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Reverse proxy for HTTP microservices and STDIO

Go Report Card Build Status License: MIT OpenFaaS

The of-watchdog implements a HTTP server listening on port 8080, and acts as a reverse proxy for running functions and microservices. It can be used independently, or as the entrypoint for a container with OpenFaaS.

This version of the OpenFaaS watchdog adds support for HTTP proxying as well as STDIO, which enables re-use of memory and very fast serving of requests. It does not aim to replace the Classic Watchdog, but offers another option for those who need these features.


  • Keep function process warm for lower latency / caching / persistent connections through using HTTP
  • Enable streaming of large responses from functions, beyond the RAM or disk capacity of the container
  • Cleaner abstractions for each "mode"


There are several modes available for the of-watchdog which changes how it interacts with your microservice or function code.

A comparison of three watchdog modes. Top left - Classic Watchdog, top right: afterburn (deprecated), bottom left HTTP mode from of-watchdog.

1. HTTP (mode=http)

1.1 Status

The HTTP mode is set to become the default mode for future OpenFaaS templates.

The following templates have been available for testing:

Template HTTP framework Repo
Node.js 12 (LTS) Express.js
Python 3 & 2.7 Flask
Golang Go HTTP (stdlib)
Golang (http.HandlerFunc)
Ruby Sinatra
Java 11 Sun HTTP / Gradle

Unofficial: .NET Core / C# and Kestrel

1.2 Description

The HTTP mode is similar to AfterBurn.

A process is forked when the watchdog starts, we then forward any request incoming to the watchdog to a HTTP port within the container.


  • Fastest option for high concurrency and throughput

  • More efficient concurrency and RAM usage vs. forking model

  • Database connections can be persisted for the lifetime of the container

  • Files or models can be fetched and stored in /tmp/ as a one-off initialization task and used for all requests after that

  • Does not require new/custom client libraries like afterburn but makes use of a long-running daemon such as Express.js for Node or Flask for Python

Example usage for testing:

  • Forward to an NGinx container:
$ go build ; mode=http port=8081 fprocess="docker run -p 80:80 --name nginx -t nginx" upstream_url= ./of-watchdog
  • Forward to a Node.js / Express.js hello-world app:
$ go build ; mode=http port=8081 fprocess="node expressjs-hello-world.js" upstream_url= ./of-watchdog


  • One more HTTP hop in the chain between the client and the function

  • Daemons such as express/flask/sinatra can be unpredictable when used in this way so many need additional configuration

  • Additional memory may be occupied between invocations vs. forking model

2. Serializing fork (mode=serializing)

2.1 Status

This mode is designed to replicate the behaviour of the original watchdog for backwards compatibility.

2.2 Description

Forks one process per request. Multi-threaded. Ideal for retro-fitting a CGI application handler i.e. for Flask.

Limited to processing files sized as per available memory.

Reads entire request into memory from the HTTP request. At this point we serialize or modify if required. That is then written into the stdin pipe.

  • Stdout pipe is read into memory and then serialized or modified if necessary before being written back to the HTTP response.

  • A static Content-type can be set ahead of time.

  • HTTP headers can be set even after executing the function (not implemented).

  • Exec timeout: supported.

3. Streaming fork (mode=streaming) - default.

Forks a process per request and can deal with a request body larger than memory capacity - i.e. 512mb VM can process multiple GB of video.

HTTP headers cannot be sent after function starts executing due to input/output being hooked-up directly to response for streaming efficiencies. Response code is always 200 unless there is an issue forking the process. An error mid-flight will have to be picked up on the client. Multi-threaded.

  • Input is sent back to client as soon as it's printed to stdout by the executing process.

  • A static Content-type can be set ahead of time.

  • Exec timeout: supported.

4. Static (mode=static)

This mode starts an HTTP file server for serving static content found at the directory specified by static_path.

See an example in the Hugo blog post.

5. Afterburn (mode=afterburn)

5.1 Status

Afterburn has been deprecated in favour of the HTTP mode.

Several sample templates are available under the OpenFaaS incubator organisation.

5.2 Details

Uses a single process for all requests, if that request dies the container dies.

Vastly accelerated processing speed but requires a client library for each language - HTTP over stdin/stdout. Single-threaded with a mutex.

  • Limited to processing files sized as per available memory.

  • HTTP headers can be set even after executing the function.

  • A dynamic Content-type can be set from the client library.

  • Exec timeout: not supported.


Environmental variables:

Note: timeouts should be specified as Golang durations i.e. 1m or 20s.

Option Implemented Usage
function_process Yes Process to execute a server in http mode or to be executed for each request in the other modes. For non http mode the process must accept input via STDIN and print output via STDOUT. Alias: fprocess
static_path Yes Absolute or relative path to the directory that will be served if mode="static"
read_timeout Yes HTTP timeout for reading the payload from the client caller (in seconds)
write_timeout Yes HTTP timeout for writing a response body from your function (in seconds)
exec_timeout Yes Exec timeout for process exec'd for each incoming request (in seconds). Disabled if set to 0.
port Yes Specify an alternative TCP port for testing. Default: 8080
write_debug No Write all output, error messages, and additional information to the logs. Default is false.
content_type Yes Force a specific Content-Type response for all responses - only in forking/serializing modes.
suppress_lock Yes When set to false the watchdog will attempt to write a lockfile to /tmp/ for healthchecks. Default false
http_upstream_url Yes http mode only - where to forward requests i.e.
upstream_url Yes alias for http_upstream_url
http_buffer_req_body Yes http mode only - buffers request body in memory before forwarding upstream to your template's upstream_url. Use if your upstream HTTP server does not accept Transfer-Encoding: chunked Default: false
buffer_http Yes deprecated alias for http_buffer_req_body, will be removed in future version
max_inflight Yes Limit the maximum number of requests in flight

Note: the .lock file is implemented for health-checking, but cannot be disabled yet. You must create this file in /tmp/.