I’ve just spent some time going through trying to get mongrel & apache
2.0 working with mod_proxy. I thought I’d share what I’ve found in
case someone is going through the same exercise.
Of late, I’ve been using mongrel (lovely, btw) to run my rails apps.
Since I have a couple of different rails apps running on the machine,
I thought it be nice to set up a simple proxy to each of the apps so
folk don’t have to remember port numbers etc.
Since Apache 2.0 is already on the box and being used for other bits
as well, it made sense to set up mod_proxy to proxy the rails
This mostly worked without a hitch. I came to grief with the redirected
This surprised me. A lot. I’d used mod_proxy with other apps and
redirection was never an issue. Why now?
I googled and found that other people were running into similar
issues. Some resolved the issue by using mod_rewrite. Not my
preferred solution. lighttp is not currently under consideration.
Here’s what I’ve found. I’ll start with the 3 things that, as I
understand it, should happen during a proxied request. A proxy
service will need to perform at least the first item.
The second and third could be implemented by the application.
However, this makes it more difficult to have the application proxied
without the involvement of the developers of the application.
Ideally, the application should be blissfully unaware that it is being
I have a rails application on super secret rails server.
Addressable from inside by http://super.secret.com:3000. This URL is
not accessible to the outside world. After all, it is super secret.
DNS lookups will fail horribly on super.secret.com. (Yes, I know that
in the real world it’s registered … just pretend for the sake of
this example that it’s not.
Now I want to make this available to the outside world with a proxy.
The outside world will be able to use this particular application via
the URL: http://coolapps.com/nice/
I would expect that:
- All urls would work
- redirects work. Typically used during authentication pages.
/stylesheets/main.css get loaded properly.
What has to happen during a proxied request to meet the expectations?
Recall that any redirects (like those done during authentication) are
by the server, passed back to the browser with a 302 code and the
then redirects to that new page. This new URL would also be proxied.
browser and need to be proxied as well.
Take a request from the user (browser) and forward it off to the
actual machine(s) running the application.
** The proxy service needs to at least provide this. **
Make sure the http header URLs are re-written to reflect the, in
our case, http://coolapps.com/nice/ URL space rather than the
http://super.secret.com:3000 URL space. This is reflected in what we
see in the browser URL bar.
This includes redirected URLs as well. A redirection code gets sent
back to the browser along with a http header URL and it is the
browser that then makes another request for the new URL we’re being
** This can be done by either the proxy service at coolapps.com
or by the application itself. **
- Rewrite urls in the actual pages themselves. Why? URLs in our
rails applications typically appear as “/profile/view” or
“/images/edit/1”. Notice the leading slash in the “href” above.
If the URL in the browser URL bar, the base URL, were simply
http://coolapps.com/nice/, when we click on “/profile/view” we’d go to
http://coolapps.com/profile/view. Which is exactly where we don’t
want to be.
Our application fully resides under the coolapps.com/nice/ URL space,
so the URL should be coolapps.com/nice/profile/view. See the
difference? This is why the URLs in the page need to be re-written to
“/nice/profile/view” and “/nice/images/edit/1”.
** This can be done by either the proxy service at coolapps.com or by the application itself. **
Why is it so difficult to use Apache 2.x mod_proxy?
First off, the Apache mod_proxy module works by having the request
come back through the proxy and then returning the rewriten URLs in
both the http headers and the web page itself to the user.
This allows the application to be blissfully ignorant of the fact it’s
Some proxy services may work by telling the application to return
directly to the user who initiated the request rather than back
through the proxy. In this case, the application would need to be
responsible for the rewriting of the http header urls and urls
contained in the content of the page as well.
I’m not sure that a single application could easily deal with both
types of proxying simultaneously.
It seems that rails is somewhat aware that it is being proxied and
this may be causing grief when trying to proxy using Apache’s
In particular, rails seems to be trying to address #2 above, but only
when a redirect is requested, which is odd. The URLs come back
correctly on un-redirected pages, but are wrong during redirects.
I think the relavent code in there was done to resolve a proxy issue
with lighttp. Unfortunately, that same code seems to not work with
Apache 2.x mod_proxy.
I hacked actionpack-1.12.3/lib/action_controller/cgi_process.rb
host_with_port method so that it didn’t look at the
HTTP_X_FORWARDED_HOST at all. The apache configuration for
coolapps.com includes the following proxy directives
ProxyPass /nice/ http://super.secret.com:3000/
ProxyHTMLURLMap / /nice/
ProxyHTMLURLMap /nice /nice
Now I’m happily proxying with apache 2.0. Looking forward to trying
my luck with Apache 2.2 with mod_proxy_balanced. I suspect there’s a
similar issue there with redirects.
The hack I’ve done to the cgi_process.rb most likely breaks
compatibility with lighttp.
This is an ugly solution. I’m looking for a cleaner one.