Setup: Azure, Ubuntu 13.10, Node.js, Express.js

In my last post, I covered how you would setup a Virtual Box virtual machine on a Windows host for a Ubuntu 13.10 client, running as a web server with Node.js.

This post will take it to the next level: the cloud. Microsoft’s Azure cloud specifically. We will spin up a virtual machine in Azure with an Ubuntu image. From what I’ve seen, the Azure team has put a lot of effort into their Ubuntu images in the gallery. They’re pretty nice.

The next step will be to setup an SSH connection using Putty. Putty tends to be the most popular way to connect to remote servers that only have a command line. It’s not very exciting from user interface perspective, but, these are web servers, not gaming machines.

After the Putty install, certificate key generation, and connection to the server, the rest will be the usual install with some additional information I learned to make the process a bit better. Specifically, I’ll focus on setting up Express.js on top of Node.js. Express.js is a server side MVC framework that runs on top of Node.js and makes handling requests just a little bit easier.

Okay, on with the walk through.

The Azure Portal part

Log into your Azure Portal using your Windows Live Login ID.
On the left navigation of the Azure portal, click the Virtual Machines.
azure-virtual-machines

Then in the bottom left, there will be a “+New” button. Click that to begin creating your new virtual machine.
Pick through the choices like in this image:
azure-virtual-machine-gallery

Choose the Ubuntu 13.10:
azure-virtual-machine-gallery-ubuntu

This will take you the first server setup page. Before you can fill this page out though, you need a very important thing: An Azure Compatible Key
So, open a new browser, and download a program that generates SSL keys.

If you want to know how to get an SSL cert for your Windows Azure account, please follow the instructions here:

http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/documentation/articles/linux-use-ssh-key/

It can be a pain, but eventually you’ll end up with a .pem file that you enter on the Azure VM page.

Fill out the rest of the information: server name, size (small), username, password along with your .pem cert file.
This takes you to the second screen of the VM setup, where you can choose your DNS name, storage account, and regional affinity.
Choose a region closest to you or your client physically

The final screen lets you configure your End Points. You want a web server and you want to control it through Putty, so you need three: HTTP, HTTPS, and SSH. Just select them in the drop down and Azure does the work for you:
azure-virtual-machine-endpoints

Create the server and watch it spin for a few minutes. Now that part is done. Next we will setup Putty. If you are a Windows Developer, you may never have used a Telnet or SSH client before. You may feel like you’ve gone back in history 20,000 years to witness the awesome power of a server without a user interface. And you may be surprised to know that this is exactly why Unix admins made jokes behind your back. Well, now it’s time to put that behind you.

The Putty part

Okay, so the first thing you need is not putty, it’s the puttygen program. It can be downloaded here: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/download.html.
You might be thinking, why is that URL not something like www.putty.com or some more legit sounding domain. Suffice to say, the developer doesn’t care.

On that page, look for the binaries section and download puttygen and putty
puttygen-download

The Ubuntu part

Okay, so you’ve got your VM, you’ve installed and configured Putty, and you’re connected to the VM. Here’s the command line steps to get a minimal install setup:


sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y python-software-properties python g++ make
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:chris-lea/node.js
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install g++ curl libssl-dev apache2-utils
sudo apt-get install git-core
sudo apt-get install nodejs
sudo npm install express
sudo nano package.json

Copy these lines into your window, then hit CTRL-X, Y, Enter. This file sets up the dependencies for the project. In this case, we’re just including express. After this, when we do the sudo npm install, that command will run through the package.json file and install any libraries under the dependencies part. If you have them mistyped… well it won’t work.


{
  "name": "a-test-app-no-spaces",
  "description": "spaces are okay here",
  "version": "0.0.1",
  "private": true,
  "dependencies": {
    "express": "3.x"
  }
}

sudo nano server.js


var path   =   require("path");
var fs    =  require("fs");
var http  =  require("http");
var express  =  require("express");
var app  =  express();

//capture logs in the console
app.use(express.logger("dev"));

//serve static files - blank in the quotes means server.js is in the same folder as your HTML files.
app.use(express.static(__dirname + ''));

//404 error
app.use(function(req, res, next) {
  res.send(404, "file not found");
});

//start server
app.listen(80);
console.log("listening on port 80");

sudo npm install
sudo node server.js

So, after all this, you can open a browser to the domain name of your server, and you should see the 404 error message, since you have no HTML files:
azure-express-web-server

And if you are watching your Putty session, you should see the activity logged by Express.js like this:
azure-putty-express

And there you have it.
So now, we’ve covered how to setup this web server in both Virtual Box and Windows Azure.
Thanks for checking in.

3 comments


  • […] why, now let’s focus on the how-to. If you followed my last blog, you’ve got a Virtual Machine in the Azure Cloud running Ubuntu 13.10. So what we’re going to do now […]

    03/15/2014
  • Riko

    How do you get the node app to start automatically each time the Azure VM reboots? I haven’t been able to get pm2 startup scripts working in an Azure VM.

    01/04/2015
    • boss

      Riko, you need to use something like UpStart which turns the Node.js application into a daemon in unix (like a service in windows).
      Here’s one tutorial:
      https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-write-a-linux-daemon-with-node-js-on-a-vps
      If you look for other solutions, make sure you sort by most recent date.
      Also, don’t use Forever. It is an NPM module, so it only survives instance crashes of Node.js, not a VPN reboot.
      TBH-I think we have all had trouble with cloud reboots, b/c they aren’t necessarily the same as normal reboots.

      01/04/2015

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