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Determining Needs

Ember CLI Deploy is great at allowing you to compose plugins to implement a quick and maintainable deployment pipeline.

What it is not great at is guessing how you would like to deploy your application, where you’d like to deploy it, whether you’d like to gzip your assets or whether you’d like to notify your team members on slack after a successful deploy.

Just like you need to have an idea of what functionality you would like your ember application to have before you install ember-cli addons, you also need to have a good idea of how you would like your deployment to work before you install ember-cli-deploy and it’s plugins.

Ok, so what do I need to think about?

Almost every single project will require a build to begin with, but after this it’s hard for Ember CLI Deploy to guess what is needed.

Do you want to:

  • upload your assets to a different place than your index.html?
  • push your index.html to redis/S3/your own server?
  • deploy your whole application to a SaaS platform like Firebase hosting?
  • gzip your assets before uploading them?
  • notify your team members of a successful/failed deploy
  • These things (and more) are the sorts of things that you need to think about before being able to successfully deploy your application.

Because Ember CLI Deploy simply provides you with a deployment pipeline it is up to you to decide what your deployment strategy will look like and therefore which plugins you will need to install to implement that strategy.

We are well aware that this level of detail of the deployment environment may not be something everyone has thought about in detail so this section is going to suggest things you might want to think about when coming up with a deployment strategy that makes sense for you.

The following are some things that you should think through to make your deployment experience as successful as possible:

Building your project

All projects need to be built, that’s one thing we’re pretty confident about. So for this we have created the ember-cli-deploy-build plugin.

This plugin uses the standard ember-cli build process. However if you have something more custom you need to do you can always write your own plugin.

Identifying your deployed revision

Often you might want to identify a release by some unique identifier. Maybe you want to push this to firebase so that your ember app can intelligently tell when a user is using and out of date version of your app. If so, you need to think about where that unique identifier will come from. Should it be a fingerprint of your index.html file, or maybe the git SHA that you are deploying? Either way, we have a plugin called ember-cli-deploy-revision-data that can help determine a unique identifier for you.

Hosting your project files

Where do you want your project files hosted? Some people like to use a SaaS platform such as Firebase. Or maybe S3, Heroku or even Github Pages is more appropriate for you. Or maybe you just want to scp your project files to a server internal to your company.

If you can’t find a suitable plugin in the list of existing plugins then maybe try writing your own.

Hosting your index.html

It is common practice to use a different plugin to manage the deploy of the index.html for your app. This allows to take advantage of the activation step implemented by Ember CLI Deploy and apply other separate configurations. As an example, different caching criterias might have to apply (i.e. you want to use cloudfront in front of your assets but not in front of your html).

Some common plugins are:

If you can’t find a suitable plugin in the list of existing plugins then maybe try writing your own.

Gzipping assets

Often people like to gzip their assets to minimise the payload user’s browsers need to download when using an ember application. You probably want to think about doing this when storing your assets on S3. ember-cli-deploy-gzip is a good plugin to look at for this functionality.

Source maps

Do you want to upload source maps to a bug reporting service or some other hosted service to make it easier to debug minified JS? This can often be handy when using services like BugSnag, Sentry and Raygun.

Using a manifest file

Manifest files are helpful when uploading assets. Often some assets remain unchanged in which case there is no benefit in uploading them again. A manifest file is used to keep track of which files have been uploaded so that they don’t need to be re-uploaded next time you deploy. We have a plugin for this called ember-cli-deploy-manifest.

Notifying team members of deployments

Once a deploy has finished successfully (or maybe failed as the case may be) you may find it handy to notify your team. Currently we have the ember-cli-deploy-slack plugin to send notifications to Slack. However if you use a different platform or prefer to send emails instead, try writing your own plugin.

The Lightning strategy

Over time different deployment strategy patterns emerge as smart ways of deploying an ember application. One of the most notable examples is the Lightning Strategy.

In this approach the assets are deployed to a CDN (like S3 or Fastly) and the index.html that points to those assets is deployed to a persistent storage like redis or Azure.

The deploy phase uploads the assets to your CDN and the index.html to the persistent storage but uses fingerprinting to ensure that the older versions are not overridden.

A pointer to the the currently used index is normally saved in a separate key of the persistent storage and when the user loads the app the server value is read to determine which version of the index should be served.

A separate phase called activation can then be used to change this key and activate a new revision.