Deploying a Flask API to Google Cloud Run using Terraform - Part 1

A tutorial in which we deploy a Dockerized Flask API to Google Cloud Run, while provisioning the required infrastructure with Terraform.

Florian Maas

June 19, 2022

Reading time 15 minutes


When deploying an API (or any other product) to the cloud, it's recommended to provision your infrastructure using an Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) tool. There are many advantages of using IaC over manually configuring your cloud environment, such as simple reproducibility and the ability to keep multiple staging environments consistent with each other. A commonly used IaC tool is Terraform. In this tutorial, we will use Terraform to deploy a Flask API.

All code created during this tutorial can be found on GitHub in the following repositories:

Let's get started!

1. Building our Flask app

Before we can deploy anything to the cloud, we will first need to build an app that we can deploy. In order to do so, we create a new directory called cloudrun-example-api and initiate a Python environment. In this tutorial, we will use Poetry to create the environment and manage our dependencies.

 Feel free to use pip instead if that has your preference. The differences between using pip and using poetry in this tutorial are minimal.

To create a new environment with Poetry, run:

poetry init

Fill in the command prompts, add flask to the environment and then start a shell session:

poetry add flask
poetry shell

For this project, we will use a very small Flask API that simply returns "Hello, World!" when it recieves a request. To do so, we create a file called app.py with the following contents:

from flask import Flask
app = Flask(__name__)

@app.route('/')
def hello_world():
    return 'Hello, World!'
 It's important that the name of the file is app.py, since that is what Flask will search for by default. If you really want to use a different file name, run poetry add python-dotenv and add a .flaskenv file with FLASK_APP=file_name.py as its contents.

Once we have created this file, we can test our API by running flask:

flask run

And we see the following output in our console:

 * Environment: production
   WARNING: This is a development server. Do not use it in a production deployment.
   Use a production WSGI server instead.
 * Debug mode: off
 * Running on http://127.0.0.1:5000 (Press CTRL+C to quit)

Now that our API is running, we should see Hello, World! displayed if we visit http://127.0.0.1:5000 in our browser.

As the warning tells us, we should not use the development server that Flask uses by default in production. Instead, we should use a WSGI server like Gunicorn. For more information on this subject, see e.g. this page of the Flask documentation. To use Gunicorn, we have to add it to the environment first:

poetry add gunicorn

Now, we can run our Flask application using Gunicorn as our WSGI server with the following command:

gunicorn app:app -b 0.0.0.0:5000

Great, our API is working! If we want to deploy our API to Google Cloud Run, we will need to Dockerize it first.

2. Dockerizing our Flask app

To Dockerize our Flask app, make sure you have Docker installed and the Docker daemon running.

Then, we simply add a file named Dockerfile to our directory with the following contents:

# syntax=docker/dockerfile:1

FROM python:3.9-slim-buster

ENV POETRY_VERSION=1.1.13 \
  PORT=5000

# Install poetry
RUN pip install "poetry==$POETRY_VERSION"

# Copy only requirements to cache them in docker layer
WORKDIR /code
COPY poetry.lock pyproject.toml /code/

# Project initialization:
RUN poetry config virtualenvs.create false && poetry install --no-interaction --no-ansi --no-root

# Copy our Flask app to the Docker image
COPY app.py /code/

CMD gunicorn app:app -w 2 --threads 2 -b 0.0.0.0:${PORT}
 If you are using pip instead of poetry, remove the lines POETRY_VERSION  and RUN pip install "poetry==$POETRY_VERSION". Then replace the other lines that mention poetry  with COPY ./requirements.txt /code/requirements.txt and RUN pip install -r requirements.txt respectively.

One thing to notice here is that we first copy the files poetry.lock and pyproject.toml and use them to install the environment, and that we only copy the rest of the files - app.py in this case - later. The reason for this is that we want to leverage the build cache. If we have built our image once, and later we make some changes to our API without making modifcations to the environment, for example by adding a .py file or by modifying app.py, there is no need to install the environment again. Docker will recognize that poetry.lock and pyproject.toml have not changed since the latest build, and use a cached image to speed up the build process.

Another thing to notice is that we use PORT as an environment variable, which is not strictly necessary at this point. However, Google Cloud Run will inject the PORT environment variable into the container once we deploy it there, and it's recommended to "listen on the port defined by the PORT environment variable rather than a specific hardcoded port" [source].

