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Spawnpoint is a platform to deploy managed containers across distributed infrastructure while using Bosswave for authorization and secure communications. It is primarily intended for containerized services that communicate using Bosswave.

A "Spawnpoint" is a host, e.g., a cloud-based virtual machine or on-premises server, that supports service execution by providing storage, Bosswave infrastructure, and a pool of memory and compute resources. Individual services are allocated slices of the host's resources, and these allocations are enforced by a daemon process running on that host. The daemon also manages the lifecycle of service containers, automatically restarting them when they fail, etc.

The Spawnpoint host daemon performs all of its communication via Bosswave, meaning it only accepts commands to deploy new services, or to manipulate an existing service, from principals that are authorized to issue those commands as messages on the associated Bosswave URIs (topics). The daemon also publishes Bosswave messages to advertise available resources on the host.



  • spawnd is the Spawnpoint host management daemon. Each Spawnpoint instance is backed by a running daemon that provides a Bosswave interface for instance is backed by a running daemon that provides a Bosswave interface for the deployment and control of services and manages service resource consumption.
  • spawnctl is a command line tool for interaction with Spawnpoint daemons. It can be used to discover available Spawnpoints, to deploy a new service, or to restart and stop existing services.

Go Libraries

  • spawnclient enables interaction with Spawnpoint daemons from Go programs. It provides the same set of capabilities as spawnctl -- scanning for Spawnpoints, deploying configurations, etc.
  • spawnable provides utilities for easy development of Go code that will run inside Spawnpoint containers.

Bosswave Prerequisites

In order to make effective use of Spawnpoint, you will need to know how to use Bosswave. In particular, Bosswave's permissions model is used to control all interactions with Spawnpoint daemons. This determines who may see a Spawnpoint when searching, who may deploy services to a Spawnpoint instance, who may view the state of those services, and who may manipulate services once they are running.

Thus, you will need to manipulate permissions on Bosswave URIs in order to achieve security with Spawnpoint. For example, to grant someone full access to a Spawnpoint running at the Bosswave URI oski/spawnpoint/alpha, grant them Bosswave publish and subscribe permissions on oski/spawnpoint/alpha/*.

Continuing with this example, the full URI hierarchy of the Spawnpoint is: oski/spawnpoint/alpha/s.spawnpoint/:

  1. daemon/i.spawnpoint/: Signals and slots for the Spawnpoint daemon itself * signal/heartbeat: Periodic heartbeat messages indicating current status * slot/config: Accepts YAML manifests for new services
  2. <service_name>/i.spawnable/: Signals and slots specific to a running service * signal/heartbeat: Periodic heartbeat messages indicating service's status * signal/log: Log messages emitted by the service * slot/restart: Accepts commands to restart the service * slot/stop: Accepts commands to stop the service

For example, an entity that can consume Spawnpoint heartbeat messages, but do nothing else, has subscribe permissions on oski/spawnpoint/alpha/s.spawpnoint/daemon/i.spawnpoint/signal/heartbeat.

An entity that can only interact with a specific service, named demosvc, running on the Spawnpoint has publish and subscribe permissions on oski/spawnpoint/alpha/s.spawnpoint/demosvc/i.spawnable/*.

Writing a Spawnpoint Service

See the wiki for a step-by-step walkthrough on writing a Spawnpoint service in Go, which is the recommended implementation language.

Interacting with Spawnpoints Using spawnctl

The spawnctl command line utility is the simplest way to communicate with hosts that make themselves available for service execution by running the Spawnpoint daemon (spawnd).

spawnctl will automatically respect the value specified in the BW2_DEFAULT_ENTITY environment variable as the Bosswave entity to use for all Bosswave operations. However, this can be overridden using the -e flag.

Similarly, spawnctl will automatically attempt to establish a session with the Bosswave agent at the network address defined in the BW2_AGENT environment variable, but this can be overridden using the -r flag.

