Running non-production CAP services in CF

| 3 min read

Sometimes I want to run test CAP services not only locally, but in the cloud. I don't want the trappings of production (which are of course important ... in production settings) such as a production grade persistence mechanism or authorisation strategy & appropriate security layer. Additionally, I like to take "the simplest thing that could possibly work" approach.

Production mode in Cloud Foundry for CAP services

If I use cf push to deploy a CAP service to CF, the environment variable NODE_ENV is set automatically to production. This in turn tells the CAP server that production grade facilities are required.

In what follows, I use "service" to refer to what I'm building with CAP, because that's what it is, but "application" when I'm talking about it in terms of CF, as in CF terms, especially when it comes to the cf commands, it's considered an app not a service.

Here's a simple example. Initialising a new project with a simple CDS model and a couple of data records, and pushing immediately to CF:

cds init --add tiny-sample non-prod-test \
&& cd $_ \
&& cf push $_

From the sea of log records, we can pick out some relevant ones:

Creating new CAP project in ./non-prod-test

Adding feature 'nodejs'...
Adding feature 'tiny-sample'...

Successfully created project. Continue with 'cd non-prod-test'.
Pushing app non-prod-test to org ...
-----> Creating runtime environment


Waiting for app non-prod-test to start...

Instances starting...
Instances starting...
Instances starting...

start command: npm start
state since cpu memory disk logging details
#0 crashed 2024-04-15T08:18:47Z 0.0% 0B of 1G 0B of 1G 0B/s of 0B/s
Start unsuccessful


Note that the value of NODE_ENV was set to production.

Looking at the logs like this:

cf logs non-prod-test --recent

we can see why:

[APP/PROC/WEB/0] OUT Invoking start command.
[APP/PROC/WEB/0] OUT > non-prod-test@1.0.0 start
[APP/PROC/WEB/0] OUT > cds-serve
[APP/PROC/WEB/0] OUT srv/cat-service.cds
[APP/PROC/WEB/0] OUT db/data-model.cds
[APP/PROC/WEB/0] OUT {..., "msg":"using auth strategy {\n kind: 'jwt',\n ..."}
[APP/PROC/WEB/0] ERR node:internal/modules/cjs/loader:1134
[APP/PROC/WEB/0] ERR const err = new Error(message);
[APP/PROC/WEB/0] ERR Error: Cannot find module '@sap/xssec'. Make sure to install it with 'npm i @sap/xssec'

In production mode CAP will (sensibly) require @sap/xssec.

Setting a different value for NODE_ENV

The value for NODE_ENV can be set with cf set-env:

cf set-env non-prod-test NODE_ENV testing

After such an action, a restage is required:

cf restage non-prod-test

This then results in a successful start of our test CAP service:

This action will cause app downtime.

Restaging app non-prod-test in org ...

-----> Creating runtime environment

Restarting app non-prod-test in org ...

Stopping app...

Waiting for app to start...

Instances starting...
Instances starting...
Instances starting...

state since cpu memory disk logging details
#0 running 2024-04-15T08:29:22Z 0.0% 0B of 0B 0B of 0B 0B/s of 0B/s

It's now running. And we can check the value too of that environment variable, like this:

cf env non-prod-test

the output of which will include this in the "user-provided" section:


"application_id": "7b99b60c-94f3-4757-9928-24a61a510942",
"application_name": "non-prod-test",

NODE_ENV: testing

Mitigating the crash from the start

Of course, having to deal with an initial crash before sorting things out is a little cumbersome.

But not to worry, the cf push command has a --no-start option which means that no attempt will be made to start things up initially.

Here's an example, doing everything in a single line:

cds init --add tiny-sample non-prod-test \
&& cd non-prod-test \
&& cf push non-prod-test --no-start \
&& cf set-env non-prod-test NODE_ENV testing \
&& cf restage non-prod-test

The effect is that the CAP service is deployed and running in non-production mode from the outset. There may be better ways to achieve this, but that's how I do it.

Good to know!

You may want to read Using @cap-js/sqlite in CF for your CAP services which is closely related to this, too, as well as Easily add an explicit cds.requires.db to your CAP project's package.json.