⚡️ Pro Feature ⚡️ This feature is bundled with GraphQL-Pro.

Ably Implementation

GraphQL Pro includes a subscription system based on Redis and Ably which works with any Ruby web framework.

After creating an app on Ably, you can hook it up to your GraphQL schema.

How it Works

This subscription implementation uses a hybrid approach:

So, the lifecycle goes like this:

Here’s another look:

1. Subscription is created in your app

          HTTP POST
        .---------->   write to Redis
      📱            ⚙️ -----> 💾
        X-Subscription-ID: 1234

2. Client opens a connection to Ably

      📱 <---------> ☁️

3. The app sends updates via Ably

      ⚙️ ---------> ☁️ ------> 📱
        POST           update
      (via gem)   (via websocket)

4. When the client unsubscribes, Ably notifies the app

      ⚙️ <-------- ☁️  (disconnect) 📱

By using this configuration, you can use GraphQL subscriptions without hosting a push server yourself!

Ably setup

Add ably-rest to your Gemfile:

gem 'ably-rest'

and bundle install.

Database setup

Subscriptions require a persistent Redis database, configured with:

maxmemory-policy noeviction
# optional, more durable persistence:
appendonly yes

Otherwise, Redis will drop data that doesn’t fit in memory (read more in “Redis persistence”).

If you’re already using Redis in your application, see “Storing Data in Redis” for options to isolate data and tune your configuration.

Schema configuration

Add redis to your Gemfile:

gem 'redis'

and bundle install. Then create a Redis instance:

# for example, in an initializer:
$graphql_subscriptions_redis = Redis.new # default connection

Then, that Redis client is passed to the Subscription configuration:

class MySchema < GraphQL::Schema
  use GraphQL::Pro::AblySubscriptions,
    redis: $graphql_subscriptions_redis,
    ably: Ably::Rest.new(key: ABLY_API_KEY)

That connection will be used for managing subscription state. All writes to Redis are prefixed with graphql:sub:.

There are also two configurations for managing persistence:

Connection Pool

For better performance reading and writing to Redis, you can pass a connection_pool: instead of redis:, using the connection_pool gem:

  use GraphQL::Pro::AblySubscriptions,
    connection_pool: ConnectionPool.new(size: 5, timeout: 5) { Redis.new },
    ably: Ably::Rest.new(key: ABLY_API_KEY)

Execution configuration

During execution, GraphQL will assign a subscription_id to the context hash. The client will use that ID to listen for updates, so you must return the subscription_id in the response headers.

Return result.context[:subscription_id] as the X-Subscription-ID header. For example:

result = MySchema.execute(...)
# For subscriptions, return the subscription_id as a header
if result.subscription?
  response.headers["X-Subscription-ID"] = result.context[:subscription_id]
render json: result

This way, the client can use that ID as a Ably channel.

For CORS requests, you need a special header so that clients can read the custom header:

if result.subscription?
  response.headers["X-Subscription-ID"] = result.context[:subscription_id]
  # Required for CORS requests:
  response.headers["Access-Control-Expose-Headers"] = "X-Subscription-ID"

Read more here: “Using CORS”.

Webhook configuration

Your server needs to receive webhooks from Ably when clients disconnect. This keeps your local subscription database in sync with Ably.


Note: if you’re setting up in a development environment you should follow the Developing with webhooks section first

Mount the Rack app for handling webhooks from Ably. For example, on Rails:

# config/routes.rb

# Include GraphQL::Pro's routing extensions:
using GraphQL::Pro::Routes

Rails.application.routes.draw do
  # ...
  # Handle webhooks for subscriptions:
  mount MySchema.ably_webhooks_client, at: "/ably_webhooks"

Alternatively, you can configure the routes to load your schema lazily, during the first request:

# Provide the fully-qualified class name of your schema:
lazy_routes = GraphQL::Pro::Routes::Lazy.new("MySchema")
mount lazy_routes.ably_webhooks_client, at: "/ably_webhooks"


