Deploying rocketchat on Catalyst Cloud using cloud-init

Rocket.Chat is an open source alternative to other chat apps such as Slack. It allows us to install our own server and have control over its configuration.

Cloud-init is a system configuration tool that can be utilised to apply a configuration to a system automatically upon initialisation.

This tutorial assumes the following:

  • You have installed the OpenStack CLI and sourced an OpenStack RC file, as explained here - Source an openstack RC file

  • A basic knowledge of Bash and YAML.

  • Have an SSH key already generated, preferably in /home/<user>/.ssh/


In this tutorial we’re going to set up Rocket.Chat on a Catalyst Cloud instance using nginx as an HTTPS reverse proxy to handle requests to and from the chat server.

We’ll be using a self signed certificate for HTTPS encryption. Setting up a certificate from a CA such as Let’s Encrypt is very easy and packages such as Certbot make this process extremely user friendly. This will require a domain name set up, and is outside the scope of this tutorial.

For the purpose of this tutorial it’s recommended that you follow along, create a file to copy each code snippet into and try to understand what commands are being executed. Small code comments have been included so that the script is more readable if you are not familiar with the OpenStack CLI or bash. Try to hold off on running your script until you’ve reached the end and understand what the entire script is trying to do.

Instructions for setting up the instances and related networks on Catalyst Cloud have been included here for convenience. If you’ve already completed the process of Launching your first instance and Command line methods then this part of the process may be extremely familiar to you, and you can choose to skip to Automating our install using Cloud-Init if you wish.

Setting up the network

First we want to set a prefix value for all of our object names so we can avoid future name conflicts. rocketchat is a great choice because that’s what we’re going to be installing on our system, although you might want to change this.

# We'll begin with a prefix value for all of our network and instance names.

Now we need a network for our instances, and a router to connect that network to the public internet.

# Create our virtual router.
openstack router create $ROUTER_NAME
# Connect the virtual router to the public net.
openstack router set $ROUTER_NAME --external-gateway public-net

# Create our virtual network
openstack network create "$PRIVATE_NETWORK_NAME"

Now we can create the subnet that our rocketchat instance will reside on. In this case we’re going to allocate the address range - of the address space.

# Allocate addresses from our private network to our
# rocketchat subnet.

# Create a subnet of our existing virtual network.
openstack subnet create \
--allocation-pool "start=${NETWORK}.${POOL_START_OCT},end=${NETWORK}.${POOL_END_OCT}" \
--dhcp \
--subnet-range "$NETWORK.0/24" \

# Add our subnet to the router
openstack router add subnet "$ROUTER_NAME" "$PRIVATE_SUBNET_NAME"

The network is now fully set up and configured. We’ll connect our rocketchat instance up later on. For now we need to create some security rules.

Security settings

It’s important to consider what access is needed for our server to serve its purpose. For the purposes of this tutorial we are keeping these rules fairly simple.

First we need to create the security group and grab it’s id:

# Create Security Group
openstack security group create \
--description 'HTTP/S and SSH access to our rocketchat instance.' \
CC_SECURITY_GROUP_ID=$( openstack security group show "$SECURITY_GROUP_NAME" -f value -c id )

We need to create 3 simple rules.

Firstly, SSH. It’s important that we can administer the server via SSH (potentially to apply updates or changes in future). We could harden these rules further by restricting SSH access to our own ip address, but we’re assuming we don’t have a static IP address.

SSH (port 22):

# SSH Rule
openstack security group rule create \
--ingress \
--protocol tcp \
--dst-port 22 \

Next, because Rocket.Chat uses an in-browser client so we also need to allow access on ports 80 and 443 for HTTP/S access.

# HTTP Rule
openstack security group rule create \
--ingress \
--protocol tcp \
--dst-port 80 \

# HTTPS Rule
openstack security group rule create \
--ingress \
--protocol tcp \
--dst-port 443 \

SSH keys

We’ll use this key to access the Rocket.Chat instance via SSH. These will be applied to the ubuntu user on the Rocket.Chat instance.

# Set Key Pair
openstack keypair create --public-key ~/.ssh/ $SSH_KEY_NAME

Automating our install using Cloud-Init

Cloud Init is a system for configuring a new instance when it is first created. It takes all it’s directives from a simple YAML file.

Before we start, we should determine all the steps involved so we know exactly what is happening on our new instance.

Our plan is to :

  1. Install nginx

  2. Set up nginx as a reverse proxy for rocketchat

  3. Install rocketchat-server

  4. Generate a Self-Signed SSL certificate for nginx.

  5. Reboot to make sure all changes get applied.

Our cloud init file begins with some basic, straightforward settings.

hostname: HOST
manage_etc_hosts: true
timezone: Pacific/Auckland

Any packages we might need can be put in the next section. We only need to get nginx from our package manager as we’ll be getting Rocket.Chat as a snap package.

  - nginx

We’re going to configure out nginx proxy to redirect all HTTP traffic to HTTPS, and pass all HTTPS traffic to our Rocket.Chat instance on port 3000.

