Setting up a cheap Redmine server using Unicorn and Apache

Redmine is an excellent web-based project management tool. It’s open source, free and is built using Ruby on Rails.

We use Redmine as our main tool for planning, issue tracking and documenting processes. It’s an everyday tool so we need to have an always ready Redmine instance within our private domain.

Get a small VPS server

We use an Amazon EC2 t1.micro instance running Ubuntu Precise 64-bit as development server.

This machine is mainly managing a Git server with dozens of repos (and backing them up as a S3 filesystem) and a Redmine instance.

As described on Amazon EC2 docs, this instance type has pretty basic resources, but are enough for running some lightweight processes with low I/O load.

Add your service user

We’re so bad choosing funny names so our service username is service.


Log in as your service user and clone the latest Redmine tree:

$ mkdir -p ~/apps/redmine
$ git clone git:// ~/apps/redmine

Install and set up your database engine server (MySQL, PostgreSQL…) and edit the ~/apps/redmine/config/database.yml file to match these settings. Then you’ll be ready to set up the production environment:

$ cd ~/apps/redmine
$ bundle install --without development test
$ RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rake db:migrate


“unicorn” gem

Add the unicorn gem as an application dependency by adding a Gemfile.local file (unobtrusive way to add dependencies) with this content:

# ~/apps/redmine/Gemfile.local

source ''

gem 'unicorn'

After that you should run bundle install again:

$ cd ~/apps/redmine
$ bundle install --without development test


We do store all shared resources such as config, logs or process pids in a folder named shared:

$ mkdir -p ~/shared/{config/redmine,log/redmine,pid/redmine,socket/redmine}

The previous command will create the following structure under /home/service:

├── shared
│   ├── config
│   │   └── redmine
│   ├── log
│   │   └── redmine
│   ├── pid
│   │   └── redmine
│   └── socket
│       └── redmine


$ curl -o ~/shared/config/redmine/unicorn.rb

Once you get the Unicorn config example, you will need to tweak a few lines:

  • worker_processes: Number of Unicorn workers you need.
  • working directory: working_directory "/home/service/apps/redmine"
  • pid: pid "/home/service/shared/pid/redmine/"
  • socket: listen "/home/service/shared/socket/redmine/unicorn.sock"
  • log: stderr_path "/home/service/shared/log/redmine/unicorn.stderr.log" stdout_path "/home/service/shared/log/redmine/unicorn.stdout.log"

“Automate everything”

We put all service-related scripts in the ~/script directory. These commands might help you on launching and stopping Unicorn processes:

cd /home/service/apps/redmine && unicorn_rails -c /home/service/shared/config/redmine/unicorn.rb -p 5000 -E production -D

Command explanation:

  • -c sets the config file (/home/service/shared/config/redmine/unicorn.rb)
  • -p sets the port of the master Unicorn process (5000)
  • -E sets the environment (production)
  • -D daemonizes the command
# ~/script/stop-redmine-unicorn

kill -QUIT $(cat /home/service/shared/pid/redmine/

Because Unicorn is Unix you can send a QUIT signal to the master process to stop all its workers.



You will need to enable some Apache2 modules:

sudo a2enmod rewrite
sudo a2enmod proxy
sudo a2enmod proxy_balancer
sudo a2enmod proxy_http

Proxy Unicorn processes

Now we have to set up a new VirtualHost as a proxy balancer of the master Unicorn process running at

Note that Apache logging was disabled for reducing I/O load. Feel free to set it up if your resources are not being affected by I/O operations.

Applying it all

After enabling the new VirtualHost and restarting the apache2 service, a proxy will be listening for processes on the specified host and port.

Now run the Unicorn process as shown above (launch-redmine-unicorn script) and Redmine application should start and be served through the new VirtualHost.

Now it’s time to do some tests in order to adjust the number of Unicorn workers you need to have running on your server.

Bonus: Setting up Nginx as a frontend of Unicorn

As some of you have mentioned, Nginx is generally a better choice for micro instances. It consumes much less RAM and it’s faster than Apache due its event-driven approach.

Setting up Nginx instead of Apache2 as a frontend of Unicorn processes is trivial too so there we go:

First of all, ensure you have defined the Unicorn socket path on unicorn.conf.rb (listen option), so your socket can be located in a path like this one: /home/service/shared/socket/redmine/unicorn.sock.

Then, we’ll tweak some options from the sample nginx.conf file shipped with Unicorn in order to serve our Unicorn processes:

Tweaks explained:

  • UNIX domain socket: server unix:/home/service/shared/socket/redmine/unicorn.sock fail_timeout=0; (L8)
  • Name and proxy the upstream server: upstream redmine_unicorn (L2) and proxy_pass http://redmine_unicorn; (L78)
  • Site settings: server_name (L30) and statics root path (38)

Thank you for all your comments.

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