Posts tagged "servant":

19 Mar 2021

Custom monad with servant and throwing errors

In the past I've always used scotty when writing web services. This was mostly due to laziness, I found working out how to use scotty a lot easier than servant, so basically I was being lazy. Fairly quickly I bumped into some limitations in scotty, but at first the workarounds didn't add too much complexity and were acceptable. A few weeks ago they started weighing on me though and I decided to look into servant and since I really liked what I found I've started moving all projects to use servant.

In several of the projects I've used tagless final style and defined a type based on ReaderT holding configuration over IO, that is something like

newtype AppM a = AppM {unAppM : ReaderT Config IO a}
    ( Functor,
      MonadReader Config

runAppM :: AppM a -> Config -> IO a
runAppM app = runReaderT (unAppM app)

I found that servant is very well suited to this style through hoistServer and there are several examples on how to use it with a ReaderT-based type like above. The first one I found is in the servant cookbook. However, as I realised a bit later, using a simple type like this doesn't make it easy to trigger responses with status other than 200 OK. When I looked at the definition of the type for writing handlers that ships with servant, Handler, I decided to try to use the following type in my service

newtype AppM a = AppM {unAppM : ReaderT Config (ExceptT ServerError IO) a}
    ( Functor,
      MonadReader Config

runAppM :: AppM a -> Config -> IO (Either ServerError a)
runAppM app = runExceptT . runReaderT (unAppM app)

The natural transformation required by hoistServer can then be written like

nt :: AppM a -> Handler a
nt x =
  liftIO (runAppM x cfg) >>= \case
    Right v -> pure v
    Left err -> throwError err

I particularly like how clearly this suggests a way to add custom errors if I want that.

  1. Swap out ServerError for my custom error type in AppM.
  2. Write a function to transform my custom error type into a ServerError, transformCustomError :: CustomError -> ServerError.
  3. use throwError $ transformCustomError err in the Left branch of nt.

A slight complication with MonadUnliftIO

I was using unliftio in my service, and as long as I based my monad stack only on ReaderT that worked fine. I even got the MonadUnliftIO instance for free through automatic deriving. ExceptT isn't a stateless monad though, so using unliftio is out of the question, instead I had to switch to MonadBaseControl and the packages that work with it. Defining and instance of MonadBaseControl looked a bit daunting, but luckily Handler has an instance of it that I used as inspiration.

First off MonadBaseControl requires the type to also be an instance of MonadBase. There's an explicit implementation for Handler, but I found that it can be derived automatically, so I took the lazy route.

The instance of MonadBaseControl for AppM ended up looking like this

instance MonadBaseControl IO AppM where
  type StM AppM a = Either ServerError a

  liftBaseWith f = AppM (liftBaseWith (\g -> f (g . unAppM)))
  restoreM = AppM . restoreM

I can't claim to really understand what's going on in that definition, but I have Alexis King's article on Demystifying MonadBaseControl on my list of things to read.

Tags: haskell servant
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