MBaaS on Cloud Foundry: How to Deploy Helios

Alexander Sologub

Mobile-backend-as-a-service frameworks appeared to speed up app development by providing/automating such things as user and data management, billing, etc. Thanks to MBaaS, developers can finally concentrate on implementing the features they envisioned, instead of worrying about infrastructure. Dozens of solutions exist today. Paid ones generally offer more advanced features, but there are also some decent open source options.


Helios MBaaS is one of them. It is an extensible open source mobile backend framework that provides essential services. In fact, it is a Ruby Gem that can be used to build an independent Rack application. It can also be implemented with Sinatra or RoR. Out-of-the-box features include synchronization, push notification, in-app purchases, logging, analytics, and more. In addition, along with LoopBack, it is one of MBaaS frameworks that can be deployed to PaaS systems, such as Heroku or Cloud Foundry.

So, in this tutorial, I will walk you through the steps for deploying Helios with your application to Cloud Foundry.

Things you need to know

Helios uses PostgreSQL and its hash store. To operate normally, it needs an XCDATAMODEL file in the XML format (borrowed from the iOS SDK), where the business logic will be described.

To deploy Helios on Cloud Foundry, we will need to install and set up the following:

  • PostgreSQL
  • Helios
  • Cloud Foundry Command Line Interface (CLI)

Let’s begin.

1. Before you start

First of all, you need to check your Ruby version by typing the following lines into the terminal:

ruby -v
# ruby 1.9.3p484 (2013-11-22 revision 43786) [x86_64-linux]

As you can see, I am using Ruby 1.9.3 (and newer versions should do just fine). Also, I prefer to use RVM and Gemsets:

rvm gemset use 1.9.3-p484@cf_helios --create --default
# Using 1.9.3-p484@cf_helios with gemset cf_helios
# ruby-1.9.3-p484 - #gemset created /home/alexander/.rvm/gems/ruby-1.9.3-p484@cf_helios
# ruby-1.9.3-p484 - #generating cf_helios wrappers

Now we are ready to start.

2. Installing PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is one of Helios’s external dependencies. Helios also uses the PostgreSQL hstore extension, so we are going to install it, as well. Besides that, since we are going to deploy our app to Cloud Foundry, we need to provide a PostgreSQL service. There are a couple of ways to do this. If your existing Cloud Foundry installation already has a PostgreSQL service (or a way to create one), you can just bind it to your app. However, I had no other way but to provide my own PostgreSQL service.

Let’s start with local setup. The simplest way to do it on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is:

sudo apt-get install postgresql-9.1 posgresql-contrib-9.1

In addition, you are going to need a user and a proper database:

psql postgres
CREATE DATABASE cf_helios_db;
CREATE USER cf_helios_user WITH PASSWORD 'cf_helios_password';
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON DATABASE cf_helios_db TO cf_helios_user;
\c cf_helios_db

If you want to provide the PostgreSQL service from your computer, simply follow the instructions below. Otherwise, you will need to install PostgreSQL on a machine that can be accessed by your app from Cloud Foundry (in my case, it was a machine with a public IP).

The following are additional steps required for PostgreSQL to receive remote connections:

  • Add the following line to /etc/postgresql/9.1/main/postgresql.conf:
listen_addresses = '*'


  • And the following line to /etc/postgresql/9.1/main/pg_hba.conf:
host all all md5

Note, that depending on the operating system, these files might be stored in a different location. Also, do not forget about firewalls. By default, PostgreSQL uses port 5432.

Restart PostgreSQL for changes to take effect:

sudo service postgresql restart


3. Installing Helios

Now let’s install Helios:

gem install helios
# Fetching: highline-1.6.20.gem (100%)
# Successfully installed highline-1.6.20...
# ...
# Installing ri documentation for venice-0.2.0
# Installing ri documentation for zurb-foundation-4.1.2
# 52 gems installed

To create an application, use the following code:

helios new cf_helios_app
#         create  Procfile
#         create  Gemfile
# ...
# Initialized empty Git repository in /home/alexander/cf_helios_app/.git/
# [master (root-commit) ad7e12a] Initial Commit
# 6 files changes, 200 insertions(+) ...

