Ubuntu/Debian. Said that, I have been able to produce executables which worked on CentOS7 out of the box.

I should also add that the following techniques might be completely moot on Linux environments, where you should be using stack’s builtin docker feature to build your binaries. But being on Mac OS X, and considering the quirks of boot2docker, I was forced to find another solution. This is what I do these days:

Let’s break down the points in more detail.

Create stack-linux

The Build.plan looks like this:

FROM fpco/stack-build:lts-3.10

ADD .  /var/www/myproject
WORKDIR /var/www/myproject

CMD ["stack"]

I usually tend to invoke docker to tag this image to be my “builder”, like so:

docker build -t myproject-builder -f Build.plan .

Now “creating” stack-linux is as easy as writing the following bash script:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

# You might not need the following.
$({ boot2docker shellinit; } 2>/dev/null)

docker run --rm \
       -v $HOME/path/to/my/project/myproject-dist:/root/.local \
       -v $HOME/path/to/my/project/.stack-work:/var/www/myproject/.stack-work \
       -v $HOME/.stack:/root/.stack \
       myproject-builder:latest stack $@

The advantage here is that we are still writing in the host filesystem, but stack correctly installs the libraries in a separate folder:

➜  ~  ls /Users/adinapoli/work/myproject/.stack-work/install
x86_64-linux    x86_64-osx

Building/installing the project

At this point we are ready to call:

stack-linux install

And let it run for a while, depending on how many dependencies your projects has. At the end, you should have some linux binaries in the myproject-dist folder (have a look at the bash script we created for stack-linux). The good news is that future builds will read from your local .stack-work and will be much faster.

Compressing with UPX

If all went well we should have a bunch of linux binaries in your myproject-dist which are already usable on their own. I decided to go a step further (I work remotely and I live in an area with sub-par internet connection) and compress the executables, to minimise the upload time towards S3. upx is a great tool that “just works”: Use it on your linux binaries and watch the size shrink down! For my work project, which is a medium Haskell app composed of roughly 13K lines of code I was able to get the final size down to ~9MB. Not bad!

Uploading binaries & data files

Finally we can tie the knot and upload on S3. I tend to use the shelly library as my go-to tool for this kind of glue code:

release :: T.Text -> IO ()
release vr = shelly $ escaping False $ do
  -- If we are trying to release a version older than the current MyProject,
  -- we need to checkout the relevant tag.
  currentVersion <- liftIO extractCabalVersion
  when (currentVersion >= vr) $ do
    echo " * Older MyProject version required, checking out relevant git tag..."
    run_ "git" ["checkout", vr]

  let deployDir = "/var/www/myproject"
  run_ "./" [] -- just calls docker build as I have showed you.
  -- Find project specific files and upload them as well.
  (_, shareDir) <- T.breakOn "." . T.init <$> run "scripts/stack-linux" ["path", "--local-install-root"]
  dataFiles <- findDataFiles shareDir
  echo " * Compressing executable(s)..."
  let myExes = ["myexe1", "myexe2"] -- list here all the binaries you want to upload
  forM_ myExes $ \exe ->
    run_ "upx" ["myproject-dist/bin/" <> exe]

  echo " * Transferring compressed files to S3..."

  let releaseS3Prefix = "s3://my-s3-bucket/" <> vr
  run_ "aws" ["s3", "sync", dataFiles, releaseS3Prefix <> deployDir <> "/" <> dataFiles]

  forM_ myExes $ \exe -> do
    run_ "aws" ["s3", "cp", "myproject-dist/bin/" <> exe, releaseS3Prefix <> "/usr/bin/"]

  echo " * Done!"
    findDataFiles shareDir = T.init <$>
      run "ls" ["-d"
               , shareDir <> "share/*/*"
               , "|"
               , "grep"
               , "myproject-" <> vr]

We essentially did the steps I already explained, with this twist:

At this point your binaries (and config files) are on S3, properly versioned (I have used my project version here). Now rolling back it’s just a matter of transferring a couple of files over!

For completeness, this is an excerpt of a section of my Ansible scripts, which copies the files as we discussed:

- name: Install MyProject
  remote_user: service-runner
  sudo: no
  shell: aws s3 sync s3://my-s3-bucket/{{myproject_version}}/usr/bin/ /usr/local/bin/ &&
         aws s3 sync s3://my-s3-bucket/{{myproject_version}}/var/www/myproject/ /var/www/project/


Caveats and Elephants in the room


In this ocean full of DSLs, orchestrators and whatnot, I find this method simple and with these benefits:

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