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WordCamp Yes, Vagrant Rocks #wcyvr

This is a companion blog post to my presentation at WordCamp Vancouver on August 17th, 2013. You can download the PDF of the slides or read through the following for the context that is often missing when reading a presentation at a later time. WordPress.tv also has a video of the talk posted.

Hi WordPress, Meet Vagrant

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Story Time

It was December 10th, 2012, the night of our WordPress developer meetup in Portland, that I decided I wanted to break up with MAMP.

Strangely enough for me at the time, I got a couple replies.

I’m not sure if I saw this tweet from Micah right away, as my reply didn’t come for a couple hours.

Another, an hour later, was from Tom Willmot, the founder of Humanmade, telling me that Homebrew was where it was at.

He then pointed me to a guide on GitHub that Humanmade uses for all new recruits, this guide being a great compilation of procedures to follow to get Nginx and the like up and running in your local (OSX) environment.

I immediately fell in love with this idea and started soaking up info. Screw MAMP, I was going to have an Nginx setup on my Mac.

About an hour after this, I finally replied to Micah, telling him that I hadn’t looked at it, but that it looked cool.

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Fast forward a couple hours, I had to put most of this aside as I had a day job to concentrate on and breaking up with MAMP needed to wait until after hours. My tweets got more excited and I made my way to the developer meetup in a really good mood.

Justin Sainton, who is actually speaking next in this room, gave a great talk that night with an excellent title, “WP E-Commerce, I Hate You with the Fire of a Thousand Suns“, about the progress that’s been made toward refining the code base and improving the feature set. After Justin’s talk I continued my ranting to a few others about breaking up with MAMP and installing Nginx with homebrew instead. Daniel Bachhuber made a comment along the lines of – “why would you want to install all that junk on your computer?”

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This is a good point.

Why would I want to install all that junk on my computer. I turned back to Micah’s first tweet suggesting that I check out Vagrant, determined to give it another chance.

And that’s when it clicked.

And at 11:44pm on December 11th, 2012, 24 hours after my initial amazement, Varying Vagrant Vagrants is launched into the world.

And so an obsession began. Developer lives changed. A super long name was shortened to VVV (sometimes I even call it V-trip). And within the next few months I was able to uninstall MAMP completely and convince others at 10up and in the community that Vagrant was the way to go.

My Goals

Which is why I’m here at WordCamp Vancouver. To introduce you to Vagrant and get you obsessed. I want each of you to leave this talk amped up to use Vagrant for WordPress development. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to work. After all, you are at…..

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And we all know that this acronym was chosen because…

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I should admit that I have some hidden agendas.

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While this talk is going to go a long way in showing you a superior development environment that will change your life, there’s much more at stake. This is why you should keep my goals in your head while we go through this. :)

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  • L(inux) – don’t need it. Love it, yes. Don’t need it.
  • A(pache) – Nginx is better. We can debate, but it is. Or what about lighttpd?
  • M(ySQL) – is great! But for how long? What about MariaDB or Percona? Well, I guess MariaDB fails to make my point, but Percona would leave us with LAPP.
  • P(HP) – Ok, that’s sticking around.

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You’ve hopefully seen the new develop repository from a couple weeks ago at the beginning of the 3.7 cycles that starts to make use of Grunt for core development. Having a Vagrantfile to provide an agreed upon development environment for testing between versions of WordPress and PHP and MySQL and Apache and Nginx and… would be pretty slick.

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We contribute in so many ways as a community to the WordPress project and there is a need for sysadmin contributions. It would be great to have a clear way for those who have sys admin experience to contribute to the WordPress project.

Anyhow, my goals aside.

As we’re covering the ins and outs of Vagrant, I’d like you to also tune in to ways Vagrant can fit into your development work flow, how it may have helped you solve problems faster in the past, and how it’s going to make you solve problems faster in the future.

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Before we get into it, I want to exercise some hand raising powers.

