Coding and stuff

CloudFoundry for Smalltalk applications

by Tim Felgentreff ,


After James Foster posted about getting Aida running on CloudFoundry, I just had to give it a go.

The first step was installing CloudFoundry. I created a vcap user on the server to run the cloud services. Using the dev_setup script from got me up and running in just under an hour. The installer will download a few packages (it needs sudo for this) and then install all the runtimes (i.e. language VMs) and frameworks as the local user. Afterwards, the websites hosted here were broken, because there’s another thing that the installer changes, and that is your nginx.conf. By default, it’ll redirect everything to the CloudFoundry router process, which is not what I wanted. I just changed it to only redirect anything under * to the router, so all other websites could work as previously.

The last thing the installer told you was, how to run the cloud: ~/cloudfoundry/vcap/dev_setup/bin/vcap_dev start I found that, since we have a global RVM setup on this server, this interfered with the local rvm install the cloud foundry script set up, so I changed the .bashrc of this user to not load RVM and only use this minimal PATH


After starting, I tested the setup with this simple Sinatra app:


To do this, I needed to create a user on the server, using the vmc script. vmc adduser Afterwards, it might be a good idea to change ~/cloudfoundry/.deployments/dev_box/config/cloud_controller.yml, insert your own email address into the list of admin users and disallow registering users through vmc. This way, only you’ll be able to add new users.

With this out of the way, we can just put the Sinatra app in an empty directory and run vmc push It will ask a series of questions, I accepted the defaults after choosing env as the name for my app. I verified that it worked by going to

Smalltalk, the Server Side

Now, the good stuff :) For getting Smalltalk to run, I pretty much followed James’ instructions. But I wasn’t interested in Aida. For my master’s thesis, I will need a few small apps running under different URLs. For one of those apps, I’ll be using Smalltalk apps written in a tiny web library called RatPack (yes, it’s a Sinatra look-alike in Smalltalk - even the error page is copied). So I needed a way to run arbitrary Smalltalk apps.

To do this, I changed James’ instructions to define a Squeak, rather than a Aida framework. While I was at it, I also changed a few other things:

  • I use the latest CogVM builds from Eliot Miranda‘s website.
  • I install a patch during staging that will mirror the Transcript to a logfile, so you can have ‘some’ debugging
  • I installed the smalltalk services stuff in the vcap user’s home directory

You can grab the complete patch here.

Because CloudFoundry assigns a random port to its apps, I used James’ solution of passing the $VCAP_APP_PORT as a commandline argument for the Squeak application to use. However, because I don’t know what the app is going to look like, the developer will have to make sure that his/her app honors that argument.

Smalltalk, the Smalltalk Side

Now I created a (very simple) RatPack application:

Usually, with RatPack, you will use the Morphic control panel to start applications, assign them a port and so on. On CloudFoundry, the cloud controller might start an image on any port it chooses, or run multiple instances in parallel. To make sure our application is always running on the right port, I added these methods to the class side of the TestApp class:

This will make sure the application is properly shutdown and restarted whenever an image is stopped and re-run.

Now, to push this to the cloud, we need a script that creates our initial image. To make this step fast and easy, I created a small project to create pushable directories and scripts from your applications. Install it and run:

It asks whether you want to install any MetacelloConfigurations and/or MCZs. I chose ConfigurationOfRatPack in version 1.0 with the default group, as well as my TestApp MCZ. The script creates a folder named vmc in your default Smalltalk directory with two MCZs copied from your package-cache, as well as a script to run during the staging process:

As you can see, this script will install the configuration and the mcz, as well as the RFB server, so you can connect to your image via VNC for debugging.

To actually push this application, again follow James’ instructions to patch the vmc gem on your development machine (second to last paragraph, adjust it so it reads squeak instead of aida in all places).

With that done, it’s as easy as going into the vmc directory and running vmc push. It should recognize that you’re working with a Squeak application and ask for deployment details.

In my case, because Squeak actually has to load quite a few things during staging, the client then timed out and reported a failure. You can check the transcript logfile or with VNC to make sure everything works as expected. Once you got it working, use

to generate a deployment without VNC access to lock down your image.

Go say thanks to James and Peter for doing the hard work and finding all that out!

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