Deploying Dancer in CGI and VPS Environments

There are numerous ways to deploy Dancer as mentioned in Dancer::Deployment and I would like to discuss two commonly used methods in production environments:

  1. CGI / FastCGI
  2. Reverse Proxy


A lot of shared hosting providers allow only CGI execution on Apache. One is also not allowed to edit httpd.conf or override certain values. With this in mind, let's see how you could deploy on a shared hosting environment. This method will vary based on your specific hosting environment but it has been tested successfully on NearlyFreeSpeech.Net.


The hosting company obviously has to install latest Plack and Dancer along with all modules that you are using in your application. Most hosting providers will be able to install these for you upon request. However, you can also use local::lib and build modules in your own directory yourself.

You should request the following:

You should also request updates to these and other modules regularly.

  • Note #1:

    Plack::Runner is what will actually be providing the CGI environment to Apache.

  • Note #2:

    If Task::Dancer fails for the hosting company, request individuals modules instead.


Locate the dispatch.cgi inside the 'public/' folder of your dancer application. We are going to make a symbolic link to dispatch.cgi. Where you put that link is up to your personal preference, how you want the url to appear (sans mod_rewrite), and specifics relating to your hosting company. Let's assume the root directory for your domain.

From your domain root directory, type: ln -s myapp/public/dispatch.cgi index.cgi


At this point should render the '/' route if your hosting company set the Apache defaults for CGI properly.

If that's the case then you're essentially done. Add your rewrite rules (if any) and then go grab a beer.

If it didn't render properly then you have to create and edit the .htaccess inside the root directory or the Dancer application's root directory to allow for executing the scripts along with verifying any permissions.


First you need to set index.cgi as your directory index. You may also need to add handlers for cgi-scripts. This really depends on your hosting company though any redundant values would either be overridden or rejected silently by the server so don't worry.

DirectoryIndex index.cgi
AddHandler cgi-script .cgi .pl
Options +ExecCGI -MultiViews +SymLinksIfOwnerMatch

Rewrite Rules

If you decided to use your index.cgi file in your server root directory and DirectoryIndex is set then a rewrite rule is rarely necessary. Regardless here's a simple rewrite rule:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteRule ^/index.cgi/(.*)  /$1 [L,R=301]

Read up on mod_rewrite.

If you wish to do something fancy like then you would just need a DNS CNAME along with mod_rewrite.

  • Note #1

    It is highly recommended that you create a rewrite rules that tells Apache to serve static files directly.

Common Problems

If everything appears as it should, then you should be fine. If you're having issues with file paths check the following below. There are usually two or three reasons for this:

  1. Permissions

    Does the webserver user have access to read, and possibly execute, the file? Your user account is rarely the web server user! You might have 'chgrp' the file or files to the webserver user!

  2. public/

    Is the file inside the application's public/ folder? Check your config.yml paths carefully.

  3. Absolute path

    If you plan to use files outside of public/ make sure the path is system absolute.

    • A.

      The environment that your application runs under and the one your account uses are usually different!

    • B.

      /home/public/, /home/htdocs, etc... are NOT absolute paths but set by user environments usually.

* A cheap/easy way to find out the absolute path is to write a simple 'phpinfo.php' script:

# in myphpinfo.php
<?php phpinfo(); ?>

and search for the value of _SERVER["SCRIPT_FILENAME"] when you access it from the web. It should include references to the internal system paths.


For the few shared hosting companies that support FastCGI, just do the same thing as with CGI for dispatch.fcgi but in Apache's .htaccess:

DirectoryIndex .fcgi
AddHandler fastcgi-script .fcgi
Options +ExecCGI -MultiViews +SymLinksIfOwnerMatch

Easy as that.


On shared hosting, caching is done automatically. Caching yourself could actually decrease your site's performance! Just don't worry about it.

Reverse Proxy

Reverse proxy is a technique of proxying HTTP requests to a backend server or servers. The advantages include load balancing, greater performance, and easier administration. This method is preferred for a VPS, cloud and any set up where you have root access.

Frontend Server: Nginx

Nginx is an high performance HTTP server. It is very fast at serving static files.

(It is best if your Dancer application does not serve static files)

Regardless of what frontend server you use, remember that it is best if your Dancer application will only be used to generate dynamic content or process tasks. Serving static files ties up resources and significantly decreases performance.

Installing Nginx is beyond the scope of this document. Google it for your specific OS.

On both CentOS and Debian, the files of interest should be under /etc/nginx/. The layout of the files will be different but for the most part there will be an nginx.conf along with a site-available folder.

Depending on how you installed Nginx (repo/source/ect), your nginx.conf should contain only information relating to Nginx as a whole. You can, though not recommended, put everything into nginx.conf. It is recommended to include an include if not already present pointing to sites-available or custom folder:

Example /etc/nginx/nginx.conf:

# Create separate user just for webserver (if not automatically created)
user www-data;

# Set worker_processes to 1 (or # of cores) minimum and 2x-3x cores maximum.
# Max Clients = worker_processes * (worker_connections/4)
worker_processes  2;

# Set affinity so that each core receives equal load/power or set to
# specific cores (Optional)
# Equally balanced on 2 / 4 cores respectively:
worker_cpu_affinity 0101 1010;
# worker_cpu_affinity 1000 0100 0010 0001;

error_log  /var/log/nginx/main_error.log;
pid        /var/run/;

events {
    # If you didn't read above note:
    # max clients = worker_processes * (worker_connections/4)
    # Set the maximum number of connections per worker.
    # Twiddle these for max performance.
    # Divided by 4 because browser requires 2 connections.
    # Reverse proxy = another 2 connections per request.
    # Thus 2 + 2 = 7 .. no 3 .. 9?
    worker_connections  1024;

    # There are 7 different polling methods Nginx can use.
    # Here are the recommended for each OS though you should play around and
    # see what works best for you.
    # Linux (2.6+) / FreeBSD & OS X / Solaris 10 respectively: 
    use epoll;
    # use kselect;
    # use eventport;
    # Note: You might have to recompile Nginx w/ specific options to access
    # some of these.