  • Who here is a developer?
  • Who here is a sys admin, or manages servers in some way?
  • Who here is a developer and uses MAMP or XAMPP or WAMP?
  • Who here is a sys admin, or manages servers in some way, and thinks Apache is better than Nginx?
  • Who in the room has installed Vagrant on their machine before?
  • Who has used it more than once after installing it?
  • Who is using it day to day for their development environment?
  • What’s Vagrant?

How Did We Get Here?

I’ll get to what Vagrant is in a bit, but first I’m going to cover what we’ve been working with until now.

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Has anyone ever used the term cowboy coding to describe the editing, obviously by others, of code on a live server?

Well, for a long while, cowboy coding didn’t seem so bad.

In fact, the beginning of WordPress development was very much all about it. Quite a few members in the WordPress community learned to code by sharing snippets with each other. If you visit the archives of Matt’s blog, there are code snippets to be found, ready to be hacked into your templates at will.

It was the wild west in the era of open source blogging and white screens were a great way of telling when something bad happened.

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Luckily, this didn’t last forever. As familiarity with WordPress, PHP and MySQL progressed, local LAMP environments arrived. Apache, PHP and MySQL all had binaries that could be installed in Windows or Mac and a minimum environment could be setup with relative ease. White screens now had the opportunity to happen locally first and therefore more rarely in production.

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Even better, MAMP, XAMPP and WAMP came along and provided a method of creating a stable LAMP sandbox for us to play in with just a few clicks. With the minimum requirements for WordPress development met, things got stable and stale. Having this stable sandbox environment goes a long way when building basic WordPress themes or plugins for customers.

Over the last several years, things have changed quite a bit in the landscape of the web, as they always do.

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Nginx became a web server to be reckoned with and is now considered by many to be more powerful and performant than Apache.

Linux, MySQL, and PHP remain for the most part, but other additions like Memcached or Varnish are becoming more useful to WordPress developers to maintain object and page caches as sites are required to scale larger and larger while handling an assortment of traffic patterns.

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Now, because of the way technology changes on us, when you sit down at your local machine and develop in a friendly familiar LAMP stack, there’s no guarantee that you’ll end up publishing your code to the same environment.

At the most extreme, it can be like only training in a swimming pool before jumping in to swim across the Pacific Ocean.

Personally, I can go back and find so many hours that were spent troubleshooting things that I could not reproduce locally because my environment did not match some unexpected thing on production.

Now. If you have the right OS, you may have filtered through a barrage of various tutorials online to piece together a sloppy system of manually installed packages that come close to matching your production environment, but good luck when you need to change something or develop a product that needs to exist in a different (or even multiple) environment.

Vagrant is the Magic You’ve Been Looking For

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The last of Arthur C Clark’s three rules described in “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination” states that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

When I sat down and used Vagrant for the first time, it was magic. I had no idea what was going on, but it was going on and I liked it. And it makes sense that it seem like magic at first because really cool things happen without much effort.

Over the last 8 months I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into what Vagrant is and what it means for development and I can now appreciate it as a piece of advanced technology with many possibilities for expansion and use rather than the magic it started as.

Even so, it still feels like magic.

30000 Feet

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Before we get into any detail, let’s back up and cover this from 30k feet with one of my favorite things in the world. An analogy.

Your Computer is a Beautiful Lawn

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It starts off well manicured, with nicely defined paths around kept gardens that have some wrought iron fencing around them, helping to keep clean. There may even be a couple police officers hanging out to make sure that nothing bad is going on.

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A server is a large, beautiful beach connected to the ocean. So many possibilities for digging holes and building sand castles and creating complex moats for waves to come through to visualize how well your sand castle was constructed.

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XAMPP/MAMP is a small sandbox in your yard. You have an old tire, maybe a pail. Some shovels and a few rocks that you can play with. You can test out some structures in the sand if you’d like in preparation for the big beach day. If you get real fancy, you might even drag over a hose to spray down the sand castle just to see what happens.

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Installing server software directly on your computer is like having a load of sand delivered to your house and dumped on your front lawn. You can probably do a bunch with it, lay out as if it was a beach and build a sand castle or two, but that well manicured look you started with will go away and over time it’s going to become harder and harder to keep track of where all that sand went.

