Migration

I’m sure if you subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog you’ve probably been flooded with old posts in the last couple of days. That’s because I’ve changed blog engines and migrated to a different hosting scheme. The old blog, my wiki and an SVN server were all hosted on a Virtual Private Server. Now VPSs tend to get expensive when all they’re doing is exposing a website. So I was looking for a way to replace all of them. Here’s what I did.

The blog

My old blog was being hosted using an archaic version of SubText. I can’t remember the last time I upgraded it or even looked at modifying the theme. It just worked. So going forward I wanted to make sure that would continue, but I also wanted to have something where I could easily modify the codebase to add features. Hopefully you’ll see some of them on this site over the next few months. As always there was an underlying thread of learning to my desires so I was looking to use some thing that I could pick up new skills from. I settled on RaccoonBlog. Ayende has built it as a demo app for RavenDB, but is also flat out works.

After some testing I dived into the migration project. There were three big things I needed to do. First, migrate the data. This was handled by the migration tool included in the RaccoonBlog codebase. Change the users that it creates and voila.

Second, create a good theme that met my corporate standards. This was harder. Oren never built a theming engine for RaccoonBlog, and I can’t blame him. Why would you when there’s CSS? So I had to dive into the CSS and make some changes. My first skillset is not as a web dev so this was a bit challenging. Add to that some HTML5 stuff that I’d never seen before and you have the recipe for a lot of cussing.

The third thing was get it deployed to a new hosting site. I made the choice to go with AppHarbor since it seemed to have the right price point. I also liked the continuous deployment option that is embedded into it. So deployment was pretty easy. Follow the instructions for setting up the application and add the RavenHQ add-on. Since I had imported the data to a local RavenDB instance earlier all I needed to do was export that and import it into the RavenHQ instance. Connecting the application to the RavenHQ instance was a bit trickier. AppHarbor has the ability to replace connection strings during it’s deployment cycle. To ensure that this happened I had to consolidate the connection string out of it’s own config file and into the main web.config. I also had to change the RavenDB initialization code in the Application_Start for RaccoonBlog so that it constructed the connection string correctly. It’s a bloody pain since the default development connection string doesn’t work with the new code. I’ll have to figure that out and post more about the overall process. The other thing that I needed to do was add a Nuget package that would mute the AppHarbor load balancer’s tendency to add port numbers to URLs. That was easy as well. Commit the changes to github and, voila, I have a working blog. Change the DNS settings and add a custom HostHeader to AppHarbor ($10…the only cost for the blog per month) and it’s like I never had the old one.

The custom app

I have a custom time tracking and invoicing application that I pay little love to. It just works…not well, but it works. Asp.Net, MonoRail and SQL Server. Again, off to AppHarbor to create an app and add the SQL Server extension. My biggest problem here was dealing with moving from dependencies stored in source control to using Nuget. After I got that sorted out it was easy.

The other big hassle with a SQL Server backed system on AppHarbor is that there’s no way to do backups or restores. So you have to use SQL Management Studio to script the DDL and the data from your existing database and run those scripts against your AppHarbor hosted database.

Source control

This was easy. For my public facing repositories GitHub works just fine. I did, however, have a number of private repositories. They weren’t active enough to warrant buying private repos from GitHub, so I looked for alternatives. I figured that if I was going the git route, I might as well go in wholesale. BitBucket by Atlassian offers private Git repositories for free. So there’s that problem solved. The best part of both repository providers is that they integrate seamlessly with AppHarbor for continuous deployment.

Wiki

I had a small ScrewTurn wiki site that I hosted for documentation of my public facing repositories. Both GitHub and BitBucket offer wiki functionality that is directly tied to the repositories themselves so there was no effort required to make this migration.

Conclusion

Getting from a VPS to a fully cloud hosted situation was less painful that I thought it would be. I had been putting it off for a long time because I didn’t think that my situations were going to be easy to handle. I always complain about clients who thing “we have the hardest/biggest application of anyone anywhere”. Guess what I was doing? After about 5-10 hours of research I had a plan and I was able to implement it with ease. By far the most work I did was creating a theme/style for the blog. In the end I went from about $150/month in outlay to $10. Not bad for 20 hours of work.

Posted By: Donald Belcham

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