New @ Hasura, Me!

I would not assume you did know this dear reader, but I’ve joined the amazing team at Hasura! Over the last few years I’ve gotten back into a number of data oriented development efforts, often related to my own interest in database systems and web development. From this angle Hasura has a superb technology solution, a solid team with founders @tanmaigo@rajoshighosh leading the crew, and I’ll introduce many of them to you all too in the coming weeks and months! 👍🏻

What is Hasura?

Hasura is a GraphQL API Server, that can be serverless via the Hasura Cloud, deployed to any cloud provider, or run locally on your own infrastructure. It is open source too, so you can dig in and checkout how things work via the Github repo.

First Steps @ Hasura

My first step when joining I put together a deployment around infrastructure as code and wrote a blog entry “Setup Postgres and a GraphQL API with Hasura on Azure” using Terraform. It’s a fairly thorough post, albeit always open to critique, and will have a follow up real soon! Some of the next steps will include further data modeling, covering various relational database paradigms and how those map to Hasura, and lots of additional information. If there’s something you’d like to see, or technologies you’d like to see me put together, do reach out to me @Adron and I’ll see about getting some customized content put together!

Some of the first endeavors I’ve started tackling is coordinating new learning material around each of the features, capabilities, patterns, practices, and ideas behind GraphQL, development around and uses of GrahpQL, the Hasura product, and how all of these technologies fit together to make software development [pick awesome adjectives here: better, faster, etc] when one is working toward an idea!

See you deep in the code and data, science, data extraction, transformation, loading, and all the software development around it all! 🚀

References

For JavaScript, Go, Python, Terraform, and more infrastructure, infrastructure as code, web dev, data management, data science, data extraction, transformation, loading, and coding around all of this I stream regularly on Twitch at https://twitch.tv/adronhall, post the VOD’s to YouTube along with entirely new tech and metal content at https://youtube.com/c/ThrashingCode. I’ll be regularly participating in, scheduling, and adding content at Hasura’s Twitch & YouTube Channels too, so follow and subscribe over there too.

Last, another way to get updated on just the bare minimum of content and coding I’m doing register for the Thrashing Code Newsletter!

Setup Postgres, and GraphQL API with Hasura on Azure

Key Technologies: HasuraPostgresTerraformDocker, and Azure.

I created a data model to store railroad systems, services, scheduled, time points, and related information, detailing the schema “Beyond CRUD n’ Cruft Data-Modeling” with a few tweaks. The original I’d created for Apache Cassandra, and have since switched to Postgres giving the option of primary and foreign keys, relations, and the related connections for the model.

In this post I’ll use that schema to build out an infrastructure as code solution with Terraform, utilizing Postgres and Hasura (OSS).

Prerequisites

Docker Compose Development Environment

For the Docker Compose file I just placed them in the root of the repository. Add a docker-compose.yaml file and then added services. The first service I setup was the Postgres/PostgreSQL database. This is using the standard Postgres image on Docker Hub. I opted for version 12, I do want it to always restart if it gets shutdown or crashes, and then the last of the obvious settings is the port which maps from 5432 to 5432.

For the volume, since I might want to backup or tinker with the volume, I put the db_data location set to my own Codez directory. All my databases I tend to setup like this in case I need to debug things locally.

The POSTGRES_PASSWORD is an environment variable, thus the syntax ${PPASSWORD}. This way no passwords go into the repo. Then I can load the environment variable via a standard export POSTGRES_PASSWORD="theSecretPasswordHere!" line in my system startup script or via other means.

services:
  postgres:
    image: postgres:12
    restart: always
    volumes:
      - db_data:/Users/adron/Codez/databases
    environment:
      POSTGRES_PASSWORD: ${PPASSWORD}
    ports:
      - 5432:5432

For the db_data volume, toward the bottom I add the key value setting to reference it.

volumes:
  db_data:

