Using PSGI Integration in Catalyst: Middleware and More


This is an example application that shows you how to use the new Catalyst support for PSGI middleware, and why you might want to use it.


Modern versions of Catalyst use Plack as the underlying engine to connect your application to an http server. This means that you can take advantage of the full Plack software ecosystem to grow your application and to better componentize and re-use your code.

Middleware is a large part of this ecosystem. Plack::Middleware wraps your PSGI application with additional functionality, such as adding Sessions ( as in Plack::Middleware::Session), Debugging (as in Plack::Middleware::Debug) and logging (as in Plack::Middleware::LogDispatch or Plack::Middleware::Log4Perl).

Generally you can enable middleware in your psgi file, as in the following example

    #!/usr/bin/env plackup

    use strict;
    use warnings;

    use MyApp::Web;  ## Your subclass of 'Catalyst'
    use Plack::Builder;

    builder {

      enable 'Debug';
      enable 'Session', store => 'File';

      mount '/' => MyApp::Web->psgi_app;


Here we are using our psgi file and tools that come with Plack in order to enable Plack::Middleware::Debug and Plack::Middleware::Session. This is a nice, clean approach that cleanly separates your Catalyst application from enabled middleware.

However there may be cases when you'd rather enable middleware via you Catalyst application, rather in a stand alone file. For example, you may wish to let your Catalyst application have control over the middleware configuration, so that you could enable certain middleware in production, and others development. You can do this with an external .psgi file, but it can get complex and ugly fast if your use of middleware is complex. Also, if middleware is part of the way your application works, it makes sense from a design viewpoint for the middleware to be part of the application rather than a layer on top.

Starting on v5.90050, Catalyst allows you to add middleware as part of your normal setup and configuration. Let's port the above example:

    package MyApp::Web;

    use Catalyst;

      psgi_middleware => [
        'Session' => {store => 'File'},

psgi_middleware is just a key in your application configuration, so you can use other tools in the configuration ecosystem (such as Catalyst::Plugin::ConfigLoader) to manage it. The key takes an ArrayRef where elements can be the name of distribution under Plack::Middleware (the named middleware Debug would refer to Plack::Middleware::Debug, an instance of a middleware object, a subroutine reference for inlined middlware or middleware under your application namespace. The following is all correctly formed:

      'psgi_middleware', [
        'Session' => {store => 'File'},
        sub {
          my $app = shift;
          return sub {
            my $env = shift;
            $env->{myapp.customkey} = 'helloworld';

See PSGI-MIDDLEWARE in Catalyst for more details.

Why Use Middleware?

Use middleware in cases where there is existing middleware who's functionality you want to reuse in your Catalyst application, or when you have some logic that is global to the request / response cycle that you wish to isolate. Very often when you are thinking of writing a Catalyst::Plugin or hacking into Catalyst::Request / Catalyst::Response or you are using controller end actions to modify the outgoing response, then middleware might be a better choice.

How Does it Work?

Think of middleware as layers in an onion, with you application at the center. As a request comes in, you go down each layer in the onion til you hit the the application. Then, as you go out, you pass each layer again (but this time from the center outward).

So as the request comes in, your middleware can access and alter the psgi $env. On the way out it can alter the response.

You can even use middleware as a way to produce responses (such as to have a default not found page, or to catch exceptions that your application throws) or to redirect the flow of the request to a totally different application. For example, you might wish to port your old application to run on Catalyst; you can wrap some middleware to send the request to your new Catalyst based application, and if it returns a 'not found' response, allow it to continue on to the old application. In this way you can port your website to a modern framework 'url by url' rather than try to do a ground up redo in one release.

See Plack::Middleware for more on middleware.

A Full Example

Let's build a Catalyst application that uses middleware to redirect some of the requests to a Web::Simple application. A good use for something like this could be a case when you have some time sensitive responses, such as autocomplete or similar json API and your Catalyst application has too much overhead (sessions, authentication, etc.) To make it more fun, lets have the Web::Simple application use some components from your main Catalyst application (lets say to use the Catalyst view) so we can see how this approach lets you mix and match the best of both worlds.

