Garner Build Status

Garner is a practical Rack-based cache implementation for RESTful APIs with support for HTTP 304 Not Modified based on time and ETags, model and instance binding and hierarchical invalidation. Garner is currently targeted at Grape, other systems may need some work.

To "garner" means to gather data from various sources and to make it readily available in one place, kind-of like a cache!


Add Garner to Gemfile with gem "garner" and run bundle install. Include the Garner mixin into your API. Currently Grape is supported out of the box. It's also recommended to prevent clients from caching dynamic data by default using the Garner::Middleware::Cache::Bust middleware. See below for a detailed explanation.

class API < Grape::API
  use Garner::Middleware::Cache::Bust
  helpers Garner::Mixins::Grape::Cache

To cache a value, invoke cache from within your API. Without any parameters it generates a key based on the source code location, request parameters and path, and stores the value in the cache configured as Garner.config.cache. The cache is automatically Rails.cache when mounted in Rails and an instance of ActiveSupport::Cache::MemoryStore otherwise.

get "/" do
  cache do
    { :counter => 42 }

To enable support for the date-based If-Modified-Since and the ETag-based If-None-Match, use cache_or_304. If the data hasn't changed, the API will return 304 Not Modified without a cache miss. For example, if the inside of a cached block is a database query, it will not be executed the second time. This is possible because Garner stores an entry for every cache binding with the last-modified timestamp and ETag.

get "/" do
  cache_or_304 do
    { :counter => 42 }

The cached value can also be bound to other models. For example, if a user has an address that may or may not change when the user is saved, you will want the cached address to be invalidated every time the user record changes.

get "/me/address" do
  cache_or_304({ :bind => [ User, ] }) do

ETag Generation Strategies

The primary purpose of the ETag header is to define a short string representation of a cached object that is both (a) deterministic and (b) unique, so that Garner's cache_or_304 method can quickly determine whether a client's cached content matches the latest server object. As such, an MD5 hash applied to any object serialization would suffice. However, some applications may wish to control the manner in which ETags are generated, and so Garner supports arbitrary ETag strategies.

The default strategy, Garner::Strategies::ETags::Grape, follows the serialization strategy used by Grape for coercing objects into JSON. Using this strategy, Garner will generate an ETag for each cache object that is identical to what Rack::ETag would return if that object was returned by Grape. This property could be useful for Grape applications.

Another, simpler strategy, Garner::Strategies::ETags::Marshal, simply applies an MD5 hash to Marshal.dump(object). This strategy might be more applicable for applications not using Grape.

An ETag strategy may be defined at application startup time:

ETAG_STRATEGY = Garner::Strategies::ETags::Grape

Binding Strategies

The binding parameter can be an object, class, array of objects, or array of classes on which to bind the validity of the cached result contained in the subsequent block. If no bind argument is specified, the subsequent block result will remain valid until it expires due to natural causes (e.g., passage of default memcached expiry, or memcached overflow). Here are some examples of how to use the bind option.

  • bind: { klass: Widget, object: { id: params[:id] } } will cause the subsequent block result to be invalidated on any change to the Widget object whose id attribute equals params[:id].
  • bind: { klass: User, object: { id: } } will cause the subsequent block result to be invalidated on any change to the User object whose id attribute equals This is one way to bind a cache result to any change in the current user.
  • bind: { klass: Widget } will cause the subsequent block result to be invalidated on any change to any object of class Widget. This is the appropriate strategy for index paths like /widgets.
  • bind: [{ klass: Widget }, { klass: User, object: { id: } }] will cause the subsequent block result to be invalidated on any change to either the current user, or any object of class Widget.

Bind supports some nice shorthands.

  • bind: [Widget] is shorthand for bind: { klass: Widget }
  • bind: [Widget, params[:id]] is shorthand for bind: { klass: Widget, object: { id: params[:slug] } }
  • bind: [User, { id: }] is shorthand for bind: { klass: User, object: { id: } }
  • bind: [[Widget], [User, { id: }]] is shorthand for bind: [{ klass: Widget }, { klass: User, object: { id: } }]


You must take care of data invalidation on save. Garner currently includes a mixin with support for Mongoid. Extend Mongoid::Document as follows (eg. in config/initializers/mongoid_document.rb).

module Mongoid
  module Document
    include Garner::Mixins::Mongoid::Document

Please contribute other invalidation mixins.

Role-Based Caching

Role-Based caching is a subset of the generic problem of binding data to groups of other objects. For example, a Widget may have a different representation for an admin vs. a user. In Garner you can inject something called a "key strategy" into the current key generation pipeline. A strategy is a plain module that must implement two methods: apply and field. The former applies a strategy to a key within a context and the latter is a unique name that is produced by the strategy.

The following example introduces the role of the current user into the cache key.

module MyApp
  module Garner
    module RoleStrategy
      class << self
        def field
        def apply(key, context = {})
          key = key ? key.dup : {}
          key[:role] = current_user.role

Garner key strategies are applied in order and can be currently set at application startup time.

Garner::Cache::ObjectIdentity::KEY_STRATEGIES = [
  Garner::Strategies::Keys::Caller, # support multiple calls from the same function
  MyApp::Garner::RoleStrategy, # custom strategy for role-based access
  Garner::Strategies::Keys::RequestPath # injects the HTTP request's URL

This method of registration does need improvement, please contribute.

Available Key Strategies

  • Garner::Strategies::Keys::Caller inserts the calling file and line number, allowing multiple calls from the same function to generate different keys.
  • Garner::Strategies::Keys::Version inserts the output of a version method, when available, primarily targeted at API implementations.
  • Garner::Strategies::Keys::Key inserts the value of :key within the requested context, useful to explicitly declare an element of a cache key.
  • Garner::Strategies::Keys::RequestGet inserts the value of HTTP request's GET parameters into the cache key when :request is present in the context.
  • Garner::Strategies::Keys::RequestPath inserts the value of the HTTP request's path into the cache key when :request is present in the context.


By default Garner will use an instance of ActiveSupport::Cache::MemoryStore in a non-Rails and Rails.cache in a Rails environment. You can configure it to use any other cache store.

Garner.configure do |config|
  config.cache =

Preventing Clients from Caching Dynamic Data

Generally, dynamic data cannot have a well-defined expiration time. Therefore, we must tell the client not to cache it. This can be accomplished using the Garner::Middleware::Cache::Bust middleware, executed after any API call. The middleware adds a Cache-Control and an Expires header.

Cache-Control: private, max-age=0, must-revalidate
Expires: Fri, 01 Jan 1990 00:00:00 GMT

The private option of the Cache-Control header instructs the client that it is allowed to store data in a private cache (unnecessary, but is known to work around overzealous cache implementations), max-age that it must check with the server every time it needs this data and must-revalidate prevents gateways from returning a response if your API server is unreachable. An additional Expires header will make double-sure the entire request expires immediately.


Fork the project. Make your feature addition or bug fix with tests. Send a pull request. Bonus points for topic branches.

MIT License, see LICENSE for details.

(c) 2012 Inc., Frank Macreery, Daniel Doubrovkine and Contributors