Deploying Ember to AWS CloudFront using ember-cli-deploy

I am working on a side project in Ember, and I want to serve the application with SSL. This application will be interacting with 3rd party APIs and authenticating using 3rd party OAuth, so I want to serve it to users with HTTPS encryption.

I’ve been deploying the application on Heroku with heroku-buildpack-ember-cli. The Heroku approach is quick and easy to get up and running, but Heroku would charge $7/month to keep the application awake and $20/month to use SSL. I don’t want to spend $27/month on a side project if I don’t have to.

I’ve been taking a look at Amazon Web Services (AWS) as an alternative. I already pay AWS each month to host remote backups on S3, and I’ve used S3 and CloudFront before as a CDN for Rails application assets. Here are the steps I am taking to deploy my static Ember application on AWS:

Step 1: Deploy ember-cli to S3 with ember-cli-deploy

Create a bucket on S3

Most of the steps I’m following to set up AWS are well-documented:

  1. Open the AWS S3 Console
  2. Click Create a Bucket
  3. Set the Bucket Name; I’ve set mine to match the app subdomain I am using: app.[appdomain].com
  4. Select a Region close to the app’s expected users (for me, this is US Standard)
  5. Click Create

Edit Bucket Permissions

I need to edit the bucket permissions to allow public read access to the files that I upload:

  1. Open the AWS S3 Console
  2. Select the app.[appdomain].com bucket, click Properties, click Permissions, and click Add bucket policy
  3. Copy and paste the following policy into the Bucket Policy Editor (change app.[appdomain].com to match the name of the bucket):

      "Statement": [{
        "Sid": "Allow Public Access to All Objects",
        "Effect": "Allow",
        "Principal": "*",
        "Action": "s3:GetObject",
        "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::app.[appdomain].com/*"
  4. Click Save

Create AWS Access Keys

I need to create a set of access keys that allow upload access to S3:

  1. Open the AWS IAM Console
  2. Click Users, then click Create New Users
  3. In box 1, type a name for the user (I used the name of my Ember app), then click Create
  4. Click Show User Credentials and copy the Access Key ID and Secret Access Key into a file named .env.deploy.production in the root of the ember-cli app:

    AWS_KEY=[Access Key ID]
    AWS_SECRET=[Secret Access Key]
  5. Click close (and again to confirm) to return to the list of users
  6. Click on the new user, click the Permissions tab, and click Attach Policy
  7. Select the policy named AmazonS3FullAccess and click Attach Policy

Install the ember-cli-deploy addon

I’ve admired the ember-cli-deploy project from a distance since Luke Melia’s great talk on deploying Ember apps at EmberConf. This seems like a great chance to try it out.

$ ember install ember-cli-deploy

I’m going to deploy everything (including my index.html) to S3, so I’ve installed the following ember-cli-deploy plugins:

$ ember install ember-cli-deploy-build
$ ember install ember-cli-deploy-gzip
$ ember install ember-cli-deploy-manifest
$ ember install ember-cli-deploy-s3

I need to add the following configuration to config/deploy.js to load the variables that I set in .env.deploy.production as well as tell ember-cli-deploy to upload all files (including index.html):

ENV.s3 {
  accessKeyId: process.env.AWS_KEY,
  secretAccessKey: process.env.AWS_SECRET,
  bucket: process.env.AWS_BUCKET,
  region: process.env.AWS_REGION,
  filePattern: "*"

Now I can upload my Ember application build to S3 with one command:

$ ember deploy production

Enable Static Site Hosting on S3

To use the application from S3, I need to enable static site hosting on my S3 bucket:

  1. Open the AWS S3 Console
  2. Select the app.[appdomain].com bucket, click Properties, then click Static Website Hosting
  3. Click Enable Website Hosting
  4. Set Index Document to index.html
  5. Click Save

Step 2: Distribute S3 Assets via CloudFront

At this point, I could change my DNS settings to point app.[appdomain].com at the S3 bucket since it’s set up for static site hosting (and the bucket name matches the subdomain). However, there are two reasons that I want to distribute my Ember application through CloudFront instead. First, S3 does not support SSL for custom domains. Second, CloudFront gives my application assets the speed boost that comes with being distributed to and delivered from CloudFront’s edge locations around the world.

