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Minimal, database-agnostic REST API Framework based on Restify

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Somnus is a very thin layer wrapping around the Restify Node.js library. It aims to set up foundational features of a web/API framework by adding (sometimes opinionated) out-of-the-box configurations on top of the bare-bone Restify. In short, it helps you:

  • set up your web/API platform in the shortest time possible
  • implement the use of Bunyan logger by default. This in turn discourages the spam of console.log which seems convenient at first but eventually will turn your project into a mess
  • add utility/helper functions supporting the repetitive, trivial tasks during day-to-day web/API development projects
  • integrate with NGINX Unit seamlessly

While the original developer's intention is to add commonly essential features on top of Restify, it's also important to note that the key principal is to keep the codebase as small as possible, living up to Restify's standard of being a lighter library than the colossus we have in Express.js. Please keep this in mind should you decide to contribute to Somnus!

Developer & User notices

Somnus strongly promotes the use of next-gen JavaScript (ES6, ES7, etc.). Hence, it will most likely always enforce the latest LTS version of Node.js (for example 10.14.2 at writing time). Besides, it encourages the use of modern JS features such as arrow functions, const identifier and others (where they make sense).

Starting v8.2.0, somnus has Nginx Unit integration support. If you fail to install Unit's language module for Node.js (npm i unit-http), be sure to follow up Unit's installation guide itself first. For example, MacOS users may want to follow the homebrew guide.


With Node.js and npm installed, simply run:

# installs a production build of this framework from the global npm repo
npm install somnus


Note: this section is only for contributors. If you only need to use Somnus, the installation step above is enough.

You can build the framework yourself by checking out this repository, cding into it then running the build or build:prod npm script, for example:

# installs the toolchains needed for the build process
npm install

# outputs a development build into `lib/`
npm run build

# or if you want a production build
npm run build:prod

TBA: explain the difference between development and production builds


import somnus from 'somnus';
// or const somnus = require('somnus').default;

// you can add routes via the standard syntax
// as you would normally do with `express` or `restify`
somnus.server.get('/echo', (req, res) => res.send('echo echo'));

// or you can add routes by declaring a `routeConfig` object,
// which is then passed into `somnus.start()`
const routeConfig = {
  'get /hello': (req, res) => res.send('world')
somnus.start({ routeConfig });

// from now on, all routes added above are available. Go ahead and test these
// paths with `curl` or your favourite web browser:
// - `/echo`
// - `/hello`

Usage with NGINX Unit

Support for NGINX Unit is available starting from somnus@8.2.0. To use your somnus-based application with Nginx Unit, you need to:

  1. ensure the unit-http module is installed (npm i -g unit-http). Nginx recommends a global installation of this module
  2. cd into your existing somnus-based application (where somnus is at least at v8.2.0)
  3. link unit-http into your application (npm link unit-http) (as instructed here)
  4. add the line #!/usr/bin/env node on top of the entry file of your app
    • if you have troubles adding the above shebang line to your webpack-compiled module, try using webpack.BannerPlugin like so: new webpack.BannerPlugin({ banner: "#!/usr/bin/env node", raw: true }), as shared in this SO answer.
  5. make the entry file executable (e.g. chmod +x /path/to/your/entry.js)

and voilà, you can start it up with NGINX Unit as instructed in this tutorial

ENV variables

  • UNIX_SOCKET: the unix socket at which the underlying http server listens, defaults to undefined, taking precedence over HOST and PORT (explained below) when defined
  • HOST: the host at which the underlying http server listens, defaults to localhost
  • PORT: the port at which the underlying http server listens, defaults to a random available port on your system
  • LOG_LEVEL: enum of bunyan log levels. If set, this will overwrite the default value, which is warn for production build and debug for development build.
  • TARGET_DIST_BUILD: only used when running tests. If true, the tests are run against the build artifact (lib/somnus.js); otherwise, the source file (src/somnus.ts)


For those loving TypeScript: type-def for Somnus is backed directly into the build artifact so you don't have to install anything else. If your IDE somehow doesn't pick up the definitions automatically, please manually check/import the node_modules/somnus/lib/somnus.d.ts file.

Also, as Somnus bases itself on Restify, you may benefit from installing @types/restify and @types/restify-errors in addition (Somnus doesn't bake them in for you).


The following command will run all tests found under ./test and its subdirectories:

npm test

Why do we run tests for both src and lib directories? Because as library authors, we're responsible for ensuring that the build process transpiles & outputs as it should, and the best way to do that is by testing the code from both source and dist.

How to install 'unit-http'?

Integration with Nginx's unit-http was added in v8.2.0 and a rudimentary unit test suite for it was added in v8.4.0. It is not required to have unit-http installed to develop somnus.js; however, if you really want to install unit-http, feel free to follow the following example steps:

  1. install the corresponding native system dependencies:
  2. install the unit-http Node.js module itself using npm i -g unit-http
  3. link the global unit-http to the somnus project using npm link unit-http

Note that the instruction above is for example only. It should work for most use cases, but you are free to install unit-http however best fits your project/system setup.


from v3 to v8

  • the somnus@8 API itself is backward compatible, so you should expect no major breaking changes in this space
  • minor TypeScript update is needed (TypeScript will otherwise warn you the same):
    • before: import somnus, { RouteConfig } from "somnus"
    • after: import somnus, { IRouteConfig } from "somnus"
  • as somnus is designed to be just a thin wrapper around restify, starting v8, its major version will always match that of restify. Please consult the corresponding Restify migration guide for breaking changes regarding Restify internal itself.

from below to v3

  • If you have never used somnus@1 or somnus@2, migration is of no concern for you
  • If you are using somnus@1 or somnus@2, please understand that somnus@3 is completely rewritten, and there is no migration path at all between v2 and v3. v3 exposes a different set of APIs and philosophies behind how the entire framework should be used.


1. What special knowledge do I need to fully utilize Somnus?

Familiarity with the Restify library is recommended, though not necessarily to get you started with and profit from Somnus.

2. Why Somnus?

Practicality, Productivity, Simplicity, Fun (well, hopefully)

3. What is Somnus, again?

Somnus is latin for Sleep (or at least that's what Google told the developer). What better fits an API framework created for REST(ful) communications?

4. What is Somnus, seriously?

Somnus is aimed to make mundane day-to-day web/API development tasks as effortlessly fun as possible while maintaining the smallest codebase possible. Well, at least that's the original intent of the developer, so if you're considering contributing (which is a beautiful thing), please adhere to the said philosophy!

5. Why database-agnostic?

SQL, MongoDB, RethinkDB and a plethora of other database solutions have made it easier and more fun than ever before to play with data. At the same time, it gives framework developers a hard time deciding on any database technology to go with and invest in. Somnus is aimed to make things simple and minimal, not to magnify what's already clunky enough. Hence, it's up to Somnus users to choose the database technologies they feel most suitable to their projects.

In fact, Somnus isn't developed with any database driver built-in. It's essentially the C in MVC.

6. How may I contribute?

Currently, there is no formal contribution guide. It probably makes sense to start there!