Deploying Yesod

Tagged with: docker, haskell, yesod, aws

We’ve been building a simple site with Yesod and docker. But there’s no point in building a site if you don’t know how to deploy it. In this final part of our tutorial we’re going to:

I refer to the directory structure we set up back at the beginning a lot in this post so I’ll reproduce it here just to refresh your memory.



If you’ve been following along from part two then you’ll already have a site to compile. A simple stack build command will do it and tell you where it’s dropped the binary. But you’ll need to deploy a few more things. Way back in part two, you created an empty binary directory under your project root. It’s time to put some things in there. First, copy the binary you just created into the binary directory. Now copy your site’s config and static directories in there too. Now, create a new file called prod and enter the following, making sensible substitutions for all the supersecret entries:


We’ll use these values as environment variables in the docker container we’re about to build. The approot and host variables will serve our application and make it available to the outside, acting as a reverse proxy for another docker container holding our webapp to pick up and serve to the world. The PGHOST value is set to database so it will find our postgres docker container being set up by docker compose. The ADMIN_NAME and ADMIN_PASSWORD values will be familiar if you’ve read part four, and I’ll assume the PGUSER and similar ones are obvious.

The last thing we need is the Dockerfile to bring this all together. Create a new file, called Dockerfile in your binary directory. It’ll be very simple and very short.

FROM haskell:7.10.3

RUN ["apt-get", "-y", "update"]
RUN ["apt-get", "-y", "install", "libpq-dev"]

That’s it. All you need to run your binary and interact with your database. Don’t worry that you can’t see your prod file referenced in there, we’ll pick that up with docker compose later.

The webserver

Docker lets us set up a webserver reliably just by writing two files. No messing around with installation and setup. First, create a new Dockerfile in your webserver directory that should look like this:

FROM nginx

# forward request and error logs to docker log collector
RUN ln -sf /dev/stdout /var/log/nginx/access.log
RUN ln -sf /dev/stderr /var/log/nginx/error.log

# load nginx conf as root
COPY ./site.conf /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf
COPY ./cert.pem /etc/nginx/ssl.cert
COPY ./privkey.pem /etc/nginx/ssl.dkey

# make a directory for the api volume
RUN ["mkdir", "/opt/server"]

#start the server
CMD ["nginx", "-g", "daemon off;"]

You’ll notice we’re copying a some files from our current directory into the container, and that some of them are key files. Do not ever upload a docker image to docker hub with key files in it. I’ve warned you. For now, just create the site.conf file.

upstream yesod {
    server binary:3000;
server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;


    return 301 https://$server_name$request_uri;
server {

    listen              443 default_server ssl;
    ssl_certificate     /etc/nginx/ssl.cert;
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/nginx/ssl.dkey;
    ssl_protocols       TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
    ssl_ciphers         HIGH:!aNULL:!MD5;

    location / {
        proxy_pass http://yesod;
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
        proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto https;

    location ~ ^/(media|static)/ {
        root /opt/server;

We’ll unpack that a little. If you follow the curly braces and indendation you’ll see three distinct blocks, an upstream one and two server blocks. The upstream block takes advantage of the same docker compose networking feature we saw when we told our binary that the database host was database. That corresponds to the database container definition we’re going to put in our compose yaml file, just like this one corresonds to the binary definition we’ll put there. This is what connects our webserver to our application.

The first server block listens for requests on port 80 (http). The return 301 https://$server_name$request_uri; line forwards every request it receives to the corresponding page served over https by using the http 301 response. As good citizens of the web we’re going to serve our whole site over https.

The final server block serves the https pages. First we get it listening on port 443 (https) and set up our key locations. I know those keys still don’t exist anywhere but we’ll come to that. The location block after that forwards traffic onto our Yesod application. Finally, a second location block serves requests to /static/* or /media/* from Nginx directly, since these will be static files and thus better served by Nginx.

Our production compose file

We’ve been using a very minimal compose setup until now. In fact it hasn’t been composing anything. That’s about to change. Create a new file in your project root called prod.yml. It should look like the following.

version: "2.0"
    image: postgres
    env_file: ./database/prod
    build: ./binary
    command: /opt/server/your_binary_name
    env_file: ./binary/prod
      - database
    tty: false
      - /etc/ssl/certs/:/etc/ssl/certs/
      - ./binary:/opt/server/
    working_dir: /opt/server
    build: webserver
      - "80:80"
      - "443:443"
      - binary
      - binary

I won’t regurgitate compose’s excellent documentation. Instead we’ll focus on what each section here is achieving for us. Starting with database, you’ll see we’re using an image declaration instead of the build declaration in the other parts of the file. That’s because we’re just using the official postgres docker image without any customization of the machine it builds, meaning no Dockerfile.