  1. Open the AWS CloudFront Console
  2. Under Web, click Get Started
  3. Fill Origin Domain Name with the S3 Hosting Endpoint (NOT the name of the bucket); this is the app.[appdomain] address that I was testing in the browser at the end of my S3 setup
  4. Leave most of the settings in this form set to their defaults, but set Default Root Object to index.html; this will load my application when I visit the CloudFront root path
  5. Click Create Distribution

Add CloudFront custom error response

  1. Open the AWS CloudFront Console
  2. Click on the [Distribution ID]
  3. Click the Error Pages tab
  4. Click Create Custom Error Response
  5. Set HTTP Error Code to 404: Not Found
  6. Under Customize Error Response, click Yes
  7. Set Response Page Path to /index.html
  8. Set HTTP Response Code to 200: OK
  9. Click Create

It takes up to 15 minutes to create the CloudFront distribution. Once the Status column in the CloudFront list switches from “In Progress” to “Deployed”, the distribution is complete. I visit the CloudFront domain name at [cloudfrontcode], and my Ember application works here just as it did at the S3 Endpoint.

Step 3: Use Custom Domain for CloudFront

Now that my Ember application is being served by CloudFront, I want to access it using app.[appdomain].com instead of the unattractive [cloudfrontcode]

  1. Open the AWS CloudFront Console
  2. Select the CloudFront distribution I just created, then click Distribution Settings
  3. On the General tab, click Edit
  4. In Alternate Domain Names (CNAMEs), enter the app.[appdomain].com custom domain that I want to use
  5. Click Yes, Edit to save this change

It takes some time for this change to take effect. Once again, I watch for the Status column to change from “In Progress” to “Deployed”. In the meantime, I set the DNS for app.[appdomain].com to point at CloudFront:

  1. Open the domain’s DNS settings (mine are managed on DNSimple)
  2. Create a CNAME record that sets app.[appdomain].com as an alias for the CloudFront distribution at [cloudfrontcode]

I visit app.[appdomain].com, and I see my Ember application delivered via CloudFront.

Step 4: Add SSL to CloudFront

I finally am reaching my ultimate goal: serving my Ember application over SSL. First, I obtain an SSL certificate through AWS Certificate Manager:

  1. Open the AWS Certificate Manager Console
  2. Click Get started if no certificates exist or Request a certificate if there are existing certificates
  3. Under Domain name, enter the application subdomain app.[appdomain].com that will be used
  4. Click Review and request
  5. Review the domain name, then click Confirm and request
  6. Check the email address associated with the domain registration for a certificate approval email; in the email, click the link to Amazon Certificate Approvals
  7. On the approval page, click I Approve

I tell CloudFront to use the new SSL certificate for my custom CloudFront domain:

  1. Open the AWS CloudFront Console
  2. Select the CloudFront distribution, then click Distribution Settings
  3. On the General tab, click Edit
  4. Under SSL Certificate, choose Custom SSL Certificate (
  5. In the dropdown, I select the ACM certificate for app.[appdomain].com
  6. Under Custom SSL Client Support, make sure that Only Clients that Support Server Name Indication (SNI) is selected; this option supports all modern browsers and does not add to the cost of using CloudFront
  7. Click Yes, Edit to save this change

Once again, it takes CloudFront a short while to update this change throughout its network. Now that I am serving my Ember application over SSL, I want to be make HTTPS the default:

  1. Open the AWS CloudFront Console
  2. Select the CloudFront distribution, then click Distribution Settings
  3. Click the Behaviors tab, select the Default behavior, then click the Edit button
  4. Change the Viewer Pretocol Policy setting to Redirect HTTP to HTTPS
  5. Click Yes, Edit to save this change

After CloudFront updates this change through its network, anyone accessing my Ember application over HTTP is automatically redirected to the HTTPS version.

Step 5: Deploying Future Revisions

When I make changes to my Ember application that are ready to be deployed, I can easily deploy them with the ember-cli-deploy command:

$ ember deploy production

Fingerprinted assets like the app’s CSS and JavaScript have unique names, so I don’t worry about CloudFront caching for these objects. I do, however, need to invalidate the CloudFront cache for my index.html. I can do this with the AWS CLI (replace [distributionid] with the proper CloudFront ID):

// This first command only needs to be run once per aws-cli installation to enable the preview CloudFront commands
$ aws configure set preview.cloudfront true

$ aws cloudfront create-invalidation --distribution-id [distributionid] --invalidation-batch "{\"CallerReference\": \"$(uuidgen)\", \"Paths\":{\"Quantity\":1,\"Items\":[\"/index.html\"]}}"

Note: This command assumes that your aws-cli user has CloudFront permissions.

Next Steps

  • I really don’t like having to run that ugly CLI command at the end to invalidate my index.html, so I’m working on an ember-cli-deploy plugin to automate this step
  • Once I’ve got the CloudFront invalidation step automated, I plan on creating an ember-cli-deploy plugin pack that contains all of the plugins needed for this deployment strategy

UPDATE (11/10/2015): These two enhancements are now available

UPDATE (2/9/2016): Updated this post to use CloudFront custom error pages instead of S3 routing rules to handle loading non-root URLs without a hash-based redirect

UPDATE (2/19/2016): Updated this post to use AWS Certificate Manager to obtain an SSL certificate for CloudFront