This tutorial is an expanded and revised version of the now deprecated (Part 1 only) eris services Walkabout. We will introduce the necessary concept of launching a chain-based application as a service via the eris command line tool. Please see here for installation guidelines. We’ll be using the toadserver - a smart contract & IPFS backed download server as an example application. This is part one in a 3 part series:

  • Part 1: This tutorial: Getting started: Launching & Making a Service
  • Part 2: The Toadserver in Action: Deploy Testnet & eris init
  • Part 3: Deploying Smart Contracts & Managing Permissions

Protip: If bash scripting is your thing, check out this bash file.

We’re going to set up a chain that will then have a service depend upon it. The pipeline follows, roughly, three steps: 1) get your keys sorted, 2) start a chain, 3) start the service that links to chain.

Make a chain

eris chains make --chain-type=simplechain bob

A few things happened here. First, a single key was generated inside the keys container. You can see it with:

eris keys ls --container

which should output:

The keys in your container kind marmot:  33451171C0E158592FE44AFE19E0244A8661E3B8

At this point, it is highly recommended (but not necessary) to export your key to host for backup:

eris keys export 33451171C0E158592FE44AFE19E0244A8661E3B8

See it with:

eris keys ls --host

Protip: You can also eris keys import ADDR to go from host to container. Similiarly to eris data import/export these commands are thought of from the point of view of the container. See this tutorial for more information on the eris keys command.

Second, within the container, the key was both: 1) converted to the tendermint format: priv_validator.json and 2) used to create the genesis.json file. Both these files were then exported from the container to the host into ~/.eris/chains/bob, where bob is the name of the chain created with chains make above.

Get the pub key

This step simply returns the pub key given the addr (which itself is a hash of the pubkey). The pub key is needed for harcoding in the toadserver definition file a few steps below. You can also get it from the genesis.json or priv_validator.json though I find running a single command easier than opening a file. A few of these steps will soon be simplified.

eris keys pub 33451171C0E158592FE44AFE19E0244A8661E3B8

Get the config file

The config file specifies some variables for the node on which the chain is to be run. Perhaps you want to change the moniker to something more relevant. It is merely a name for your node and need not equal bob.

cp ~/.eris/chains/default/config.toml ~/.eris/chains/bob/

Now we have everything set up; you should have each a config.toml, priv_validator.json, and genesis.json in the bob directory. The address and pubkey in the latter two files should match. Yes? Ok, let’s roll.

Start your chain

eris chains new bob --dir ~/.eris/chains/bob

This creates and starts a new chain while copying the contents of the bob directory into the chain data container.
Maybe you want to chattier output to see what’s going on under the hood? Add --verbose to the above command. When reporting bugs, always include --debug level output. Now you can see the following: 1) running chain, 2) logs and, 3), genesis file with each command:

eris chains ls -a
eris chains logs bob
eris chains plop bob genesis

All endpoints are available via http://HostIP:46657. You can see a sample here. Notice a few things for your chain:
- /genesis should be nearly identical to ~/.eris/chains/bob/genesis.json;
- /list_validators should show the same info as your key (pubkey/addr).
- /list_names to see name registry entries. See below.
- /net_info can be refreshed and block height should increase. This is also true of log output.

Boot up toadserver

Your chain is now setup and ready to be used as a dependency for the toadserver. (Note: this process is still a WIP and will be smoother in future releases). Since we’ll be launching the toadserver as a service, we need two things: 1) its docker image and 2) a service definition file (which specifies how to run the toadserver). The former is already built for you using this Dockerfile and is specified in the definition file at this line: image = "". The image will automatically be pulled from quay if not found locally when the toadserver is started (if you answer yes to the prompt). Alternatively, you can build it locally from the Dockerfile. See way below for more info on that.

Edit some variables

Open the file: eris services edit toadserver, and replace the following environment variables with the values from above.


It should now look like this:


Start toadserver

The --chain flag will link the toadserver to the chain named bob, assuming it is running.

eris services start toadserver --chain=bob

See what’s going on with each:

eris services ls -a
eris services logs toadserver

Two things happened: If IPFS was not already running as a service, the toadserver started it. If it was already running, the toadserver would have simply linked to it (a la docker). With IPFS running, eris files is also available to you. Both the chain and keys containers were also linked to the toadserver. These are used under the hood by the next commands. Notice the toadserver has a port exposed at 11113. Let’s see what we can do with it. First, make or pick a file in your current working directory (e.g., hungryToad.txt) that you’d like to add. Then run:

curl -X POST --data-binary "@hungryToad.txt"

where hungryToad.txt is the name you want entered in the name registry (i.e, the name by which you’ll retreive the file) and "@hungryToad.txt" is the file name in your current working directory.

You should now have a name registry on your chain. Head to your http://HostIP:46657/list_names and you’ll see the entry which should look like:


Notice that the "owner:" is the same address from the output of eris keys ls. Now you have a download server whereby anyone can download files. The file is retreivable in a few different ways:

To save it locally, run:
bash curl -X GET http://HostIP:11113/getfile/hungryToad.txt -o hungryToad.txt
or view it in the browser at the URL given above, or see it from IPFS at: where HASH is the unquoted value from “data” in the previous json output.

