Destiner's Notes

DevOps shouldn't be hard: GitHub Actions

9 January 2020

So far we were able to set up a deployment and reporting servers, making a full way from pushing a new commit to updating the app in production. But what can we automate before pushing to master? What if we run a set of checks to make sure our app is behaving correctly before deploying it? That’s where GitHub Actions will come handy.

GitHub Actions is a feature that allows you to run custom checks and, well, actions each time your remote git repository changes. Two major ways to use it is to run automated checks on our codebase or use it for continuous deployment. As we do all our CD work on our own server, we’re most interested in the former. That is, we will leverage GitHub Actions to run tests and other checks to make sure our codebase is OK.

There are several ways to manage your git workflow. I won’t dive too much into it, but it boils down to whether you want to have feature branches, do you differentiate between develop and master, and whether you deploy your code automatically for each push. I researched this for a while, and here’s what made the most sense to me. For context, I’m talking about an individual or a small team working on a small- to mid-size project.

Here’s my workflow of choice:

Setting Actions up

We don’t need to configure anything to get started. Create a file under .github/workflows named nodejs.yml and commit it, and GitHub will automatically process it and show nodejs workflow under the Actions tab.

Our pipeline will consist of three jobs: build, notify, and create PR.


Our build step will consist of 5 commands, running one after another.

Of course, all the steps are optional. You can add your own checks as well.

Here’s the full code of the build job:

    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
        node-version: [8.x, 10.x, 12.x]
    - uses: actions/checkout@v1
    - name: Use Node.js ${{ matrix.node-version }}
      uses: actions/setup-node@v1
        node-version: ${{ matrix.node-version }}
    - name: npm install, build, and test
      run: |
        npm audit
        npm ci
        npm run lint
        npm run build
        npm test

strategy.matrix allows us to test our app on multiple Node.js versions in parallel, which is handy.


Let’s now send a webhook to our reporting server upon successful build. Note passing WEBHOOK_URL from repository secrets.

    needs: build
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - name: Webhook
        uses: joelwmale/webhook-action@1.0.0
          WEBHOOK_URL: ${{ secrets.WEBHOOK_URL }}
          data: "{'app': 'my app', 'success': true}"

Once GitHub executes build, it will trigger a webhook to the specified URL so we can catch it and show some message.

Additionally, you can sign your webhook requests with JWT or HMAC (for example, using this action).

Create a PR

Finally, let’s send PR to master after a successful build. Secrets with GITHUB_ prefix are provided by GitHub itself, so we don’t need to do anything extra here.

    needs: build
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - uses: actions/checkout@v1
      - name: Create Pull Request
        uses: repo-sync/pull-request@v2.0.1
          github_token: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}

The neat thing about this workflow is that you get an overview of all jobs for each PR.

Wrapping up

We made it! We managed to build an entire workflow of deploying an app.

Here’s what we achieved.

Each time a new code is pushed:

  1. The codebase is audited to make sure there are no security vulnerabilities
  2. Build tool ensuring there are no build-time errors
  3. Linter is run to make sure code formatted correctly
  4. Tests are run to make sure app behaves correctly
  5. PR is created
  6. We receive a notification

Each time PR is merged to master:

  1. CD server updates the app
  2. CD server notifies reporting server
  3. We receive a notification

In other words, all of the boring stuff is done automatically with minimal input from our, developer’s, side.

I hope you enjoyed the series! From there, you can continue adding automation to your build and deploy pipelines based on your app requirements.