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Vagrant is an extreme sandbox. You can do whatever the heck you want with a beach worth of sand, moving it around and building and getting in trouble. If you flip a front loader or a bulldozer goes crazy and starts running things over, no big deal. Hit the reset button and you get to start over.

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And when you’re done for the day, only one command stands between you and the personal computer that remains a beautiful garden.

Ground Level

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Photo by Steve Snodgrass

Now that we have a picture of what we’re shooting for, let’s back up again and start over on the ground.

What is Vagrant?

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Well, soon.

First, let’s start with virtual machines.

Virtual machines are fictional computers.

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Completely made up stories that have no true hardware, but exist as long as they are described.

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Through something known as “platform virtualization”, these fictional computers, or guests are able to use the hardware resources provided to them on a host machine without actually controlling those resources themselves. This allows the fictional computers to have, among other things, a processor, memory, hard drives, and network access. In fact, multiple virtual machines (or guests) can be running on the same host at once, all sharing the host’s hardware in a safe way through virtualization.

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Virtualbox is GPL licensed platform virtualization software that provides an interface for managing and using these virtual machines. It takes care of figuring out exactly how all of the hardware on your host machine is made available to any guest machine in a safe way.

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Vagrant is MIT licensed open source software for “creating and configuring lightweight, reproducible, and portable development environments.”

Vagrant gives you a method to write the story that describes each fictional computer to be virtualized on your host machine so that you can share the story with others, passing around development environments as if it was code.

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Probably the greatest part about all of this is that both Vagrant and Virtualbox have installers available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. This means that as a Mac user, I can pass the description of a fictional computer to a Windows user and we can both be confident that we’re looking at the exact same thing when we boot it up. And while the most popular operating system used inside the virtual machine itself is certainly some flavor of Linux, it’s entirely possible that a Windows or OSX machine can be described and passed around as well.

That’s pretty amazing.

Anatomy of a Virtual Machine Built With Vagrant

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Let’s talk about the anatomy of a virtual machine built with Vagrant.

  • Host
    • Your local machine is the host. It has Vagrant and Virtualbox installed and a copy of the fictional machine story that’s ready to boot up at any time. The hard drives and network devices belong to it at all times.
  • Guest
    • Any virtual machine created through virtualization on your host computer is the guest. It is temporarily using the resources of the host, until you tell it to shut down and disappear.
  • Box
    • Vagrant provides a way to package boxes. These boxes contain at least an installation of an operating system as well as some guest additions that help any platform virtualization software communicate between host and guest. This base box can be as heavy or as light as you want. It can be a bare bones Ubuntu or CentOS installation with no server software other than that required by Vagrant to do its job. It could also contain all of the various server packages that you need, Nginx, MySQL, etc..
  • Provisioning
    • Provisioning makes having a bare bones box most ideal. This is what helps make Vagrant lightweight and reproducible. I can pass a base box around or share it among several different projects and then pass along unique provisioning scripts that explain and automate how the box should be configured as it boots.

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Let’s walk through the step by step of getting a base.

  1. Download and install [Virtualbox](http://virtualbox.org)
  2. Download and install [Vagrant](http://vagrantup.com)
  3. Type `vagrant init`
  4. Create and then navigate to an empty directory on your computer via the command line and type `vagrant init`
    • This creates a Vagrantfile file in this empty directory that describes the virtual machine you are looking to start.
  5. edit Vagrantfile
  6. Type `vagrant up`

This is the magic part.

Through no additional interaction an empty Ubuntu box is available for my use on my computer. All I need to do is go to a command prompt, type `vagrant ssh` and I’m in. From there I can do anything that I would normally do with a fresh server instance.

Provisioning

Here is where provisioning comes in. While a base server is pretty awesome on its own, it doesn’t do too much for us if we have to install all of the server software every time that we boot the machine.

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There are a few provisioners enabled with Vagrant by default – Ansible, Chef, Puppet, and Shell, with another one, Salt, almost officially in.

These provisioners help describe the story of the virtual machine that you are building every time you start a new instance. Each offers a similar feature set and mostly differs on syntax and organization. I’ll leave a few links in the slides so that you can familiarize yourself with them later.

