Matteo Depalo's Blog

Will driven life

Minimum Viable Stack

After migrating to my own VPS solution from Heroku at Responsa, I’ve traveled across the internet land in order to select and build a solid production stack. Now that I think I’ve reached it I want to share my choices in case anyone has to go through the same process.

Service selection criterion

I’m using Chef as provisioning tool so while looking around for services I immediately run the query on Google: “#{service} cookbook”. Usually there is always a cookbook, but most of them are really bad. However if the cookbook is good the chances of that service to be picked are very high.

Grocery list

The list of things I need boils down to this:

  • DB and cache
  • Ruby
  • Monitoring service for CPU, memory, IO etc…
  • Service manager
  • Logs aggregator
  • Backups manager
  • Web server


MongoHQ has a very good service with awesome customer support. Can’t recommend them enough.

For session and cache storage I chose Redis and Memcached respectively.

I’ve yet to find a good cookbook for Redis 2.6. I guess I’ll have to upgrade the cookbook myself when I have the chance.


rbenv and ruby_build are the killer combo. Just install your Ruby version as global. After all who needs multiple versions of ruby on the production machine?

Services manager

I’m not really opinionated about service managers so this was the most community driven choice. Many are using Runit and the cookbook is pretty good.


I’ve tried Munin but it felt like using a walkman in 2013. Hard to configure with chef solo (no need for server and client in that case) and badly documented.

New Relic kicks ass. The cookbook is one include_recipe away from running and the dashboard is feature rich and easy to use. The downside is that if you have many instances the price might go out of bounds…

Logs aggregator

There are some nice competitors in this space. Loggly, Logentries and Papertrail. Again this was a decision driven by the quality of the cookbook and Papertrail has a pretty good one.

I use rsyslog to put all my important logs in one place, Papertrail grabs them and cleverly separates services like Unicorn, sshd, Nginx etc… The search feature is also useful.


Whenever + Backup are the killer combo. I’ve set them up with a custom made cookbook that updates the crontab with whenever at every chef run.

Web server

Nginx. Boom. Done.


I don’t like when I close my laptop and after reopening it ssh hangs. To solve that issue I use mosh which needs a server installed on the machine. Luckily there is a cookbook also for that.

You’re welcome to share your stack in the comments below.