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Hades

Hades is an experimental HATEOAS-based HTTP/2 reverse proxy for JSON API backends.

Why?

The JSON API specification makes ample use of links objects in its specification. These links objects contain URLs which enable a client to easily and automatically traverse documents to fetch subsequent pages, relationship data and related resources.

With the ever increasing deployment of HTTP/2, these HATEOAS links become much more relevant, especially when they can be pushed to the client before the client even requests them.

Hades is an intelligent reverse proxy that can be deployed in front of any JSON API server.

Clients that are HTTP/2 capable can then send an X-Push-Please request header to your application. The values of this header should be comprised of JSONPath selectors which target links in the expected response document. Hades will identify these links and proactively push the linked resources to the client.

Clients that are not HTTP/2 capable can also send these headers, Hades will simply not push the responses. Future versions of Hades might make further optimizations (like using the request to warm a server-side application cache).

Example

Take a JSON API server with issue, comment and user resource types as an example.

A client would like to list the 10 most recent issues and embed user avatars for every participant in the issue.

In JSON API terms, the data model is structured such that:

  1. Issues have a relationship to comments
  2. Comments have an author relationship to users
  3. User resources have an attribute that specifies a URL for the user's avatar

issue -> comment -> user -> avatar

Traditionally, one might use the include query parameter to receive a compound document response. The compound document would embed the chain of resources in a single response. However, in this scenario, issues do not support includes on comments. They would be far too numerous—if 10 issues each have 100 comments, the compound document would have 1000 resources!

This means that a client will first need to:

  1. Fetch the first 10 issues
  2. Fetch from the related or relationship routes for each issue
  3. Fetch the user resource for each unique author
  4. Finally, download the user's avatar file using a download URL on the user resource

This chain of requests is often called the "waterfall." Each step needs to be completed before the next step can proceed because the client can't know which resources to fetch in advance.

In other words, the client can't know which users to fetch if it doesn't know which comments are on an issue... and the client can't know which comments to fetch without first fetching the issues.

Hades solves this problem. By specifying the following request, a client can inform the Hades proxy which resources it's going to fetch and Hades can then proactively push those resources to the client.

GET /api/issues?sort=-created&page[limit]=10

X-Push-Please: $.data[*].relationships.comments.links.related
X-Push-Please: $.data[*].relationships.author.links.related
X-Push-Please: $.data.attributes.avatar.url

Multiple headers are permitted by HTTP/2. Alternatively, values may be concatenated with ;

Hades can use this information to identify the links in the response document that the client will eventually require. Future versions will permit response IDs in the X-Push-Please header so that link paths can target only specific responses.

Apart from the client-sent header, client applications need not be adapted in any way. When the client recieves the initial response document, it should still request the subsequent documents just as it would under HTTP/1.1.

However, because those request responses will have already been pushed, they will already be in a local cache or on the way! That means all responses will appear to have been received as if the client sent all the requests at the same time.

Hades eliminates the waterfall.

🔥

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Hades is a hypermedia-based HTTP/2 reverse proxy for JSON:API servers.

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