Great power lies in the use of these provisioners, especially when pushing server configurations to production. I do suggest sticking with shell provisioning at first unless you are already familiar with something else or using it to configure production servers already.

I should mention that again. Ansible, Puppet, Chef, and Salt are already popular tools for server provisioning. There is a chance that you are or an amazing server admin in your life already has some sort of provisioning script setup that you can use to immediately duplicate production in your development environment. And if this happens, and the configuration is for WordPress, you should totally open source it so that we can all share in the love.

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So I’m a bit biased as I’ve been working on this for the last 8 months, but I do think it’s a good and approachable example. Let’s walk through the shell provisioning taken from the open sourced Varying Vagrant Vagrants.

This Vagrant configuration is an opinionated attempt to mimic a fairly common server configuration used for performant WordPress projects. We’ve put quite a bit of work into this and have had an amazing number of contributions from the community already. I really would recommend grabbing this and using it to get your feet wet if not as your daily development environment for WordPress projects. Do note that the Internet today will probably not support the sudden `vagrant ups` of 100 developers, so you may need to wait until you get home.

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And now, only a couple minutes stand between my beautiful lawn and having an extreme sandbox up and running. In fact, if I power off the virtual machine without destroying it completely, we’re looking at an extremely short start up time whenever I want to dive in.

And with Varying Vagrant Vagrants, once `vagrant up` is complete, I have everything I need.

An environment with Nginx, PHP 5.4, MySQL, both APC and memcached, the latest stable WordPress, trunk WordPress, WordPress unit tests, WP-cli, not to mention a whole range of smaller tools that make development easier.

I uninstalled MAMP shortly after creating this and haven’t looked back.

I know this might seem a little crazy on the outside for some of you. Who wants to spend all that time in the command line, right? You should know that once everything is configured in the provisioning script, there’s little chance that you’ll ever need to go into the command line via `vagrant ssh` if you don’t feel like it. Just develop as normal on your local ‘host’ machine and view the changes in the browser. The only commands you’ll need to issue are those to start and stop the Vagrant. And rumor has it that a GUI is possible for these in the future.

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Why should you develop in an environment that matches production?

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Vagrant allows you to version control your environment. In fact, the project I’m working on now started with a Vagrantfile.

At Washington State University, we’re in the beginning stages of a project that intends to provide a central publishing platform based on WordPress for any college or department inside the University to use.

I started the repo with a Vagrantfile.

Once I had that, I was able to add WordPress in and then start making the customizations we’re looking for through various plugins and configuration changes.

Now, as we work toward a place where the server architecture is finalized, we can adjust the development environment in the project repository as needed to see if any new problems arise while we continue to build out and use existing code. With the development environment under version control, we can document reasons for software changes or revert to something earlier if an issue does come up.

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Vagrant allows you to share your environment. The ramp up time for developers on the project is almost nothing. Just a git clone separates them from having a full, matching development environment on their local machine. No risk to the server. No worry about the developer being on Windows or Mac or Linux.

Imagine working for a customer that is going to host their site on WPEngine and knowing with absolute confidence that the theme you created locally will work without issue.

Or knowing that customers using default WordPress installations on Dreamhost or Bluehost will have not troubles using the plugin that your about to publish to the WordPress plugin repository.

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I should stress that while Vagrant is very much going to replace MAMP for you, it is not a MAMP replacement.

Because that’s not what you should want. Instead of one environment restricted to technology that the community needed years ago, you should want a flexible environment that can adapt seamlessly to the technologies that the community must work with today.

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Rather than meeting the WordPress minimum requirements we talked about earlier, Vagrant provides a flexible way for a developer to meet their project’s environment requirements.

Wrap Up

  • Magic?
  • Advanced technology?
  • Ready to start using Vagrant on a day to day basis?

I really hope you go home and go through your first vagrant up and then tell me about it later, because it’s a wonderful experience to see how quickly your development can change with a new, more carefree environment.

Resources

A WordPress Core Vagrantfile

Vagrant is a very refreshing tool.

