Having a one off environment for each commit / PR is really handy.
For a production app, you’re likely to have:
- Database (Postgres, MySQL, Mongo, etc.)
- Queues (Redis, Rabbitmq, SQS, etc.)
- Background Workers (Celery, RQ, Sidekiq, etc.)
- Search Engine (Elasticsearch, Solr, Algolia, etc.)
- Object Storage (S3, Cloud Storage, etc.)
- PubSub (SNS, Ably, Pusher, PubNub, Firebase, Redis, etc.)
- Cache (Redis, Memcached, Varnish, etc.)
- HTTP Servers (API, Server Rendered HTML, etc.)
- Static Files (CSS, JS, HTML, etc.)
- OAuth sign-in
Dealing with State
Of the above components, most are stateless or can be safely wiped between deploys (queues, cache, etc.), but a few are trickier to handle.
storage – databases, object storage, search engines
For the databases and search engines, we could:
- populate via manual scripts
- restore from a database backup
- create a COW snapshot of anonymized prod data like Skroutz’s dev setup outlined in their kernel bug hunt
Object storage is more complicated, but we could:
- populate via manual scripts
- copy from an existing bucket
Redirect URIs are tricky since they need to be strict for security.
For example, Slack and GitHub only allows redirect uris that are
subdirectories of the configured uri. So if we wanted our preview envs to have
and our configured url is
app.foo.com we’d be out of luck.
One option is to have a proxy with a url like
is configured as the redirect uri for a given OAuth app.
Then all the review apps could have sub paths under that like,
oauth-dev-proxy.foo.com/preview/sha-a123ef which the proxy would
redirect accordingly to
Some OAuth providers, like Slack, allow providing multiple redirect urls for a given OAuth app, so we could add a url each time we deploy a given env. However, this isn’t universal, Github for example doesn’t support multiple redirect urls, so a proxy seems like the best bet.
Since webhooks inherently involve a third party calling your endpoint, they can’t be shared like OAuth, so each preview env will need its own config/account.
For instance maybe you configured your third party email provider to send
inbound emails to
staging.foo.com and it sends outbound email with
For the preview envs we’d need a unique config and email for each.
The preview env for PR #10 would get url:
pr-10.preview.foo.com and would use
email@example.com for sending email.
When a user replies, the third party mail provider would send the inbound
email via HTTP to
For SMS, using a service like Twilio, we’d need to do something similar where we setup a new phone number for the environment that is used for sending and we configure the callback url for inbound messages from that env’s specific number.
Preview environments for production apps are not as easy as deploying static sites, but are doable.
Setting up miscellaneous third party services, like email and sms, can be achieved by running user defined scripts a la Heroku’s Release Phase.
Datastores can be populated manually, restored from backup, or created with a filesystem snapshot.
PS: speed is essential, waiting 30 minutes for a usable preview env is too long.