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Automatic Node-RED flow deployment with GitHub

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Github and Node-RED - make low code development simple

In this example we show how to use GitHub to deploy a Node-RED flow to a fleet of Raspberry Pis. The flow are distributed and managed including versioning control. The process starts by pushing the changes of your Node-RED flow to your GitHub repository. Then, using GitHub actions, the flow is placed into your qbee.io file manager with the qbee API. From there on you can distribute and run it on the group of devices you have specified with file distribution.

Setting up a Node-RED GitHub example

This is a very simple Node-RED GitHub flow example that we use for this demo:

flows.json
    [
    {
        "id": "117f088e.84eb97",
        "type": "tab",
        "label": "Flow 1",
        "disabled": false,
        "info": ""
    },
    {
        "id": "d75ee7b0.0775c8",
        "type": "inject",
        "z": "117f088e.84eb97",
        "name": "weather",
        "props": [
            {
                "p": "payload"
            },
            {
                "p": "topic",
                "vt": "str"
            }
        ],
        "repeat": "10",
        "crontab": "",
        "once": true,
        "onceDelay": 0.1,
        "topic": "weather",
        "payload": "very nice",
        "payloadType": "str",
        "x": 171.5,
        "y": 175,
        "wires": [
            [
                "d1e24e2f.b5a2"
            ]
        ]
    },
    {
        "id": "d1e24e2f.b5a2",
        "type": "function",
        "z": "117f088e.84eb97",
        "name": "weather station",
        "func": "var payload = msg.payload;\n\nmsg.payload=\"The weather is \"+msg.payload;\n\nreturn msg;",
        "outputs": 1,
        "noerr": 0,
        "x": 373.5,
        "y": 175,
        "wires": [
            [
                "e7b731c2.2f7f2"
            ]
        ]
    },
    {
        "id": "e7b731c2.2f7f2",
        "type": "debug",
        "z": "117f088e.84eb97",
        "name": "",
        "active": true,
        "tosidebar": true,
        "console": false,
        "tostatus": false,
        "complete": "false",
        "x": 586.5,
        "y": 174,
        "wires": []
    }
]

This flows.jsonneeds to automatically be delivered to any remote embedded devices in scope.

Creating the logic to connect Node-RED with qbee through GitHub

This is the automatic workflow:

  • use git for version control management
  • setup a GitHub runner (using GitHub actions) to build our code once a push is triggered
  • copy the new flows.json to the qbee.io file manager via API calls
  • use the qbee.io file distribution to upload the new file to a list of devices and to restart Node-RED

How to create a repository on GitHub

Check out the official documentation on how to create a repository on GitHub.

Once a repository is set up, we specify the GitHub secrets as shown in the following screenshot. We define the qbee login mail address as USERNAME_KEY and the password as PASSWORD_KEY.

!github-secrets

There we specify our qbee.io username and password, as we do not want them to be exposed.

Now GitHub actions need to be configured. These actions execute the script defined in the YAML file on the runners. Runners can be utilized through GitHub (both as a free or paid service) or you can set up runners on your local machine or in any other data center. In order to create a GitHub action please use the "set up a workflow yourself").

!github-secrets

The script we used is the following:

node-red-flow-distribution.yml
name: Automated Node-RED flow file distribution

on:
 push:
    branches: [ main ]
 pull_request:
    branches: [ main ]

jobs:


 build:
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    env:
        FLOWNAME: flows.json

    steps:
    - uses: actions/checkout@v2

    - name: qbee.io authentication
      uses: qbee-io/authenticate-action@v1
      id: qbee-auth
      with:
        login: ${{ secrets.USERNAME_KEY }}
        password: ${{ secrets.PASSWORD_KEY }}

    - name: qbee.io file upload
      uses: qbee-io/file-upload-action@v1
      with:
        token: ${{ steps.qbee-auth.outputs.token }}
        filename: ${{ env.FLOWNAME }}
        qbee_directory: '/'
        local_directory: '.'

Comments on the yaml file

  • this action is triggered on pushes to the main branch
  • the runner is a virtual machine with an Ubuntu OS as we specified ubuntu-latest
  • Now the full code is checked out by this command actions/checkout@v2
  • a custom GitHub action places the output file into the qbee.io file manager (within the action the qbee.io REST API is used, c.f. file distribution via API)

You cannot see any credentials in the action output due to the "secret" function:

!github-node-red-secrets

Finally, we distribute our files to the remote devices as usual with the internal file distribution.

As a "command to run" we use sudo -u pi node-red-restart or whatever command you use to restart Node-RED.

!github-node-red-file-distribution

Summary

Automatic deployment

Using this workflow, every time you push your Node-RED flow changes to the repository the new flow will be replaced within the qbee.io file manager. If the flow file differs from the one previously placed in the file manager, then the qbee.io file distribution is triggered along with the run command that you provided. This distributes the flows to all devices in scope and restarts Node-RED.

Hence, all your edge devices are updated by a simple git push :). This is an example of how easy it is to connect Node-RED with Github and automate your workflow.