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Generic Study Capture Framework
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Generic Study Capture Framework

WAR files

We have the most recent builds available for download as war files which can be deployed on an application container (e.g. Apache Tomcat).

War file Build Environment Build Status Source Config Location
GSCF production Build Status github logo ~/.gscf/ ?
Metabolomics Module production Build Status github logo ~/.metabolomicsModule/ ?
SAM Module production Build Status github logo ~/.dbxp/ ?
GSCF CI continious integration Build Status github logo ~/.gscf/ ?

Note: each project / environment requires a specific configuration file.


In this guide we will assume you use Linux as a hosting platform. While you will be able to run GSCF on Windows, using Linux is preferable. This guide is written with Debian GNU/Linux (or Ubuntu) as a hosting platform. As Linux distributions differ other distributions may require minor changes in setup, but following this guide you should be able to get things running on other distributions as well.


The tutorial is based on a number of assumptions:

  • you have root access to the server
  • we will set up a gscf test instance on on IP (
  • a DNS record is available for
  • our database will be named 'mytestdb' with username 'mydbuser' and password 'mydbpassword'
  • we will have one administrator user (user 'admin', password 'adminpw')
  • we will have one default user (user 'user', password 'userpw')


Before we can set up the server, the following requirements should be met:

  • Apache Tomcat ≥ 6.x.x
  • Apache Webserver ≥ 2.x (+mod_proxy, +mod_rewrite)
  • PostgreSQL database server ≥ 8.4
  • Active internet connection (with change of code other options are to install a local instance of BioPortal or remove the link to BioPortal)

Installation is quick and easy:

apt-get install tomcat6 postgresql-8.4 apache2 libapache2-mod-proxy-html libapache2-mod-jk

Set Up the Database

su to user postgres and create the database:

Note: you may have to use double quotes (") rather than single quotes (').

root@nmcdsp:~# su - postgres
postgres@nmcdsp:~$ psql
Welcome to psql 8.3.14, the PostgreSQL interactive terminal.

Type:  \copyright for distribution terms
       \h for help with SQL commands
       \? for help with psql commands
       \g or terminate with semicolon to execute query
       \q to quit

postgres=# create database 'gscf-www';
postgres=# create user gscfuser password 'mydbpassword';
postgres=# grant all privileges on database 'gscf-www' to gscfuser;
postgres=# alter database 'gscf-www' owner to gscfuser;
postgres=# \l
           List of databases
    Name     |     Owner     | Encoding 
 gscf-www    | gscfuser      | UTF8
 postgres    | postgres      | UTF8
 template0   | postgres      | UTF8
 template1   | postgres      | UTF8
(16 rows)

postgres=# \q
postgres@nmcdsp:~$ exit

Set up the application configuration

As of GSCF 0.8.3 a setup wizard is included which will create a configuration file for you (/path/to/homedir/.gscf/ However, to run this wizard, you need a working instance, so it might be more convenient to write the configuration yourself. If you start the application, you will see exactly at which location it is looking for a configuration file. It is probably /usr/share/tomcat6/.gscf/ You can use it to specify the database connection, for example as follows:

## Server URL ##
gscf.issueURL= # In case you have your own fork, please change the Issue URL to fork issues


## SpringSecurity E-Mail Settings  ##

## Module Configuration ##
# modules.sam.url=
# modules.metabolomics.url=
# modules.metagenomics.url=

## Default Application Users ##

## Override Application Title ##
application.title=Phenotype Database

## Use Shibboleth Authentication? ##

## Set Upload Directory For Study Attached Files (/tmp By Default) ##

Don't forget to change the default passwords to something more secure!

Create a .grails directory

Grails uses a cache folder, which should be created if the tomcat user cannot create it

root@nmcdsp:~# mkdir -p /usr/share/tomcat6/.grails;chown tomcat6.tomcat6 /usr/share/tomcat6/.grails;chmod -R gou+rwx /usr/share/tomcat6/.grails

Install GSCF

Download and install the latest WAR from the section above, and deploy it on your application container (e.g. Apache Tomcat).

Start GSCF

You should now be able to start tomcat and run the GSCF application:

root@nmcdsp:~# /etc/init.d/tomcat6 start
Starting Tomcat servlet engine: tomcat6.

Set Up Apache to proxy / rewrite request

As tomcat is running (by default) on 8080, it is not very professional to have your application run on Instead is preferable. Also it is convenient to be able to add load balancing functionality in case you expect high load. Apache can solve these issues.

First, make sure Apache loads all modules we require:

root@nmcdsp:~# cd /etc/apache2/mods-enabled/
root@nmcdsp:/etc/apache2/mods-enabled# ln -s ../mods-available/proxy* .
root@nmcdsp:/etc/apache2/mods-enabled# ln -s ../mods-available/rewrite.load .

