Saturn with CAS Single Sign-On Sample Application

in fsharp •  3 months ago

Lessons learned building a web application built on Saturn and using CAS for single sign-on.

Sample code

You can find all of my sample code on my Github.

Why am I doing this?

I decided to try out Saturn to see if we can't start building 100% F# web apps. But first I needed to make CAS work.

At the University of Arizona, College of Medicine - Tucson we build a lot of web apps. As the Applications Architect I have tried to use as much F# as possible, but we usually ended up with a hybrid of F# and C#. This looked like F# for Core and Infrastructure, and C# for the web host on .NET MVC. This worked great but it is not F#, or functional programming, all the way through. But we don't have to do that anymore now that we have F# web frameworks like Giraffe and Saturn.

A little about Saturn

Alt text

There are a lot of great things to like about Saturn.

  • Easy to scaffold with the .NET SDK
  • Built on ASP.NET Core, Giraffe and Kestrel, so it is cross-platform.
  • A number of useful sample apps.
  • Useful extensions and abstractions for things like OAuth and Azure Functions.
  • Supports .NET Core and .NET Standard.

and ...

Saturn is opinionated!

And I like it. Once you get used to the patterns and abstractions, it makes a lot of sense and is easy to make things work.

I especially like the use of computation expressions.

You can find the list of computation expressions used in Saturn in the API Reference.

We have these computation expressions:

  • Pipeline
  • Router
  • Controller
  • Application

We use these, and combinations of them, to build the wider application architecture.

Getting started

Follow the documentation here.

Pro Tip: Make sure you have the .NET SDK and .NET Runtime installed.

As of 2018-11-18, the project template requires .NET SDK version 2.1.300. So after creating the project, check global.json for the version and either change it to the version you have installed or install the version in global.json. You can install multiple versions at one time (older versions can be found at the download link above).

If you don't have the right SDK version installed you'll probably see an error like this during the build.

A compatible SDK version for global.json version: [2.1.409] from [C:\Users\Marnee\Dropbox\github\saturn-stuff\saturn-onion-template\global.json] was not found
Did you mean to run dotnet SDK commands? Please install dotnet SDK from:

Pro Tip: Be careful with dashes in names. By default, dotnet will name your project according to the folder in which it is contained, but it converts dashes to underscores, which throws off file paths. You might see an error that looks like this:

System.Exception: Start of process dotnet failed. WorkingDir C:\Users\Marnee\Dropbox\github\saturn-stuff\saturn-blog\src\saturn_blog\ does not exist.

My project (saturn-example)

Here is what you get from my repo on Github:

CAS Single-Sign-On (Authentication)

Saturn doesn't have built-in CAS support, but it does have OAuth with GitHub, Google, and custom providers, which is great, but I need CAS, so I had to integrate it myself. This turned out to be pretty easy because I found a compatible CAS auth library available on Nuget, which meant I could install it with paket.

Once imported, I could implement it by creating a new module with anApplicationBuilder class with a new CustomOperation method. This will make it so I can use it in the application computation expression.

module CAS

open Saturn
open Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection
open Microsoft.AspNetCore.Builder
open Microsoft.AspNetCore.Authentication.Cookies
open Microsoft.AspNetCore.Authentication
open AspNetCore.Security.CAS

type ApplicationBuilder with
    //Enables CAS authentication
    member __.UseCasAuthentication(state: ApplicationState, casServerUrlBase) =

And then we can use it in our application. In Program.fs, the entry point of the app, we do this.

let app = application {
    pipe_through endpointPipe
    error_handler (fun ex _ -> pipeline { render_html (InternalError.layout ex) })
    use_router Router.appRouter
    url "http://saturn.local:8085/"
    use_static "static"
    use_config (fun _ -> {connectionString = "DataSource=database.sqlite"} ) 
    use_cas ""

You can see the full source code on my GitHub repo:

The CAS implementation

I followed the pattern used in the Saturn OAuth implementations.

use_cas takes two arguments:

  • casServerUrlBase -- your CAS server's authentication URL. In my case I am using my University's CAS server known as webauth.
  • state -- ApplicationState defined in Saturn here. In the application computation expression, the state is automatically passed to the method.

What we want to end up with in UseCasAuthentication is a new state with the CAS authentication configuration added to the old state.

