How to Manually Set Up a Prisma Server on Ubuntu 18.04

Published on January 11, 2019
How to Manually Set Up a Prisma Server on Ubuntu 18.04

This tutorial is out of date and no longer maintained.

Warning: This tutorial is out of date and no longer maintained. It is based on Prisma 1 which is not actively developed any more. To learn everything about the latest version of Prisma, visit the official Prisma documentation.

If you want to learn how to build server-side applications with Prisma, you can follow these new tutorials:

The author selected the Electronic Frontier Foundation to receive a donation as part of the Write for DOnations program.


Prisma is a data layer that replaces traditional object-relational mapping tools (ORMs) in your application. Offering support for both building GraphQL servers as well as REST APIs, Prisma simplifies database access with a focus on type safety and enables declarative database migrations. Type safety helps reduce potential code errors and inconsistencies, while the declarative database migrations allow you to store your datamodel in version control. These features help developers reduce time spent focused on setting up database access, migrations, and data management workflows.

You can deploy the Prisma server, which acts as a proxy for your database, in a number of ways and host it either remotely or locally. Through the Prisma service you can access your data and connect to your database with the GraphQL API, which allows realtime operations and the ability to create, update, and delete data. GraphQL is a query language for APIs that allows users to send queries to access the exact data they require from their server. The Prisma server is a standalone component that sits on top of your database.

In this tutorial you will manually install a Prisma server on Ubuntu 18.04 and run a test GraphQL query in the GraphQL Playground. You will host your Prisma setup code and development locally — where you will actually build your application — while running Prisma on your remote server. By running through the installation manually, you will have a deeper understanding and customizability of the underlying infrastructure of your setup.

While this tutorial covers the manual steps for deploying Prisma on an Ubuntu 18.04 server, you can also accomplish this in a more automated way with Docker Machine by following this tutorial on Prisma’s site.

Note: The setup described in this section does not include features you would normally expect from production-ready servers, such as automated backups and active failover.


To complete this tutorial, you will need:

Step 1 — Starting the Prisma Server

The Prisma CLI is the primary tool used to deploy and manage your Prisma services. To start the services, you need to set up the required infrastructure, which includes the Prisma server and a database for it to connect to.

Docker Compose allows you to manage and run multi-container applications. You’ll use it to set up the infrastructure required for the Prisma service.

You will begin by creating the docker-compose.yml file to store the Prisma service configuration on your server. You’ll use this file to automatically spin up Prisma, an associated database, and configure the necessary details, all in one step. Once the file is spun up with Docker Compose, it will configure the passwords for your databases, so be sure to replace the passwords for managementAPIsecret and MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD with something secure. Run the following command to create and edit the docker-compose.yml file:

  1. sudo nano docker-compose.yml

Add the following content to the file to define the services and volumes for the Prisma setup:

version: "3"
    image: prismagraphql/prisma:1.20
    restart: always
      - "4466:4466"
        port: 4466
        managementApiSecret: my-secret
            connector: mysql
            host: mysql
            port: 3306
            user: root
            password: prisma
            migrations: true
    image: mysql:5.7
    restart: always
      - mysql:/var/lib/mysql

This configuration does the following:

  • It launches two services: prisma-db and db.
  • It pulls in the latest version of Prisma. As of this writing, that is Prisma 1.20.
  • It sets the ports Prisma will be available on and specifies all of the credentials to connect to the MySQL database in the databases section.

The docker-compose.yml file sets up the managementApiSecret, which prevents others from accessing your data with knowledge of your endpoint. If you are using this tutorial for anything but a test deployment, you should change the managementAPIsecret to something more secure. When you do, be sure to remember it so that you can enter it later during the prisma init process.

This file also pulls in the MySQL Docker image and sets those credentials as well. For the purposes of this tutorial, this Docker Compose file spins up a MySQL image, but you can also use PostgreSQL with Prisma. Both Docker images are available on Docker hub:

Save and exit the file.

Now that you have saved all of the details, you can start the Docker containers. The -d command tells the containers to run in detached mode, meaning they’ll run in the background:

  1. sudo docker-compose up -d

This will fetch the Docker images for both prisma and mysql. You can verify that the Docker containers are running with the following command:

  1. sudo docker ps

You will see an output that looks similar to this:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE                       COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS              PORTS                    NAMES
24f4dd6222b1        prismagraphql/prisma:1.12   "/bin/sh -c /app/sta…"   15 seconds ago      Up 1 second>4466/tcp   root_prisma_1
d8cc3a393a9f        mysql:5.7                   "docker-entrypoint.s…"   15 seconds ago      Up 13 seconds       3306/tcp                 root_mysql_1

With your Prisma server and database set up, you are now ready to work locally to deploy the Prisma service.

Step 2 — Installing Prisma Locally

The Prisma server provides the runtime environments for your Prisma services. Now that you have your Prisma server started, you can deploy your Prisma service. You will run these steps locally, not on your server.

To start, create a separate folder to contain all of the Prisma files:

  1. mkdir prisma

Then move into that folder:

  1. cd prisma

You can install Prisma with Homebrew if you’re using MacOS. To do this, run the following command to add the Prisma repository:

  1. brew tap prisma/prisma

You can then install Prisma with the following command:

  1. brew install prisma

Or alternately, with npm:

  1. npm install -g prisma

With Prisma installed locally, you are ready to bootstrap the new Prisma service.