  - path: /etc/nginx/sites-available/rocketchat
    content: |
      server {
        listen 80;
        listen [::]:80;

        server_name IP_ADDRESS;
        return 301 https://$server_name$request_uri;

      server {
        listen 443 ssl;
        listen [::]443 ssl;

        server_name IP_ADDRESS;

        ssl_certificate /etc/ssl/certs/nginx-self-signed.crt;
        ssl_certificate_key /etc/ssl/private/nginx-self-signed.key;

        #SSL Settings for added security.
        ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
        ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
        ssl_ciphers "EECDH+AESGCM:EDH+AESGCM:AES256+EECDH:AES256+EDH";
        ssl_ecdh_curve secp384r1;
        ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;
        ssl_session_tickets off;
        ssl_stapling on;
        ssl_stapling_verify on;
        resolver valid=300s;
        resolver_timeout 5s;
        add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=63072000;";
        add_header X-Frame-Options DENY;
        add_header X-Content-Type-Options nosniff;

        ssl_dhparam /etc/ssl/certs/dhparam.pem;

        location / {

Finally, we need to install the Rocket.Chat server, enable our nginx config, and generate our SSL certificates. We’ll finish with a reboot so that we can restart everything.

  - apt-get update
  - snap install rocketchat-server
  - touch /etc/nginx/sites-available/rocketchat
  - ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/rocketchat
  - openssl req -x509 -nodes -days 365 -newkey rsa:2048
    -keyout /etc/ssl/private/nginx-self-signed.key
    -out /etc/ssl/certs/nginx-self-signed.crt
  - openssl dhparam -out /etc/ssl/certs/dhparam.pem 2048
  - reboot

Save this file as rocketchat.xenial. This naming convention means if we wanted to install this on another version of Ubuntu, such as Bionic(18.04) or Trusty(14.04), then we can just make another cloud init file with that distro as the file extension.

Creating the Rocket.Chat instance

When we create an instance we have to decide what specifications we want. In this case we’re going to install Ubuntu 16.04 (Xenial), with a 1vCPU and 1GB RAM setup. This should be enough resources for a Rocket.Chat install.

We’re also going to set the name of our instance, and get the id of our private network, so that we can generate an IP address for the instance.

# Parameters for instance

# Relevant ID values for instance parameters
CC_FLAVOR_ID=$( openstack flavor show "$FLAVOR" -f value -c id )
CC_IMAGE_ID=$( openstack image show "$IMAGE_NAME" -f value -c id )
CC_PRIVATE_NETWORK_ID=$( openstack network show "$PRIVATE_NETWORK_NAME" -f value -c id )

We need an IP address so we’re going to check if we have any free, or request that one be allocated to us.

# Get an IP address.
CC_FLOATING_IP_ID=$( openstack floating ip list -f value -c ID --status 'DOWN' | head -n 1 )
if [ -z "$CC_FLOATING_IP_ID" ]; then
    echo No floating ip found creating a floating ip:
    CC_PUBLIC_NETWORK_ID=$( openstack network show public-net -f value -c id )
    openstack floating ip create "$CC_PUBLIC_NETWORK_ID"
    echo Getting floating ip id:
    CC_FLOATING_IP_ID=$( openstack floating ip list -f value -c ID --status 'DOWN' | head -n 1 )

CC_PUBLIC_IP=$( openstack floating ip show "$CC_FLOATING_IP_ID" -f value -c floating_ip_address )

We have all the necessary details to set up our SSL Certificate. You should modify these values to your own, bearing in mind that the COUNTRY value will always be a 2 letter code.

# OpenSSL settings so we can have a self signed certificate
CN="NZ"                     #Country
ST="My Province"            #State
LC="My City"                #Locality
ON="My Organisation"        #Organisation Name
OD="My Organisations Dept"  #Organisation Dept


Now, we need to overwrite a few of the default settings we put in the cloud init file. These are related to our hostname, ip address and ssl cert details.



Now we can create our Rocket.Chat instance.

openstack server create \
--flavor "$CC_FLAVOR_ID" \
--image "$CC_IMAGE_ID" \
--key-name "$SSH_KEY_NAME" \
--security-group default \
--security-group "$SECURITY_GROUP_NAME" \
--nic "net-id=$CC_PRIVATE_NETWORK_ID" \
--user-data "$CLOUD_INIT_FILE" \

until [ "$INSTANCE_STATUS" == 'ACTIVE' ]
  INSTANCE_STATUS=$( openstack server show "$INSTANCE_NAME" -f value -c status )
  sleep 2;

The last thing to do is apply our floating IP address to our server, so that we can SSH into it.

openstack server add floating ip "$INSTANCE_NAME" "$CC_PUBLIC_IP"
echo "ssh ubuntu@${CC_PUBLIC_IP}"

Run from a shell using

$ bash

The cloud-init script may take some time to run, so hold tight and wait for the server to complete its set up and reboot.

If the install has worked, you should be able to open your IP address in a browser and see an SSL certificate warning. You can add an exception as we know that we signed the certificate ourselves. After that you should see the setup for your Rocket.Chat server.

If anything goes wrong, you should be able to find a log file under /var/log/cloud-init-output.log which may help determine which command isn’t running properly.