Once the Vagrantfile and provisioning of a project is setup, new developers can join a project and start developing immediately without worrying much about a local setup. DevOps and sysadmin folks can continue to tweak servers and various configurations, passing those changes on to the development team without interruption. Over time, the local development environment comes closer and closer to matching the project’s production environment and those annoying bugs that creep up when the two are different start to disappear.

A bunch of people in the WordPress community have done a ton of great work with VVV over the last 7 months and it’s great to see the traction that it’s gotten. It is a great example of a very useable and modern WordPress production environment and I think will continue to go a long way toward upping the game of many.

Next.

An open source project that ships with a default Vagrantfile is very refreshing.

The barrier to entry becomes so low. Within a matter of minutes, a virtual machine can be launched that provides the operating system, server software, and configuration needed to get started with development and to view the results of the changes that you are introducing. This gives everyone developing for the project a common baseline, helping to avoid worksforme bugs and allowing things to progress faster.

Take a look at projects like DiscourseCouchDBElasticsearchPiwik, and Gitlab for great examples of how Vagrant is currently used as part of core development.

Now. Imagine a WordPress core that ships with a Vagrantfile of its own. Anybody wanting to contribute to WordPress or to work in an optimal environment for building a plugin or theme that can run on any WordPress installation would have the ability to use a virtual machine that the community has decided is valid for development and comprehensive testing.

The possibilities of what could be included in that environment are pretty slick.

  • WordPress Unit Testing is one of the coolest things that VVV currently provides. Giving anyone who wishes a unit testing environment without having to worry about installing PHPUnit locally would go a long way in getting more WordPress developers to test.
  • Scripts that generate core documentation on the fly can be included with the Vagrant configuration, helping developers to explore the core code base more on their local machine.
  • Tools and guides for patch creation, even scripts that automate some of the processes that come with Trac interaction, would help lower the barrier to core contribution.

Granted there are hurdles.

WordPress, along with most other PHP projects, is forced to support multiple versions of PHP. And while web server versions don’t matter as much, it’s still nice to know that both Apache and Nginx are working well, especially when various issues are being dealt with in the world of rewrites. That said, there are ways to provide a flexible environment that can accomplish all of this.

And when we do!

Being able to switch from PHP 5.2 to 5.5, from WordPress 3.6 to trunk, or from Apache to Nginx on the fly to make sure your plugin is compatible with each will be an absolute dream.

All achievable with two steps: Check out WordPress, type vagrant up.

Grand ideas aside, the first goal is to exist. I’ve started a new repository on GitHub, WVand it would be wonderful to start discussing how this world looks now. I’d love to hear ideas on what provisioner should be used, what features should be started with, and how we can approach making this part of WordPress core.

Props to Zack Tollman for having this conversation with me several times and to Weston Ruter for sparking it again the other day.

v0.8 of Varying Vagrant Vagrants has been pushed

v0.8 of Varying Vagrant Vagrants has been pushed

Definitely not as ridiculously long as the v0.7 changelog, but a good month of steady progress.

  • Enable SSH agent forwarding
  • Wrap update/installation procedures with a network status check
  • Enable WP_DEBUG by default
  • Update wp-cli during provisioning
  • Better handling of package status checks
  • Better handling of custom apt sources
  • Add PHPMemcachedAdmin 1.2.2 to repository for memcached stats viewing.
  • Add phpMyAdmin 4.0.3 to repository for database management

If I had to pick favorites, it would be the network status check that is done before installations are attempted and the PHPMemcachedAdmin that we’re now including. If you want to learn more about how data is managed in memcached, this is definitely your tool.

Enjoy!

On Citizenship in Open-source software development

On Citizenship in Open-source software development

I’ll steal the TL;DR from the author:

TL;DR: By giving an actual social status to the people contributing to a repository, GitHub would solve the problem of zombie-projects with a scattered community. By allowing these citizens to actually collaborate with each other, instead of just with the owner, repositories will live as long as the community exists, completely on auto-pilot.

Ignore “GitHub” for a second and replace with WordPress.org. Upvoted contributions to by_the_people_ branches on plugins could be an interesting way of addressing the stale plugin or unresponsive plugin author issue.

v0.6 of Varying Vagrant Vagrants has been pushed

v0.6 of Varying Vagrant Vagrants has been pushed

Plenty of changes and plenty of contributions this round. Great stuff!