When we are finished writing the Dockerfile, we can build our docker image with:

docker build . -t cloudrun-example-api

And once that is finished, we can run this image in a Docker container with:

docker run -d -p 5000:5000 cloudrun-example-api

Verify that your container is running by checking if it shows up in the list of containers when running docker ps, and verify that you can access the API by again by visiting https://localhost:5000 in your browser.

We can also verify that our Flask API works with the injected PORT variable, by passing another port to the --env argument and also changing the port that the Docker container should publish:

docker run --env PORT=5001 -d -p 5000:5001 cloudrun-example-api

Now that we have Dockerized our container, it is time to set up our cloud infrastructure.

3. Setting-up a service account

Preferably, we don't want individual users to have the ability to make changes to the infrastructure in the cloud. Instead, we will use a service account and grant that account the required permissions. In a later phase, we can add the credentials of this service account to a CI/CD pipeline that triggers our deployments. For now however, we will create a service account and simply use it from our local machine.

Before we can actually start building our infrastructure, we will need to create a project. We can do so by following the instructions here on GCP. In this tutorial, we will use the project name my-cloudrun-api, so don't forget to replace that in the commands that will follow below if you have chosen a different project name. Once we have a project, head over to IAM & Admin > Service Accounts (link) and create a service account with the name infrastructure.

Then, navigate to IAM & Admin > IAM (link) and grant your service account the following permissions:

  • Editor
  • Artifact Registry Administrator
  • Cloud Run Admin
  • Project IAM Admin
  • Service Usage Admin

Alright! Now that we have created a service account with the permissions to provision our infrastructure, it's time to actually define our infrastructure.

4. Building our cloud infrastructure with Terraform

The first thing that we need to do is install Terraform by following the intructions here.

Once the installation process is finished, we create a new directory called cloudrun-example-infra outside of the cloudrun-example-api directory that we have created earlier:

.
├── cloudrun-example-api
└── cloudrun-example-infra

Within cloudrun-example-infra, we create a file called main.tf, and initiate our file with the following contents:

terraform {
  required_providers {
    google-beta = {
      source  = "hashicorp/google-beta"
      version = "4.25.0"
    }
  }
}

provider "google-beta" {
  project = var.project_id
  region  = var.region
  zone    = var.zone
}

We specify google-beta as our require provider, and configure it with our project-specific variables. The reason for choosing google-beta instead of google is that we want to use the Artifact Registry for uploading our Docker images, but currently the resource google_artifact_registry_repository is only available in google-beta. If by the time you read this the warning on this page is no longer there, you can safely use the regular google provider.

We also need to define the variables that we have created by creating a file called variables.tf in the same directory with the following contents:

variable "project_id" {
  description = "The name of the project"
  type        = string
  default     = "my-cloudrun-api"
}

variable "region" {
  description = "The default compute region"
  type        = string
  default     = "europe-west4"
}

variable "zone" {
  description = "The default compute zone"
  type        = string
  default     = "europe-west4-a"
}

Here, project_id is the name of our GCP project, and the region and zones are set to locations that are geographically close to me. You might want to choose another region and zone. For a list of available regions and zones, see here.

In order to set-up and configure features like Cloud Run, we need to enable their corresponding API's. This can be achieved by navigating to the services in the UI, but since we want to omit as many manual steps as possible, we will use Terraform to enable those services for us instead. To do so, we add the following to main.tf:

#############################################
#               Enable API's                #
#############################################

# Enable IAM API
resource "google_project_service" "iam" {
  provider = google-beta
  service            = "iam.googleapis.com"
  disable_on_destroy = false
}

# Enable Artifact Registry API
resource "google_project_service" "artifactregistry" {
  provider = google-beta
  service            = "artifactregistry.googleapis.com"
  disable_on_destroy = false
}

# Enable Cloud Run API
resource "google_project_service" "cloudrun" {
  provider = google-beta
  service            = "run.googleapis.com"
  disable_on_destroy = false
}

# Enable Cloud Resource Manager API
resource "google_project_service" "resourcemanager" {
  provider = google-beta
  service            = "cloudresourcemanager.googleapis.com"
  disable_on_destroy = false
}

This enables the IAM, Artifact Registry, Cloud Run and Cloud Resource Manager respectively. However, the changes of enabling this take some time to propagate through Google's systems. Therefore, if we were to call them directly we would likely run into errors. Simply using the depends_on meta-argument also does not suffice, since any resources depending on enabling these API's will be triggered once the API's are enabled, not once the changes have been propagated through the systems.

