Deployment options

The default Zulip installation instructions will install a complete Zulip server, with all of the services it needs, on a single machine.

For production deployment, however, it’s common to want to do something more complicated. This page documents the options for doing so.

Installing Zulip from Git

To install a development version of Zulip from Git, just clone the Git repository from GitHub:

# First, install Git if you don't have it installed already
sudo apt install git
git clone https://github.com/zulip/zulip.git zulip-server-git

and then continue the normal installation instructions. You can also upgrade Zulip from Git.

Zulip in Docker

Zulip has an officially supported, experimental docker image. Please note that Zulip’s normal installer has been extremely reliable for years, whereas the Docker image is new and has rough edges, so we recommend the normal installer unless you have a specific reason to prefer Docker.

Running Zulip’s service dependencies on different machines

Zulip has full support for each top-level service living on its own machine.

You can configure remote servers for Postgres, RabbitMQ, Redis, in /etc/zulip/settings.py; just search for the service name in that file and you’ll find inline documentation in comments for how to configure it.

Since some of these services require some configuration on the node itself (e.g. installing our postgres extensions), we have designed the puppet configuration that Zulip uses for installing and upgrading configuration to be completely modular.

For example, you can install a Zulip rabbitmq server on a machine, you can do the following after unpacking a Zulip production release tarball:

env PUPPET_CLASSES=zulip::redis ./scripts/setup/install

You can see most likely manifests you might want to choose in the list of includes in the main manifest for the default all-in-one Zulip server, though it’s also possible to subclass some of the lower-level manifests defined in that directory if you want to customize. A good example of doing this is in the zulip_ops puppet configuration that we use as part of managing chat.zulip.org and zulipchat.com.

Using Zulip with Amazon RDS as the database

Unfortunately, you cannot use most third-party database-as-a-service provides like Amazon RDS as the database provider with Zulip without a degraded experience. Zulip let you choose one of two full-text search postgres extensions. Neither is available in Amazon RDS. As a result, if you use one of those providers, Zulip’s full-text search will be unavailable.

Putting the Zulip application behind a reverse proxy

Zulip is designed to support being run behind a reverse proxy server. This section contains notes on the configuration required with variable reverse proxy implementations.

Installer options

If your Zulip server will not be on the public Internet, we recommend, installing with the --self-signed-cert option (rather than the --certbot option), since CertBot requires the server to be on the public Internet.

Configuring Zulip to allow HTTP

Depending on your environment, you may want the reverse proxy to talk to the Zulip server over HTTP; this can be secure when the Zulip server is not directly exposed to the public Internet.

After installing the Zulip server as described above, you can configure Zulip to talk HTTP as follows:

  1. Add the following block to /etc/zulip/zulip.conf:

    [application_server]
    http_only = true
    
  2. As root, run /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/zulip-puppet-apply. This will convert Zulip’s main nginx configuration file to allow HTTP instead of HTTPS.

  3. Finally, restart the Zulip server, using /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/restart-server.

nginx configuration

You can look at our nginx reverse proxy configuration to see an example of how to do this properly (the various include files are available via the zulip::nginx puppet module). Or modify this example:

map $http_upgrade $connection_upgrade {
        default upgrade;
        ''      close;
}
server {
        listen                  443 ssl;
        server_name             zulip.example.net;

        ssl                     on;
        ssl_certificate         /path/to/fullchain-cert.pem;
        ssl_certificate_key     /path/to/private-key.pem;

        location / {
                proxy_set_header        X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
                proxy_set_header        Host $http_host;
                proxy_set_header        Upgrade $http_upgrade;
                proxy_set_header        Connection $connection_upgrade;
                proxy_http_version      1.1;
                proxy_buffering         off;
                proxy_read_timeout      20m;
                proxy_pass              https://zulip-upstream-host;
        }
}

Don’t forget to update server_name, ssl_certificate, ssl_certificate_key and proxy_pass with propper values.

HAProxy configuration

If you want to use HAProxy with Zulip, this backend config is a good place to start.

backend zulip
    mode http
    balance leastconn
    http-request set-header X-Client-IP %[src]
    reqadd X-Forwarded-Proto:\ https
    server zulip 10.10.10.10:80 check

Since this configuration uses the http mode, you will also need to configure Zulip to allow HTTP as described above.

Other proxies

If you’re using another reverse proxy implementation, there are few things you need to be careful about when configuring it:

  1. Configure your reverse proxy (or proxies) to correctly maintain the X-Forwarded-For HTTP header, which is supposed to contain the series of IP addresses the request was forwarded through. You can verify your work by looking at /var/log/zulip/server.log and checking it has the actual IP addresses of clients, not the IP address of the proxy server.
  2. Ensure your proxy doesn’t interfere with Zulip’s use of long-polling for real-time push from the server to your users’ browsers. This nginx code snippet does this.

The key configuration options are, for the /json/events and /api/1/events endpoints:

  • proxy_read_timeout 1200;. It’s critical that this be significantly above 60s, but the precise value isn’t important.
  • proxy_buffering off. If you don’t do this, your nginx proxy may return occasional 502 errors to clients using Zulip’s events API.
  1. The other tricky failure mode we’ve seen with nginx reverse proxies is that they can load-balance between the IPv4 and IPv6 addresses for a given hostname. This can result in mysterious errors that can be quite difficult to debug. Be sure to declare your upstreams equivalent in a way that won’t do load-balancing unexpectedly (e.g. pointing to a DNS name that you haven’t configured with multiple IPs for your Zulip machine; sometimes this happens with IPv6 configuration).