3 Deploying a Production Copy of the BETYdb Web Application

These instructions are specifically tailored to the task of setting up a new instance of BETYdb on a CentOS 7 machine. We assume the following are installed:

  1. Ruby Version Manager (RVM).
  2. Bundler
  3. Phusion Passenger
  4. Apache 2.2 or greater.
  5. PostgreSQL 9.4 or greater.
  6. PostGIS 2.1.0 or greater.
  7. Git or greater.
  8. R 3.1.0 or greater.3
  9. Graphviz dot version 2.2.1 or a version greater than 2.4.
  10. Java 1.8 or greater.
  11. nodejs and npm
  12. curl
  13. Your preferred editor.

In addition, we assume:

  1. You have an account on the machine, and that account has sudo access.
  2. The PostgreSQL server is running and there is a machine user account called postgres with password-less (peer) access to all PostgreSQL databases.
  3. PostgreSQL has been configured so that all non-postgres database roles can log in to the PostgreSQL server using a password, both using a UNIX domain socket connection and using a connection to localhost over TCP/IP.

Information about installing CentOS, adding users, installing the requisite software, and setting up and starting the PostgreSQL server is contained in various subsections below.

IMPORTANT! In what follows, we use the following placeholder names to represent names that will vary with the installation:

  • Operating system accounts:
    • <adminuser> — the operating system account name for a user with complete sudo access
    • <betyappuser> — the operating system account name for the user that will own this BETY app instance; generally, <betyappuser> should equal <betyapp>, but we distinguish them here for clarity
  • Path names:
    • <betyapp> — the name of the parent directory of the Rails root directory for the BETY app instance
  • Database-related names:
    • <betydb> — the name of the database this instance of the BETY app will use
    • <dbuser> — the owner of database <betydb>
    • <dbpw> — the password for database user <dbuser>

For convenience, we generally leave off the angle brackets below as if these are the actual names that we will be using. In practice, sometimes the same name will be used for several of these; for example, often <betyappuser>, <betyapp>, <betydb>, <dbuser>, and <dbpw> will all be “bety”.

Installing and Configuring Ruby and Rails Code

Step 1: Log in to the deployment machine as an administrator

This is the account we refer to as <adminuser> above. This user will need to have sudo permissions to do such tasks as adding a new user, deploying the BETYdb code base, editing the HTTPD configuration files, and starting and restarting the Web server.

Step 2: Add a new user as the owner of the BETYdb instance

It is recommended that each Rails app be run under its own user account. Use the following command to create the user:4

sudo useradd <betyappuser>

Also, you may want to ensure this user has your SSH key installed:

sudo mkdir -p ~betyappuser/.ssh
touch $HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys
sudo sh -c "cat $HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys >> ~betyappuser/.ssh/authorized_keys"
sudo chown -R betyappuser: ~betyappuser/.ssh
sudo chmod 700 ~betyappuser/.ssh
sudo sh -c "chmod 600 ~betyappuser/.ssh/*"

Step 3: Choose a location for the application code

In this example, we’ll choose /var/www/betyapp as the parent directory for the Rails root directory, which we’ll call code.

Step 4: Create the target parent directory and clone the BETYdb code from the GitHub repository:

sudo mkdir -p /var/www/betyapp
sudo chown betyappuser: /var/www/betyapp
cd /var/www/betyapp
sudo -u betyappuser -H git clone https://github.com/PecanProject/bety.git code

Step 5: If you have not already done so, install the correct version of Ruby

First cd to the Rails root directory:

cd /var/www/betyapp/code

If you haven’t installed any versions of Ruby using the Ruby Version Manager, you should get a warning that the required version of Ruby is not installed along with the command to run to install it. Go ahead and install this version. This command should have the form

rvm install "ruby-X.X.X"

where “ruby-X.X.X” matches the contents of the file .ruby-version.

You can use

rvm list

to check that you have the correct version of Ruby installed, and

rvm current

to check that you have the correct version activated.

The next several steps should be run as the app’s user (<betyappuser>).

Step 6: Log in to the application’s user account and make sure you are in the Rails root directory:

sudo -u betyappuser -H bash -l
cd /var/www/betyapp/code

You may get error about not being able to create a gemset, which you may ignore, but you should check that the correct version of Ruby is active:

rvm current

Step 7: Use the Bundler to install the application Gems:

bundle install --deployment --without development test javascript_testing debug

If the bundler fails to install the “pg” Gem, use the “bundle config” command to add an option as follows and then re-run the bundle install command:5

bundle config --local build.pg --with-pg-config=/usr/pgsql-9.4/bin/pg_config
bundle install

Step 8: Create a database configuration file

To do this from the command line, just run

cat > config/database.yml << EOF
  adapter: postgis
  encoding: utf-8
  reconnect: false
  database: <betydb>
  pool: 5
  username: <dbuser>
  password: <dbpw>

replacing the placeholders <betydb>, <dbuser>, and <dbpw> with whatever identifiers you chose to user for these entities.

Step 9: Create a Rails application customization file

The most important purpose of this file is to override the default site key so that your site will be more secure.