Next I added the GraphQL solution with Hasura. The image for the v1.1.0 probably needs to be updated (I believe we’re on version 1.3.x now) so I’ll do that soon, but got the example working with v1.1.0. Next I’ve got the ports mapped to open 8080 to 8080. Next, this service will depend on the postgres service already detailed. Restart, also set on always just as the postgres service. Finally two evnironment variables for the container:

  • HASURA_GRAPHQL_DATABASE_URL – this variable is the base postgres URL connection string.
  • HASURA_GRAPHQL_ENABLE_CONSOLE – this is the variable that will set the console user interface to initiate. We’ll definitely want to have this for the development environment. However in production I’d likely want this turned off.
  graphql-engine:
    image: hasura/graphql-engine:v1.1.0
    ports:
      - "8080:8080"
    depends_on:
      - "postgres"
    restart: always
    environment:
      HASURA_GRAPHQL_DATABASE_URL: postgres://postgres:logistics@postgres:5432/postgres
      HASURA_GRAPHQL_ENABLE_CONSOLE: "true"

At this point the commands to start this are relatively minimal, but in spite of that I like to create a start and stop shell script. My start script and stop script simply look like this:

Starting the services.

docker-compose up -d

For the first execution of the services you may want to skip the -d and instead watch the startup just to become familiar with the events and connections as they start.

Stopping the services.

docker-compose down

🚀 That’s it for the basic development environment, we’re launched and ready for development. With the services started, navigate to https://localhost:8080/console to start working with the user interface, which I’ll have a more details on the “Beyond CRUD n’ Cruft Data-Modeling” swap to Hasura and Postgres in an upcoming blog post.

For full syntax of the docker-compose.yaml check out this gist: https://gist.github.com/Adron/0b2ea637b5e00681f4d62404805c3a00

Terraform Production Environment

For the production deployment of this stack I want to deploy to Azure, use Terraform for infrastructure as code, and the Azure database service for Postgres while running Hasura for my API GraphQL tier.

For the Terraform files I created a folder and added a main.tf file. I always create a folder to work in, generally, to keep the state files and initial prototyping of the infrastructre in a singular place. Eventually I’ll setup a location to store the state and fully automate the process through a continues integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) process. For now though, just a singular folder to keep it all in.

For this I know I’ll need a few variables and add those to the file. These are variables that I’ll use to provide values to multiple resources in the Terraform templating.

variable "database" {
  type = string
}

variable "server" {
  type = string
}

variable "username" {
  type = string
}

variable "password" {
  type = string
}

One other variable I’ll want so that it is a little easier to verify what my Hasura connection information is, will look like this.

output "hasura_url" {
  value = "postgres://${var.username}%40${azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.name}:${var.password}@${azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.fqdn}:5432/${var.database}"
}

Let’s take this one apart a bit. There is a lot of concatenated and interpolated variables being wedged together here. This is basically the Postgres connection string that Hasura will need to make a connection. It includes the username and password, and all of the pertinent parsed and string escaped values. Note specifically the %40 between the ${var.username} and ${azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.name} variables while elsewhere certain characters are not escaped, such as the @ sign. When constructing this connection string, it is very important to be prescient of all these specific values being connected together. But, I did the work for you so it’s a pretty easy copy and paste now!

Next I’ll need the Azure provider information.

provider "azurerm" {
  version = "=2.20.0"
  features {}
}

Note that there is a features array that is just empty, it is now required for the provider to designate this even if the array is empty.

Next up is the resource group that everything will be deployed to.

resource "azurerm_resource_group" "adronsrg" {
  name     = "adrons-rg"
  location = "westus2"
}

Now the Postgres Server itself. Note the location and resource_group_name simply map back to the resource group. Another thing I found a little confusing, as I wasn’t sure if it was a Terraform name or resource name tag or the server name itself, is the “name” key value pair in this resource. It is however the server name, which I’ve assigned var.server. The next value assigned “B_Gen5_2” is the Azure designator, which is a bit cryptic. More on that in a future post.