Step 3 — Creating the Configuration for a New Prisma Service

After the installation, you can use prisma init to create the file structure for a new Prisma database API, which generates the files necessary to build your application with Prisma. Your endpoint will automatically be in the prisma.yml file, and datamodel.prisma will already contain a sample datamodel that you can query in the next step. The datamodel serves as the basis for your Prisma API and specifies the model for your application. At this point, you are only creating the files and the sample datamodel. You are not making any changes to the database until you run prisma deploy later in this step.

Now you can run the following command locally to create the new file structure:

  1. prisma init hello-world

After you run this command you will see an interactive prompt. When asked, select, Use other server and press ENTER:

Set up a new Prisma server or deploy to an existing server? You can set up Prisma for local development (based on docker-compose) Use existing database Connect to existing database Create new database Set up a local database using Docker Or deploy to an existing Prisma server: Demo server Hosted demo environment incl. database (requires login) ❯ Use other server Manually provide endpoint of a running Prisma server

You will then provide the endpoint of your server that is acting as the Prisma server. It will look something like: http://SERVER_IP_ADDRESS:4466. It is key that the endpoint begins with http (or https) and has the port number indicated.

Enter the endpoint of your Prisma server http://SERVER_IP_ADDRESS:4466

For the management API secret, enter in the phrase or password that you indicated earlier in the configuration file:

Enter the management API secret my-secret

For the subsequent options, you can choose the default variables by pressing ENTER for the service name and service stage:

Choose a name for your service hello-world Choose a name for your stage dev

You will also be given a choice on a programming language for the Prisma client. In this case, you can choose your preferred language. You can read more about the client here.

Select the programming language for the generated Prisma client (Use arrow keys) ❯ Prisma TypeScript Client Prisma Flow Client Prisma JavaScript Client Prisma Go Client Don't generate

Once you have completed the prompt, you will see the following output that confirms the selections you made:

Created 3 new files: prisma.yml Prisma service definition datamodel.prisma GraphQL SDL-based datamodel (foundation for database) .env Env file including PRISMA_API_MANAGEMENT_SECRET Next steps: 1. Open folder: cd hello-world 2. Deploy your Prisma service: prisma deploy 3. Read more about deploying services: http://bit.ly/prisma-deploy-services

Move into the hello-world directory:

  1. cd hello-world

Sync these changes to your server with prisma deploy. This sends the information to the Prisma server from your local machine and creates the Prisma service on the Prisma server:

  1. prisma deploy

Note: Running prisma deploy again will update your Prisma service.

Your output will look something like:

Creating stage dev for service hello-world ✔ Deploying service `hello-world` to stage 'dev' to server 'default' 468ms Changes: User (Type) + Created type `User` + Created field `id` of type `GraphQLID!` + Created field `name` of type `String!` + Created field `updatedAt` of type `DateTime!` + Created field `createdAt` of type `DateTime!` Applying changes 716ms Your Prisma GraphQL database endpoint is live: HTTP: http://SERVER_IP_ADDRESS:4466/hello-world/dev WS: ws://SERVER_IP_ADDRESS:4466/hello-world/dev

The output shows that Prisma has updated your database according to your datamodel (created in the prisma init step) with a type User. Types are an essential part of a datamodel; they represent an item from your application, and each type contains multiple fields. For your datamodel the associated fields describing the user are: the user’s ID, name, time they were created, and time they were updated.

If you run into issues at this stage and get a different output, double check that you entered all of the fields correctly during the interactive prompt. You can do so by reviewing the contents of the prisma.yml file.

With your Prisma service running, you can connect to two different endpoints:

  • The management interface, available at http://SERVER_IP_ADDRESS:4466/management, where you can manage and deploy Prisma services.

  • The GraphQL API for your Prisma service, available at http://SERVER_IP_ADDRESS:4466/hello-world/dev.

GraphQL API exploring Your Project

You have successfully set up and deployed your Prisma server. You can now explore queries and mutations in GraphQL.

Step 4 — Running an Example Query

To explore another Prisma use case, you can experiment with the GraphQL playground tool, which is an open-source GraphQL integrated development environment (IDE) on your server. To access it, visit your endpoint in your browser from the previous step:


A mutation is a GraphQL term that describes a way to modify — create, update, or delete (CRUD) — data in the backend via GraphQL. You can send a mutation to create a new user and explore the functionality. To do this, run the following mutation in the left-hand side of the page:

mutation {
  createUser(data: { name: "Alice" }) {

Once you press the play button, you will see the results on the right-hand side of the page. GraphQL Playground Creating a New User

Subsequently, if you want to look up a user by using the ID column in the database, you can run the following query:

query {
  user(where: { id: "cjkar2d62000k0847xuh4g70o" }) {

You now have a Prisma server and service up and running on your server, and you have run test queries in GraphQL’s IDE.


You have a functioning Prisma setup on your server. You can see some additional Prisma use cases and next steps in the Getting Started Guide or explore Prisma’s feature set in the Prisma Docs. Once you have completed all of the steps in this tutorial, you have a number of options to verify your connection to the database, one possibility is using the Prisma Client.

Warning: This tutorial is out of date and no longer maintained. It is based on Prisma 1 which is not actively developed any more. To learn everything about the latest version of Prisma, visit the official Prisma documentation.

If you want to learn how to build server-side applications with Prisma, you can follow these new tutorials:

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