How To Set Up a Node.js Application for Production on CentOS 7

By | July 22, 2015

Introduction

Node.js is an open source Javascript runtime environment for easily building server-side and networking applications. The platform runs on Linux, OS X, FreeBSD, and Windows, and its applications are written in JavaScript. Node.js applications can be run at the command line but we will teach you how to run them as a service, so they will automatically restart on reboot or failure, so you can use them in a production environment.

In this tutorial, we will cover setting up a production-ready Node.js environment that is composed of two CentOS 7 servers; one server will run Node.js applications managed by PM2, while the other will provide users with access to the application through an Nginx reverse proxy to the application server.

 

Prerequisites

This guide uses two CentOS 7 servers with private networking (in the same datacenter). We will refer to them by the following names:

  • app: The server where we will install Node.js runtime, your Node.js application, and PM2
  • web: The server where we will install the Nginx web server, which will act as a reverse proxy to your application. Users will access this server’s public IP address to get to your Node.js application.

It is possible to use a single server for this tutorial, but you will have to make a few changes along the way. Simply use the localhost IP address, i.e. 127.0.0.1, wherever the app server’s private IP address is used.

Here is a diagram of what your setup will be after following this tutorial:

Reverse Proxy to Node.js Application

Before you begin this guide, you should have a regular, non-root user with sudo privileges configured on both of your servers—this is the user that you should log in to your servers as.

Let’s get started by installing the Node.js runtime on the app server.

Install Node.js

We will build and install the latest stable release of Node.js, on the app server.

First, use yum to install the Node.js build dependencies:

  • sudo yum install gcc-c++ make

The next step is download the source code for the latest release of Node.js.

Go to the Node.js Downloads page and find the Source Code download link. Right-click it, and copy its link address to your clipboard.

Change to your home directory and download the Node.js source with wget. Paste the download link in place of the highlighted part:

  • cd ~
  • wget https://nodejs.org/dist/v0.12.5/node-v0.12.5.tar.gz

Now extract the tar archive you just downloaded with this command:

  • tar xvf node-v*

Change to the new directory that was created by extracting the archive:

  • cd node-v*

Configure and build Node.js with the following commands:

  • ./configure
  • make

This will take several minutes to complete. When it is finished, install Node.js with this command:

  • sudo make install

If you want to delete the Node.js source code that you downloaded, change to your home directory and use this rm command:

  • cd ~
  • rm -rf node-v*

The Node.js runtime is now installed. Let’s install NPM next.

Install NPM (Node Package Manager)

To have easy access to various Node packages, we’ll install nom.

To gain access to the EPEL repo, we can install the epel-release package with yum:

  • sudo yum install epel-release

With the EPEL repository installed, we can now use yum to install the npm package:

  • sudo yum install npm

Now that we have Node and npm installed, let’s write a basic Node.js application.

Create Node.js Application

Now we will create a Hello World application that simply returns “Hello World” to any HTTP requests. This is a sample application that will help you get your Node.js set up, which you can replace it with your own application–just make sure that you modify your application to listen on the appropriate IP addresses and ports.

Because we want our Node.js application to serve requests that come from our reverse proxy server, web, we will utilize our app server’s private network interface for inter-server communication. Look up your appserver’s private network address.

If you are using a DigitalOcean droplet as your server, you may look up the server’s private IP address through the Metadata service. On the app server, use the curl command to retrieve the IP address now:

  • curl -w “\n” http://169.254.169.254/metadata/v1/interfaces/private/0/ipv4/address

You will want to copy the output (the private IP address), as it will be used to configure our Node.js application.

Hello World Code

Next, create and open your Node.js application for editing. For this tutorial, we will use vi to edit a sample application called hello.js:

  • vi hello.js

Insert the following code into the file, and be sure to substitute the app server’s private IP address for both of highlighted APP_PRIVATE_IP_ADDRESS items. If you want to, you may also replace the highlighted port,8080, in both locations (be sure to use a non-admin port, i.e. 1024 or greater):

hello.js
var http = require('http');
http.createServer(function (req, res) {
  res.writeHead(200, {'Content-Type': 'text/plain'});
  res.end('Hello World\n');
}).listen(8080, 'APP_PRIVATE_IP_ADDRESS');
console.log('Server running at http://APP_PRIVATE_IP_ADDRESS:8080/');

Now save and exit.

This Node.js application simply listens on the specified IP address and port, and returns “Hello World” with a 200 HTTP success code. This means that the application is only reachable from servers on the same private network, such as our web server.

Test Application (Optional)

If you want to test if your application works, run this node command on the app server:

  • node hello.js

Note: Running a Node.js application in this manner will block additional commands until the application is killed by pressing CTRL+C.

In order to test the application, open another terminal session and connect to your web server. Because the web server is on the same private network, it should be able to reach the private IP address of the appserver using curl. Be sure to substitute in the app server’s private IP address forAPP_PRIVATE_IP_ADDRESS, and the port if you changed it:

  • curl http://APP_PRIVATE_IP_ADDRESS:8080

If you see the following output, the application is working properly and listening on the proper IP address and port:

Node Application Output:
Hello World

If you do not see the proper output, make sure that your Node.js application is running, and configured to listen on the proper IP address and port.

On the app server, be sure to kill the application (if you haven’t already) by pressing CTRL+C.