After that information the storage is set to, I believe if I RTFM’ed correctly to 5 gigs of storage. For what I’m doing this will be fine. The backup is setup for 7 days of retention. This means I’ll be able to fall back to a backup from any of the last seven days, but after 7 days the backups are rolled and the last day is deleted to make space for the newest backup. The geo_redundant_backup_enabled setting is set to false, because with Postgres’ excellent reliability and my desire to not pay for that extra reliability insurance, I don’t need geographic redundancy. Last I set auto_grow_enabled to true, albeit I do need to determine the exact flow of logic this takes for this particular implementation and deployment of Postgres.

The last chunk of details for this resource are simply the username and password, which are derived from variables, which are derived from environment variables to keep the actual username and passwords out of the repository. The last two bits set the ssl to enabled and the version of Postgres to v9.5.

resource "azurerm_postgresql_server" "logisticsserver" {
  name = var.server
  location = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.location
  resource_group_name = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.name
  sku_name = "B_Gen5_2"

  storage_mb                   = 5120
  backup_retention_days        = 7
  geo_redundant_backup_enabled = false
  auto_grow_enabled            = true

  administrator_login          = var.username
  administrator_login_password = var.password
  version                      = "9.5"
  ssl_enforcement_enabled      = true
}

Since the database server is all setup, now I can confidently add an actual database to that database. Here the resource_group_name pulls from the resource group resource and the server_name pulls from the server resource. The name, being the database name itself, I derive from a variable too. Then the character set is UTF8 and collation is set to US English, which are generally standard settings on Postgres being installed for use within the US.

resource "azurerm_postgresql_database" "logisticsdb" {
  name                = var.database
  resource_group_name = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.name
  server_name         = azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.name
  charset             = "UTF8"
  collation           = "English_United States.1252"
}

The next thing I discovered, after some trial and error and a good bit of searching, is the Postgres specific firewall rule. It appears this is related to the Postgres service in Azure specifically, as for a number of trials and many errors I attempted to use the standard available firewalls and firewall rules that are available in virtual networks. My understanding now is that the Postgres Servers exist outside of that paradigm and by relation to that have their own firewall rules.

This firewall rule basically attaches the firewall to the resource group, then the server itself, and allows internal access between the Postgres Server and the Hasura instance.

resource "azurerm_postgresql_firewall_rule" "pgfirewallrule" {
  name                = "allow-azure-internal"
  resource_group_name = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.name
  server_name         = azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.name
  start_ip_address    = "0.0.0.0"
  end_ip_address      = "0.0.0.0"
}

The last and final step is setting up the Hasura instance to work with the Postgres Server and the designated database now available.

To setup the Hasura instance I decided to go with the container service that Azure has. It provides a relatively inexpensive, easier to setup, and more concise way to setup the server than setting up an entire VM or full Kubernetes environment just to run a singular instance.

The first section sets up a public IP address, which of course I’ll need to change as the application is developed and I’ll need to provide an actual secured front end. But for now, to prove out the deployment, I’ve left it public, setup the DNS label, and set the OS type.

The next section in this resource I then outline the container details. The name of the container can be pretty much whatever you want it to be, it’s your designator. The image however is specifically hasura/graphql-engine. I’ve set the CPU and memory pretty low, at 0.5 and 1.5 respectively as I don’t suspect I’ll need a ton of horsepower just to test things out.

Next I set the port available to port 80. Then the environment variables HASURA_GRAPHQL_SERVER_PORT and HASURA_GRAPHQL_ENABLE_CONSOLE to that port to display the console there. Then finally that wild concatenated interpolated connection string that I have setup as an output variable – again specifically for testing – HASURA_GRAPHQL_DATABASE_URL.