  • Add WordPress Unit Tests
  • Option for custom shell provisioning file
  • Pre/Post provisioning hooks via additional shell scripts
  • Flags system to disable portions of default provisioning
  • Grab stable WordPress from latest.tar.gz vs SVN
  • Append custom apt sources list to default
  • Update to SVN 1.7.9, addresses specific Windows permissions issue
  • Move wp-cli to /srv/www/ for easier contributions

Varying Vagrant Vagrants has moved (a bit)

Varying Vagrant Vagrants started off 4 months ago as a shot in the dark to solve a problem I was having. As development progressed, it became immediately clear that this was something we wanted to have in the 10up bag of tricks while we’re working with varying production environments. The contributions from other 10uppers have been fantastic and it quickly became obvious that this should grow in 10up’s area of GitHub rather than in my little personal corner.

Things have come a long way and we now have a great base to start branching from. The next hope is to see custom Vagrantfiles from groups like WordPress.com, ZippyKid, WPEngine, DreamHost, GoDaddy, Bluehost, or anybody else doing WordPress hosting.

We’ll keep the pressure going on that front and over the next few days do a better job of explaining the overall goal for Varying Vagrant Vagrants, how we’ll use it internally, and how you may be able to use it or a variant for your own development process.

In the meantime, if you’ve already cloned the repository, please make sure that your git remotes are up to date if you’d like to pull in changes.

Hi WordPress, Meet Vagrant

Update 10/20/2013: This was a great intro post to using Vagrant for WordPress development. If you’d like more, see my talk from WordCamp Vancouver, also titled “Hi WordPress, Meet Vagrant“, as well as the accompanying slides and context. Also, I called out WordPress.com at the end of this post with the hopes that a Vagrant environment could be built for that environment as well. Automattic came through with the VIP Quickstart repository, which is coming closer and closer to the WordPress.com environment every day.

Over the last few months I’ve been planting seeds with every WordPress developer I run into with the hope of convincing them to use Vagrant to manage their development environment. The basic pitch has evolved with time and now that I’ve had the chance to fine tune it for 10up’s recent developer summit, I’m going to lay it out here as well.

LAMP via MAMP / XAMPP / WAMP

It helps to start with what we’ve been working with so far. The first step to developing for WordPress is to make sure your environment meets the minimum requirements. As of today, these are PHP 5.2.4 and MySQL version 5.0 or greater.

The beginning of WordPress development was often like the wild west. Cowboys abound, PHP files were edited in some form of a text editor and uploaded directly to the server for testing. White screens were a good indicator when things went wrong.

As familiarity with WordPress, PHP and MySQL progressed, local LAMP environments arrived. Apache, PHP and MySQL all had binaries that could be installed in Windows or Mac and a basic development environment could be setup with relative ease. White screens now happened locally first and more rarely in production.

MAMP, XAMPP and WAMP came along and provided a few click method of creating a stable LAMP sandbox for us to play in. With the minimum requirements for WordPress development met, things got stable and stale.

Meeting Environment Requirements

Rather than meeting minimum requirements, Vagrant provides a flexible way for a developer to meet environment requirements.

How about a server running Ubuntu 12.0.4, nginx, PHP-FPM, MySQL, memcached and the PECL memcache extension? Vagrant does that.

And CentOS 6.4 with nginx, PHP-FPM, MySQL, memcached and the PECL memcached extension? This too.

Or Debian 6 with page caching provided by Varnish or Redis… Can also do.

But wait.. still working with that project hosted on Apache, MySQL and PHP?

Vagrant does that.

This Matters?

This matters. The closer you can be to your production environment during development, the more confident you can be that the code you are pushing has been tested properly.

When that tricky cache expiration issue appears, the tools will be immediately available to confirm and troubleshoot it. When somebody on your team needs to jump in to help on a project, only a couple commands stand between them and a full matching system.

And at the end of the day, when you are done with development, one command powers off this amazing virtual environment and leaves you with a personal computer.

