Handling HTTP Requests

This tutorial extends the project started in the getting started tutorial and adds the Pedestal module. It shows how to define and start an HTTP server, and handle incoming HTTP requests using custom handlers functions.

You can find the complete source code used in this tutorial on Github.

To make the most of this particular tutorial, you will be most effective if you have already read and understood the material in the getting started tutorial

Enabling the Pedestal module

To make our application into an HTTP server, we'll need to add the arachne-pedestal Arachne module to our app. Pedestal is an industrial strength HTTP server for Clojure, and Arachne wraps it, inheriting the benefits that it provides.

First, we'll need to add a Leiningen dependency, to make sure arachne-pedestal is on our classpath. Because arachne-pedestal ultimately depends on arachne-core as well, we can actually replace arachne-core in the project.clj: it will still be required.

After adding it, your leiningen dependencies should look something like this:

:dependencies [[org.clojure/clojure "1.9.0-alpha14"]
               [org.arachne-framework/arachne-pedestal "<arachne-pedestal-version>"]
               [datascript "0.15.5"]
               [ch.qos.logback/logback-classic "1.1.3"]]

Then, we need to update the arachne.edn file to indicate that our application should activate the Pedestal module. Just like project.clj, we can actually replace the core module; because the Pedestal depends on it transitively, we no longer need depend on it explicitly.

[{:arachne/name :myproj/app
  :arachne/inits [myproj.config]
  :arachne/dependencies [:org.arachne-framework/arachne-pedestal]}]

Writing a handler function

In Arachne (and Pedestal) (and Ring), a handler function is a function which takes a request as its argument, and returns a response. Both the request and the response are represented as Clojure maps.

Below is what is possibly the simplest possible handler function. We will add it to our app, in src/myproj/core.clj:

(defn hello-handler
  {:status 200
   :body "Hello, world!"})

This function just responds with "Hello, world!" to any incoming request. Easy enough!

This is literally all of the project code we need to write to turn our application into a web application. Everything else will be defined in the Arachne configuration.

Server configuration

Now, for the interesting part: updating the config script to start an HTTP server serving up our handler.

First, we will need to define a Component representing our handler function. Add the following to your config script:

(require '[arachne.http.dsl :as h])

(a/id :myproj/hello (h/handler 'myproj.core/hello-handler))

The arachne.http.dsl/handler function looks very much like the arachne.core.dsl/component function we used earlier. This is no accident! In fact, handler is actually defining a component, too: just a specific kind of component. The difference is that the function specified should identify a handler function (the one we just wrote) instead of being a constructor that can return an arbitrary object. Note that we still need to give our handler component a name: :myproj/hello. We'll need to refer to this in the next step.

Next, we will add some DSL forms that define an HTTP server, and tell it how to serve our handler function:

(require '[arachne.pedestal.dsl :as p])

(a/id :myproj/server
  (p/server 8080

    (h/endpoint :get "/" :myproj/hello)


The arachne.pedestal.dsl/server form creates yet another component entity named :myproj/server. Instead of passing a symbol that identifies a constructor or a handler function, server requires a port.

Nested inside the server element, we declare an HTTP endpoint, using the arachne.http.dsl/endpoint function. This function takes three arguments:

  • The HTTP method that this endpoint responds to, as a Clojure keyword. You may also pass a set of keywords if the endpoint can respond to multiple request types.
  • The route to which to "attach" the endpoint: requests to this route will be delegated to the endpoint.
  • The Arachne ID of the handler for this endpoint (which we declared above).

In general, this is how an Arachne applications always define their routing structure: A server DSL form, with nested forms for all the endpoints inside.

Again, it cannot be emphasized enough: these DSL forms do not create an actual Pedestal server. They create entities in the config that define the server. No server is actually started, and no ports will be opened until we use this config to initialize a runtime and call start.

