pmuellr is Patrick Mueller

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Monday, May 19, 2014

enabling New Relic in a Cloud Foundry node application

Something you will want to enable with your apps running in a Cloud Foundry environment such as BlueMix, is monitoring. You'll want a service to watch your app, show you when it's down, how much traffic it's getting, etc.

One such popular service is New Relic.

Below are some instructions showing how you can enable a node.js application to optionally make use of monitoring with New Relic, and keep hard-coded names and license keys out of your source code.

The documentation for using New Relic with a node application is available in the Help Center documentation "Installing and maintaining Node.js".

But we're going to make a few changes, to make this optional, and apply indirection in getting your app name and license key.

  • instead of copying node_modules/newrelic/newrelic.js to the root directory of your app, create a newrelic.js file in the root directory with the following contents:
  • This module is slightly enhanced from the version that New Relic suggests that you create (see Rather than hard-code your app name and license key, we get them dyanmically.

  • The app name is retrieved from your package.json's name property; and the license key is obtained from an environment variable. Note this code is completely portable, and can be copied from one project to another without having to change keys or names.

  • To set the environment variable for your CloudFoundry app, use the command

    cf set-env <app-name> NEW_RELIC_LICENSE_KEY 983498129....
  • To run the code in the initialize() function, use the following code in your application startup, as close to the beginning as possible:

  • This code is different than what you what New Relic suggests you use at the beginning of your application code; instead of doing the require("newrelic") directly in your code, it will be run via the require("./newrelic").initialize() code.

  • If you don't have the relevant environment variable set, then New Relic monitoring will not be enabled for your app.

Another option to keeping your license key un-hard-coded and dynamic is to use a Cloud Foundry service. For instance, you can create a user-provided service instance using the following command:

cf cups NewRelic -p '{"key":"983498129...."}'

You can then bind that service to your app:

cf bind-service <app-name> NewRelic

Your application code can then get the key from the VCAP_SERVICES environment variable.

I would actually use services rather than environment variables in most cases, as services can be bound to multiple apps at the same time, whereas you need to set the environment variables for each app.

In this case, I chose to use an environment variable, as you really should be doing the New Relic initialization as early as possible, and there is less code involved in getting the value of an environment variable than parsing the VCAP_SERVICES values.

You may want to add some other enhancements, such as appending a -dev or -local suffix to the app name if you determine you're running locally instead of within Cloud Foundry.

I've added optional New Relic monitoring to my node-stuff app, so you can see all this in action in the node-stuff source at GitHub.

update on 2014/05/19

After posting this blog entry, Chase Douglas (@txase) from New Relic tweeted that "the New Relic Node.js agent supports env vars directly", pointing to the New Relic Help Center doc "Configuring Node.js with environment variables".

Thanks Chase. Guess I need to learn to RTFM!

What this means is that you can most likely get by with a much easier set up if you want to live the "environment variable configuration" life. There may still be some value in a more structured approach, like what I've documented here, if you'd like to be a little more explicit.

Also note that I specified using an environment variable of NEW_RELIC_LICENSE_KEY, which is the exact same name as the environment variable that the New Relic module uses itself! (Great minds think alike?) As such, it would probably be a good idea, if you want to do explicit configuration as described here, to avoid using NEW_RELIC_* as the name of your environment variables, as you may get some unexpected interaction. In fact, my read of the precedence rules are that the environment variables override the newrelic.js config file settings, so the setting in the newrelic.js is ignored in favor of the environment variable, at least in this example.