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How to deploy BrowserID

This describes how to take the code here, put it on a server, and build a service like

So what are we deploying, anyway?

  • the browserid server - a node.js server which implements a web services api, stores a record of users, the email addresses they've verified, a bcrypted password, outstanding verification tokens, etc
  • the verifier - a stateless node.js server which does cryptographic verification of assertions. This thing is hosted on as a convenience, but people using browserid can choose to relocated it if they want to their own servers.
  • the website - the templates, css, and javascript that make up the visible part of
  • the javascript/HTML dialog & include library - this is include.js and the code that it includes, the bit that someone using browserid will include.


Software in use

This document assumes we're deploying on an Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS box, and using the following software:

  • nginx - frontend web server that handles static content and serves as a reverse proxy for node.js servers running on local host config: /etc/nginx/conf/nginx.conf

  • node.js - all non-static servers run with node. modules are installed using npm in /home/http/node_modules

  • monit - provides monitoring and automatic restarting of node.js servers when they go down (by accident or upon code publishing) config files are: /etc/monitrc, and /etc/monit.d/*. Also see the helper script that starts node servers: /etc/monit.d/start_node_server

  • gitolite - installed under the git user to provide multi-user ssh based git access. post-update hook handles updating code and restarting servers. see that here: /home/git/.gitolite/hooks/common/post-update

Permissions conventions

Permissions conventions:

  • nginx runs as user 'www-data'
  • node.js servers run as user 'www-data'
  • when git pushing, all publishing and restarting runs as user 'git'


1. gitolite!

This step is optional. gitlite turns a normal unix machine into a "git server". All that gitolite does is provide some utilities and the infrastructure required to make it possible for multiple users to authenticate to a particular user on the box using ssh keys for the purposes of updating code. While requiring a bit of setup, in practice this is a fabulously lightweight way to make the releases process sing.

Let's get started:

  1. create a "git" user: sudo adduser git
  2. install git if required: sudo apt-get install git-core
  3. become user git: sudo su -s /bin/bash git
  4. hop into your home directory: cd
  5. This.
  6. add a browserid repo. This..

At this point you've morphed your servers into git servers. Go ahead and add a remote to your local copy of the browserid repo and push to it: git remote add shortaliasforthenewvm git@myserver:browserid.git && git push --all shortaliasforthenewvm

Now you have a clone of your browserid repository that's trivial to update. You can use ssh keys with passphrases and ssh-agent if you are less of an optimist.

2. install node.js!

At present we're running node.js 0.4.10. Lastest along the 4 line should work:

  1. install dev libs and tools to build node: g++ & libssl-dev
  2. ./configure && make && sudo make install
  3. now install npm: git clone && cd npm && sudo make install
  4. intstall uglify-js, required to create production resources: npm install -g uglify-js

3. Install software prerequisites

Subsequent steps use different software which you might need to install.

  • curl - used to iniate http requests from the cmd line (to kick the browserid server)
  • java - used to minify css
  • mysql 5.1+ - the preferred persistence backend

4. Set up mysql

  1. ensure you can connect via TCP - localhost:3306 (like, make sure skip-networking is off in my.cnf)
  2. connect to the database as user root
  3. CREATE USER 'browserid'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'browserid';
  4. CREATE DATABASE browserid;
  5. GRANT CREATE, DELETE, INDEX, INSERT, LOCK TABLES, SELECT, UPDATE ON browserid.* TO 'browserid'@'localhost';

5. Set up post-update hook

This step is optional - if you want to manually update code you probably skipped step #1, you can skip this one as well. All you need to do is check out the code from github and run node.

Given we've now got a simple way to push updates to the server, and we've got npm and node running, let's get the software running! The task here is as a post-update hook (triggered by pushing changes to the server) to have the server update its code and restart the server.

To get this done, we'll create a "post-update hook" which will live on your server under the git user's directory:

First, do this to add a blank executable post-update hook.

Now, here's a full sample script that you can start with in that post update hook, annotated to help you follow along:


