Let’s see how to set up OAuth authentication between an Ember frontend and a Rails API backend. We’ll be using two popular packages to help with this integration: Ember Simple Auth on the frontend and Doorkeeper on the backend.

Rails Setup

Doorkeeper doesn’t create a User model for you; it expects you to already have one in your Rails app. If you don’t, you can create one like so:

bin/rails generate model user email:string password_digest:string

We’ll use Rails’ built-in has_secure_password functionality to store the password securely as a digest. Add it to the generated User model:

 class User < ApplicationRecord
+  has_secure_password

has_secure_password requires the bcrypt gem, so check your Gemfile to make sure it’s included. If not, add it:

gem 'bcrypt'

Doorkeeper Setup

Next, to add Doorkeeper to your Rails app, add it to your Gemfile:

gem 'doorkeeper'

Then run bundle install.

Run the Doorkeeper installation generator:

bin/rails generate doorkeeper:install

This will install several files you’ll need to run Doorkeeper. Next, run the Doorkeeper Active Record migration generator:

rails generate doorkeeper:migration

This will generate a new migration which creates the following tables:

  • oauth_applications - Tracks different client applications that can access your API. We won’t need to use this for this tutorial.
  • oauth_access_grants - Tracks users’ access to use different oauth_applications. We won’t need to use this for this tutorial.
  • oauth_access_tokens - The temporary access tokens that are generated when a user logs in.

Interestingly, none of these tables reference a users table directly. Instead, the tables have a generic resource_owner_id column. These could be tied to a concept other than a user, but for typical cases like ours, they will point to a user.

To enforce this connection at the database level, add the following foreign keys to the migration. These will ensure each resource_owner_id column points to a real record in the users table:

add_foreign_key :oauth_access_grants, :users, column: :resource_owner_id
add_foreign_key :oauth_access_tokens, :users, column: :resource_owner_id

Next, we need to enable the correct grant type. OAuth 2 includes several grant types, which are different ways to authenticate. The one we want to use for our Ember app is the “Resource Owner Password Credentials Grant”, or “Password Grant” for short.

In config/initializers/doorkeeper.rb, find a commented-out line containing grant_flows. Uncomment it and replace the contents of %w[] with “password”:

-  # grant_flows %w[authorization_code client_credentials]
+  grant_flows %w[password]

Finally, we need to tell Doorkeeper how to check the username and password passed in. It does this by looking for a resource_owner_from_credentials block in your Doorkeeper initializer. Let’s add it:

  resource_owner_from_credentials do
    User.find_by(email: params[:username])
        .try(:authenticate, params[:password])

We use the values in params to try to find the user. Note that Doorkeeper uses a parameter named username, even though on our User model the column is called email.

If the User is found, we use the authenticate method created for us by has_secure_password to check if the password is correct. This method will return the user if the password is correct, and false if it’s incorrect. This is exactly the return value that Doorkeeper expects from resource_owner_from_credentials. Conventions are great!

The last thing we should do is confirm that our OAuth endpoint is available. Run bin/rails routes and you should see a number of them including oauth in the path. Here are the ones we care about:

 oauth_token POST   /oauth/token(.:format)    doorkeeper/tokens#create
oauth_revoke POST   /oauth/revoke(.:format)   doorkeeper/tokens#revoke

(If you’d like to nest these routes somewhere, like under an /api/ scope for example, you can change where use_doorkeeper is called in your routes.rb file.)

With this, we’re done the Rails setup, and we’re ready to move over to Ember.

Ember Secure Auth setup

In your Ember app, install Ember Simple Auth:

ember install ember-simple-auth

Next, create an app/authenticators directory and an authenticator inside it. It can be called whatever you want; we’ll call ours oauth2. Implement it by extending the OAuth2PasswordGrantAuthenticator class:

import OAuth2PasswordGrant from 'ember-simple-auth/authenticators/oauth2-password-grant';

export default OAuth2PasswordGrant.extend({
  serverTokenEndpoint: 'http://localhost:3000/oauth/token',

Note that we specify the serverTokenEndpoint to use, pointing to the host and port our Rails app is running on, and using the path we saw in the Rails routes.

To finish our setup, we just need to add a simple login form:

<form {{action 'authenticate' on='submit'}}>
  <label for="email">Email</label>
  {{input id='email' placeholder='Enter Email' value=email}}
  <label for="password">Password</label>
  {{input id='password' placeholder='Enter Password' type='password' value=password}}
  <button type="submit">Login</button>
  {{#if errorMessage}}

Implement the corresponding action in the controller:

import Controller from '@ember/controller';
import { inject as service } from '@ember/service';

export default Controller.extend({
  session: service(),

  actions: {
    async authenticate() {
      let { email, password } = this.getProperties('email', 'password');

      try {
        await this.get('session').authenticate('authenticator:oauth2', email, password);
      } catch(e) {
        this.set('errorMessage', e.error || e);

A few notes:

  • The session service is what provides us the authenticate() method to log in. We inject the service into the controller with @ember/service/inject.
  • Here I’m using the ECMAScript async/await syntax to handle asynchronous calls nicely. async/await is enabled by default in Ember 3.0. If you’re using an older version or don’t want to use it, you can use Promise-based syntax instead.

Load up your app and try to log in. If there is an error it will be displayed. If login succeeds, you won’t see any visual feedback, but checking the Network tab of your developer tools should show the 200 status call.

What’s Left

This gets us a successful login, but we aren’t actually doing anything to protect our app with this login. There are two parts to this protection:

  1. Stop requests to backend endpoints a user isn’t authorized to use. To learn how to do this using the Pundit gem, see my blog post series on authorizing jsonapi_resources on the Big Nerd Ranch blog.
  2. Hide features in the UI a user isn’t authorized to use. The Ember Simple Auth walkthrough describes this well.