How I set up my self-hosted Matrix instance

Matrix is a modern, decentralized, federated real-time communication protocol and open standard. It has a thriving ecosystem of servers, clients, and applications. Synapse is the reference server and Element is the reference client for the web, desktop and mobile platforms.

Matrix protocol logo

This is something that I have been interested in using and self-hosting for a few years now. I have had an account on the main matrix.org instance for a while now and wanted to switch to a self-hosted instance.

Since I have been using docker, docker-compose, and Ansible to deploy and run a wide range of self-hosted applications for my personal use, the spantaleev/matrix-docker-ansible-deploy was my choice for setting up my instance. I chose to use Synapse over Dendrite, the second-generation server because though it is lightweight, it is not feature-complete. All the other third-party implementations have a lot of catching up to do as well, at the time of writing this post.

I learned a bit of Terraform in my previous job, but never had a chance to learn it properly or build something from scratch using it. So armed with my little knowledge of Terraform, I created a small Terraform project to automate setting up a new Matrix instance. It provisions the DNS records needed for Matrix on Namecheap — my domain registrar and DNS host, provisions an appropriately sized Hetzner cloud instance with a floating IP address, and runs the deployment playbook in the matrix-docker-ansible-deploy repository with the provided Ansible variables file. I used the hcloud and the namecheap Terraform providers to do this.

With this, I was able to provision and set up my Matrix instance in under 10 minutes by just running

$ terraform plan -out=matrix-plan
$ terraform apply "matrix-plan"

I have released the source code for this project here on GitLab under the GNU Affero General Public License v3.0 (AGPLv3) or later. Since this project contains the matrix-docker-ansible-deploy repository as a git submodule, running git submodule update --init should automatically pull in a known good commit of that repository to use for the deployment. The README file has the instructions for using the project to set Matrix instances from scratch.

I hope it is useful for those who are looking to set up a new Matrix instance.

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