    # only run these commands if it's the browserid repo bein' pushed
    if [ "x$GL_REPO" == 'xbrowserid' ] ; then
        # create a temporary directory where we'll stage new code                                                                                                                        
        NEWCODE=`mktemp -d`
        echo "staging code to $NEWCODE"
        mkdir -p $NEWCODE
        git archive --format=tar dev | tar -x -C $NEWCODE
        echo "generating production resources"
        cd $NEWCODE/browserid && ./ && cd -
        # stop the servers
        curl -o --url http://localhost:62700/code_update > /dev/null 2>&1
        curl -o --url http://localhost:62800/code_update > /dev/null 2>&1
        # now move code into place, and keep a backup of the last code
        # that was in production in .old
        echo "moving updated code into place"
        rm -rf /home/browserid/code.old
        mv /home/browserid/code{,.old}
        mv $NEWCODE /home/browserid/code
        echo "fixing permissions"
        find /home/browserid/code -exec chgrp www-data {} \; > /dev/null 2>&1
        find /home/browserid/code -type d -exec chmod 0775 {} \; > /dev/null 2>&1
        find /home/browserid/code -type f -exec chmod ga+r {} \; > /dev/null 2>&1
        find /home/browserid/code -type f -perm /u+x -exec chmod g+x {} \; > /dev/null 2>&1
        echo "updating dependencies"
        ln -s /home/browserid/node_modules /home/browserid/code/node_modules
        cd /home/browserid/code && npm install && cd -

5. get node servers running

At this point, pushing code to gitolite will cause /home/browserid/code to be updated. Now we need to get the servers running! Manually we can verify that the servers will run. For the browser id server:

cd /home/browserid/code/browserid && sudo -u www-data ./run.js

And for the verifier:

cd /home/browserid/code/verifier && sudo -u www-data ./run.js

Now let's set up [monit] to restart the node.js servers:

  1. install monit: sudo apt-get install monit
  2. enable monit by editing /etc/default/monit
  3. configure monit. make /etc/monit/monitrc look like this:
set daemon 10
set logfile /var/log/monit.log
include /etc/monit.d/*
  1. Add a little utility script (chmod +x) to run the node servers at /etc/monit/start_node_server:
/usr/local/bin/node $1 > $(dirname $1)/error.log 2>&1 &
  1. create a file to run the verifier at /etc/monit.d/verifier:
check host verifier with address
    start program = "/etc/monit/start_node_server /home/browserid/code/verifier/run.js"
        as uid "www-data" and gid "www-data"
    stop program  = "/usr/bin/pkill -f '/usr/local/bin/node /home/browserid/code/verifier/run.js'"
    if failed port 62800 protocol HTTP
        request /__heartbeat__
        with timeout 10 seconds
        then restart
  1. create a file to run the browserid server at /etc/monit.d/browserid:
check host with address
    start program = "/etc/monit/start_node_server /home/browserid/code/browserid/run.js"
        as uid "www-data" and gid "www-data"
    stop program  = "/usr/bin/pkill -f '/usr/local/bin/node /home/browserid/code/browserid/run.js'"
    if failed port 62700 protocol HTTP
        request /__heartbeat__
        with timeout 10 seconds
        then restart
  1. verify servers are running! check /var/log/monit.log, curl ports 62700 and 62800, and verify servers are restarted at 10s if you kill em!

6. set up nginx!

At this point we've got automatic server restart, simple git based code publishing, and all of the software prerequisites installed on the box. The final bit of work is to set up nginx in such a way that it will properly proxy requests to the external interface to the proper node server:

  1. remove any other webservers that come with your vm (like apache)
  2. install nginx: sudo apt-get install nginx
  3. configure nginx, make /etc/nginx/nginx.conf look like this:
user www-data;
worker_processes  1;

error_log  /var/log/nginx/error.log;
pid        /var/run/;

events {
    worker_connections  1024;
    # multi_accept on;

http {
    include       /etc/nginx/mime.types;
    default_type  application/octet-stream;
    access_log    /var/log/nginx/access.log;
    sendfile        on;

    keepalive_timeout  65;
    tcp_nodelay        on;

    gzip  on;
    gzip_disable "MSIE [1-6]\.(?!.*SV1)";
    gzip_proxied any;
    gzip_types text/html application/json application/javascript text/css application/x-font-ttf application/atom+xml;

    include /etc/nginx/conf.d/*.conf;
    include /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/*;
  1. and how about configuring the webserver:
server {
    listen       80 default;

    # disallow external server restart.
    location = /code_update {

    # pass /verify invocations to the verifier
    location /verify {
        proxy_set_header  X-Real-IP  $remote_addr;

    # pass everything else the browserid server
    location / {
        proxy_set_header  X-Real-IP  $remote_addr;
  1. restart your webserver: `sudo /etc/init.d/nginx restart

6. set up log rotation

create a file as root at /etc/logrotate.d/browserid:

/home/browserid/var/log/browserid.log /home/browserid/var/log/browserid-metrics.json /home/browserid/var/log/verifier.log /home/browserid/var/log/verifier-metrics.json {
    rotate 30
    dateformat -%Y-%m-%d

Now your logfiles will be automatically rotated.

easy, right?

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