Therefore, we use an intermediate time_sleep resource, that will be triggered once our API's have been enabled. We can then add this resource to the depends_on argument of other resources to trigger them 30 seconds after the API's have been enabled.

# This is used so there is some time for the activation of the API's to propagate through
# Google Cloud before actually calling them.
resource "time_sleep" "wait_30_seconds" {
  create_duration = "30s"
  depends_on = [
    google_project_service.iam,
    google_project_service.artifactregistry,
    google_project_service.cloudrun,
    google_project_service.resourcemanager
    ]
}

Now we can use the API's to create more resources for us. Firstly, we will create the Artifact Repository to which we can push our Docker images. Along with the repository, we also create a service account called docker-pusher, and give it the roles/artifactregistry.writer role for this repository, so it can push images to the repository.

#############################################
#    Google Artifact Registry Repository    #
#############################################

# Create Artifact Registry Repository for Docker containers
resource "google_artifact_registry_repository" "my_docker_repo" {
  provider = google-beta

  location = var.region
  repository_id = var.repository
  description = "My docker repository"
  format = "DOCKER"
  depends_on = [time_sleep.wait_30_seconds]
}

# Create a service account
resource "google_service_account" "docker_pusher" {
  provider = google-beta

  account_id   = "docker-pusher"
  display_name = "Docker Container Pusher"
  depends_on =[time_sleep.wait_30_seconds]
}

# Give service account permission to push to the Artifact Registry Repository
resource "google_artifact_registry_repository_iam_member" "docker_pusher_iam" {
  provider = google-beta

  location = google_artifact_registry_repository.my_docker_repo.location
  repository =  google_artifact_registry_repository.my_docker_repo.repository_id
  role   = "roles/artifactregistry.writer"
  member = "serviceAccount:${google_service_account.docker_pusher.email}"
  depends_on = [
    google_artifact_registry_repository.my_docker_repo,
    google_service_account.docker_pusher
    ]
}

And we add the following to variables.tf:

variable "repository" {
  description = "The name of the Artifact Registry repository to be created"
  type        = string
  default     = "docker-repository"
}

The last thing that we need to do is publish our image through Cloud Run. For this, we use google_cloud_run_service, and as the argument for image we pass "europe-west4-docker.pkg.dev/${var.project_id}/${var.repository}/${var.docker_image}", so our resource will expect to find an image that we defined in variables.tf within our created Artifact Registry repository. We also pass some arguments to use containers with small memory usage, and we should never have to scale to more than one instance for this simple API. Lastly, we create a noauth policy and apply it to our newly created Cloud Run API so our API is open to the public, and we return the URL on which our API is available.

 Only add the noauth policy to your API if you want to open it to the public. If your API uses or exposes sensitive data, you should add some form of authentication to your API.
##############################################
#       Deploy API to Google Cloud Run       #
##############################################

# Deploy image to Cloud Run
resource "google_cloud_run_service" "api_test" {
  provider = google-beta
  name     = "api-test"
  location = var.region
  template {
    spec {
        containers {
            image = "europe-west4-docker.pkg.dev/${var.project_id}/${var.repository}/${var.docker_image}"
            resources {
                limits = {
                "memory" = "1G"
                "cpu" = "1"
                }
            }
        }
    }
    metadata {
        annotations = {
            "autoscaling.knative.dev/minScale" = "0"
            "autoscaling.knative.dev/maxScale" = "1"
        }
    }
  }
  traffic {
    percent = 100
    latest_revision = true
  }
  depends_on = [google_artifact_registry_repository_iam_member.docker_pusher_iam]
}

# Create a policy that allows all users to invoke the API
data "google_iam_policy" "noauth" {
  provider = google-beta
  binding {
    role = "roles/run.invoker"
    members = [
      "allUsers",
    ]
  }
}

# Apply the no-authentication policy to our Cloud Run Service.
resource "google_cloud_run_service_iam_policy" "noauth" {
  provider = google-beta
  location    = var.region
  project     = var.project_id
  service     = google_cloud_run_service.api_test.name

  policy_data = data.google_iam_policy.noauth.policy_data
}

output "cloud_run_instance_url" {
  value = google_cloud_run_service.api_test.status.0.url
}

And we add the following to variables.tf:

variable "docker_image" {
  description = "The name of the Docker image in the Artifact Registry repository to be deployed to Cloud Run"
  type        = string
  default     = "my-api"
}

Now that we have created our Terraform script, we can start using it to provision our infrastructure.