I defined a middleware function in which I enabled UseAuthentication.

  let middleware (app : IApplicationBuilder) =

I defined a service function which configures the CAS authentication. I followed the CAS library guide.

  let service (s : IServiceCollection) =
    let c = s.AddAuthentication(fun cfg ->
      cfg.DefaultScheme <- CookieAuthenticationDefaults.AuthenticationScheme
      cfg.DefaultChallengeScheme <- "CAS"
    addCookie state c
    c.AddCAS(fun o -> 
        o.CasServerUrlBase <- casServerUrlBase
        o.SignInScheme <- CookieAuthenticationDefaults.AuthenticationScheme
    |> ignore

Here I configured the default scheme and gave the Challenge Scheme a name (CAS). Later, when I want to do a login, I can have the Giraffe Auth challenge use CAS like this:

  (Giraffe.Auth.challenge "CAS")

I also configure the CAS server URL and the Authentication Scheme.

Finally I return a new state with all of the configurations added. Like this:

  { state with
      ServicesConfig = service::state.ServicesConfig
      AppConfigs = middleware::state.AppConfigs
      CookiesAlreadyAdded = true

Make the login work

Ok, great, we have added CAS authentication, but how do I login? I need a login button and to add some security that restricts access to resources. We do this with the router and pipeline computation expressions.

Note: Router in the Saturn user guide is a outdated. It still references scope, which was deprecated in favor of router. I did a pull request to update this in the source files, but as of 11/23/2018 the published guide has not been updated.

Router defines paths and routes through your application. It has a lot in common with .NET MVC routing.


First I need a top-level-router which will handle all requests to the app. This might route requests to a controller, a pipeline, or another router. In my apps I need a public side, usually the login page, and a private side that only authenticated users can access. To handle this I created both a top-level router, browserRouter, and a loggedInView router.

logged-in view router

let loggedInView = router {
    pipe_through login
    pipe_through protectFromForgery
    forward "/books" Books.Controller.resource 
    forward "/dashboard" (fun next ctx -> htmlView (Dashboard.layout ctx) next ctx)

Requests that pass through the loggedInView router are checked for authentication status and sent to webauth if not. pipe_through login makes this happen like this:

let login = pipeline {
    requires_authentication (fun next ctx -> htmlView (Login.layout ctx) next ctx)

The important part is requires_authentication. Is a CustomOperation PipelineBuilder which checks for authentication. In my case, here, if not authenticated, the user will be sent to the login page.

top-level router

let browserRouter = router {
    not_found_handler (htmlView NotFound.layout) //Use the default 404 webpage
    pipe_through browser //Use the default browser pipeline
    forward "" defaultView //Use the default view
    get "/books" loggedInView
    get "/login" (fun next ctx -> htmlView (Login.layout ctx) next ctx)
    get "/logout" (signOut "Cookies" >=> (fun next ctx -> htmlView (Logout.layout ctx) next ctx)) 
    get "/dashboard" loggedInView 
    get "/webauth" (fun next ctx -> (isAuthenticated ctx) next ctx)
  • /login gets the login page but does not send the user to webauth
  • /logout sign-out the user (clears auth cookies) and get the logout page
  • /webauth check if the user has been authenticated and send the user to webauth if not authenticated.
  • /books and /dashboard are private pages so they go through the loggedInView router

Logged-in view layout template vs. public view layout template

I had a problem with the App level layout. This layout had the login button and the menu and each was toggled based on the app context passed to it. Using the context I would check for authentication status and toggle the login and menu. The problem was that the menu would not get replaced with the login button after logout. In order to deal with this I created two app level layouts, instead.

  • App.fs is the public view layout
  • AppAuth.fs is the private view layout

In the public views I plug into the public view layout like this:

let layout ctx =
    App.layout (login ctx) ctx

In the private views I plug into the logged-in view layout like this:

let layout ctx =
    AuthApp.layout (dashboard ctx) ctx

What's next?


I need to figure out these things:

  • What am I going to use for authorization? Do I want to build a sample-app that also uses ASP.NET Core Identity? Maybe I'll roll my own with EDS/Grouper for claims and membership, and a simple database to assign roles and privileges, like I have in previous projects.
  • Figure out how to restrict access to controllers and views like I do with the Authorize attribute in .NET MVC or .NET Web API 2.0. I suspect I will have to fig into Giraffe for this.

Final thoughts

Working with Saturn was a bit painful at first as I was trying to learn the abstractions and opinions, but eventually it all just made a lot of sense and it is pretty easy to work with. Try it out!


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