resource "azurerm_container_group" "adronshasure" {
  name                = "adrons-hasura-logistics-data-layer"
  location            = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.location
  resource_group_name = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.name
  ip_address_type     = "public"
  dns_name_label      = "logisticsdatalayer"
  os_type             = "Linux"


  container {
    name   = "hasura-data-layer"
    image  = "hasura/graphql-engine"
    cpu    = "0.5"
    memory = "1.5"

    ports {
      port     = 80
      protocol = "TCP"
    }

    environment_variables = {
      HASURA_GRAPHQL_SERVER_PORT = 80
      HASURA_GRAPHQL_ENABLE_CONSOLE = true
    }
    secure_environment_variables = {
      HASURA_GRAPHQL_DATABASE_URL = "postgres://${var.username}%40${azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.name}:${var.password}@${azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.fqdn}:5432/${var.database}"
    }
  }

  tags = {
    environment = "datalayer"
  }
}

With all that setup it’s time to test. But first, just for clarity here’s the entire Terraform file contents.

provider "azurerm" {
  version = "=2.20.0"
  features {}
}

resource "azurerm_resource_group" "adronsrg" {
  name     = "adrons-rg"
  location = "westus2"
}

resource "azurerm_postgresql_server" "logisticsserver" {
  name = var.server
  location = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.location
  resource_group_name = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.name
  sku_name = "B_Gen5_2"

  storage_mb                   = 5120
  backup_retention_days        = 7
  geo_redundant_backup_enabled = false
  auto_grow_enabled            = true

  administrator_login          = var.username
  administrator_login_password = var.password
  version                      = "9.5"
  ssl_enforcement_enabled      = true
}

resource "azurerm_postgresql_database" "logisticsdb" {
  name                = var.database
  resource_group_name = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.name
  server_name         = azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.name
  charset             = "UTF8"
  collation           = "English_United States.1252"
}

resource "azurerm_postgresql_firewall_rule" "pgfirewallrule" {
  name                = "allow-azure-internal"
  resource_group_name = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.name
  server_name         = azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.name
  start_ip_address    = "0.0.0.0"
  end_ip_address      = "0.0.0.0"
}

resource "azurerm_container_group" "adronshasure" {
  name                = "adrons-hasura-logistics-data-layer"
  location            = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.location
  resource_group_name = azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg.name
  ip_address_type     = "public"
  dns_name_label      = "logisticsdatalayer"
  os_type             = "Linux"


  container {
    name   = "hasura-data-layer"
    image  = "hasura/graphql-engine"
    cpu    = "0.5"
    memory = "1.5"

    ports {
      port     = 80
      protocol = "TCP"
    }

    environment_variables = {
      HASURA_GRAPHQL_SERVER_PORT = 80
      HASURA_GRAPHQL_ENABLE_CONSOLE = true
    }
    secure_environment_variables = {
      HASURA_GRAPHQL_DATABASE_URL = "postgres://${var.username}%40${azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.name}:${var.password}@${azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.fqdn}:5432/${var.database}"
    }
  }

  tags = {
    environment = "datalayer"
  }
}

variable "database" {
  type = string
}

variable "server" {
  type = string
}

variable "username" {
  type = string
}

variable "password" {
  type = string
}

output "hasura_url" {
  value = "postgres://${var.username}%40${azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.name}:${var.password}@${azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver.fqdn}:5432/${var.database}"
}

To run this, similarly to how I setup the dev environment, I’ve setup a startup and shutdown script. The startup script named prod-start.sh has the following commands. Note the $PUSERNAME and $PPASSWORD are derived from environment variables, where as the other two values are just inline.

cd terraform

terraform apply -auto-approve \
    -var 'server=logisticscoresystemsdb' \
    -var 'username='$PUSERNAME'' \
    -var 'password='$PPASSWORD'' \
    -var 'database=logistics'

For the full Terraform file check out this gist: https://gist.github.com/Adron/6d7cb4be3a22429d0ff8c8bd360f3ce2

Executing that script gives me results that, if everything goes right, looks similarly to this.

./prod-start.sh 
azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg: Creating...
azurerm_resource_group.adronsrg: Creation complete after 1s [id=/subscriptions/77ad15ff-226a-4aa9-bef3-648597374f9c/resourceGroups/adrons-rg]
azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver: Creating...
azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver: Still creating... [10s elapsed]
azurerm_postgresql_server.logisticsserver: Still creating... [20s elapsed]


...and it continues.