Go Try It and Chime In

10up has a pretty decent setup going over at Varying Vagrant Vagrants. A walkthrough from a few weeks ago is up at Evolving WordPress Development With Vagrant. We’re continuing to cruise ahead with a common nginx, MySQL, PHP-FPM and memcached setup, but we’ll be branching off to our other environments shortly as well. If you have an environment you’d like to see matched, fork the repository and give it a go.

And If Your Name Is Mo Or Barry…

Hi!

What we have in our default provisioning so far is pretty close to a basic version of the WordPress.com server environment. We would love to help create a Vagrant setup that matches production as closely as possible and can be used by anybody developing a project with that in mind. Ping me when you’re game. :)

Cache issues be gone!

Evolving WordPress Development With Vagrant

Yesterday we tagged version 0.2 of Varying Vagrant Vagrants, an evolving Vagrant configuration with an end goal of providing a system to pass development projects between team members at 10up for easy ramp up on projects. While any development project can be supported, our initial focus is WordPress. If you’re doing any kind of WordPress development, you should check it out. If you check it out and you fall in love, you should think about working with us.

UPDATE 04/12/03: This post is a great intro and provides good context  for the overall Vagrant discussion that’s been happening. Quite a bit has changed in the last few weeks and I would recommend stopping by Hi WordPress, Meet Vagrant for some of the latest fodder. Thanks!

What is Vagrant?

Vagrant is an open source “tool for building and distributing development environments”. Created by Mitchell Hashimoto, it provides a method to automatically provision a headless virtual machine for use with virtualization software such as VirtualBox. The various configurations of these virtual machines are sandboxed away from your local machine.

What is VirtualBox?

VirtualBox is open source virtualization software from Sun Microsystems. It provides a method to handle these prepackaged virtual machines, or boxes, that are configured with Vagrant.

What is Varying Vagrant Vagrants?

Varying Vagrant Vagrants is an exploration into the world of of Vagrant and how it can help to make development efficient and in sync with production systems. It replaces the common MAMP or XAMPP setups that we have become familiar with and ensures that all members of the team can develop in the same environment for a project without worrying about the operating system on their local machine.

One development environment is currently provided with Varying Vagrant Vagrants.  This includes Ubuntu 12.0.4 with Nginx, PHP-FPM, MySQL and Memcached. While this does not match every production environment, it has become a very common setup for highly scalable WordPress sites. It is these sites where developing in sync with production can be the most important. The closer we can come to matching the exact environment, the more likely we are to catch bugs and environment specific situations before deployment.

How Do I Get Started?

Getting started is easy, and will more than likely take you less than 30 minutes.

  1. Download and install the latest version of VirtualBox for your operating system.
  2. Download and install the latest version of Vagrant for your operating system.
  3. Clone or download the Varying Vagrant Vagrants repository to a local directory.
  4. Navigate to the new directory and type `vagrant up`

With that, your virtual machine is running. Test it immediately by going to 192.168.50.4 in a web browser. To start working with WordPress, one more step is necessary.

  • Modify your local machine’s hosts file so that `local.wordpress.dev` is mapped to `192.168.50.4`.

Once mapped, visiting `local.wordpress.dev` in your browser will bring up an initial WordPress installation. Follow through that to create your first WordPress development environment in Vagrant. Themes and plugins that you are developing can go into the respective `www/wordpress-default/wp-content/` directories.

From here, you should experiment.

If you are familiar with object caching, the common plugins for working with PECL memcache can be installed. Memcached itself is already installed and running for when you’re ready.

If you start poking around the internal documentation for Varying Vagrant Vagrants, you’ll see quite a few places where you can hook in with customizations of your own to continue to extend the development environment.

What’s Next?

Two goals are driving the development for the next releases of Varying Vagrant Vagrants.

  1. Provide a way to start with one of multiple WordPress configurations. Multisite is an obvious addition, but it would also be nice to include configurations for object caching as well as helpful development plugins.
  2. Provide a way to pass projects around with a Vagrantfile and WordPress configuration included that can help others jump in to assit immediately.