If your toadserver service flames out for whatever reason, you can eris services restart toadserver and be on your merry way. Happy hopping!

That’s it. A simple app with two endpoints for adding and retrieving files that uses a chain to retrieve the file by name via IPFS hash. Next, I’ll describe what is needed to actually build the service we’ve just started.

Building a Service

There are four steps to making a service: 1) write app, 2) write Dockerfile, 3) build docker image (from Dockerfile), and 4) make a new service (write service definition file). The toadserver code is here and as you can see it’s only a few hundred lines of code. Its Dockerfile is below, as is its service definition file. The image is hosted on You can also use DockerHub for your images.

Dockerfile & Build Image

The toadserver Dockerfile looks like this:

MAINTAINER Eris Industries <[email protected]>
ENV NAME         toadserver
ENV REPO 	 eris-ltd/$NAME
ENV BRANCH       master
RUN mkdir -p $CLONE_PATH
RUN git clone -q$REPO $CLONE_PATH
RUN git checkout -q $BRANCH
RUN go install
EXPOSE 11113
CMD ["toadserver"]

Let’s walk through it step by step. The first command FROM specifies a base image. There are tons of pre-built images out there to fit your specific needs. We’ve built a custom eris/base image that has all the niceties we’d like access to (e.g., go, git, a bunch of dependencies). Set a MAINTAINER if you’d like. Then we set a handful of environment variables that will be used when executing the RUN commands. These should be ordered as one would go about installing your application. Here, the repo is cloned then installed. CMD ["toadserver"] tells docker how to boot the app once installed. USER, WORKDIR and, VOLUME all take an ENV variable given in and EXPOSE specifies the port(s) for your application.

You can see all of eris’ Dockerfiles here. For more information on writing Dockefiles, see here.

Now that we have a Dockerfile (in current working directory), it’s time to build the image:

docker build -t .

The -t specifies a path/to/name:tag for your image while . at the end is the path to the Dockerfile. You’ll see a bunch of output of your build then you can run docker images to see a list of images. If the build was successful, yours will be there. Once you’ve tested your dockerized-application-as-a-service (or would simply like to share it with others), you can

docker push

(after logging in, of course. It’s all pretty similar to git.)

Service Definition File

Once one has an image, the usual way to launch a docker container running that image is with docker run from the command line. This command specifies a ton of parameters (or not!) for deploying various applications. Working with a definition file simplifies a lot of things. (If you find similarities to [docker-compose](, that’s because the eris tool is inspired from it. We’ll first make one then I’ll walk through equivalent docker run command. Start with:

eris services new toad

This creates a new service named “toad” with image “” and writes it to ~/.eris/services/toad.toml. See it then open it with:

eris services cat toad
eris services edit toad

You’ll see something like:

# This is a TOML config file.
# For more information, see
name = "toad"
name = "toad"
image = ""
data_container = true
name = "Zach Ramsay"
email = "[email protected]"

(Factlet: under the hood, maintainer info was autopopulated via git config settings.)

This file is a good start but it’s not quite what we want. The toadserver service definition file was used in the previous sequence way above and looks something like:

name = "toadserver"
chain = "$chain:toad:l"
name = "toadserver"
image = ""
ports = [ "11113:11113" ]
volumes = [  ]
environment = [
services = [ "ipfs", "keys" ]
name = "Eris Industries"
email = "[email protected]"
repository = ""
include = [ "docker" ]
requires = [ "" ]

This has all the runtime requirements for the toadserver. Under the hood, eris services start toadserver will marshal these fields then, using go-dockerclient, execute the docker run sequence. See here for the services specification. From the command line, this service definition file looks like:

docker run --name toadserver \
--publish 11113:11113 \
--link eris_service_ipfs_1:ipfs \
--link eris_service_keys_1:keys \
--link eris_chain_bob_1:toad \
--env "MINTX_NODE_ADDR=http://toad:46657/" \
--env "MINTX_CHAINID=toadserver" \
--env "MINTX_SIGN_ADDR=http://keys:4767" \
--env "MINTX_PUBKEY=9F7381064F3DEA7355B09A8B47A201D310E2FD475CF686586CD246A23B603D89" \
--env "ERIS_IPFS_HOST=http://ipfs" \

What a hassle it would be if you had to type this up at the command line every time you wanted to start a service. Not only that, this command above expects each container it is --linking to, to already be running! That means docker run for each ipfs, keys, and your chain. Instead, just add the services you need as [dependencies] and they’ll be started when and where you need them!

So there you have it. Write an app. Write a Dockerfile. Build app from Dockerfile. Write service definition file. Add dependencies. Start service. Use service. In part 2, we’ll go over deploying the toadserver to > 1 node and how it’s being used as part of the eris init sequence.

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