Using Nginx as a reverse proxy and load balance #

load balance

Using some kind of reverse proxy in combination with UnityBase application server is MUST HAVE for plain socket based HTTP server kind (Linux, Windows) and optional but strongly recommended for HTTP.SYS based http server (Windows).

Reverse proxy can be used to:

  • HTTP protocol verification and prevention of protocol level attacks
  • TLS termination
  • handling static files (with gziping, streaming, partial downloads, cache)
  • load balancing (with sticky sessions ip_hash for example)
  • request body size limitation
  • geo-ip filtering
  • rate limit (limit the amount of HTTP requests a user can make in a given period of time)
  • etc.

Below we describe how to configure nginx as a reverse proxy for ub

Configuring UnityBase application #

In the application config (ubConfig.json) add externalURL and reverseProxy keys:

  "httpServer": {
    "externalURL": "",
    "reverseProxy": {"kind": "nginx"}

externalURL is address of your application for the end-user (address they type in browser)

Serving static assets by nginx #

UnityBase itself can server a static assets - files placed in

  • models public folders (available using /models endpoint)
  • application node_modules folder (available using /clientRequire endpoint on server and calls to require() and System.import() on client)

This is useful on development stage, but on production stage we highly recommend to allow nginx to server a static assets.

Serving static by nginx improves:

  • user experience during application loads: while UB servers a API requests nginx can serve static
  • decrease a UB logs size
  • decrease a overall load for UB server (approximately 0.5ms for each static file)

Prepare application for serving static by nginx #

  • define httpServer.inetPub parameter in config. This is a folder where static files will be stored. Usually = ./itetpub
  • run a command ubcli linkStatic. This command creates a script for sym-linking a static asset into inetPub folder
  • execute a

Step 2) and 3) must be performed every time application is updated. Recommended steps for update app:

cd /your/app/folder
# checkout a new package-lock.json
npm ci
npm ddp
ubcli linkStatic -u .. -p ... - cfg ...
chmod +x ./

Last command in script will set a modification time for all files downloaded from package registry (files with modify date === 1986-01-01) to the current time. This allow nginx to generate a correct ETag for such files.

How to prevent server-side logic to be exposed for client #

Some of the modules placed into node_modules folder can contain a server-side logic what should be hidden from clients.

First let's explain what modules are exposed:

  • modules without config.ubmodel section and modules with config.ubmodel.isPublic: true inside package.json are exposed as is (sym-linked into ${httpServer.inetPub}/clientRequire)
  • for modules with config.ubmodel && !config.ubmodel.isPublic only public folder content and package.json itself is sym-linked into ${httpServer.inetPub}/clientRequire. All other model folders are hidden from client

So, to hide all package files from client add a "config" : {"ubmodel": {} } section into package.json

Configuring nginx #

ubcli tool have a command generateNginxCfg for creating include for nginx based on application configuration.

cd to your application folder and type:

ubcli generateNginxCfg

This command generate file ub-proxy.conf ready to be included into main nginx configuration.

To see additional parameters what can be passed to generateNginxCfg type:

ubcli generateNginxCfg --help

In case external url is use HTTPS protocol, you need to add -sslkey path/to/key -sslcert path/to/cert. Also, we recommend adding a switch -r to add a redirection from http to https:

ubcli generateNginxCfg -sslkey /usr/www/.ssh/web_key.key -sslcert /usr/www/.ssh/web_ker_cert.pem

If you expect user need to store a big documents add -maxDocBody XXXm where XXX ia a maximum document size (in Mb) for upload.

The generated config is well documented - see comments inside for explanation of what we did there.

ub-proxy.conf we generate should be included into nginx.conf:

For Windows add this line to end of http section inside nginx.conf:

include path/to/ub-proxy.conf;

and restart nginx.

For Unix symlink file into /etc/nginx/sites-enabled:

sudo ln -s path/to/ub-proxy.conf /etc/nginx/sites-available/default_server.conf 
sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/default_server.conf /etc/nginx/sites-enabled 
sudo nginx -s reload 

Extending autogenerated config #

Each execution of ubclu generateNginxCfg command overrides existed config. Since it called by ub-app-upgrade lifecycle hook, modifying a generated conf file directly is a bad idea.

For extending purpose generated config contains three include directives:

  • include {{{sharedUbAppsFolder}}}/{{{sendFileLocationRoot}}}/http*.conf; on the upper level to add a http level directives
  • include {{{sharedUbAppsFolder}}}/{{{sendFileLocationRoot}}}/upstream*.conf; inside upstream section to extend an upstreams list
  • include {{{sharedUbAppsFolder}}}/{{{sendFileLocationRoot}}}/server*.conf; inside a server{} block to add rules into server config section


  • {{{sendFileLocationRoot}}} is a value from http.reverseProxy.sendFileLocationRoot ubConfig key (default is externalURL hostname with '.' replaced by '-' ( -> test-con)
  • {{{sharedUbAppsFolder}}} = /var/opt/unitybase/shared for Unix and C:/ProgramData/unitybase/shared for Windows

Ensure nginx main process have access to these files (use nginx -T to verify all configs)

Examples (consider externalURL= in ubConfig) :

Pass a real client IP in case of several reverse proxies #

Get a client real IP in case some Load balancer is running on b.b.b.b IP address behind us, so HTTP request is transferred as Client(a.a.a.a) -> LB (b.b.b.b) -> Nginx (c.c.c.c) -> UB (d.d.d.d):

mkdir -p /var/opt/unitybase/shared/my-server-com
cat << EOF > /var/opt/unitybase/shared/my-server-com/server-getRealIpFromUpfront.conf
  # use client real IP as reported by proxy
  real_ip_header    X-Forwarded-For;
  # A proxy we trust (address, hostname or mask)
  set_real_ip_from  b.b.b.b;

Load balancer on b.b.b.b should correctly set an X-Forwarded-For header. In case LB is nginx - proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;

for more details see ngx_http_realip_module

Override a proxy read timeout #

By default, nginx waits for reading a response from the UB server for 60 second - this value is equal to the default XMLHTTPRequest timeout for UBConnection.

Some apps increase UBConnection level timeout (for example using http.setGlobalConnectionDefaults({receiveTimeout: 120000}) ). In such cases nginx proxy_read_timeout should also be set to 120000. Example:

mkdir -p /var/opt/unitybase/shared/my-server-com
cat << EOF > /var/opt/unitybase/shared/my-server-com/server-Proxy_timeout120.conf
  # increase  proxy_read_timeout from default 60s to 120s for long running queries
  proxy_read_timeout 120s;

Add additional upstreams to the load balancing group #

Add additional upstreams (:8883 and :8884) to the load balancing group:

mkdir -p /var/opt/unitybase/shared/my-server-com
cat << EOF > /var/opt/unitybase/shared/my-server-com/upstream-allservers.conf
  server max_fails=2 fail_timeout=30;
  server max_fails=2 fail_timeout=30;

Generate a thumbnails for getDocument #

Thumbnails can be generated with help of ngx_http_image_filter_module.

On client side - add a size=small parameter to the getDocument URL

Consider auto-generated internal location name for store is /localhost/simple and store folder is /var/opt/unitybase/my-server/stores

Config below should be placed to /var/opt/unitybase/shared/my-server-com/server-thumbnails-for-document-store.conf

location ~* /localhost/simple/(.*) {
    set $filename $1;
    if ($upstream_http_x_query_params ~* "size=small") {
        set $fullname "/var/opt/unitybase/my-server/stores/simple/$filename";
        rewrite ^ /xresize;
    # force browser to ask what data is not modified on server on every request
    expires -1;
    add_header Cache-Control "must-revalidate, private";
    alias /var/opt/unitybase/my-server/stores/simple/$filename;
location /xresize {
    image_filter crop 100 100;
    image_filter_jpeg_quality 75;
    image_filter_buffer 20M;
    image_filter_interlace on;
    alias $fullname;


  • all requests to /getDocument are redirected by UB to the internal location /localhost/simple
  • config above adds the same location, but with regexp, so it overrides a default /localhost/simple rules
  • UB server proxies a request parameters to the nginx using x-query-params header
  • in case x-query-params contains size=small part - config above redirect such requests to the /xresize internal location
  • in /xresize with help of ngx_http_image_filter_module module images cropped to size 100x100px cached into memory and returned to client

Override a max body size #

Override a max body size to 100Mb for /hugeFileUpload location

mkdir -p /var/opt/unitybase/shared/my-server-com
cat << EOF > /var/opt/unitybase/shared/my-server-com/server-hugeFileUpload.conf
  location /hugeFileUpload {
    proxy_pass          http://my-server-com;
    client_max_body_size    100m;

Load balancing #

The generated config is ready to be extended for load balancing.

Pass -lb option for adding load balancer specific settings to nginx config:

ubcli generateNginxCfg -lb

Additional upstream servers are included from /var/opt/unitybase/shared/NORMALIZED_EXTERNAL_URL/upstream*.conf. See Extending config above.

Security zones #

UnityBase Enterprise and Defence Editions (starting from version 5.17.10) supports a security zones conception. Current implementation depends on nginx geo module


  • insure your nginx compiled with ngx_http_geo_module (nginx -V). If not either re-compile nginx or install a full nginx version: sudo apt install nginx-full
  • configure a zonesAuthenticationMethods and securityZoneHeader in ubConfig. Example:
"httpServer": {
    "reverseProxy": {
        "kind": "nginx",
        "securityZoneHeader": "X-Sec-Zone"
"security": {
    "authenticationMethods": ["UB", "Negotiate", "OpenIDConnect"],
    "zonesAuthenticationMethods": [
            "name": "intr",
            "authenticationMethods": ["UB", "Negotiate"]
            "name": "extr",
            "authenticationMethods": ["UB", "OpenIDConnect"]
  • add security zones mapping into nginx application config (usually ub-proxy.conf) on the http level (just before server directive).

Instead of modifying config directly - create two file

Zones config /var/opt/unitybase/shared/NORMALIZED_EXTERNAL_URL/http_zones.conf and put there:

# Security zones
geo $YOUR_EXTERNAL_URL_security_zone {
  default        extr;
  # proxy # requests from this address will use client IP from X-Forwarded-For header    intr;

Proxy header directive /var/opt/unitybase/shared/NORMALIZED_EXTERNAL_URL/server_zones_header.conf and put there:

   proxy_set_header    X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
   proxy_set_header    X-Sec-Zone $YOUR_EXTERNAL_URL_security_zone;

YOUR_EXTERNAL_URL should be replaced by server external url.

Tuning OS for high Load #

Linux #

  • TCP kernel parameters

Under sudo:

touch /usr/lib/sysctl.d/40-ub-tcp-hiload.conf

echo "
# increase the ephemeral port range
net.ipv4.ip_local_port_range = 15000 65535
# decrease fin timeout 
net.ipv4.tcp_fin_timeout = 30
# increase a number of socket waiting for accept
# raise the nofile/max open files/file descriptors/file handles limit
" > /usr/lib/sysctl.d/40-ub-tcp-hiload.conf

touch /etc/security/limits.d/40-ub-tcp-hiload.conf

echo "
# increase file limits
* hard nofile 1048576
* soft nofile 102400
" > /etc/security/limits.d/40-ub-tcp-hiload.conf
  • Mitigations

    In case server is not a "public cloud VM" it is safe to disable all hardware vulnerability mitigations by adding mitigations=off into GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT parameter of /etc/default/grub. This give +10-30% performance boots. Example: GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash mitigations=off"

  • Nginx main config For instances with more than 1200 concurrent users file limits and per-worker connection limits should be increased. On the root of the /etc/nginx/nginx.conf config:

worker_processes auto; # one worker per CPU core
worker_rlimit_nofile 98304;
events {
    worker_connections 4096;

To apply settings without a reboot:

sysctl -p /usr/lib/sysctl.d/40-ub-tcp-hiload.conf
ulimit -n 102400
update-grub # if mitigations changed
systemctl restart nginx

This allows to create ~1500 connections per second instead of default 470 and total concurrent browser sessions up to 10000.


Each HTTP connection require a TCP session, each TCP session is a pair IP+port, where port is dynamically taken from a range defined in sysctl net.ipv4.ip_local_port_range. After client disconnection port is busy for sysctl net.ipv4.tcp_fin_timeout

Default port range values for Linux is 32768-60999 (28231 TCP connections). Since a modern browser can create 6 or even more TCP session for one page this is ~ 4700 concurrent users.