We are, however, providing environment variables for it. The substitutions you use for the supersecret values here should tie in with the relevant PG prefixed variables in the binary directory environment variable file. Thus the prod file in your database directory should look a bit like this:


The binary section has the most going on in it but even that is quite simple. First it builds out the Dockerfile we specified earlier. It supplies the relevant command to run once the container is up-and-running. In this case it’s running our binary. We tell the container in which env_file it can find its environment variables. We specify the containers to which it links, in this case our database. We set tty to false to show we don’t want/need an interactive terminal environment for the container. We specify two volumes - locations on our hard drive we want to share into the container. We’re mapping our own ssl certificates into the container and also telling the container to pick up the contents of our binary directory and place them in /opt/server/ in its own filesystem. Finally, we set the container’s working_dir to the directory in which our code now lives.

The webserver section is similar to the binary one. We build the container specified in the relevant Dockerfile, link to any relevant containers and pull in volumes. The links and volumes are from the binary container, in order to let nginx pick up the reverse proxy and serve static files directly respectively. The only additional thing we’re doing is mapping the container’s ports 80 and 443 to the base system’s ports in order to open our site to outside browsers.


We’re going to deploy our web application on Amazon EC2. If you haven’t got an account you can sign up for the free tier; what we’re doing will run on that just fine. But remember the free usage runs out after a year. You’ve been warned.

Once your account is set up spin up an Ubuntu instance. The instructions here are for Ubuntu but they shouldn’t be too hard to adapt if you prefer other operating systems.

Accessing your machine

You’ll need two types of access to your EC2 instance: SSH for you to control the application we’re building and HTTP for your visitors. Create a security group through the AWS EC2 dashboard and call it webapp or something similar. Open ports 22, 80 and 443, then assign your instance to this security group (you can, and should, further restrict access to port 22 to specific IPs but I’ll leave that up to you). Create a key pair and name it appropriately. You’ll need it to ssh into your site.

You’ll also need to assign an Elastic IP to your instance, again through the EC2 dashboard. Once you’ve done so you can hook up a domain name you own to your IP to let visitors access your site. Choosing a service to buy and manage domain names is beyond the scope of this tutorial but there are plenty of good services out there.

With all those things done you’ll now be able to ssh into your instance. The command to do so on a Linux machine is:

ssh -i ./path/to/your/private_key.pem

Once you’re in create a directory, I’ll call it parent_directory, to house the docker-compose directory set up we’ve been working with.

Installing software

We’re using docker so you won’t need to install very much software on your EC2 instance. Just install docker and docker compose using the instructions we used to install them on your development machine. You’ll need one additional piece of software called certbot. Follow the appropriate instructions for Nginx plus the operating system you’ve used for EC2. The instructions on here assume Ubuntu 14.04.

Production configuration

You’re now ready to deploy code to your site with a simple scp command. The steps we’ll go through for deployment are:

For more important applications than a personal blog you could absolutely automate these steps.

We’re going to deploy our prod.yml file and our binary, database and webserver directories. The command you’ll use is:

scp -i ./path/to/your/private_key.pem -r /path/to/your/parent_directory/binary/

Repeat that command for all the bits we want to deploy. Now ssh into your EC2 instance. We’re almost done. Right now your webserver setup has a problem. Docker’s going to look in the directory cert.pem and privkey.pem and find nothing. We need to resolve that. When you ran the certbot command to create those files they were dropped somewhere like /etc/letsencrypt/live/ Copy them to your webserver directory so they’ll get picked up by the Dockerfile.

Finally cd to the parent_directory and docker-compose --file=prod.yml up -d to launch your site. Any time you want to deploy updates you should only need to scp the new binary directory then docker-compose --file=prod.yml stop followed by docker-compose --file=prod.yml up -d will restart with your new application.

Visit your site

Congratulations; it’s a web application! You should now be able to visit your website. I hope this tutorial has been useful to you. I’ll sign off with a quick reminder that this tutorial covers things that are outside my area(s) of expertise so please raise an issue if you have any corrections.