Test Driving AppHarbor – A Walkthrough and Review

by Oliver 15. March 2013 20:50

For some time now, I've wanted to check out AppHarbor, a cloud service to host .NET applications that includes a build environment, executes tests and deploys successful builds to one or more app servers. They use Amazon's cloud computing infrastructure as their backend. The smallest package is free so there's no good reason not to check it out.

Getting my first application up and running

First, you need to Sign up, confirm the link in the confirmation email, and log in. This part took about 2 minutes. (Created a new KeePass entry with an uncrackable password on the way.)

Then, create an application, entering a name and the geographical region you want your application to be hosted at:

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Once you're done with that, you can choose where your code is hosted – this assumes you version control your source code using e.g. BitBucket, CodePlex, or Git. They also have a solution for the situation where you don't host your code anywhere, using a built-in Git repository. I didn't use that option, though, since I have an account at GitHub.

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Clicking on "Configure GitHub to deploy to AppHarbor" directs you to the GitHub logon screen (if you're logged out) where you simply sign in.

Now, the following dialog was a bit spooky:

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What I read between the lines is something like: all your base are belong to us! I mean, it basically says that they can do to all of my projects … well, anything, really.

Since I didn't want to create a new account just to try out AppHarbor and, honestly, because I somehow felt that they wouldn't destroy all of my work, I clicked "Authorize app". Phew!

Remark: You might choose to use a different GitHub account for your deployments, using e.g. copies of your repositories locally where you just copy everything you need from your dev repo. Then you can grand AppHarbor access to that account without much ado.

Now, the AppHarbor app took over and I chose a repository for the application I created earlier:

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Once I chose a repo for my first app, I got to see the first Build status message – here AppHarbor is building my app for the first time:

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A few seconds after AppHarbor was done building, and testing, and deploying my app after I had clicked the Deploy button, my app was ACTIVE :-)

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Under the Hostnames link I found that they had given it http://mathie.apphb.com/ and after a couple of seconds I saw my app online on AppHarbor.

That was easy – how about deploying a new version?

I'm quite surprised at how easy (and fast!) it was to get my first app up and running. For completeness, I wanted to check how AppHarbor would handle my pushing some changes to the master branch of my repo. Here we go:

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The commit was picked up within seconds! Another click on Deploy gets the new version out there.

Remark: On their homepage they say that apps get automatically deployed once build and test runner finish successfully. This was not the case here, and I didn't find any setting to enable this. If you know how that works, please leave a comment.

Update: Looks like this works out of the box, you just need to wait a minute or two for their deployment agent to pick up the new version. I updated my app just now and it got deployed by itself :-)

Go back in time – it's easy, too

Now, this is a nice feature: you can deploy any version of your application with a click of a button! So, if for some reason, you discover that the new version has some flaw, go back to an older one:

2013-03-15_16h00_02

What else do they offer?

AppHarbor contains an add-on infrastructure and already offers several add-ons that you can install with your application. Most of them charge an extra monthly fee, some of them also offer a free plan.

There are mostly analytics add-ons and DB engines, including dedicated MS SQL Server, RavenDB, MySQL, a PostgrSQL flavor, and a few more.

Interesting platform with big ease of setup and a free plan

Should be good for any smallish app that you just want to set up and forget about! For $10/month you can also assign your own host names which makes this a viable solution. It saves you from installing and maintaining a separate build server with something like TeamCity or CruiseControl running and is also almost easier to set up. Where are you gonna host your next app?

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About Oliver

shades-of-orange.com code blog logo I build web applications using ASP.NET and have a passion for javascript. Enjoy MVC 4 and Orchard CMS, and I do TDD whenever I can. I like clean code. Love to spend time with my wife and our children. My profile on Stack Exchange, a network of free, community-driven Q&A sites

About Anton

shades-of-orange.com code blog logo I'm a software developer at teamaton. I code in C# and work with MVC, Orchard, SpecFlow, Coypu and NHibernate. I enjoy beach volleyball, board games and Coke.