NPM executables not being found on App Service Linux

5 minute read | By Anthony Salemo

Sometimes when deploying to Azure App Service Linux and Nodejs using options that use ZipDeploy - such as GitHub Actions (GitHub as the builder) or DevOps pipelines, you may run into a problem at runtime (on startup) where the NPM executable ran (eg., nest start, nuxt start, next start, etc.) is not found.

Overview

When deploying with Zip Deploy, you may run into an issue where NPM executables are not found. This does not happen when using Oryx as the builder (eg., Local Git, Zip Deploy when SCM_DO_BUILD_DURING_DEPLOYMENT = true)

This is more prevalent on pipeline deployments, such as GitHub Actions (GitHub builder) or Azure DevOps pipelines, because these deployment methods ultimately use Zip Deploy. The build would be entirely on the pipeline (not using Oryx to build) and all that is being deployed is a .zip artifact to be extracted on Kudu. The npm install and npm build would be done on the pipeline, and create a fully deployable artifact. This is also where the symlinks are created.

But what may be noticed is that the symlinks required for these Node applications to run are missing, therefor breaking the application - at runtime. Ultimately, what is happening here is that symlinks are not retained upon extraction on Kudu when using Zip Deploy.

This may show up like the below:

Require stack:
    - /home/site/wwwroot/node_modules/.bin/nest
    at Module._resolveFilename (node:internal/modules/cjs/loader:939:15)
    at Module._load (node:internal/modules/cjs/loader:780:27)
    at Module.require (node:internal/modules/cjs/loader:1005:19)
    at require (node:internal/modules/cjs/helpers:102:18)
    at Object.<anonymous> (/home/site/wwwroot/node_modules/.bin/nest:5:20)
    at Module._compile (node:internal/modules/cjs/loader:1105:14)
    at Module._extensions..js (node:internal/modules/cjs/loader:1159:10)
    at Module.load (node:internal/modules/cjs/loader:981:32)
    at Module._load (node:internal/modules/cjs/loader:827:12)
    at Function.executeUserEntryPoint [as runMain] (node:internal/modules/run_main:77:12) {
        code: 'MODULE_NOT_FOUND',
        requireStack: [ '/home/site/wwwroot/node_modules/.bin/nest' ]
    }

The above message would of course vary for different frameworks or NPM packages. Such as below, which is for Nuxt.js. The requirestack may vary but the premise is the same that the required symlink is missing.

code: 'MODULE_NOT_FOUND',
requireStack: [ '/home/site/wwwroot/node_modules/.bin/nuxt' ]

Or with concurrently.js:

code: 'MODULE_NOT_FOUND',
requireStack: [ '/home/site/wwwroot/node_modules/.bin/concurrently' ]

Next.js (etc.)

code: 'module_not_found'
requirestack: [ '/home/site/wwwroot/node_modules/.bin/next' ]

You can confirm if symlinks exist by running ls -lrta ./node_modules/.bin, and should get an output like this (this can find entrypoint which is talked about below in the Resolution):

lrwxrwxrwx   1 runner docker    16 Oct 20 15:58 rimraf -> ../rimraf/bin.js
lrwxrwxrwx   1 runner docker    22 Oct 20 15:58 resolve -> ../resolve/bin/resolve
lrwxrwxrwx   1 runner docker    23 Oct 20 15:58 node-which -> ../which/bin/node-which
lrwxrwxrwx   1 runner docker    21 Oct 20 15:58 next -> ../next/dist/bin/next

What you will see is that node_modules/.bin/<package> is always in the stack, this is because NPM relies on this path to call executables - this is then symlinked to the actual package path under /node_modules/<some>/<package>/<entrypoint>, and where this ultimately fails. More on that can be found here.

Difference between other “like” errors

Before going onto the resolution, it is very important to note that this is distinctly different than your typical module not found error, in the sense that the package is missing from your package.json or you forgot to run npm install (or yarn) during your deployment process.

Resolution

The most generally simple way to resolve this is to just change the package.json script that points to these framework or package specific commands.

For example, if using GitHub Actions (GitHub Builder) and Nuxt.js:

You’d change your package.json from this:

"scripts": {
    "dev": "nuxt",
    "build": "nuxt build",
    "start": "nuxt start",
    "generate": "nuxt generate"
}

To this:

"scripts": {
    "dev": "nuxt",
    "build": "nuxt build",
    "start": "node_modules/nuxt/bin/nuxt.js start",
    "generate": "nuxt generate"
}

With Next.js, it would go from this:

"scripts": {
    "dev": "next dev",
    "build": "next build",
    "start": "next start",
    "lint": "next lint"
}

To this:

"scripts": {
    "dev": "next dev",
    "build": "next build",
    "start": "node_modules/next/dist/bin/next start",
    "lint": "next lint"
}

This is the same for any other packages encountering this on startup. What we’re doing is instead of relying on symlinks, we’re directly pointing to the package entrypoint. All packages have entrypoints (.js files) - which is the same ones that NPM would ultimately be symlinked to.

This can be further extended by adding it to specific start scripts for local and remote. For example:

"scripts": {
    "start": "./node_modules/concurrently/dist/bin/concurrently.js \"npm run start:azure\" \"echo 'This worked'\"",
    "start:dev": "concurrently \"npm run start\" \"echo 'This worked'\"",
    "start:azure": "node server.js
}

We can see this also successfully works with the below output:

This worked
'This worked' exited with code 0
npm info it worked if it ends with ok
npm info using npm@6.14.15
npm info using node@v18.2.0
npm info lifecycle azure-webapps-linux-node-express-basic@1.0.0~prestart: azure-webapps-linux-node-express-basic@1.0.0
npm info lifecycle azure-webapps-linux-node-express-basic@1.0.0~start: azure-webapps-linux-node-express-basic@1.0.0
> azure-webapps-linux-node-express-basic@1.0.0 start /home/site/wwwroot
> node server.js
Server listening on port: 8080

In summary, what we’re doing above to resolve this is to point directly to the package entrypoint. Which is the same entrypoint NPM would have been ultimately pointing to.