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Shim is a super-basic SciDB client that exposes limited SciDB functionality through a simple HTTP API. It's based on the mongoose web server. It's a shim between the low-level SciDB C API and a higher-level and lightweight web service API.

API Documentation

See the Help page for detailed nodes on release differences, configuration, authentication, encryption, limits and so on.

The shim program tracks SciDB releases because it uses the SciDB client API. You need to use a version of shim that matches your SciDB release. You can checkout any previously released versions by git tag.

Installation from binary packages

This is the fastest/easiest way to install shim as a system service. We provide some pre-built binary packages.

SciDB on Ubuntu 14.04

# Install with:
gdebi shim_18.1_amd64.deb

# Uninstall with (be sure to uninstall any existing copy before re-installing shim):
apt-get remove shim

SciDB on RHEL/Centos 6

Packages for some older versions can be found at

# shim depends on a few libraries. If installation fails you may need to:
yum install libgomp openssl-devel
# Install with:
rpm -i shim-18.1-1.x86_64.rpm

# Uninstall with:
yum remove shim


By default shim installs into /opt/scidb/18.1/bin and expects the sibling directory lib to contain the library. This may present a problem if SciDB is installed in a different location. One way to go around the issue is by creating a symlink. For example:

## Problem:
$ sudo service shimsvc start
Starting shim
/opt/scidb/18.1/bin/shim: error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

## Solution: supposing SciDB was installed at ~/scidb
$ sudo ln -s ~/scidb/lib /opt/scidb/18.1/lib
$ sudo service shimsvc start
Starting shim

You could also edit /etc/init.d/shimsvc or use other environment/path tricks.

Configuring shim

The shim service script consults the /var/lib/shim/conf file for configuration options. The default configuration options are shown below, and optional aut-configured values are indicated. Those values are set if you install shim from a binary rpm or deb package.

scidbport=1239 (or auto-configured by apt/yum to a local SciDB port)
tmp=/tmp  (or auto-configured by apt/yum to local SciDB storage directory)
instance=0  (or auto-configured by apt/yum to a local SciDB instance ID)

If an option is missing from the config file, the default value will be used. The options are:

  • auth A PAM authentication method (limited to 'login' for now).
  • ports A comma-delimited list of HTTP listening ports. Append the lowercase letter 's' to indicate SSL encryption.
  • scidbhost The host on which SciDB runs.
  • scidbport The port to talk to SciDB on.
  • user The user that the shim service runs under. Shim can run as a non-root user, but then SSL authenticated port logins are limited to the user that shim is running under.
  • tmp Temporary I/O directory used on the server.
  • max_sessions Maximum number of concurrent HTTP sessions.
  • timeout Timeout after which an inactive HTTP session may be declared dead and reclaimed for use elsewhere.
  • instance Which SciDB instance should save data to files or pipes? This instance must have write permission to the tmp directory.

Restart shim to effect option changes with /etc/init.d/shimsvc restart.

Note on the SSL Key Certificate Configuration

Shim uses a cryptographic key certificate for SSL encrypted web connections. When you instal shim from a binary package, a new certificate key is dynamically generated and stored in /var/lib/shim/ssl_cert.pem. Feel free to replace the certificate with one of your own. You should then also set the permissions of the /var/lib/shim/ssl_cert.pem file to restrict all read and write access to the user that shim is running under. Restricting access permissions to the SSL certificate is particularly important for general machines with many untrusted users (an unlikely setting for an installation of SciDB).

You can alternatively run shim from the command line and use command line switches to set the configuration options. Run shim -h to see a full list of options. When you run shim from a non-standard location, the program expects to find the ssl_cert.pem file one directory above the wwwroot directory.


shim [-h] [-f] [-p <http port>] [-r <document root>] [-s <scidb port>]

where, -f means run in the foreground (defaults to background), -h means help.

If you installed the service version, then you can control when shim is running with the usual mechanism, for example:

/etc/init.d/shimsvc stop
/etc/init.d/shimsvc start


We explicitly define our SCIDB home directory for Make in the example below:

sudo make SCIDB=/opt/scidb/18.1 uninstall

Log files

Shim prints messages to the system log. The syslog file location varies, but can usually be found in /var/log/syslog or /var/log/messages.

Manual Building

Note that because shim is a SciDB client it needs the boost, zlib, log4cpp and log4cxx development libraries installed to compile. And because shim now uses PAM authentication, you'll now need the PAM development libraries for your system installed too. You also optionally need an SSL development library if you want to support TLS.

A good way to satisfy most of the dependencies is to install the SciDB Development Packages as described in the dev_tools documentation.

Build and install

sudo make install

# Or, if SCIDB is not in the PATH, can set a Make variable SCIDB that points
# to the SCIDB home directory, for example for version 18.1:

make SCIDB=/opt/scidb/18.1
sudo make SCIDB=/opt/scidb/18.1 install

Optionally install as a service

You can install shim as a system service so that it just runs all the time with:

sudo make SCIDB=/opt/scidb/18.1 service

If you install shim as a service and want to change its default options, for example the default HTTP port or port to talk to SciDB on, you'll need to edit the shim configuration file. See the discussion of command line parameters below.

Optionally build deb or rpm packages

You can build the service version of shim into packages for Ubuntu 12.04 or RHEL/CentOS 6 with

make deb-pkg
make rpm-pkg

respectively. Building packages requires that certain extra packaging programs are available, including rpmbuild for RHEL/CentOS and the Ruby-based fpm packaging utility on all systems.