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PostgREST sessions example

Work in progress - feedback and contributions welcome!

This is an example of how session based authentication can be implemented with PostgREST.

The key file in this example is, which is a literate SQL file (like literal Haskell files). As a Markdown file, it explains how to set up an application with sessions. At the same time, it's also a full SQL script that defines the application when you filter for the SQL code blocks.

You can get the filtered SQL script by running sed -f deploy/md2sql.sed < >app.sql

How to implement session-based authentication with PostgREST

We leave the JWT-based authentication of PostgREST unused and implement our own authentication setup using the pre-request hook that PostgREST provides.

The application tracks sessions in its own sessions table.

The business logic for logging in, logging out etc. is defined using functions in the auth schema.

Functions that we expose as endpoints in the api schema wrap the business logic functions in auth to set cookies and raise errors to users where appropriate.

To tie everything together, we hook up the authenticate function as a pre-request in postgrest.conf, so that it runs before every request. It reads the session token from the request cookies and switches to the appropriate role and user_id based on the session.


On Linux, you'll need

  • PostgreSQL 9.5 or higher with the pgtap extension (I tested this with PostgreSQL 12.1, but older versions should also be fine as long as they have the Row Level Security feature).
  • PostgREST >= 6.0

If you have Nix (highly recommended, get it here: Getting Nix), running nix-shell in this directory will drop you in a shell where all dependencies are available, without any permanent changes to your environment. The environment is defined in shell.nix.

Running the application

Run deploy/ and access the PostgREST API at http://localhost:3000/. The script will run PostgreSQL in a temporary directory and connect it to PostgREST via a Unix domain socket. The application is automatically loaded from the file.

You'll need to have the postgrest binary on your path. If you downloaded it into this directory, you should be able to run PATH=".:$PATH" deploy/ The Nix shell environment from above will also take care of this.

Press Ctrl-c to exit and clean up the directory where the temporary database was set up.

Development and testing

To quickly iterate on the database schema, you can run something like echo | entr -r deploy/ This will load the schema into a fresh database on every change, including the test suite defined within it.

The entr utility (which is also provided in the Nix environment) takes a list of files to watch on stdin and restarts the command if any of the given files is changed.

To run the integration tests in, you'll need Python 3 with py.test and requests. To run the full test-suite on each change, you can run, for example: ls | entr -r deploy/


An example on how to implement session-based authentication with PostgREST








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