There's just one more step: we need to tell Arachne that this HTTP server is part of our runtime, and should be started when the runtime starts. Replace the existing a/runtime call with:

(a/id :myproj/runtime (a/runtime [:myproj/server]))

At this point, your full configuration script should look something like this:

(ns ^:config myproj.config
  (:require [arachne.core.dsl :as a]
            [arachne.http.dsl :as h]
            [arachne.pedestal.dsl :as p]))

(a/id :myproj/widget-1 (a/component 'myproj.core/make-widget))

(a/id :myproj/runtime (a/runtime [:myproj/server]))

(a/id :myproj/hello (h/handler 'myproj.core/hello-handler))

(a/id :myproj/server
  (p/server 8080

    (h/endpoint :get "/" :myproj/hello)


Running the server

At this point, we can start a runtime. But before we do, we should configure Logback to log a little bit less verbosely. If no logback.xml file is supplied, the default log level is DEBUG, and Pedestal dumps a lot of debug messages. Copy and paste the following logback.xml file into your resources directory to set a default log level of INFO and cut down on the noise:

<configuration debug="false">

    <appender name="STDOUT" class="ch.qos.logback.core.ConsoleAppender">
            <pattern>%d{HH:mm:ss.SSS} %-5level - %logger{36} %msg%n</pattern>

    <root level="INFO">
      <appender-ref ref="STDOUT"/>


Then, once logging is set up, we can run the server. Here, we'll use the command line (for simplicity), though of course you could use a REPL as described in the creating a project tutorial.

lein run :myproj/app :myproj/runtime

After the version of Pedestal we specified in project.clj is downloaded (if it isn't already installed on your system), you should see log output indicating that the server has started.

Hit the http://localhost:8080/ URL to see your endpoint in action!

Path params

You aren't limited to specific, hardcoded routes. Arachne (via Pedestal) also allows you to use a colon (similar to a Clojure keyword) to name a route segment, creating a path parameter. Values at that path are then available in the request, in a map under the :path-params key.

Let's try it out with a new handler function:

(defn greeter
  (let [name (get-in req [:path-params :name])]
    {:status 200
     :body (str "Hello, " name "!")}))

And the corresponding line in the configuration script, inside our server:

(h/endpoint :get "/greet/:name" (h/handler 'myproj.core/greeter))

The :name key in the path indicates that any value at that URL should be bound to the :name key in the request's :path-params.

After rebuilding the config and restarting the Arachne runtime, you should be able to see the new handler in action at http://localhost:8080/greet/Luke.

You may also notice that we've defined the endpoint in a different way than we did before. Instead of giving the handler component an Arachne ID and then referencing it by ID, we defined it anonymously and inline, declaring it inside the h/endpoint form.

That works fine! Arachne DSL functions which define components (including arachne.core.dsl/component, arachne.http.dsl/handler and arachne.pedestal.dsl/server, that we've seen so far) all return the entity ID of their newly created config entity, in the context configuration. And DSL forms which reference another component (such as arachne.http.dsl/endpoint) can accept either an Arachne ID, or an entity ID as a component identifier.

This means that the following three forms are equivalent:

(h/endpoint :get "/greet/:name" (h/handler 'myproj.core/greeter))
(def handler-eid (h/handler 'myproj.core/greeter))
(h/endpoint :get "/greet/:name" handler-eid)
(a/id :myproj/greeter (h/handler 'myproj.core/greeter))
(h/endpoint :get "/greet/:name" :myproj/greeter)

And, of course, we could both define a handler inline and give it an Arachne ID, because the arachne.core.dsl/id function returns the entity ID to which it just assigned an Arachne ID:

(h/endpoint :get "/greet/:name" (ai/id :myproj/greeter (h/handler 'myproj.core/greeter)))

You can use whichever of these variations leads to the cleanest and most readable config scripts.

Do note, though, that if you don't give a component an Arachne ID, and you don't capture the return value of the DSL function, you've just created a component entity that you have no ability to refer to, which will be pretty useless to you.

Components and the runtime

If you were looking for it, you might also have noticed that we're not getting the "Hello World" message from our Widget component, which we built in the last tutorial. That's because when we edited our (a/runtime) form to include :myproj/server instead of :myproj/widget-1, we removed all references to the widget from the components we told Arachne to start. Because nothing was depending on it, it was neither instantiated nor started with the rest of the System.

If we did want to have our custom component to start up, we can add it to the runtime, along with our HTTP server, like so:

(a/id :myproj/runtime (a/runtime [:myproj/server :myproj/widget-1]))

Now, our custom component will start up alongside the server itself.

For much more on components and component dependencies, see the next tutorial on dependency injection.