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Application: router

Router in front on GOV.UK to proxy to backend servers on the single domain

AWS, on the cache machine class
Continuously deployed?
Rake tasks
Integration, Staging or ⚠️ Production ⚠️


This is a HTTP reverse proxy router built on top of triemux. It loads a routing table into memory from a MongoDB database and acts as a:

  • Reverse proxy, forwarding requests to and serving responses from multiple backend servers on a single domain.
  • Redirector, serving HTTP 301 and 302 redirects to new URLs.
  • Gone responder, serving HTTP 410 responses for resources that used to but no longer exist.

The sister project router-api provides a read/write interface to the underlying database and route reloading.

Some of the thinking behind the router is documented in this 2013 blog post.

Environment assumptions

Our usage of router places it behind and in front of Nginx and/or Varnish.

As such, there are some things that we are guarded against:

  • Response buffering for slow clients
  • Basic request sanitisation

And some features that we have no need to implement:

  • Access logging (but error logging is implemented)
  • SSL
  • Health check probes
  • Custom header mangling
  • Response rewriting
  • Authentication

Local Setup & Build

The router needs to be built from within a Go workspace for it to correctly identify the vendored dependencies. Assuming you already have Go and a $GOPATH set up, you can simply run go get to pull the source into your workspace.

Once you have the code set up correctly, building and running the application is simple:

./router -h


You can run all tests by running:

make test

The trie and triemux sub-packages have unit tests and benchmarks written in Go’s own testing framework. To run them individually:

go test -bench=. ./trie ./triemux

The router itself doesn’t really benefit from having unit tests around individual functions. Instead it has a comprehensive set of integration tests to exercise it’s HTTP handling, error reporting, and performance.

These require a local MongoDB instance and can be run with:

go test ./integration_tests

Some of the integration tests are optional because they have certain environment requirements that make them unfeasible to run within CI.


This project uses Go Modules to vendor its dependencies. If you have a working [Go][go] development setup, you should be able to update the dependencies via:

go mod vendor

Data structure

The Router requires two MongoDB collections: routes and backends.


The routes collection uses the following data structure:

  "_id"           : ObjectId(),
  "route_type"    : ["prefix","exact"],
  "incoming_path" : "/url-path/here",
  "handler"       : ["backend", "redirect", "gone"],
  "disabled"      : false

Incoming paths with special characters must be in their % encoded form in the database (eg spaces must be stored as %20).

The behaviour of an enabled route is determined by handler. See below for extra fields corresponding to handler types.

If a route is disabled, the router will return a 503 for all matching requests. This is typically used if a service needs to be taken offline for maintenance etc.

backend handler

The backend handler causes the Router to reverse proxy to a named backend. The following extra fields are supported:

  "backend_id" : "backend-id-corresponding-to-backends-collection"

redirect handler

The redirect handler causes the Router to redirect the given incoming_path to the path stored in redirect_to. The following extra fields are supported:

  "redirect_to"   : "/target-of-redirect",
  "redirect_type" : ["permanent", "temporary"]

gone handler

The gone handler causes the Router to return a 410 response.


The backends collection uses the following data structure:

  "_id"         : ObjectId(),
  "backend_id"  : "arbitrary-slug-or-name",
  "backend_url" : ""

Error logging

The logger package stores errors in logfiles and reports them to Sentry.


Router exposes metrics in Prometheus format using the Go prometheus client library.

See commit b443d3dd9cf776143eed270d01bd98d2233caea6 as an example for how to add a metric.


router is released under the MIT license, a copy of which can be found in LICENSE.