Saturday, 3 June 2017

A Top-Shelf Web Stack part 2 - Herokufication

In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we set up a neat little two-pronged web project that combined the power, type-safety and scalability of a Scala/Play Framework backend with the finely-tuned and highly-productive Create-React-App system on the front. This works exceptionally well for very rapid development on a single local workstation with automatic hot-reloading on both sides, but we're going to need to deploy this somewhere if we want anybody else to feel the awesomeness. Enter Heroku, long my PaaS of choice and still IMHO a very viable option over "raw" AWS if you need it live, yesterday.

The essentials of this process are covered well in the Rails-centric article that has been the inspiration for this series, but I'll whip through it here as there are a couple of changes to make it work with Play.

First, we drop a package.json into the project root, that describes the front-end packaging process to Heroku:
  "name": "build-client-on-heroku",
  "engines": {
    "node": "6.3.1"
  scripts": {
    "build": "cd client && npm install && npm run build && cd ..",
    "deploy": "cp -a client/build/. public/",
    "postinstall": "npm run build && npm run deploy && echo 'Done!'"

Next, we add a Heroku buildpack to the front of our Heroku build chain, to assemble the Node front-end prior to booting Play:
  % heroku buildpacks:add heroku/nodejs --index 1
  % heroku buildpacks 
=== myapp Buildpack URLs
1. heroku/nodejs
2. heroku/scala
And, as documented in the above-linked article, we set an NPM environment variable that will get react-scripts (which is declared as a devDependency by create-react-app) to be installed as needed:
  % heroku config:set NPM_CONFIG_PRODUCTION=false

We're almost there. But before you git push heroku master, there's one extra bit of configuration to perform to make Play serve up our React app as expected. You might have noticed the deploy step up there in that package.json where we copy the result of the NPM build into public. If we just leave everything as-is, we'll only be able to access the React front-end by using - which is almost certainly not what we want.
A couple of extra lines in conf/routes will fix this right up:

# Our backend routes (e.g. serving up JSON) come FIRST:
GET /dummy-json controllers.DummyController.dummyJson 

# Last of all, fall through to the React app
GET / "/public",file="index.html")
GET /*file"/public",file)
Because of the use of wildcards, order is very important here. Backend endpoints come first, then the / route which captures the age-old "index.html is the default page" web convention, and finally a catch-all that ensures all the other artefacts of the NPM bundling get served up by Play's Assets controller.

And there we have it! A Create-React-App+Play stack. The CRAP stack! Despite the unfortunate name, I hope this has been a useful and inspirational starting point to build something great with these amazing (and free) technologies.

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