Writing an app for Google Cloud Run using ClojureScript

As part of a project I needed to handle webhooks from Hubspot (a CRM), and since the implementation turned out nicely, I thought it would be worth blogging about.

The reason why the app ended up in Cloud Run and written ClojureScript was to avoid the hard coupling to the main application.

All the code is available on GitHub.

A small, separate app, only responsible for receiving the events, would be simple and fast. Simple and fast because with fewer things happening, fewer things can go wrong and complexity and processing time goes down.

The prospect of the main application not having the responsibility of receiving webhook events was appealing. If the main application for whatever reason would stop working, events could continue to be offloaded. As soon as the main application would come back up “handling” could continue.

To avoid the slow startup time often experienced when using Clojure on the JVM, an alternative would be something either involving GraalVM or ClojureScript. Both options brought me out of my comfort zone, but I opted for ClojureScript because I had good experiences with it from a frontend development with re-frame and because I found a promising ClojureScript example interacting with Google Cloud Node.js SDK.

Setting up the development environment

Shadow-cljs

Shadow-cljs is very mature and has great documentation. However, its many configuration knobs often lead to unnecessary complex setups. I’ve seen developers not understanding the :dev and :release mode and instead setting up two different build targets.

The hello-secret example has a few other common unnecessary noisy configurations like repeating :main server.main/main for the :release mode and setting up :compiler-options {:optimizations :none} for :dev mode which is already the default.

If you need an optimization different than the :target default, you should add a comment about the reason for it (for future reference).

Setups like this get copy-pasted unquestioned into countless new projects which then start with an unnecessarily complex build target configuration.

Fast feedback loop

Having a fast feedback loop is one of the most important things during development. Luckily Shadow-cljs (also) delivers on this account with excellent REPL integration and “hot reload”.

Using a ClojureScript REPL is a two-step process and the details might vary depending on your IDE. But overall you need to…

  1. Build (watch) the application, which outputs target/main.js and on top starts a REPL on a port:

    npx shadow-cljs watch hubspot
    
  2. Provide a Node.js runtime, by starting the (now built) application:

    GCLOUD_PROJECT_ID=furry-whale-12345 \
    LEADS_HUBSPOT_PLUGIN_PUBSUB_TOPIC_ID=hubspot-webhooks \
    node target/main.js 8080 hubspot_secret.txt
    

The runtime is needed for the REPL to have somewhere to send the ClojureScript code (transpiled into JavaScript), for evaluation.

The lengthy CLI command to start the application, is me playing with both environment variables and CLI arguments to configure the application. Both are great ways to separate config from code, which is one of the cornerstones of The 12-Factor App.

Which brings us to “Hot reload”.

Application configuration must be persisted somewhere to avoid it being lost during “hot reloads”. I got inspired by how Mount handles CLI arguments, by storing them in an atom. The Shadow-cljs documentation about Hot Code Reload also hints the use of atoms for application state, but it wasn’t immediately obvious to me that application config was the “same thing”.

For a simple, yet super effective Shadow-cljs setup, see shadow-cljs.edn.

Webserver

The hello-secret example uses Express.js webserver which seems popular in JavaScript. But using functions (app.get('/' ...)) to register routes was rubbing me the wrong way, so I went looking for an alternative (ClojureScript-friendly) approach,

I found Macchiato which seems of high quality, but it also shows signs of “age”:

I am not entirely sold on Macchiato yet and might end up just using the built-in webserver in Node.js for this project (since I don’t need much flexibility with routing anyway).

Apart from the “age”, I dislike the “batteries included” (lein new macchiato myapp) approach. Not because the batteries are old, but because I prefer to add the things I need as I need them, instead of everything (and more) from the get-go. That way I also get a better understanding of how all the different things work together.

For an example of how Macchiato gives me a feeling of being “overcomplicated”, compare the project file from Getting Started (under “The Project File”) with the Shadow-cljs config file I’m using for my project.

SHA & crypt with Google Closure Tools

For signature verification the Google Closure compiler comes out of the box with functionality for exactly this purpose. There is no need to install third party libraries.

Unlike Clojure on the JVM, where Buddy (and all its transitive dependencies), seems to be the go-to for such things.

Implementing signature verification in ClojureScript was also fairly easy, because several good examples appears on Google searches.

Build using Docker

It was the first time I stumbled upon a Dockerfile with multi-stage build, when going through the files in hello-secret.

Pretty neat.

I tweaked the Dockerfile to reduce the number of steps, that required rebuilding (unnecessarily) everytime the code changed. I bumped the Java version (from 11 LTS to 17 LTS), and also added a cache for the Java dependencies, to avoid re-downloading dependencies on every re-build.

Deploy to Google Cloud

I haven’t automated deploying of the webhook application yet. And with my limited amount of experience with Google Cloud, I might not be the best person to hand out advice in this area anyway.

I can however highlight the different Google Cloud products I needed to familiarize myself with in order to get the application up and running:

IAM & Admin was needed for all aspects of the setup, to manage permissions (access to resources) even when running the code locally on my laptop (for Pub/Sub access).

To store the built Docker images (docker push ...), with the webhook application, an Artifact Registry is required. Without it, I wasn’t able to choose the image from Cloud Run.

Even though environment variables seems to be best practic when it comes to configuring applications, it is far from optimal when dealing with sensitive information like passwords, private keys and other “secrets”.

Instead secrets can be injected into the container as a file mounted upon container start. Very handy.

Final thoughts

It is really hard to avoid the JavaScript feel, when interop’ing with JavaScript libraries or Node.js itself. The way async and await is used everywhere in JS forces you to use promises or core.async in places where you probably wouldn’t have under other circumstances.

An example of how JS Promises affect the ClojureScript code, can bee seen in the handler handle-webhook.

The project is still missing a README.md. One one hand I want this code to be public because I think the Clojure community benefit from the availability of examples like this. But on the other hand I need the documentation to match my personal needs. I guess we’ll find out if I crack it.