  1. Go to the Ably dashboard
  2. Click on your application
  3. Select the “Integrations” tab
  4. Click on the ”+ New Integration Rule” button
  5. Click on the “Choose” button for “Webhook”
  6. Click on the “Choose” button for “Webhook” (again)
  7. Enter your URL (including the webhooks path from above) in the URL field.
  8. Select “Batch request” for “Request Mode”
  9. Under “Source”, select “Presence”
  10. Under “Sign with key”, select the API Key prefix that matches the prefix of the ABLY_API_KEY you provided
  11. Click “Create”


You can use Ably’s token authentication by implementing an endpoint in your app, for example:

class AblyController < ActionController::Base
  def auth
    render status: 201, json: ably_rest_client.auth.create_token_request(
      capability: { '*' => ['presence', 'subscribe'] },
      client_id: 'graphql-subscriber',

Ably’s tutorial also demonstrates some of the setup for this.


You can use Ably’s end-to-end encryption with GraphQL subscriptions. To enable it, add cipher_base: to your setup:

  use GraphQL::Pro::AblySubscriptions,
    redis: $graphql_subscriptions_redis,
    ably: Ably::Rest.new(key: ABLY_API_KEY),
    # Add `cipher_base:` to enable end-to-end encryption
    cipher_base: "ff16381ae2f2b6c6de6ff696226009f3"

(Any random string will do, eg ruby -e "require 'securerandom'; puts SecureRandom.hex".)

Also, return a header to client so that it can decrypt subscription updates. The key is put in context[:ably_cipher_base64], and graphql-ruby-client expects to find it in the X-Subscription-Key header:

result = MySchema.execute(...)
# For subscriptions, return the subscription_id as a header
if result.subscription?
  response.headers["X-Subscription-ID"] = result.context[:subscription_id]
  # Also return the encryption key so that clients
  # can decode subscription updates
  response.headers["X-Subscription-Key"] = result.context[:ably_cipher_base64]

(Also, if you’re using CORS requests, update Access-Control-Expose-Headers to include X-Subscription-Key)

With this setup,

Backwards compatibility: GraphQL::Pro::AblySubscriptions will only encrypt payloads whose query.context[:ably_cipher_base64] is present. Any subscriptions created before cipher_base: was added to the setup will not be encrypted. (There was no key to encrypt them, and clients don’t have a key to decrypt them!)

Serializing Context

Since subscription state is stored in the database, then reloaded for pushing updates, you have to serialize and reload your query context.

By default, this is done with GraphQL::Subscriptions::Serialize’s dump and load methods, but you can provide custom implementations as well. To customize the serialization logic, create a subclass of GraphQL::Pro::AblySubscriptions and override #dump_context(ctx) and #load_context(ctx_string):

class CustomSubscriptions < GraphQL::Pro::AblySubscriptions
  def dump_context(ctx)
    context_hash = ctx.to_h
    # somehow convert this hash to a string, return the string

  def load_context(ctx_string)
    # Given the string from the DB, create a new hash
    # to use as `context:`

Then, use your custom subscriptions class instead of the built-in one for your schema:

class MySchema < GraphQL::Schema
  # Use custom subscriptions instead of GraphQL::Pro::AblySubscriptions
  # to get custom serialization logic
  use CustomSubscriptions, ...

That gives you fine-grained control of context reloading.


You can monitor subscription state in the GraphQL-Pro Dashboard:

Redis Subscription Dashboard

Redis Subscription Detail

Development Tips

Clear subscription data

At any time, you can reset your subscription database with the “Reset” button in the GraphQL-Pro Dashboard, or in Ruby:

# Wipe all subscription data from the DB:

Developing with webhooks

To receive webhooks in development, you can use ngrok. It gives you a public URL which you can setup with Ably, then any hooks delivered to that URL will be forwarded to your development environment.

Client configuration

Install the Ably JS client then see docs for: