In this post I’m going to break down a strategy for continuous deployment using TinyCI. If you’re not familiar, check out the Introducing TinyCI post.

With the release of TinyCI 0.4 all the pieces are now in place for a system to automatically deploy new versions of an app after the test suite passes.

Let’s look at the TinyCI config file from FML:

There are two new features at play here: interpolation, and hooks.


You may recognise the use of <% erb tags %> to insert values into our config file there. The commit value that we are assigning to the VERSION environment variable is the sha1 digest of the commit currently being processed by TinyCI. See the recent post for details on this functionality. If you look in the docker-compose.yml file for FML you’ll see that the commit name is being used to tag the images. Fairly self-explanatory stuff.


Next, the hooks section. There are two hooks in play here: after_test_success and after_all.

In after_test_success, we’re building the app target of the Dockerfile, which represents the production version of the image, without any of the testing dependencies. In after_all we’re removing all the build artifacts, both the export directory produced by TinyCI (<%= export %> inserts the path to the exported tree,) and the testing version of the image in the local docker registry. FML runs on a small VPS and I don’t have a particular need to keep testing artifacts around.


The running FML docker container is managed as a systemd service. Here’s the relevant line from its unit file:

If you scroll to the right you’ll see that the service is set up to run an image tagged fml:production. As you’ve probably guessed, my strategy for deployment involves simply moving the production tag to another image and restarting the service.

How do we do that? Here’s my script:

The key line is number 5, there we’re calling git log with a format string that returns the TinyCI result and the hash, grepping for the commits whose tests passed, taking the most recent result, and then cutting off just the hash. In the future this would be best achieved from the TinyCI command line interface, but for now this bash oneliner suffices.

Next we present the sha to the user and ask them for confirmation, and then we apply the production tag to the docker image that we built from that commit, using the same tagging format defined in the docker-compose.yml file.

Now we’re all set up to run systemctl restart fml, and presto, we’re running the latest passing build in production.

Of course, this isn’t fully automated. We have to manually execute two commands to move our new build into production. If you want a truly automated continuous deployment system, you could just run all of this from the after_test_success hook. In practice however, that level of automation isn’t desirable in my opinion. For a simple single-node deployment like this it’s generally preferable to have a human throw the switch.

I quite like this setup, to me this is perfect for personal projects: it gives me just the right level of IaaS-style automation without too much complexity, and crucially very few moving parts. All we really have here is a few hundred lines of scripting. I hope you find it useful.