First, generate a secret key using the command

bundle exec rake secret

Then run

cat > config/application.yml << EOF
  rest_auth_site_key: '<secret key>'

where <secret key> is the result of the rake secret command.

This is a minimal application configuration file. There are many other settings that may be used to customize the appearance of your site. See the sample file config/application.yml.template for details. At the very least, it is highly recommended to set the contact information appropriate for your site.

Below, we show how to modify this file to enable the SchemaSpy documentation generator.

Step 10: Compile Rails assets:

bundle exec rake assets:precompile RAILS_ENV=production

Important! If you are planning to deploy the BETYdb app to a sub-URI of your server name—to yourserver.com/suburi, say, instead of yourserver.com—then you need to set the RAILS_RELATIVE_URL_ROOT variable when precompiling:

bundle exec rake assets:precompile RAILS_ENV=production RAILS_RELATIVE_URL_ROOT=/suburi

Loading the BETYdb Database

For this first step you should still be logged in as <betyappuser> and still be in the /var/www/betyapp/code directory.

Step 11: Download the load.bety.sh script from the PEcAn repository:

curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/PecanProject/pecan/develop/scripts/load.bety.sh > script/load.bety.sh
chmod +x script/load.bety.sh

Now exit the <betyappuser> account:


You should now be back to the administrator account <adminuser> that you originally logged in to.

Step 12: If you aren’t already there, cd to the application root directory:

cd /var/www/betyapp/code

Step 13: Log in as user postgres:

sudo su postgres

Step 14: Create a role and a database for the BETYdb app

First start psql:


Now run the CREATE ROLE and CREATE DATABASE commands in psql:


Step 15: Run the load.bety.sh script:

script/load.bety.sh -a postgres -c -d betydb -e -g -m <localdb id number> -o dbuser -r 0

Here, <localdb id number> is some integer that is unique to each database. See Distributed instances of BETYdb for further information.

This will create the tables, views, indices, constraints, and functions required for BETYdb, replicating the database schema found on machine 0, the Energy Biosciences Institute server for BETYdb, whose BETYdb database schema is considered the “canonical” or “official” schema.6 (Other machines may have a slightly modified schema, so it is important to use the creation (-c) option only when the remote machine is machine 0.) The tables will all be empty except for the following: formats, machines, mimetypes, schema_migrations, spacial_ref_sys, and users. A guest user account (“guestuser”) will be added to the users table.

This machine’s database contains the most extensive metadata, so you may want load the data from this machine, not just the database schema. To do so, run the above command without the “-e” option.

Step 16: (Optional) Load data from another machine:

script/load.bety.sh -a postgres -d betydb -m <localdb id number> -o dbuser -r <remotedb id number>

This may be executed multiple times with different remote database id numbers. Again, consult Distributed instances of BETYdb to see what data sources are available.

(If you used the -e option in the previous step but then decided you want the full data from machine 0 after all, you can chose <remotedb id number>=0.)

Step 17: Exit the postgres user account:


You should now once again be in the administrative account (<adminuser>) and in the BETYdb app’s root directory, /var/www/betyapp/code.

Complete Apache and Passenger configuration

Step 18: Check that the correct version of Ruby is enabled:

rvm current

This should be the version listed in the file .ruby-version

Step 19: Find the path to the Ruby interpreter:

passenger-config about ruby-command

Use the location given in the resulting output as the value of path-to-ruby in the next step.

Step 20: Configure the Apache Server

Create a new Apache configuration file (call it, say, bety.conf) in the configuration directory /usr/httpd/conf.d and open it in an editor. Add the following contents to the file: 7

  <VirtualHost *:80>
      ServerName yourserver.com

      # Tell Apache and Passenger where your app's 'public' directory is
      DocumentRoot /var/www/betyapp/code/public

      PassengerRuby /path-to-ruby

      # Relax Apache security settings
      <Directory /var/www/betyapp/code/public>
        Allow from all
        Options -MultiViews

        SetEnv SECRET_KEY_BASE <secret key>
        # (Alternatively, put "export SECRET_KEY_BASE=<secret key>" in the
          .bash_profile file for user <betyappuser>.)

        # Uncomment this if you're on Apache >= 2.4:
        #Require all granted

Here, replace yourserver.com with your server’s host name and replace /path-to-bety with the path found above using the passenger-config command.

Also, replace <secret key> with some long, random word. You can generate a suitable value using the command

  bundle exec rake secret

(As noted in the comment, this setting can be put in the environment of <betyappuser> instead of here in the server configuration file.)

Note: If you want your app to be served at a sub-URI of your server name, say, yourserver.com/suburi, use the following configuration instead:

  <VirtualHost *:80>
      ServerName yourserver.com
      PassengerRuby /path-to-ruby

      Alias /suburi /var/www/betyapp/code/public
      <Location /suburi>
          PassengerBaseURI /suburi
          PassengerAppRoot /var/www/betyapp/code
      <Directory /var/www/betyapp/code/public>
          Allow from all
          Options -MultiViews

          SetEnv SECRET_KEY_BASE <secret key>

          # Uncomment this if you're on Apache >= 2.4:
          #Require all granted

Step 21: Restart Apache:

  sudo apachectl restart

Step 22: Test:

  curl yourserver.com

or, if you deployed to a suburi,

  curl yourserver.com/suburi

Alternatively, try visiting the URL in a browser.

