CFML in the Cloud (Part 1)
April 9, 2013
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Deploying CFML, or ColdFusion applications in the “cloud” is a lot easier than you might think. I recently deployed my 5th customer on Amazon Web Services using their Elastic Beanstalk product and once you get the hang of what is going on, it is pretty easy.
For those of you who have never heard of Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk, it is a “cloud” product for developers. Essentially, it allows you to take a bundle of source code and upload it to a brand new server. You don’t have to setup the OS, configure a web server, worry about permissions, do backups or patches. The Elastic Beanstalk will even scale your server for you if you get a lot of traffic in a short amount of time. Best of all, Amazon gives developers 1 year worth of this service for free (you still have to pay for bandwidth and storage, but in most cases that is less than a dollar each month). Since this is a hands-off approach you are limited as to what OS or runtime tweaks you can make…
What you will need in order to Deploy a ColdFusion app in the cloud:
- An Amazon AWS account. You will need to tie a phone number and credit card to your account in order to sign up. You will get 1 year’s worth of service for free for one server.
- A working copy of Eclipse. I used the version that is bundled with ColdFusion Builder 2, but you can use any fairly modern version.
- A Modern CFML Server that can deploy as a WAR file. This includes Railo 3.2+, Adobe ColdFusion 8.x – 10.x (Enterprise edition only). I’ll dive into licensing concerns later. I’ve been using Railo 4.1.
- The AWS toolkit for Eclipse. More information about that is here.
- Apache Tomcat. I recommend Apache Tomcat 7.x. You will want to grab the “Core .ZIP” file.
- (Optional) Some sort of CFML editor. Again, I used CFB2. CFEclipse should work equally well.
Setting up your local environment:
- Install Eclipse, if you don’t already have a working copy. Install your CFML editor (or if you use ColdFusion Builder, simply use the Eclipse that comes with it).
- Make sure the following components are installed within Eclipse… If you don’t see them on the list when you choose the correct repository, then they are already installed. If you are using CFB, you will need to go to Help -> Install New Software -> and choose the Indigo Repository from the Work With… drop-down :
- Under Web, XML, Java EE and OSGi Enterprise Development
- Eclipse Java EE Developer Tools
- JST Server Adapters
- JST Server Adapters Extensions
- JST Server UI
- WST Server Adapters
- If you installed any new components, restart Eclipse.
- Install the Amazon Web Services Eclipse Toolkit
- Go to the Help -> Install New Software… Menu
- Click the Add… button next to the Work With drop-down. This will allow you to add a new repository
- Add the AWS Eclipse Toolkit repository with a location of : http://aws.amazon.com/eclipse
- Select all the available modules, EXCEPT the following :
- SimpleDB Management (This will require some modules that don’t install right)
- AWS SDK for Android (This will require the Android toolkit which we haven’t installed)
- Click install, and let Eclipse download, verify and install all the required components for AWS. Make sure to restart Eclipse after you finish.
- Open the AWS Management Perspective (Click the little plus sign next to the ColdFusion icon in the toolbar).
- Click the down arrow on the right side of the AWS Explorer view. Choose AWS account, then Configure AWS accounts.
- Setup your account credentials, and give an account name. These were provided to you during the initial setup, but there are also instructions on where to find it in the AWS management portal as well.
- Click Apply and OK.
- Take your copy of Tomcat you downloaded earlier, and unzip it somewhere where you can find it. C:\Tomcat\ works great, but it doesn’t really matter. You don’t need to install it, configure it or anything like that — the AWS toolkit will do this for you.
Setting up your new CFML project
- Switch back to the CFML perspective in Eclipse.
- In the Navigator, click on a blank area and choose New -> Project… (NOT ColdFusion Project!)
- Choose AWS -> AWS Java Web Project
- Give the project a name, Select your AWS account you setup earlier, and choose Basic Java Web Project
- A new CF project will be created with three folders :
- build — This will hold your AWS configuration. No need to touch this.