Then create a new virtual host configuration for and edit it:

root@nmcdsp:/etc/apache2/mods-enabled# cd /etc/apache2/sites-available/
root@nmcdsp:/etc/apache2/sites-available# nano mysite.com_gscf-test.conf

Paste the following content into the virtual host configuration:

<VirtualHost *:80>

    ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/gscf-test-error.log
    CustomLog /var/log/apache2/gscf-test-access.log combined

    <IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
        RewriteEngine on

                # keep listening for the serveralias, but redirect to
                # servername instead to make sure only one user session
                # is created (tomcat will create one user session per
                # domain which may lead to two (or more) usersessions
                # depending on the number of serveraliases)
                # see gscf ticket #321
        RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^$ [NC]
        RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,L]

        # rewrite the /gscf-a.b.c-environment/ part of the url                
        RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^$ [NC]
        RewriteRule ^/gscf/(.*)$ /$1 [L,PT,NC,NE]

    <IfModule mod_proxy.c>
        <Proxy *>
            Order deny,allow
            Allow from all

        ProxyStatus On
        ProxyPass / balancer://gscf-cluster/gscf/ stickysession=JSESSIONID|jsessionid nofailover=On
        ProxyPassReverse / balancer://gscf-cluster/gscf/
        ProxyPassReverseCookiePath /gscf /

                <Location />
                        SetOutputFilter proxy-html
                        ProxyHTMLDoctype XHTML Legacy
                        ProxyHTMLURLMap /gscf/ /

        <Proxy balancer://gscf-cluster>
            BalancerMember ajp://localhost:8009

and press CTRL-X (and Y) to save

Now enable this virtual host configuration:

root@nmcdsp:/etc/apache2# cd /etc/apache2/sites-enabled
root@nmcdsp:/etc/apache2/sites-enabled# ln -s ../sites-available/mysite.com_gscf-test.conf  

And reload apache to use the newly created virtual host configuration:

root@nmcdsp:/etc/apache2/sites-enabled# /etc/init.d/apache2 reload

Your site should now be up and running and listening on (and server alias


If you, at some point in the future, require more nodes serving GSCF you can change the virtual host configuration above to include multiple BalancerMembers in the balancer configuration. For example, you could set up one Apache Webserver to act as a loadbalancer to a number of tomcat servers running in a DMZ:

        <Proxy balancer://gscf-cluster>
            BalancerMember ajp://
            BalancerMember ajp://
            BalancerMember ajp://
            BalancerMember ajp://

Caveats: GSCF has not yet been tested in such an environment. Other things to keep in mind when moving towards loadbalancing:

  • the tomcat sessions need to be synchronized as well as shared storage (gfs seems best equiped), unless a client stays on the same node during the duration of his session
  • probably one PostgreSQL database can manager all members, however when load becomes too high one might also introduce one or more PostgreSQL servers. Possible read/write and read only database servers. This however required changes in the codebase to support such features.

Running the source

The project is developed using the Grails Framework, so you either need an IDE that supports Grails (we use Intellij) or run it in your terminal. In either case you need to download install Grails (version 2.2.0 at the time of writing).


Running in your terminal

When you have successfully installed the Grails web application framework, you should be able to run Grails in your terminal:

grails version

If grails is installed successfully, you can clone the project to your machine and run the project:

clone and run

When the application is running, you should be able to access it at http://localhost:8080/gscf

Running in your IDE

Most of the developers on this project favor Intellij over Eclipse, as we feel it integrates best with Groovy & Grails. Running GSCF in Intellij is as easy as configuring Grails and running the Application.


1. making sure the grails distribution is configured

module settings 1

module settings 2

2. make sure the Groovy & Grails plugins are intalled


3. configuring the run

run config 1

run config 2

The VM Options in this screenshot are:

-Xms1048m -Xmx1048m -XX:PermSize=1048m -XX:MaxPermSize=2048m -XX:MaxHeapFreeRatio=70 -XX:MaxGCPauseMillis=10 -XX:+UseConcMarkSweepGC -XX:+CMSClassUnloadingEnabled -javaagent:/Users/jeroen/libs/grails-2.2.0/lib/org.springsource.springloaded/springloaded-core/jars/springloaded-core-1.1.1.jar -Xverify:none

Where the latter two (-javaagent:… -Xverify:none) can be omitted as they used to resolve a specific dynamic reloading issue in Intellij 12 which was solved in the latest Intellij builds

4. running the application



Copyright 2009 Phenotype Foundation & Netherlands Metabolomics Centre

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.


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