Please feel free to pass along any feedback or issues with the current release via the GitHub issues page. Any input is much appreciated!

If you want to geek out on some context for my Vagrant experience so far, check out these posts:

A WordPress Meetup Introduction to Vagrant – What You’ll Need

Note: I’ll be giving a couple of talks about getting started with Vagrant over the next couple months and I intend for this to be a decent description covering some of the basics those who are attending should complete. If are planning on attending in PDX or Seattle, please read this through and complete the steps as best you can.

I wrote an initial blog post a couple months ago that highlights my fascination with Vagrant and may help give a broad overview of the problem I was trying to solve. Keep in mind that I went from eager excitement to mind blown user of Vagrant within 24 hours. This will be you.

Now, ignore everything there and start from scratch.

VirtualBox

VirtualBox is an open source (GPL) cross-platform (that’s everyone!) virtualization application. Oracle provides a great overview in its first steps documentation here – https://www.virtualbox.org/manual/ch01.html

  1. Download the latest version of VirtualBox (4.2.6) for your operating system and install it on your computer. https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads
  2. Download the matching VirtualBox Extension Pack (4.2.6), the same for all platforms, and install it on your computer. Having VirtualBox installed should make this a recognized file type. https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

Vagrant

Vagrant is an open source (MIT) tool that allows you to setup one or multiple development environments on your local machine that are sandboxed away from your operating system. The getting started guid describes it best:

“Vagrant uses Oracle’s VirtualBox to build configurable, lightweight, and portable virtual machines dynamically.”

I’ll go into much more detail during the presentation, but this is a good start.

  1. Download the latest stable version of Vagrant (1.0.6) for your operating system and install it on your computer. http://downloads.vagrantup.com/tags/v1.0.6
  2. Read the overview page of the getting started documentation for Vagrant. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. A familiarity with the terminology will be helpful. Bonus points for every page past the overview section you read. It will all be helpful the second time around. http://docs.vagrantup.com/v1/docs/getting-started/index.html
  3. Additional reading is available under the general documentation section. http://docs.vagrantup.com/v1/docs/index.html

Create a project.

Vagrant is best explained when you are already up and running with it. To best be prepared for the meetup, it would be great if everyone had the following completed.

  1. Somewhere on your computer, decide where you want a local environment to live and navigate to that directory. For sanity, I’m going to use ‘pdxwp-vagrant‘ as the environment directory and ‘development‘ as the directory it will live in on your computer.
  2. Navigate to the containing directory via ‘cd development
  3. Clone the varying vagrant vagrants repository with ‘git clone https://github.com/10up/varying-vagrant-vagrants pdxwp-vagrant`. This will create a directory called ‘pdxwp-vagrant‘ in your ‘development‘ directory that contains all of the files we will need to start up vagrant.
    • If you don’t have git available to you by the command line, you can extract the repository’s zip file into a ‘pdxwp-vagrant‘ directory instead.
  4. Change into the ‘pdxwp-vagrant‘ directory and type ‘vagrant up
    • A series of messages will appear indicating that Vagrant is downloading a ~600MB box that will act as the base of the virtual machine that we are building. This box started with a specially packed version of Ubuntu 12.0.4 made available directly from Vagrant’s servers. I then installed nginx, mysql, php-fpm and memcached before repackaging it for distribution. This allows us to skip a lot of the provisioning.
    • Boxes are cached in your user’s home directory under ‘~/.vagrant.d/boxes`. As long as nothing changes with the ‘config.vm.box‘ or ‘config.vm.box_url‘ parameters in your ‘Vagrantfile‘, the box should stay cached on your system until it is deleted so that you do not have to download 600MB every time you start the server.
  5. Once ‘vagrant up‘ has finished, you’re ready to go. By default the IP address of the box is ‘192.168.50.4‘. Add an entry for this IP address to your hosts file that points to ‘local.wordpress.dev‘. This will give you access to a default WordPress install right off the bat.

And you’re ready! At this point, don’t worry about screwing anything up. As long as you have VirtualBox and Vagrant installed and the 600MB box cached to your machine, interacting with the box during the meetup will be a breeze.

See you soon!