- src — If you plan on adding any additional Java source-code, this is where you will do it. Otherwise, nothing to see here.
- WebContent — this is your WebRoot. It comes pre-loaded with a .JSP file, a styles folder, images folder and a WEB-INF folder. Delete everything in this folder EXCEPT the WEB-INF.
- Download your CFML engine as a WAR file. I recommend Railo, which has a .WAR file you can grab right from their website : http://www.getrailo.org/index.cfm/download/. If you are using Adobe ColdFusion, you will need to grab and generate your .WAR file manually.
- Rename the .WAR file to .ZIP. Open this ZIP file with your favorite unarchiver.
- Copy the contents of this ZIP file and place it in the WebContent folder. If using the downloaded version of Railo, you will end up with some sample .CFML files and a WEB-INF directory. Don’t touch anything in the WEB-INF or META-INF directories, but the rest of the files can be deleted. Make sure to overwrite the web.xml file.
- You now have everything in place to start coding.
Testing and debugging your CFML application
- You will most likely want to test your application before you deploy to Amazon. That is why we unzipped TomCat earlier!
- Right click on your project in the Project Explorer, go to Run As -> Run On Server…
- Choose “Manually define a new server”
- Choose Apache -> Tomcat v7.0 Server, and choose localhost as the hostname. You will then want to choose “Configure Runtime Environments”
- Add a new Tomcat environment, pointing to the Tomcat installation directory to where you unzipped Tomcat.
- Chose Next to add your new project to the server (other known as a resource). Hit Finish. Tomcat and Railo should now start. You can watch it start by checking out the console view on the bottom of the screen.
- Within about a minute or so, you should see a new tab open up with the “Welcome to Railo” or “Welcome to CF” screen. You server is now running. You can check it out at http://localhost:8080/<projectname>.
- As you place and save files in the WebContent directory, those files will be “published” to your local Tomcat server. It sometimes takes a few seconds for them to be published. You can always check the status by looking at the “Servers” view (this is a different Servers view that is just for CF server — this would be the Java one, which is usually hidden by default in CF Builder).
- Do note, this environment should be exactly the same as what is published out to Amazon Web Services — except it will be deployed in the Default context — which means that you won’t have the project name in the url. You will have something like http://myproject.amazonwebservices.com/index.cfm instead of http://localhost:8080/myproject/index.cfm
Publishing to Amazon Web Services via Elastic Beanstalk
- So, you’ve got your environment setup, your project humming long locally, and you are ready to bring it to the web…
- Right click on your project, go to Run As -> On Server.
- Click on Manually Define a new Server, and choose “Amazon Web Services -> AWS Elastic Beanstalk for Tomcat 7”. Click Next.
- Fill out the Elastic Beanstalk configuration form. You will need to choose a region to launch the app at, an application name (this is used so you can identify your application), and an environment name (this becomes the prefix to the domain name that will be assigned to your application). For this example, the domain assigned to the app was http://appDomainName.elasticbeanstalk.com. Most likely you will point your own DNS entry to this.
- Click Next. This will allow you to choose which applications you want to deploy to the EC2 instance. You will only have one, so hit Finish.
- Your application will be packaged as a WAR file, uploaded to S3, a new EC2 machine will be created, a firewall, load balancer and your app will be deployed. This can take up to 10 minutes the first time. If you get an error message stating the server took to long to launch, don’t worry… It will launch. It does take a while to start up the first time, trust me.
- After the app has launched, you should see an Elastic Beanstalk configuration screen. This will allow you to tweak configuration settings, see the final URL, and much more. Check it out.
- Modify the Start timeout setting under Timeouts to something large like 600 sec, so you don’t see any errors while deploying incremental updates.
- Congratulations! Your CFML app is now on the web!
Check out Part 2 here. I covered updating your application, integrating it with a database, using the administration interface and a discussion about licensing concerns.