Ubuntu - Nginx, Rails, and Thin

Having installed the thin web server for Ruby , we can now look at configuring a Nginx vhost to proxy to thin so we can serve our Ruby on Rails application.

The process is easy to follow and easy to repeat for hosting multiple domains.


You must complete the steps listed in the previous Nginx articles and installed via aptitude or via source.

You also must have the thin web server installed as described in the article thin web server for Ruby.


The plan is very simple:

We'll create a basic rails application and use 3 thin instances running from port 3000 to 3002.

I won't go into detail as the thin web server for Ruby article shows how to install and configure thin.

Once that is done, we'll create a simple vhost to proxy requests to the thin instances.

You may also notice this article is very similar to the Nginx and mongrels article . There is a very good reason for that - they use exactly the same methods in creating the virtual host.

All the virtual host has to do is proxy requests to the 3rd party web server - in this case thin, in the sister article, mongrels.

Rails Application

To create a rail application, move into your public_html folder:

cd /home/demo/public_html

and create a new Ruby on Rails application:

rails railsapp



Ensure you are in the rails folder:

cd ~/public_html/railsapp

Then create a thin configuration file:

sudo thin config -C /etc/thin/railsapp.yml -c /home/demo/public_html/railsapp/  --servers 3 -e production

It's always a good idea to check the created file:

cat /etc/thin/railsapp.yml

The contents are as such:

pid: tmp/pids/thin.pid
log: log/thin.log
timeout: 30
max_conns: 1024
port: 3000
max_persistent_conns: 512
chdir: /home/demo/public_html/testapp
environment: production
servers: 3
daemonize: true

Unlike with mongrels, we don't need to manually create symlinks, etc to make sure thin is started on a reboot.

Now all we need to do is start thin:

sudo /etc/init.d/thin start


Nginx Virtual Host

Let's create the Nginx vhost:

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/domain.com

Note : If you installed Nginx from source, the path may vary to something like:

sudo nano /usr/local/nginx/sites-available/domain.com

The contents of the file are as such:

upstream domain1 {

server {
            listen   80;
            server_name  www.domain.com;
            rewrite ^/(.*) http://domain.com permanent;

server {
            listen   80;
            server_name domain.com;

            access_log /home/demo/public_html/railsapp/log/access.log;
            error_log /home/demo/public_html/railsapp/log/error.log;

            root   /home/demo/public_html/railsapp/public/;
            index  index.html;

            location / {
                          proxy_set_header  X-Real-IP  $remote_addr;
                          proxy_set_header  X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
                          proxy_set_header Host $http_host;
                          proxy_redirect false;

                          if (-f $request_filename/index.html) {
                                           rewrite (.*) $1/index.html break;

                          if (-f $request_filename.html) {
                                           rewrite (.*) $1.html break;

                          if (!-f $request_filename) {
                                           proxy_pass http://domain1;


Take each section at a time and you will see that the basics are the same as for a 'normal' Nginx vhost.

We have the server_name, listen, log and index variables.

Where it differs is the addition of the Rails proxy settings.

In this example, we will use 3 thin instances running on ports 3000, 3001 and 3002 which I have defined in the 'upstream' setting. I've called it domain1 for ease of use.

The location settings say that if the requested file exists to serve the static version straight away.

And if the requested file doesn't exist, pass the request to the thin server.


Remember that we need to 'enable' any available vhosts or it won't be served (an easy thing to leave out).

Referring to the Nginx articles, all we need to do is create a simple symlink:

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/domain.com /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/domain.com

Or, if you installed from source:

sudo ln -s /usr/local/nginx/sites-available/domain.com /usr/local/nginx/sites-enabled/domain.com



Final step is to restart Nginx:

sudo /etc/init.d/nginx stop
sudo /etc/init.d/nginx start

Use the 'stop' and 'start' method as issuing a restart command does not always work with Nginx.


All that's left is to navigate to your domain:


Where you will be greeted with the rails welcome page.


Setting up Nginx virtual hosts to proxy to the thin server easily completed.

To serve multiple domains, simply repeat the process with the new domain details.

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