Mirror::JSON - Mirror Configuration and Auto-Discovery


A mirror.json file is used to allow a repository client to reliably and robustly locate, identify, validate and age a repository.

It contains a timestamp for when the repository was last updated, the URI for the master repository, and a list of all the current mirrors at the time the repository was last updated.

Mirror::JSON contains all the functionality requires to both create and read the mirror.json files, and the logic to select one or more mirrors entirely automatically.

It currently scales cleanly for a dozen or so mirrors, but may be slow when used with very large repositories with a hundred or more mirrors.


A variety of simple individual mechanisms are combined to provide a completely robust discovery and validation system.

URI Validation

The mirror.json file should exist in a standard location, typically at the root of the repository. The file is very small (no more than a few kilobytes at most) so the overhead of fetching one (or several) of them is negligable.

The file is pulled via FTP or HTTP. Once pulled, the first three characters are examined to validate it is a JSON file and not a login page for a "captured hotspot" such as at hotels and airports.


Because the mirror.json file is small (in simple cases only one or two packets) the download time can be used to measure the responsiveness of that mirror.

By pulling the files from several mirrors, the comparative download times can be used as part of the process of selecting the fastest mirror.


The mirror.json file contains a timestamp that records the last update time for the repository. This timestamp should be updated every repository update cycle, even if there are no actual changes to the repository.

Once a mirror.json file has been fetched correctly, the timestamp can then be used to verify the age of the mirror. Whereas a perfectly up to date mirror will show an age of less than an hour (assuming that the repository master updates every hour) a repository that has stopped updating will show an age that is greater than the longest mirror rate plus the update cycle time.

Thus, any mirror that as "gone stale" can be filter out of the potential mirrors to use.

For portability, the timestamp is recording in ISO format Zulu time.

Master Repository URI

The mirror.json file contains a link to the master repository.

If the Mirror::JSON client has an out-of-date current state at some point, it will use the master repository URI in the current state to pull a fresh mirror.json from the master repository.

This solves the most-simple case, but other cases require a little more complexity (which we'll address later).

Mirror URI List

The mirror.json file contains a simple list of all mirror URIs.

Apart from filtering the list to try and find the best mirror to use, the mirror list allows the Mirror::JSON client to have backup options for locating the master repository if it moves, or the bootstrap mirror.json file has gotten old.

If the client can't find the master repository (because it has moved) the client will scan the list of mirrors to try to find the location of the updated repository.

The Bootstrap mirror.json

To bootstrap the client, it should come with a default bootstrap mirror.json file built into it. When the client starts up for the first time, it will attempt to fetch an updated mirror.json from the master repository, and if that doesn't exist will pull from the default list of mirrors until it can find more than one up to date mirror that agrees on the real location of the master server.

Anti-Hijacking Functionality

On top of the straight forward mirror discovery functionality, the client algorithm contains additional logic to deal with either a mirror or the master server goes bad. While likely not 100% secure it heads off several attack scenarios to prevent anyone trying them, and provides as much as can be expected without resorting to cryto and certificates.


Bugs should be reported via the CPAN bug tracker at

For other issues, or commercial enhancement or support, contact the author.


Adam Kennedy <>


Mirror::YAML, Mirror::CPAN, JSON


Copyright 2007 - 2009 Adam Kennedy.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.

The full text of the license can be found in the LICENSE file included with this module.