How to Set Up ShinyProxy to Host Shiny Apps

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How to Set Up ShinyProxy to Host Shiny Apps

ShinyProxy requires a Java runtime, and Docker to run containers. Dockerized Shiny applications have been the primary target as the name indicates. But don't let this fool you, ShinyProxy can host any web app, including RStudio IDE, Python Dash, and more.

ShinyProxy comes with lots of free enterprise features, e.g. various ways of authentication and authorization. It has no limits on concurrent usage of the deployed applications. When a user runs an application, ShinyProxy spins up a new container and serves the application to the user.

The Docker-based workflow comes with some advantages:

  • user sessions are fully isolated
  • apps can have different R versions, package versions, and dependencies
  • updates to one app won't interfere with other apps
  • monitoring and resource management (RAM and CPU usage) can be done with Docker tooling

This post shows you how you can set up this versatile, robust, and tested piece of technology to host your Shiny apps!

System Requirements

Provision a virtual machine with your favourite cloud provider. I use Ubuntu Linux 20.04 in this tutorial. You will need root user access, root user is usually root (e.g. on DigitalOcean) or ubuntu (e.g. on AWS). I will assume you have your ssh keypair configured for passwordless login. Include the internet protocol (IPv4) address of your server as the $HOST environment variable:

export HOST="159.203.63.9"

ssh [email protected]$HOST

Update the system, install the Java runtime, the Docker Engine CE (community edition) and Docker Compose:

apt-get -y update
apt-get -y upgrade

apt-get -yq install \
    default-jre \
    default-jdk \
    docker \
    docker-compose

Check that all went according to plan, java -version should return something like this:

openjdk version "11.0.11" 2021-04-20
OpenJDK Runtime Environment (build 11.0.11+9-Ubuntu-0ubuntu2.20.04)
OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM (build 11.0.11+9-Ubuntu-0ubuntu2.20.04, mixed mode, sharing)

ShinyProxy needs to be able to connect to the Docker daemon to spin up the containers for the apps. By default, ShinyProxy will do so on port 2375 of the Docker host. To allow for connections on port 2375, the startup options need to be edited following the ShinyProxy guide.

Create a file /etc/systemd/system/docker.service.d/override.conf:

mkdir /etc/systemd/system/docker.service.d
touch /etc/systemd/system/docker.service.d/override.conf

Add the following content (use nano or vim):

[Service]
ExecStart=
ExecStart=/usr/bin/dockerd -H unix:// -D -H tcp://127.0.0.1:2375

Reload the system daemon, then restart and enable Docker:

sudo systemctl daemon-reload
sudo systemctl restart docker
sudo systemctl enable docker

All this is to make sure that the Docker service starts when the system boots and the system configurations stay the same so that ShinyProxy can function properly.

To see if Docker is running properly, type sudo service docker status:

● docker.service - Docker Application Container Engine
     Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/docker.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
    Drop-In: /etc/systemd/system/docker.service.d
             └─override.conf
     Active: active (running) since Wed 2021-07-21 03:55:26 UTC; 36s ago
TriggeredBy: ● docker.socket
       Docs: https://docs.docker.com
   Main PID: 18881 (dockerd)
      Tasks: 9
     Memory: 39.6M
     CGroup: /system.slice/docker.service
             └─18881 /usr/bin/dockerd -H unix:// -D -H tcp://127.0.0.1:2375

Install ShinyProxy

We download and install version 2.5.0 of ShinyProxy. In case of a newer version, just change the version variable accordingly, check for updates on the downloads page:

export VERSION="2.5.0"

wget https://www.shinyproxy.io/downloads/shinyproxy_${VERSION}_amd64.deb
apt install ./shinyproxy_${VERSION}_amd64.deb
rm shinyproxy_${VERSION}_amd64.deb

Configure ShinyProxy

ShinyProxy looks for a configuration file called application.yml in the /etc/shinyproxy directory. Let's create this file:

touch /etc/shinyproxy/application.yml

Copy these configs using a command-line text editor:

proxy:
  title: ShinyProxy
#  logo-url: https://link/to/your/logo.png
  landing-page: /
  favicon-path: favicon.ico
  heartbeat-rate: 10000
  heartbeat-timeout: 60000
  port: 8080
  authentication: simple
  admin-groups: admins
  # Example: 'simple' authentication configuration
  users:
  - name: admin
    password: password
    groups: admins
  - name: user
    password: password
    groups: users
  # Docker configuration
  docker:
    cert-path: /home/none
    url: http://localhost:2375
    port-range-start: 20000
  specs:
  - id: 01_hello
    display-name: Hello Shiny App
    description: A simple reactive histogram
    container-cmd: ["R", "-e", "shiny::runApp('/home/app')"]
    container-image: registry.gitlab.com/analythium/shinyproxy-hello/hello:latest
    logo-url: https://github.com/analythium/shinyproxy-1-click/raw/master/digitalocean/images/app-hist.png
    access-groups: [admins, users]
  - id: 02_hello
    display-name: Demo Shiny App
    description: App with sliders and large file upload
    container-cmd: ["R", "-e", "shiny::runApp('/home/app')"]
    container-image: analythium/shinyproxy-demo:latest
    logo-url: https://github.com/analythium/shinyproxy-1-click/raw/master/digitalocean/images/app-dots.png
    access-groups: [admins]

logging:
  file:
    shinyproxy.log

Pull the two Docker images referenced in the configuration file:

docker pull registry.gitlab.com/analythium/shinyproxy-hello/hello:latest
docker pull analythium/shinyproxy-demo:latest

The first one is the familiar Hello image. The second one is another simple Shiny app (that you can find in this GitHub repository) with coloured random points and a file uploader that prints the size of the uploaded file.

The last step is to restart the ShinyProxy service so that the new configuration takes effect:

service shinyproxy restart

Check the status with service shinyproxy status:

● shinyproxy.service - ShinyProxy
     Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/shinyproxy.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
     Active: active (running) since Wed 2021-07-21 04:22:46 UTC; 10s ago
   Main PID: 19552 (java)
      Tasks: 12 (limit: 2344)
     Memory: 118.9M
     CGroup: /system.slice/shinyproxy.service
             └─19552 /usr/bin/java -jar /opt/shinyproxy/shinyproxy.jar

Admin and user views

You can access your ShinyProxy server at http://$HOST:8080. Visit this address and log in using the username 'admin' and password 'password' as defined in the configuration:

How to Set Up ShinyProxy to Host Shiny Apps
The login screen of a freshly installed ShinyProxy server

Note that the connection is not secure, this is something that can be addressed later. Once inside, the admin view lists both apps with their thumbnail images. Click on the links to spin up the apps. Clicking the 'Admin' button to see the active proxies listing the users, app names, uptime, etc.

Now log out and try logging in with the 'user' / 'password' combination. You can only find one of the apps listed. This is how we set up access based on the user groups. This gives great flexibility for managing the users' access at the application level.

Conclusions

This is the basic setup of ShinyProxy with basic authentication/authorization. Edit the configuration file, pull new Docker images with your Shiny apps and enjoy. There is a lot more you can do to secure the server and set up a custom domain. I will cover these topics next.

Further reading

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