5. Provisioning our cloud infrastructure with Terraform

Earlier, we created a service account that has the right permissions to provision our infrastrcture. Within the Google Cloud Platform, navigate back to IAM & Admin > Service Accounts (link), and click the three dots in the Actions column for your service account. Select Manage Keys, and then Add Key > New Key. Choose JSON as the Key Type, and this should trigger the download of a file to your local machine. Copy this file to the directory in which you have created your main.tf and variables.tf files, and rename it to infra_service_account.json. Next, create a file called .env with the following contents:

export GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDENTIALS="infra_service_account.json"

It is also possible to hard-code the path to the service account into your main.tf file, but I prefer the approach of using enviornment variables since it's easier to modify our configuration when we want to provision our infrastructure through CI/CD later.

 Take caution when working with service accounts. You should keep your service account keys private and you should make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands. If you are using Git for this project, don't forget to add the key to your .gitignore file. To read more about service account best practices, see here.

Before we create our infrastructure, let's see if our configuration does not contain any mistakes. First, we initialize our directory with

terraform init

and then we validate our files with

terraform validate

which outputs:

Success! The configuration is valid.

Great! This means we can now create our infrastructure:

source .env && terraform apply

After about a minute, this will now return an error:

Error: Error waiting to create Service: resource is in failed state "Ready:False", message: Image 'europe-west4-docker.pkg.dev/my-cloudrun-api/docker-repository/my-api' not found.

This error is expected, since we configured our infrastructure to look for an image called my-api within docker-repository, but we have not created that yet. The preceding steps have run succesfully however, so if we navigate to Artifact Registry in the UI, we find that our repository has been created. This means that we can now push our Docker image to the repository to finalize our set-up.

6. Pushing the Docker image to Artifact Registry on Google Cloud

In order to push our Docker image to the cloud, we first need to download the key for the service account docker-pusher that we created with Terraform. If you head over to IAM & Admin > Service Accounts (link), you should be able to see the new service account there. Create and download a service account key in the JSON format, similarly to how we did that for the infrastructure account earlier. Rename it to docker_service_account.json and store it in the same directory as app.py and Dockerfile.

Now, we want to run commands in the command line with the permissions of our service account. In order to do so, we will use the Google Cloud CLI. Installation instructions can be found here. After that is installed we can add a configuration called docker-pusher with the following commands:

gcloud config configurations create docker-pusher
gcloud config set project my-cloudrun-api
gcloud auth activate-service-account --key-file=docker_service_account.json

You can see your active and other available configurations with the command

gcloud config configurations list

Once we verified that our docker-pusher configuration is active, we should register gcloud as the credential helper for all Google-supported Docker registries with the following command:

gcloud auth configure-docker europe-west4-docker.pkg.dev

Then, we tag our Docker image cloudrun-example-api with a tag in the form of

<SOURCE_IMAGE> <HOSTNAME>/<PROJECT-ID>/<repository>/<IMAGE>

which in our case becomes:

docker tag cloudrun-example-api europe-west4-docker.pkg.dev/my-cloudrun-api/docker-repository/my-api

And we can then push that image to the Artifact Registry with:

docker push europe-west4-docker.pkg.dev/my-cloudrun-api/docker-repository/my-api

If this step runs succesfully, you should now be able to see your docker image in the docker-repository repository in the Artifact Registry section on GCP.

7. Finishing up and Testing our API

This means we can now finalize deploying our API. Navigate to your directory containing main.tf, and apply your files once again:

source .env && terraform apply

This time, since our Docker image is available to the google_cloud_run_service component, we should not get any errors. Instead we should see the following output:

Apply complete! Resources: 2 added, 0 changed, 1 destroyed.

Outputs:

cloud_run_instance_url = "https://<some_link>.a.run.app"

Click the link or copy and paste the URL in your browser and you should see the text Hello, World! displayed. Awesome, our API is working!

We have made some good progress in building our reproducible cloud environment and we have removed a lot of manual steps from the process. Imagine having three environments (development, acceptance and production) and having to set up all the resources by hand through the UI. And imagine having to make sure that these environments keep being consistent when multiple people are making changes to the infrastructure. With our Infrastructure-as-Code, this has become a lot more manageable.

And yet, this is also where there is still some room for improvement: It would be great if we can facilitate the deployment to multiple staging environments through our Terraform files. And ideally we would have the deployment of our infrastructure incorporated in a CI/CD pipeline, for example through GitHub Actions. However, we've already accomplished quite a lot in this tutorial, so we'll leave these improvement for later tutorials.

I hope this post was helpful to you, please let me know if you have any feedback!