Adding custom environment variables

About environment variables

Environment variables contain a name and value, and provide a simple way to share configuration settings between multiple applications and processes in Linux.

For example, Cloud 66 creates environment variables for your database server address, which can be referenced in your code. This has numerous benefits:

Auto-generate variables

AUTO_GENERATE environment variables allow you to insert a generic environment variable into your application, and Cloud 66 will automatically replace their value with a random string. This is useful to have Cloud 66 automatically generate values for secrets that you do not want to have commited into your repository.

To use AUTO_GENERATE environment variables, you define any environment variables with the value AUTO_GENERATE or AUTO_GENERATE_{number} - where number is the length of the value to auto-generate - i.e. AUTO_GENERATE_32.

If you use these values, then Cloud 66 will replace them with a fixed random string of the specified length (10 is the default length). Using this, you can safely commit your env file to your git repository with the following content for example, then load it when you create your new application for concrete values.

Default env-vars

As mentioned earlier, Cloud 66 auto-generates a number of environment variables, which can be used in addition to those that you define. Depending on your application configuration, the environment variables available will differ.

The following variables are created for Rack-based applications (among others):

For database servers that we manage, we automatically create variables and insert them into your database.yml and/or mongoid.yml. For example, for a MySQL database we would create variables such as:

If your application uses an externally hosted (self-managed) database, we will not generate any of these variables. If your config files rely on environment variables, you will need to set these manually before you deploy, or we will not be able to connect to your database. Please read our database management guide for more details.

For a full list of environment variables available in your application, visit the Environment variables link in the right sidebar of your Application Overview. If you don’t currently have an application, the environment variables available to you are shown after your code analysis.

Assign env-vars for deployment

When you create a new application, you are given the option to assign your own environment variables after code analysis. Once your code has been analyzed, click Add environment variables before deployment in the About your app field. This will allow you to view the environment variables that Cloud 66 sets for you, and set your own.

You can set your own by either manually entering them, or uploading a file that contain the variables. This file should use the following format:


If your application relies on specific environment variables to complete the deployment process, it is worth adding them before deploying.

Assign env-vars after app build

You can also set environment variables on an existing application by visiting the Environment variables link in the right sidebar of your Application Overview. Once you click Save, these variables will be propagated to all your servers automatically, ready for your use.

Be aware of the following while assigning environment variables:

Environment variables are not escaped

However, they are always wrapped in double quotes (e.g. “ENV_VAR” ) so you can use them with multi-line variables like SSH keys.

Some environment variables cannot be modified

For example, environment variables for your server IP addresses cannot be changed because they are automatically set and updated based on reported IP addresses.

Managing environment variables using Toolbelt

You can also manage your environment variables using your Cloud 66 Toolbelt. There are four methods for managing env vars via Toolbelt:

Please click on the links above for detailed instructions on each of these methods.

Referencing environment variables

You can define a new environment variable and reference it to an existing environment variable on the same application, or between different applications.

Creating a reference can be done using {{ENV_VAR}} or _env(ENV_VAR:DEFAULT_VALUE) syntax.

The second form is useful when you want to specify a default value. If cloud66 can’t find referenced environment variable it will use default value instead. DEFAULT_VALUE is optional.


If you are not using prefix/suffix in environment variable definition, you can use _env:(ENV_VAR:DEFAULT_VALUE) syntax


Referencing env vars in manifest files

You can add environment variables to your manifest files, either globally or per environment. Read our manifest guide for more details.

Referencing other env vars on the same app

This is useful when referencing an environment variable which you don’t control such as a server IP address. To do this you can use:

Referencing env vars on other apps

To reference to an environment variable on other applications you can use:

You need administrative privileges on the target application to reference environment variables on it. You cannot use intra-application environment variables to gain access to database credentials, only database addresses.

Using environment variables

Using environment variables is done differently depending on your application settings, but these are some examples.

username: <%= ENV['DB_USER'] %>
working_directory "#{ENV['APP_PATH']}"

Pre-defined environment variables

There are some variables that are predefined by Cloud66 which are listed at bellow.

SERVER_NAME: Is on each server and is only available inside the server

What’s next?