Full example code can be found here:

Let's start with the application class:

    package MyApp::Web;

    use Catalyst;
    use MyApp::Web::Simple;

      psgi_middleware => [
        'Delegate' => { psgi_app =>
            app => __PACKAGE__
          )->to_psgi_app },


So there's a few things going on here but the gist of it is that we are saying this application uses the 'Delegate' middleware. Since we didn't specify the full middleware namespace, it will look first for MyApp::Web::Middleware::Delegate and then Plack::Middleware::Delegate (this is so that you can wrap and customize existing middleware, should you choose). In this case there is a MyApp::Web::Middleware::Delegate so that gets passed a single parameterized argument, which in this case is pointing to your Web::Simple based application. That, BTW has an argument which points back to your Catalyst application, but we'll look at that in a bit! Lets look at our custom middleware:

    package MyApp::Web::Middleware::Delegate;

    use strict;
    use warnings;
    use base 'Plack::Middleware';
    use Plack::Util::Accessor 'psgi_app';

    sub call {
      my ($self, $env) = @_;
      my $psgi_response = $self->psgi_app->($env);

      return $psgi_response->[0] == 404 ? 
        $self->app->($env) : $psgi_response;

Since Catalyst is Moose based, we tend to use Moose quite a bit, however in the case of this middleware there's no reason to not just follow how most other middleware projects work and just inherit from Plack::Middleware.

There's one function of important here, which middleware expects you to define, which is call. This function is basically that onion layer I spoke of before where you get the PSGI $env on the way in, and then access to the $psgi_response on the way out.

What this code is saying is, "I get $env and pass it to psgi_app (which is the Web::Simple application that got added in the Catalyst application configuration) and if that application returns a code 404 (Not Found) then send $env along to the Catalyst application, otherwise use the Web::Simple response and short circuit calling Catalyst."

BTW, this functionality is not unlike what you might see with some common middleware on CPAN (such as Plack::App::Cascade) but I thought it instructive to write our own, just for learning.

Ok great, lets look at the nice and speedy Web::Simple application!

    package MyApp::Web::Simple;

    use Web::Simple;

    has 'app' => (is=>'ro', required=>1);

    sub render_hello {
      my ($self, $where) = @_;
      return $self->app->view('HTML')->render($self->app,
        'hello.html', {where=>'web-simple'} );

    sub dispatch_request {
      my $self = shift;
      sub (/websimple-hello) {
        [ 200, [ 'Content-type', 'text/html' ],

Basically Web::Simple will handle the URL "/websimple-hello" and return a 404 Not Found response for anything else (the 404 Not Foundis actually built into Web::Simple, unlike Catalyst where the default is to not return anything at all.)

When rendering the response it uses the HTML View you defined in the base Catalyst application. So you can use a similar technique to share views and models between applications and frameworks but all running under the same core application. Lets glance at the View template (hello.html):

        <title>Hello From [% where %]</title>
        <h1>Hello From [% where %]</h1>

Not a complicated template, but it gets the idea across. This expects one variable where which in Catalyst gets stuffed into the stash, but in Web::Simple we just add it to the render arguments of the view.

Other possible uses for this approach code be:

Using Web::Machine to handle your API

Web::Machine has great support for writing truely RESTful applications. What it doesn't have is Catalyst's great ability to bring data from lots of models, or to generate HTML views. This way you can use the best tool for the given job without be forced to given up the ease and structure of Catalyst.

Converting a legacy application to run on Catalyst

This lets you port your web application over 'url by url'. You can even use this to help you refactor an existing Catalyst application that has gotten a bit more crusty over the years than you'd prefer.

Other ideas might commend themselves to you. Lets see the Catalyst side of things and look at the controller:

package MyApp::Web::Controller::Root;

    use Moose;
    use MooseX::MethodAttributes;

    extends 'Catalyst::Controller';

    sub start : Chained('/')
     PathPrefix CaptureArgs(0)
      my ($self, $ctx) = @_;

      sub hello : Chained('start')
       PathPart('catalyst-hello') Args(0)
        my ($self, $ctx) = @_;

    __PACKAGE__->config(namespace => '' );

The chaining here might be a bit gratuitious but you get the idea I hope. Finallty lets see the test cases to make sure everything works as expected:

    use Test::Most;
    use Catalyst::Test 'MyApp::Web';

    ok( get('/catalyst-hello') =~ /Catalyst/ );
    ok( get('/websimple-hello') =~ /web-simple/ );


Go see the linked code on Github:

For more code and more tests to see how the whole distribution is put together.

Final Comments

I personally see a big role for middleware in future Catalyst. When it comes down to it, the idea of a Plack::Component (which is the parent class of Plack::Middleware) is not terrible different from Catalyst::Component...

Stay tuned!

Also See

Catalyst::Plugin::EnableMiddleware gives you similar functionality for older versions of Catalyst.


Middleware is another way to build and extend your Catalyst based applications. It can be used to bring functionality from other common code (opensource or otherwise) and it opens the door to new approaches to solving many existing problems. Next time you need better control over your Catalyst request and response, or you think of using a global plugin, ask yourself if middleware might not be the better option.


John Napiorkowski