Do note that this process will take a different amount of time and is completely normal for it to take ~3 or more minutes. Once the server is done in the build process a lot of the other activities start to take place very quickly. Once it’s all done, toward the end of the output I get my hasura_url output variable so that I can confirm that it is indeed put together correctly! Now that this is preformed I can take next steps and remove that output variable, start to tighten security, and other steps. Which I’ll detail in a future blog post once more of the application is built.

... other output here ...


azurerm_container_group.adronshasure: Still creating... [40s elapsed]
azurerm_postgresql_database.logisticsdb: Still creating... [40s elapsed]
azurerm_postgresql_database.logisticsdb: Still creating... [50s elapsed]
azurerm_container_group.adronshasure: Still creating... [50s elapsed]
azurerm_postgresql_database.logisticsdb: Creation complete after 51s [id=/subscriptions/77ad15ff-226a-4aa9-bef3-648597374f9c/resourceGroups/adrons-rg/providers/Microsoft.DBforPostgreSQL/servers/logisticscoresystemsdb/databases/logistics]
azurerm_container_group.adronshasure: Still creating... [1m0s elapsed]
azurerm_container_group.adronshasure: Creation complete after 1m4s [id=/subscriptions/77ad15ff-226a-4aa9-bef3-648597374f9c/resourceGroups/adrons-rg/providers/Microsoft.ContainerInstance/containerGroups/adrons-hasura-logistics-data-layer]

Apply complete! Resources: 5 added, 0 changed, 0 destroyed.

Outputs:

hasura_url = postgres://postgres%40logisticscoresystemsdb:theSecretPassword!@logisticscoresystemsdb.postgres.database.azure.com:5432/logistics

Now if I navigate over to logisticsdatalayer.westus2.azurecontainer.io I can view the Hasura console! But where in the world is this fully qualified domain name (FQDN)? Well, the quickest way to find it is to navigate to the Azure portal and take a look at the details page of the container itself. In the upper right the FQDN is available as well as the IP that has been assigned to the container!

Navigating to that FQDN URI will bring up the Hasura console!

Next Steps

From here I’ll take up next steps in a subsequent post. I’ll get the container secured, map the user interface or CLI or whatever the application is that I build lined up to the API end points, and more!

References

Sign Up for Thrashing Code

For JavaScript, Go, Python, Terraform, and more infrastructure, web dev, and coding in general I stream regularly on Twitch at https://twitch.tv/adronhall, post the VOD’s to YouTube along with entirely new tech and metal content at https://youtube.com/c/ThrashingCode.

Let’s Talk Top 7 Options for Database Gumbo

When one starts to dig into databases things get really complex really fast. There’s not only a whole plethora of database companies and projects, but database types, storage engines, and other options and functionality to choose from. One place to get a start is just to take a look at the crazy long list of databases on db-engines. In this post I’m going to take a look at a few of the top database engines to create a starting point – which I’ll reference – for future video streaming coding sessions (follow me @ twitch.tv/adronhall).

My Options for Database Gumbo

  1. Apache Cassandra / DataStax Enterprise
  2. Postgresql
  3. SQL Server
  4. Elasticsearch
  5. Redis
  6. SQLite
  7. Dynamo DB

The Reasons

Ok, so the list is as such, and as stated it’s my list. There are a lot of databases, and of course some are still more used such as Oracle. However here’s some of the logic and reasoning behind my choices above.

Oracle

First off I feel like I need to broach the Oracle topic. Mostly because of their general use in industry. I’m not doing anything with Oracle now, nor have I for years for a long, long, LONG list of reasons. Using their software tends to be buried in bureaucratic, oddly broken and unnecessary usage today anyway. They use predatory market tactics, completely dishonorable approach to sales and services, as well as threatening and suing people for doing benchmarks, and a host of other practices. In face to face experiences, Oracle tends to give off experiences, that Lawrence from Office Space would say, “naw man, I think you’d get your ass kicked for that!” and I agree. Oracle’s practices are too often disgusting. But even from the purely technical point of view, the Oracle Database and ecosystem itself really isn’t better than other options out there. It is indeed a better, more intelligently strategic and tactical option to use a number of alternatives.