    # multi_accept on;

http {
    # This mime.types thing may cause a lot of trouble if you're doing
    # anything advance.
    # 90% of the time you don't have to touch it though.
    include       /etc/nginx/mime.types;

    access_log    /var/log/nginx/access.log;

    default_type       application/octet-stream;

    sendfile        on;
    #tcp_nopush     on;

    #keepalive_timeout  0;
    keepalive_timeout  65;
    tcp_nodelay        on;

    # Turn off compression if there is a caching server in front of Nginx.
    # Play around with optimizing buffer size and ect. based on your needs.
    #gzip  on;
    #gzip_min_length  1100;
    #gzip_buffers     4 8k;
    #gzip_types       text/plain;
    #gzip_disable "MSIE [1-6]\.(?!.*SV1)";

    # Include other configs..
    include /etc/nginx/conf.d/*.conf;
    include /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/*;

Example /etc/nginx/sites-available/default:

# Specify the number of backend servers along with how you want them
# distrbuted. You can use domain name, IP address, port, or unix sockets.
# By default, Nginx uses round robin. Stick with IP addresses and ports.
# See Backend Servers section on how to set up multple instances on one
# machine.

upstream backend {
    #server weight=5;
    #server bobscomputer;
    #server unix:/tmp/;

server {
    # Port 80 is implied but with a caching server in front, you need a
    # different port. 
    #listen        80;

    # It is recommended you create a separate access log for the server.
    access_log  /var/log/nginx/access_server.log;

    # Serve static files using Nginx thus allowing Dancer to handle more
    # dynamic content requests.
    # Huge performance boost! First you must move all your
    # static ('/public') folder to the same server as Nginx or accessible
    # from by Nginx over the network.
    location ^~ (/images/|/css/|/javascripts/) {
        root /var/www/myapp/public;
        expires 30d;

    # This is where all magic happens. Everything in this block goes
    # directly to Dancer. What's going on?
    # We set specific headers that L<Plack::Middleware::ReverseProxy>
    # expects. Using this information,
    # it overwrites certain environmental variables with the values we want.
    # When Dancer receives it, 
    # it's as if Dancer is facing the intertubes.  
    location / {
        proxy_set_header Host $http_host;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Host $host;
        proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_pass       http://backend;
    # Note: If you add a frontend caching server, the above section will
    # have to change completely 
    # along with serveral other things.

HTTP 1.1 vs HTTP 1.0

Though Nginx communicates in HTTP 1.1 to the client, it uses HTTP 1.0 for the backends. If you need keep-alives or chunked requests/responses, then you can either try some 3rd party patches or you can use something like HA Proxy. This shouldn't be a problem for an overwhelming majority of users and won't affect the backend server since most HTTP 1.1 servers simply switch to HTTP 1.0 when not available.


Plack::Middleware::ReverseProxy solves a problem associated with reverse proxy. When the request is sent from the intertubes to your frontend server, that request is forwarded to a backend server. That backend server believes that the request originated from the frontend server and not the intertubes. Thus the IP address and other environment variables are associated with the frontend server. When your logs/debug says that 100% of your users came from or similar then there's a problem.

Plack::Middleware::ReverseProxy reads these special headers sent from the frontend server that include the correct information. It takes that information and overwrites the environmental variables before sending those values to your Dancer application. Thus Dancer is none the wiser.

Remember to add Plack::Middleware::ReverseProxy to your config.yml same as with any other middleware.

Backend Server: Starman/Twiggy/etc.

The backend server really depends on your needs. Starman offers the best performance. Set the number of workers based on your server specs.

plackup -D -E deployment -s Starman --workers=10 -a -p 5000

Dancer unofficially supports Websockets and other streaming processes via Web::Hippie in which case you would need to use a non-blocking, async server such as Twiggy.

(Don't worry about it since it's not official yet)

plackup -D -E deployment -s Twiggy -a -p 5000

If you plan to use a non-preforking, single-threaded server, make sure to start one instance per CPU core. Adjust nginx.conf accordingly, and restart Nginx.

plackup -D -E deployment -s HTTP::Server::PSGI -a -p 5000
plackup -D -E deployment -s HTTP::Server::PSGI -a -p 5001
plackup -D -E deployment -s HTTP::Server::PSGI -a -p 5002
plackup -D -E deployment -s HTTP::Server::PSGI -a -p 5003
  • Note #1:

    Using HTTP::Server::PSGI is NOT a good idea for production. Just using it as an example.

  • Note #2:

    Sometimes the -D option in plackup doesn't properly daemonize the server since it's the backend server's responsibility to respect this option. A cheap way to force a process to daemonize is to use nohup plackup ... &.

  • Note #3:

    It's probably a good idea to create a start up script that launches your servers and initialises the environment in the background.


Caching is up to you, your application's needs and your personal preferences. Usually it's best to use URL matching. I suggest putting a caching server in front of Nginx such as Varnish or Squid. The request flow should be:

Intertubes -> Varnish -> Nginx -> Starman backends

See also



This article has been written by nmani (Naveen Manivannan <>) for the Perl Dancer Advent Calendar 2010.