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Rocket.chat on OpenShift 3

I’ve been on a tear recently getting various applications to run on the next-generation OpenShift Online preview. Yesterday I did some work with Node.JS and Gulp, and today I decided to give Rocket.chat a try, since we’re possibly going to use it as part of some cool demos.

Rocket.chat is self-described as “The Ultimate Open Source Web Chat Platform”. It’s 100% open source, and is built using Node.JS and Meteor, among other technologies. While the folks at Rocket.chat make a Docker image available, I generally don’t like to try to use them. They’re not usually built using best practices and require a lot of futzing to make work. They often use non-Red Hat friendly operating systems. Rocket.chat provides a downloadable tarball release. This, to the best of my understanding, is the “output” of using the Meteor build system. In looking at the installation instructions for Rocket.Chat on CentOS, it appeared that you could just run something like the following to get the requirements installed:

cd Rocket.Chat/programs/server
npm install

Then you simply export your environment variables and execute Node.JS with the application:

export PORT=3000
export ROOT_URL=http://your-host-name.com-as-accessed-from-internet:3000/
export MONGO_URL=mongodb://localhost:27017/rocketchat
node main.js

I’ve seen all of this stuff before. The requirements installation seems a lot like the normal assemble process with a slight change. I figured I would give our good friend source-to-image a try again.Yesterday’s article on Node.JS and Gulp talked about customized assemble scripts. Please visit that article for a quick refresher, and check out the source-to-image documentation, too.

Here’s how I walked through getting this app to run on OpenShift.

Make it Build

Since I was going to use source-to-image for this application, I needed a Git repository to build against. The tarball from Rocket.chat contains the release, so I simply put that into a GitHub repository: https://github.com/thoraxe/rocket-built

Since the Node.JS package installation required being in a different folder, I knew I had to customize the assemble script. You can find the whole assemble script here, but the relevant changes are just:

cd programs/server
npm install

I was able to fire up a build using the included OpenShift Node.JS 0.10 builder, and everything worked so far.

Make it Run

Not so fast. As I indicated in the introduction, Rocket.chat wants to be instantiated by executing Node.JS against the application file. However, the default run script for Node.JS uses this:

# Runs the nodejs application server. If the container is run in development mode,
# hot deploy and debugging are enabled.
run_node() {
  echo -e "Environment: \n\tDEV_MODE=${DEV_MODE}\n\tNODE_ENV=${NODE_ENV}\n\tDEBUG_PORT=${DEBUG_PORT}"
  if [ "$DEV_MODE" == true ]; then
    echo "Launching via nodemon..."
    exec nodemon --debug="$DEBUG_PORT"
  else
    echo "Launching via npm..."
    exec npm run -d $NPM_RUN
  fi
}

Just like how we overrode the assemble script by placing one in our repo, we can do the same with the run script, too. Here’s the entire script, but this is the relevant change to the function:

run_node() {
  echo -e "Environment: \n\tDEV_MODE=${DEV_MODE}\n\tNODE_ENV=${NODE_ENV}\n\tDEBUG_PORT=${DEBUG_PORT}"
  if [ "$DEV_MODE" == true ]; then
    echo "Launching via nodemon..."
    exec nodemon --debug="$DEBUG_PORT"
  else
    echo "Launching..."
    exec node main.js
  fi
}

This probably won’t work in the debug case, but I wasn’t trying to do that right now. We can fix that later!

Still Not Quite…

With the change to the run script, we now could get the application to run… sort of. If you look back in the original instructions, you see that Rocket.chat expects certain environment variables to be set. If they’re not, Rocket.chat will fail to start. Fortunately, OpenShift makes it easy to manage environment variables that get automatically injected into a container. Most of the variables are actually related to the database. I launched a MongoDB instance using the OpenShift UI, and then looked at the user, password and other variables that were auto generated for me.

Then, in the OpenShift UI, I was able to edit the Rocket.chat deployment and add the environment variables I needed. Yeah, I had to use a little YAML-fu to get things right. The other option would be to have deleted all of the Rocket.chat stuff, and then gone back and re-created the build and specified the desired environment variables from the beginning. The OpenShift UI team is constantly improving the user experience, and I fully expect to have better control over environment variables from the UI in an upcoming release.

Ready, Set, Chat!

Remember that you will need to provide the user and password in the environment variable that contains the database connection string. Once you’ve got all that set, your Rocket.chat instance should be up and running and usable!


  • yaniv zisano

    can you help me with the installation of rocket.chat on openshift?
    i dont know how to deploy rocket chat and and run it

  • @yanivzisano:disqus did you follow the instructions? Where did you get stuck? What have you tried?