An environment of one's own

How we gave each developer their own serverless development environment and integrated it into our PR process
Yossi Ittach

November 5 2020 · 8 min read


An environment of one's own

Personal Branch Deployments

Here at Altostra we rely heavily on our deployments feature in our development process. To those of you who aren't familiar with it yet, an Instance is a live release of your project in a specific environment—with the added value that you can have multiple instances of the same project in an environment at the same time.

During our development process, our developers are free to deploy their currently under-development version of any service to the Dev env and test it in a fully working cloud environment. We call these Branch Deployments.

You might be asking you how we prevent our Dev env from exploding with numerous stale deployments (not to mention the costs) - well, that's easily done with our expiring deployments - we set them to auto-delete within 5 days from creation.

Not long ago, one of our developers noticed that we sometimes discover issues only when our new feature reaches the integration-test phase and wondered why we aren't running these tests before the PRs are approved, and not after.

So with the help of GitHub Actions, that's exactly what we did.

How to do it

In this post we'll learn how to automatically create a new instance in Dev whenever a PR is opened or updated on a basic Altostra API service project.

You can read more about the basic web-service API project we're going to use here, and read more about GitHub Actions here.

If you haven't integrated your Altostra project with GitHub Actions before, you can learn how to do it on our previous post

Using GitHub Actions to automaticaly deploy PR branches

Creating a GitHub Action workflow

In your project, under the project root, create a new file (or update the existing file) called altostra-ci.yaml, under .github/workflows/altostra-ci.yaml

Copy-paste the following code to the file:

name: Node.js CI

      - master

    name: Deploy PR
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest

      - name: Set node version
        uses: actions/setup-node@v1
          node-version: '12.x'
      - name: Install Altostra CLI
        run: |
             npm install -g @altostra/cli
             alto --version
             alto api-key set ${{ secrets.ALTO_API_KEY }}
      - name: Checkout code
        uses: actions/checkout@v2
      - name: Install dependencies
        run: npm install
      - name: Push to repository
        run: alto push v$(node -p -e "require('./package.json').version") --json
      - name: Deploy to Dev
        run: alto deploy ${{ github.head_ref }}:v$(node -p -e "require('./package.json').version") --env Dev --json
      # - name: Run Integration Tests
      #   run: Add your tests link here

This GitHub Action workflow tells GitHub to run the "Deploy PR" job whenever someone opens or updates a PR to the master branch.

Each time it will:

  • Checkout the code
  • Install dependencies
  • Config the Altostra CLI
  • Use the Altostra API key to push the latest version to the Altostra repository
  • Deloy the current version to a deployment named after the branch name
  • Run your tests (If you added them)

Let's see it action

Now that we have the new workflow updated, let's take an existing project and test it.

We'll take an existing project, create a new branch, and create at PR to master. We expect the GitHub Actions workflow to start automatically and create a new deployment with our branch name in our Dev account.


Works! We added a feature to our code, opened a PR, and had it deployed to our Dev env on AWS automatically!

Wrapping up

Using Altostra deployments with GitHub Actions (or any other CI/CD, for that matter) is a great way to automate your testing and deployment processes, and generally to make the deployment process easier —especially when it comes to serverless cloud environments.

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