It will create the ch_helios_app folder in your current directory. You need to edit the cf_helios_app/.env file, so that it looks like this:


Now you can use helios start to launch your app inside the cf_helios_app directory. I recommend that you open http://localhost:5000/admin/ in your browser, to make sure it works properly.

4. Installing the Cloud Foundry CLI

Installing the Cloud Foundry console is as simple as can be:

gem install cf
# Fetching: addressable-2.3.5.gem (100%)
# Successfully installed addressable-2.3.5
# Fetching: multi_json-1.8.4.gem (100%)...
# ...
# Installing ri documentation for uuidtools-2.1.4
# 23 gems installed

Now we need to connect with our Cloud Foundry deployment. The console will ask you to select the organization and space. Just follow the steps below:

cf target
# Setting target to OK

cf login
# target:

# Email> your_cf_login

# Password> ********

# Authenticating... OK
# 1: your_organization
# Organization> 1

# Switching to organization your_organization... OK
# 1: dev
# Space> 1

# Switching to space dev... OK

We are almost ready to deploy our application to Cloud Foundry.

5. Preparing to deploy the application

As I have mentioned before, in order to deploy an application, you need to provide it with a PostgreSQL service. To create a so-called “user provided” service in Cloud Foundry, type the following lines in your terminal:

cf create-service
# 1: mongodb , via 
# 2: user-provided , via 
# What kind?> 2

# Name?> postgresql-d15b3   

# What credential parameters should applications use to connect to this service instance?
# (e.g. hostname, port, password)> uri

# uri> postgres://cf_helios_user:cf_helios_password@your_postgresql_host/cf_helios_db

# Creating service postgresql-d15b3... OK

Then create the .cfignore file inside the cf_helios_app directory and fill it with these lines:



6. Deploying your application to Cloud Foundry

To deploy your application, follow the directions of the Cloud Foundry console. Inside the cf_helios_app directory, do the following:

cf push
# Name> helios

# Instances> 1

# 1: 128M
# 2: 256M
# 3: 512M
# 4: 1G
# Memory Limit> 3   

# Creating helios... OK

# 1: helios
# 2: none
# Subdomain> 1     

# 1:
# 2: none
# Domain> 1                       

# Binding to helios... OK

# Create services for application?> n

# Bind other services to application?> y

# ...
# 7: postgresql-d15b3
# Which service?> 7

# Binding postgresql-d15b3 to helios... OK
# Bind another service?> n

# Save configuration?> y

# Saving to manifest.yml... OK
# Uploading helios... OK
# Preparing to start helios... OK
# -----> Downloaded app package (8.0K)
# -----> Using Ruby version: ruby-1.9.3
# -----> Installing dependencies using Bundler version 1.3.2
#        Running: bundle install --without development:test...
#        Fetching gem metadata from
#        Fetching gem metadata from
#        Installing i18n (0.6.9)
# ...
# Checking status of app 'helios'...
#   0 of 1 instances running (1 starting)
#   0 of 1 instances running (1 starting)
#   0 of 1 instances running (1 starting)
#   0 of 1 instances running (1 starting)
#   0 of 1 instances running (1 starting)
#   1 of 1 instances running (1 running)
# Push successful! App 'helios' available at

Now you can access your Helios app at Note that Cloud Foundry has changed the application port (from 5000 to 80).

You might want to consider another MBaaS option, such as LoopBack. In a couple of days, we will publish a tutorial for deploying LoopBack on Cloud Foundry. If you have any questions regarding MBaaS on Cloud Foundry, you can catch up with our team at the CF Summit on June 9-11. Our CEO, Renat Khasanshyn, will present a lightning talk on Cloud Foundry and OpenStack. You can also attend CF training on June 9 and 12 and address your questions to our Director of Operations, Manuel Garcia.


About the author:

Alexander Sologub is a Software Engineer at Altoros. He specializes in Web development and cloud computing technologies, including Cloud Foundry. His favorite tools are Ruby and his Mac (check out his profile on GitHub). Alexander is also a fan of powerbocking, which makes him a little bit closer to the actual clouds.

Further reading:

MBaaS on Cloud Foundry: How to Deploy Helios

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