How to Deploy a Rocket Application to Heroku

Rocket is a web application framework for the Rust programming language. Heroku is a platform-as-a-service provider that makes hosting web applications easy and, at the (low-traffic) hobby level, free. Deployment is as easy as pushing to a special git remote repository.

I recently deployed my first Rocket application to Heroku. Here’s how.

Since I hadn’t used Heroku in a long while, I first needed to install the heroku Command Line Interface (CLI) and log in.

sudo apt-get install heroku
heroku login

If you aren’t using Linux and apt, see Heroku’s instructions for installing the Heroku CLI. If you don’t already have an account, you’ll need to register on their web site first.

From the root directory of my already written application, which is the root of its git repo, I created the Heroku application, which I named todo-backend-rocket-rust, using this Rust buildpack.

heroku create todo-backend-rocket-rust \

That command automatically added a git remote called heroku.

Next I added two new files, the Procfile and a RustConfig. By default, the Rust buildpack will use the latest stable Rust, but Rocket requires nightly Rust. I specified VERSION=nightly in RustConfig to override the buildpack’s default. The Procfile tells Heroku how to run your application.

I added one unconventional thing to my Procfile to get Rocket to run on the Heroku-designated port. Rocket will look for a ROCKET_PORT environment variable to override its default or Rocket.toml-configured port. Since (AFAIK) the Heroku port is neither configurable nor predictable nor consistent, I couldn’t configure it in Rocket.toml or rely on Rocket’s default, but I didn’t want to have to change the code to look for a different environment variable, if I could avoid it. I tried assigning ROCKET_PORT=$PORT in the Procfile, and it worked.

web: ROCKET_PORT=$PORT target/release/todo-backend-rocket-rust

Since the Heroku application name I chose was available, I knew the application would be available at once I deployed it, and my application needs to be configured with its public base-URL, so I committed the necessary config to Rocket.toml. (Note that base_url is not standard Rocket configuration; it’s something custom that my application uses.)

Then I set the ROCKET_ENV heroku configuration variable for my application to tell Rocket to load the right configuration from Rocket.toml. Heroku configuration values are exposed to applications as environment variables.

heroku config:set ROCKET_ENV=production

Then I was ready to deploy…

git push heroku master

and see my application up and running!