Final Steps

Step 23: Create a BETYdb administrative account

In a browser, visit the home page of your new BETYdb site and click the “Register for BETYdb” button. Fill out the form; at a minimum, you must supply values for “Login”, “Email”, “Password”, and “Confirm Password” and click the “I’m not a robot” checkbox. It is highly recommended to fill out the “Name” field as well since this is the name that will be displayed when you are logged in as the new user. Note that you cannot re-use a previously used login or e-mail address.

After completing the form, click “Sign Up”. You should see the “Thanks for signing up!” message.

Once you have created a user, give that user full access privileges. To do this, use psql:

psql -U <dbuser> <betydb>

Once psql has started, if the login of the user you wish to alter is “admin”, run these commands in the psql session:

UPDATE users SET access_level = 1, page_access_level = 1 WHERE login = 'admin';

Step 24: Re-Set the Guest user account password

The Guest User account password will not be set correctly unless you use ‘thisisnotasecret’ as the site key. But for security reasons, you shouldn’t use this as a site key on a production server (which was the reason for overriding the value of rest_auth_site_key in the customization file config/application.yml). So you need to reset the Guest User account’s password to get it to work again.

Log in to BETYdb as the administrative user you created in the previous step and go to the Users list (menu item Data/Users). Search for “guestuser” and click the edit button for that user. Check the “change password” checkbox and then enter “guestuser” in both password fields; then click the “Update” button.

Now log out and try the “Log in as Guest” button to make sure that it works.

Step 25: Ensure images for Priors pages are generated

BETYdb uses R to generate images for the Priors pages on the fly if they don’t already exist. In order for this to work, the ggplot2 R package must be installed.

To do this, start up R using

sudo R --vanilla

Then, inside the R session, issue the command


This will likely take a few minutes. To check that all is well, open the BETYdb app in a browser and navigate to the Data/Priors page. The images in the middle column should start being generated on the fly.

Step 26: Ensure the SchemaSpy documentation can be generated

SchemaSpy documentation is generated using Java. Two Jar files are needed, a PostgreSQL JDBC Driver file and a customized version of the SchemaSpy file. These need to be downloaded to a suitable location. By way of example, we’ll put them in /var/www/betyapp/code/lib/tasks/jar. To do this, first log in to the betyappuser account:

sudo -u betyappuser -H bash -l

Then run the following commands:

cd /var/www/betyapp/code/lib/tasks
mkdir jar
cd jar
wget https://www.dropbox.com/s/j50hk7cbqw7680u/schemaSpy.jar
wget https://jdbc.postgresql.org/download/postgresql-42.2.4.jar

Here, we use the latest JDBC Driver file as of this writing, postgresql-42.2.4.jar.

Now, append to the config/application.yml configuration file as follows (be sure to use >> instead of >):

cat >> config/application.yml << EOF

    java_executable: java
    postgresql_driver_jar_file: lib/tasks/jar/postgresql-42.2.4.jar
        schema_spy_jar_file: lib/tasks/jar/schemaSpy.jar
        output_directory: .
        remove_root_dir_files: true


Run the rake task to generate the SchemaSpy documentation as follows:

bundle exec rake bety:dbdocs RAILS_ENV=production

Restart the Rails app with

touch tmp/restart.txt

and try visiting the database documentation in a browser by going to the URL for your running BETYdb instance and clicking the Schema menu item under the Docs menu.

You should now have a fully-functional BETYdb instance.

  1. BETYdb will mostly run without R, dot, and Java. R is needed for generating preview images on the Priors pages. Java is needed in order to generate the database schema documentation, and dot is needed to generate diagrams for that documentation.

  2. See the Phusion Passenger site’s instructions for installing Passenger here: https://www.phusionpassenger.com/library/walkthroughs/deploy/ruby/ownserver/apache/oss/el7/install_passenger.html

  3. We don’t need to repeat all the options to bundle install that we used earlier because these options are “sticky”: they are stored in the bundle configuration file and will be used automatically until explicitly removed.

  4. Unless otherwise noted, we use the word “schema” in its traditional sense, where it refers to the logical structure of a database, including the tables, views, functions, and integrity constraints it comprises. We are not using “schema” in its PostgreSQL-specific sense, where it refers to a namespace within a database.

  5. If the Web site is to be served using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), the virtual host directive should be <VirtualHost *:443>. Data providers that are particularly concerned about data security are advised to use SSL. If SSL is used, it is recommended to redirect calls to port 80 (http) to port 443 (https) using a directive such as the following:

    <VirtualHost *:80>
        ServerName yourserver.com
        Redirect permanent / https://yourserver.com

    or, for suburi deployments,

    <VirtualHost *:80>
        ServerName yourserver.com
        Redirect permanent /suburi https://yourserver.com/suburi

    This way, the site will always be served up securely.