For a long time, I tried to find the most comfortable way to manage a server where I host something for myself, some kind of DevOps framework. And I think I found the best way so far.

Since most of the times things I want to host are useless and I often change my mind, there are several requirements for it:

  1. Easy to add/remove new components.

    Let’s say I created a website, and a couple of days later I added a DNS server on the same host, and then I went to Russia, so I also need to host VPN. Later I realize I don’t really need DNS server, so I want to remove it.

    Doing these things, I want to do only them. I don’t really want to fix website deployment while deploying VPN server, and accidentally remove VPN when stopping DNS server.

  2. No vendor lock.

    I want to remove, or start a new server with the same configuration on different hosting provider any time I want. Digital Ocean, AWS, Google Cloud, my old computer - whatever.

  3. Automate as much as possible.

    Deployment, https certificates for subdomains, restarting failed instances, etc. I don’t want to care about this at all.

In the beginning, I was setting up Nginx on the host and Let’s Encrypt certificates update. So to add or remove something new I had to change nginx configuration for a hole server, what could lead to crashing of all components because they are exposed to the world via same Nginx. Also, I need new subdomain certs, because Let’s encrypt didn’t have wildcards back then.

My first attempt to automate it was this. Ansible roles for each component (usually dockerized) and Makefile to execute them. The main problem was that I had my own CI server running (for some reason). That’s why if it crashes, you should go and set it up back manually, what is always a pain in the ass and takes some time. So a after couple of crashes, it got boring, I stopped care about it and deleted host.

A couple of weeks ago I started this blog, so I tried to find a way to manage a host server one more time.

Here it is.

There are 2 components:

  1. Automated nginx-docker-with-lets-encrypt compose file

    What it does is generating nginx configuration based on other containers in the same docker network and taking care of https for them. You can read more in the repository readme file, but basically, it contains three parts: nginx, nginx configuration generator and a certificates generator using Let’s Encrypt.

    That allows us to add new components easily - just add new service to compose file or remove one. Also, does not depend on host provider, because can be run on pretty much any operating system.

  2. Travis deployment

    It logs in via ssh to your remote server and runs deployment script there. Step-to-step explanation on how to set it up you can find here. Only change I made there - added environment variables export, so it’s possible to strore secret keys in Travis.

That’s it! Travis executes all compose files in the folder, and removes orphan containers.

To add a new component to the system, I need to create a new folder or add git submodule with a Dockerized app and add a docker-compose file to run it, following some rules, so nginx container can find it and create routes.