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Doubling down on local development with Workers: Miniflare meets workerd


5 min read

Local development gives you a fully-controllable and easy-to-debug testing environment. At the start of this year, we brought this experience to Workers developers by launching Miniflare 2.0: a local Cloudflare Workers simulator. Miniflare 2 came with features like step-through debugging support, detailed console.logs, pretty source-mapped error pages, live reload and a highly-configurable unit testing environment. Not only that, but we also incorporated Miniflare into Wrangler, our Workers CLI, to enable wrangler dev’s --local mode.

Today, we’re taking local development to the next level! In addition to introducing new support for migrating existing projects to your local development environment, we're making it easier to work with your remote data—locally! Most importantly, we're releasing a much more accurate Miniflare 3, powered by the recently open-sourced workerd runtime—the same runtime used by Cloudflare Workers!

Enabling local development with workerd

One of the superpowers of having a local development environment is that you can test changes without affecting users in production. A great local environment offers a level of fidelity on par with production.

The way we originally approached local development was with Miniflare 2, which reimplemented Workers runtime APIs in JavaScript. Unfortunately, there were subtle behavior mismatches between these re-implementations and the real Workers runtime. These types of issues are really difficult for developers to debug, as they don’t appear locally, and step-through debugging of deployed Workers isn’t possible yet. For example, the following Worker returns responses successfully in Miniflare 2, so we might assume it’s safe to publish:

let cachedResponsePromise;
export default {
  async fetch(request, env, ctx) {
    // Let's imagine this fetch takes a few seconds. To speed up our worker, we
    // decide to only fetch on the first request, and reuse the result later.
    // This works fine in Miniflare 2, so we must be good right?
    cachedResponsePromise ??= fetch("");
    return (await cachedResponsePromise).clone();

However, as soon as we send multiple requests to our deployed Worker, it fails with Error: Cannot perform I/O on behalf of a different request. The problem here is that response bodies created in one request’s handler cannot be accessed from a different request's handler. This limitation allows Cloudflare to improve overall Worker performance, but it was almost impossible for Miniflare 2 to detect these types of issues locally. In this particular case, the best solution is to cache using fetch itself.

Additionally, because the Workers runtime uses a very recent version of V8, it supports some JavaScript features that aren’t available in all versions of Node.js. This meant a few features implemented in Workers, like Array#findLast, weren’t always available in Miniflare 2.

With the Workers runtime now open-sourced, Miniflare 3 can leverage the same implementations that are deployed on Cloudflare’s network, giving bug-for-bug compatibility and practically eliminating behavior mismatches. ?

Miniflare 3’s new simplified architecture using worked

This radically simplifies our implementation too. We were able to remove over 50,000 lines of code from Miniflare 2. Of course, we still kept all the Miniflare special-sauce that makes development fun like live reload and detailed logging. ?

Local development with real data

We know that many developers choose to test their Workers remotely on the Cloudflare network as it gives them the ability to test against real data. Testing against fake data in staging and local environments is sometimes difficult, as it never quite matches the real thing.

With Miniflare 3, we’re blurring the lines between local and remote development, by bringing real data to your machine as an experimental opt-in feature. If enabled, Miniflare will read and write data to namespaces on the Cloudflare network, as your Worker would when deployed. This is only supported with Workers KV for now, but we’re exploring similar solutions for R2 and D1.

Miniflare’s system for accessing real KV data, reads and writes are cached locally for future accesses

A new default for Wrangler

With Miniflare 3 now effectively as accurate as the real Workers environment, and the ability to access real data locally, we’re revisiting the decision to make remote development the initial Wrangler experience. In a future update, wrangler dev --local will become the default. --local will no longer be required. Benchmarking suggests this will bring an approximate 10x reduction to startup and a massive 60x reduction to script reload times! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be focusing on further optimizing Wrangler’s performance to bring you the fastest Workers development experience yet!

lower is better, startup: time until HTTP response received containing expected body, reload: time from writing file until HTTP response received containing new body, mean average over 13 runs discarding first 3 plotted, tested on MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021

wrangler init --from-dash

We want all developers to be able to take advantage of the improved local experience, so we’re making it easy to start a local Wrangler project from an existing Worker that’s been developed in the Cloudflare dashboard. With Node.js installed, run npx wrangler init --from-dash <your_worker_name>in your terminal to set up a new project with all your existing code and bindings such as KV namespaces configured. You can now seamlessly continue development of your application locally, taking advantage of all the developer experience improvements Wrangler and Miniflare provide. When you’re ready to deploy your worker, run npx wrangler publish.

Looking to the future

Over the next few months, the Workers team is planning to further improve the local development experience with a specific focus on automated testing. Already, we’ve released a preliminary API for programmatic end-to-end tests with wrangler dev, but we’re also investigating ways of bringing Miniflare 2’s Jest/Vitest environments to workerd. We’re also considering creating extensions for popular IDEs to make developing workers even easier. ?

Miniflare 3.0 is now included in Wrangler! Try it out by running npx wrangler@latest dev --experimental-local. Let us know what you think in the #wrangler channel on the Cloudflare Developers Discord, and please open a GitHub issue if you hit any unexpected behavior.

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Brendan Coll|@_mrbbot

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