While working on hilfehub.org, I got to know Next.js and found it to be really great. Especially the integration of API routes is a very nice feature to have - and having worked using multi-service architectures in the past, I found it a joy to be working on a single monolith. So I decided to make an effort to migrate EntE (my biggest project to date) to use Next.js. Having a monolith will hopefully decrease deployment and development complexity - at the moment, theres just a lot going on in the EntE repository.

The Problem

I’ve got a fully-working NestJS-based backend, which I don’t want to throw away just to migrate to Next.js. So the goal is to hook up Next.js’ API mechanism to my existing backend.

Since defining a Custom Server is discouraged in Next.js’ docs, I wanted to find a way around doing that. In this example, we’ll make use of Dynamic API Routes. We’ll define a Catch-All-Route and forward incoming requests to our NestJS instance.

That’s done by creating a file called /api/[...catchAll].ts, which - surprise - will catch all requests to /api. In Next.JS, API routes look like this:

export default async (request, response) => {
  // do something with `request` and `response``
  response.status(200).send("Hello World");
}

That’s basically the interface of Node’s http.Server Handlers, and since NestJS uses Express internally, which uses http.Server internally, there surely is a away to integrate that with NestJS, right? Turns out: there is!

On a high level, this is what we’re going to do: We’ll get the request handler from our NestJS application and pass our request and response into it.

async function getNestJSRequestHandler() {
  // I will init the NestJS application,
  // get the `http.Server` it's running
  // and return the registered request handler.
}

export default async (request, response) => {
  const handler = await getNestJSRequestHandler();
  handler(request, response);
}

So let’s have a look at how that’s done.

1. Init the NestJS application

Initializing the NestJS app is the easiest part:

const app = await NestFactory.create(AppModule, { bodyParser: false });

// because our routes are served under `/api`
app.setGlobalPrefix("api") 

await app.init();

Since Next.js already performs body parsing for you, every body-parser instance afterwards will receive an already-parsed body. Since body-parser doesn’t know how to deal with this, it causes it to hang, so you need to disable it.

2. Get the http.Server

Now we need to get the app’s integrated http.Server. NestJS is kind to us - there’s a function for it!

const server: http.Server = app.getHttpServer();

3. Get the registered request handler

This is the hardest part - but with the help of StackOverflow, I found out how to do it. On http.Server, there’s the listeners function. It will return you an array of registered handlers. In our case, there’s exactly one, and that’s the one we’re looking for!

const [ requestHandler ] = server.listeners("request") as NextApiHandler[];

So now we’ve got our request handler. Let’s get back to our Next.js API route and finish integration.

Finishing touches on our catch-all route

Although the method above is functioning, you’ll see a warning:

API resolved without sending a response for /api/, this may result in stalled requests.

That’s because our catch-all handler finishes execution before the request is fully answered. In reality, all requests are answered, so that warning is a false positive, but let’s fix it nevertheless.

export default (request, response) => new Promise(
  async resolve => {
    const listener = await getNestJSRequestHandler();
    listener(request, response);
    response.on("finish", resolve);
  }
);

By not using async / await Syntax but a plain old Promise instead, we can customize when the handler resolves. Our request is finished once response emits the finish event, so that’s when we’ll resolve our handler.

Conclusion

Integrating Next.js and NestJS is easier than it seems - and by using this strategy, you can basically connect every http.Server-based framework to Next.js. If you want to see a working example, have a look at the code in this repo, which you can see in action here.


If you struggle with integrating @nestjs/swagger, have a look at this issue.