Apache Cassandra / DataStax Enterprise

This combo has multiple reasons and logic to be on the list. First and foremost, much of my work today is using DataStax Enterprise (DSE) and Apache Cassandra since I work for DataStax. But it’s important to know I didn’t just go to DataStax because I needed a job, but because I chose them (and obviously they chose me by hiring me) because of the team and technology. Yes, they pay me, but it’s very much a two way street, I advocate Cassandra and DSE because I personally know the tech is top tier and solid.

On the fact that Apache Cassandra is top tier and solid, it is simply the remaining truly masterless distributed database that provides a linear path of scalability on the market that you can use, buy support for, and is actually actively and knowingly maintained not just by DataStax but by members of the community. One could make an argument for MongoDB but I’ll maybe elaborate on that in the future.

In addition to being a solid distributed database there are capabilities inherent in Apache Cassandra because of the data types and respective the CQL (Cassandra Query Language) that make it a great database to use too. DataStax Enterprise extends that to provide spatial (re: GIS/Geo Data/Queries), graph data, analytics engine, and more built on other components like SOLR and related technology. Overall a great database and great prospective combinations with the database.

Postgresql

Postgres is a relational database that has been around for a long time. It’s got some really awesome features like native JSON support, which I’m a big fan of. But I digress, there’s tons of other material that lays out thoroughly why to use Postgres which I very much agree with.

Just from the perspective of the extensive and rich data types Postgres is enough to be put on this list, but considering there are a lot of reasons around multi-tenancy, scalability, and related characteristics that are mostly unique to Postgres it’s held a solid position.

SQL Server

This one is on my list for a few reasons that have nothing to do with features or capabilities. This is the first database I was responsible for in its entirety. Administration, queries, query tuning, setup, and developer against with the application tier. I think of all my experience, this database I’ve spent the most time with, with Apache Cassandra being a close second, then Postgres and finally Riak.

Kind of a pattern there eh? Relational, distributed, relational, distributed!

The other thing about SQL Server however is the integrations, tooling, and related development ecosystem around SQL Server is above and beyond most options out there. Maybe, with a big maybe, Oracle’s ecosystem might be comparable but the pricing is insanely different. In that SQL Server basically can carry the whole workload, reporting, ETL, and other feature capabilities that the Oracle ecosystem has traditionally done. Combine SQL Server with SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services), SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services), and other online systems like Azure’s SQL Database and the support, tooling, and ecosystem is just massive. Even though I’ve had my ins and outs with Microsoft over the years, I’ve always found myself enjoying working on SQL Server and it’s respective tooling options and such. It’s a feature rich, complete, solidly, and generally well performing relational database, full stop.

Elasticsearch

Ok, this is kind of a distributed database of sorts but focused more exclusively (not totally since it’s kind of expanded its roles) search engine. Overall I’ve had good experiences with Elasticsearch and it’s respective ELK (or Elastic ecosystem) of tooling and such, with some frustrating flakiness here and there over the years. Most of my experience has come from an operational point of view with Elasticsearch. I’ve however done a fair bit of work over the years in supporting teams that are doing actual software development against the system. I probably won’t write a huge amount about Elasticsearch in the coming months, but I’ll definitely bring it up at certain times.

Redis / SQLite / DynamoDB

These I’ll be covering in the coming months. For Redis and DynamoDB I have wanted to dig in for some comparison analysis from the perspective of implementing data tiers against these databases, where they are a good option, and determining where they’re just an outright bad option.

For SQLite I’ve used it on and off for many years, but have wanted to sit down and just learn it and try out some of its features a bit more.