Install PM2

Now we will install PM2, which is a process manager for Node.js applications. PM2 provides an easy way to manage and daemonize applications (run them as a service).

We will use Node Packaged Modules (NPM), which is basically a package manager for Node modules that installs with Node.js, to install PM2 on our app server. Use this command to install PM2:

Manage Application with PM2

PM2 is simple and easy to use. We will cover a few basic uses of PM2.

Start Application

The first thing you will want to do is use the pm2 start command to run your application, hello.js, in the background:

  • pm2 start hello.js

This also adds your application to PM2’s process list, which is outputted every time you start an application:

Output:
┌──────────┬────┬──────┬───────┬────────┬─────────┬────────┬─────────────┬──────────┐
│ App name │ id │ mode │ pid   │ status │ restart │ uptime │ memory      │ watching │
├──────────┼────┼──────┼───────┼────────┼─────────┼────────┼─────────────┼──────────┤
│ hello    │ 0  │ fork │ 30099 │ online │ 0       │ 0s     │ 14.227 MB   │ disabled │
└──────────┴────┴──────┴───────┴────────┴─────────┴────────┴─────────────┴──────────┘

As you can see, PM2 automatically assigns an App name (based on the filename, without the .jsextension) and a PM2 id. PM2 also maintains other information, such as the PID of the process, its current status, and memory usage.

Applications that are running under PM2 will be restarted automatically if the application crashes or is killed, but an additional step needs to be taken to get the application to launch on system startup (boot or reboot). Luckily, PM2 provides an easy way to do this, the startup subcommand.

The startup subcommand generates and configures a startup script to launch PM2 and its managed processes on server boots. You must also specify the platform you are running on, which is centos, in our case:

  • pm2 startup centos

The last line of the resulting output will include a command (that must be run with superuser privileges) that you must run:

Output:
[PM2] You have to run this command as root. Execute the following command:
      sudo env PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/bin pm2 startup centos -u sammy

Run the command that was generated (similar to the highlighted output above) to set PM2 up to start on boot (use the command from your own output):

  • sudo env PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/bin pm2 startup centos -u sammy

Other PM2 Usage (Optional)

PM2 provides many subcommands that allow you to manage or look up information about your applications. Note that running pm2 without any arguments will display a help page, including example usage, that covers PM2 usage in more detail than this section of the tutorial.

Stop an application with this command (specify the PM2 App name or id):

  • pm2 stop example

Restart an application with this command (specify the PM2 App name or id):

  • pm2 restart example

The list of applications currently managed by PM2 can also be looked up with the list subcommand:

  • pm2 list

More information about a specific application can be found by using the info subcommand (specify the PM2 App name or id)::

  • pm2 info example

The PM2 process monitor can be pulled up with the monit subcommand. This displays the application status, CPU, and memory usage:

  • pm2 monit

Now that your Node.js application is running, and managed by PM2, let’s set up the reverse proxy.

Set Up Reverse Proxy Server

Now that your application is running, and listening on a private IP address, you need to set up a way for your users to access it. We will set up an Nginx web server as a reverse proxy for this purpose. This tutorial will set up an Nginx server from scratch. If you already have an Nginx server setup, you can just copy the location block into the server block of your choice (make sure the location does not conflict with any of your web server’s existing content).

On the web server, let’s install the epel-release package using yum:

  • sudo yum install epel-release

Then install Nginx:

  • sudo yum install nginx

Now open the Nginx configuration file for editing:

  • sudo vi /etc/nginx/nginx.conf

Find the line where location / is defined, within the default server block. It should look something like this:

nginx.conf excerpt — location / (before)
        location / {
        }

Replace it with the following code block and be sure to substitute your own domain name for theserver_name directive (or IP address if you don’t have a domain set up), and the app server private IP address for the APP_PRIVATE_IP_ADDRESS. Additionally, change the port (8080) if your application is set to listen on a different port:

/etc/nginx/nginx.conf excerpt — location / (after)
    location / {
        proxy_pass http://APP_PRIVATE_IP_ADDRESS:8080;
        proxy_http_version 1.1;
        proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
        proxy_set_header Connection 'upgrade';
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
        proxy_cache_bypass $http_upgrade;
    }

This configures the web server to respond to requests at its root. Assuming our server is available atexample.com, accessing http://example.com/ via a web browser would send the request to the application server’s private IP address on port 8080, which would be received and replied to by the Node.js application.

You can add additional location blocks to the same server block to provide access to other applications on the same web server. For example, if you were also running another Node.js application on the appserver on port 8081, you could add this location block to allow access to it viahttp://example.com/app2:

Nginx Configuration — Additional Locations
    location /app2 {
        proxy_pass http://APP_PRIVATE_IP_ADDRESS:8081;
        proxy_http_version 1.1;
        proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
        proxy_set_header Connection 'upgrade';
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
        proxy_cache_bypass $http_upgrade;
    }

Once you are done adding the location blocks for your applications, save and exit.

On the web server, restart Nginx and enable it to start on boot:

  • sudo systemctl restart nginx
  • sudo systemctl enable nginx

Assuming that your Node.js application is running, and your application and Nginx configurations are correct, you should be able to access your application via the reverse proxy of the web server. Try it out by accessing your web server’s URL (its public IP address or domain name).

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