Ease up development with Phusion Passenger
Created by Floor Drees, @floordrees
There’s an app server for that
Make sure you followed the Push Your App to GitHub guide before you continue.
What follows is a guide to eases up developing your app (you know, the adding functionality and then checking if it actually works), with Passenger. The Ruby on Rails framework provides a builtin server tool, which you can access with the
rails server command. The “rails server” is not an application server by itself, but just a small wrapper that launches your application in an application server. People do not use “rails server” in production (where other people can access and use your app). They use an application server such as Passenger.
Passenger is an open source web application server. It handles HTTP requests, manages processes and resources, and enables administration, monitoring and problem diagnosis. For big shot developers there’s an Enterprise Edition as well.
Preparing your app
Install the Passenger gem
Open your app’s Gemfile and add “passenger”:
By adding Passenger to your Gemfile,
rails server will launch Passenger instead of Puma.
You get virtual bonus points from the Phusion Passenger team for deleting the following lines (if present at all in your Gemfile):
bundle install to update your gem bundle.
The text in your terminal should say something like this:
Nginx and Apache are web servers. They provide HTTP transaction handling and serve static files. Application servers make it possible for Ruby apps to speak HTTP. Ruby apps (and frameworks like Rails) can’t do that by themselves. In a typical production stack, one would use Nginx or Apache as the web server, Passenger as application server, and Capistrano as release automation tool. Passenger integrates with Nginx or Apache and manages the application and its resources.
Sometimes you will need to specify the gem’s version:
gem "passenger", ">= 5.0.25", require: "phusion_passenger/rack_handler"
Let’s check if that worked
Run the Passenger server with the following command:
Passenger is serving your app on http://0.0.0.0:3000/.
Try and use your app a bit and then run
bundle exec passenger-status to check your activity. Big (friendly, promised!) brother is watching you.
There are two ways to stop the server. The first is by pressing Ctrl-C in the terminal. The second way is by running
passenger stop in a new terminal window:
When you switch back to the first terminal, you should see that Passenger has indeed stopped.
Passenger restarts processes that crash, load balances traffic between processes and scales processes up and down in order to handle more traffic or to conserve resources. All this is handled automatically, without you having to specify anything in your code! It might not make too much sense right now, but your future developer you will thank us.
For future reference you can use the
passenger-config restart-app command to restart your application. This is more convenient than stopping and starting Passenger, which requires two commands.
Passenger also supports the magic file
tmp/always_restart.txt. With this file, Passenger will restart your application after every request. This way you do not have to invoke the restart command often.
Activate this mechanism by creating the file:
Deactivate this mechanism by removing the file:
Sometimes the carrierwave gem causes trouble. Adding
require 'carrierwave/orm/activerecord' to the
environment.rb file will often do the trick.
Deploying your app
Hosting your app
Before you select your host(ing infrastructure) and follow the guide to put your app online, let’s commit the changes we’ve made:
You can also choose to follow the Heroku guide from here on.
passenger --help command in your terminal to browse all available commands and their functionality. Most commands (like
passenger start) have many ‘sub-commands’. For instance: run
passenger start --help to see all the add-ons for the ‘start’ command.
Lost? Phusion Passenger has extensive documentation, including beginner’s guides: Passenger Guide
Knee-deep? Crawl through Passenger’s Troubleshooting guide with your coach.
Want to learn more? View more guides!