Searching for Spawnpoints

Use the scan command to discover all Spawnpoints that are communicating over Bosswave URIs that begin with a common base URI. For example:

$ spawnctl scan -u scratch.ns
Discovered 2 Spawnpoint(s)
[beta] seen 17 Mar 18 17:42 PDT (830ms) ago at scratch.ns/spawnpoint/beta
Available CPU Shares: 1536/2048
Available Memory: 1536/2048
1 Running Service(s)
  • demosvc
[alpha] seen 17 Mar 18 16:53 PDT (49m9.44s) ago at scratch.ns/spawnpoint/alpha
Available CPU Shares: 2048/2048
Available Memory: 2048/2048
0 Running Service(s)

If your scan only finds one Spawnpoint, more detailed information is produced:

$ spawnctl scan -u oski
[beta] seen 17 Mar 18 17:44 PDT (20.2s) ago at oski/spawnpoint/beta
Available CPU Shares: 1536/2048
Available Memory: 1536/2048
1 Running Service(s)
• [demosvc] seen 17 Mar 18 17:44 PDT (18.58s) ago.
  CPU: ~1.02/512 Shares. Memory: 3.86/512 MiB

Deploying a Service

Use spawnctl's deploy command to issue a command to a Spawnpoint host that instructs it to provision and start a new container for your service. You must specify the Bosswave URI for the Spawnpoint and a YAML configuration file that describes the service and its requirements.

Each service is identified by a unique, human-readable name. This is specified either in the configuration file or directly on the command line by the -n flag.

To run a service named demosvc with a configuration specified in the file deploy.yaml (more on configurations below), on a Spawnpoint operating at the base Bosswave URI scratch.ns/spawnpoint/alpha:

$ spawnctl deploy -u scratch.ns/spawnpoint/alpha -c deploy.yaml -n demosvc
Tailing service logs. Press CTRL-c to exit...
[SUCCESS] Service container has started

After the deployment command has been issued, spawnctl will tail the output of the new container, displaying any messages written by the container process to its local stdout or stderr. You must press CTRL-c to stop tailing.

Alternatively, most spawnctl operations support a timeout, specified by the -t flag on the command line. If we add -t 5s to the preceding command, log tailing will cease after 5 seconds.

If not otherwise specified, service containers use jhkolb/spawnable as their base Docker image. The working directory for Spawnpoint containers is /srv/spawnpoint.

Writing a Service Configuration

Each service that runs on a Spawnpoint has its configuration specified in a YAML file containing a sequence of key-value parameters. The following parameters are required for any service:

  • cpuShares: The number of CPU shares to reserve for this service. 1024 shares equals one core of the host machine. Example: 512
  • memory: The amount of memory, in MiB, to reserve for this service. No units are required. Example: 1024
  • run: The command executed when the service container is started, e.g. running a script or invoking an executable file. This is in the form of an argument vector, i.e. a list of strings that together form a single shell command. Example: [python,, 34]

The following configuration parameters are optional, but allow a service to make use of other important Spawnpoint features.

  • bw2Entity: A path to a Bosswave entity file on the deploying host that will be injected into the service's container as the file /srv/spawnpoint/entity.key, which is also the value of the BW2_DEFAULT_ENTITY environment variable within the container. Example: /home/oski/bosswave/keys/thermostatDriver.ent
  • image: An alternative Docker image to use as the base for a service container, expressed as a path to a publicly accessible Docker repository. Example: jhkolb/tp-link-plug
  • source: A GitHub URL (must be HTTPS) pointing to a repository to be cloned into the container's working directory (/srv/spawnpoint). Example: git+
  • build: A sequence of shell commands to run after checking out the necessary source code, e.g., for documentation. These are not in an argument vector format; each list element is a complete command. Example: [go get -d, go build -o demosvc]
  • autoRestart: A boolean specifying if the service's container should be automatically restarted upon termination. Defaults to false. Example: true
  • includedFiles: A list of paths to files on the deploying host that should be included in the container. All files are copied directly into the Spawnpoint container's working directory (/srv/spawnpoint) but retain their original names. Example: [demosvc, params.yaml, /home/oski/]
  • includedDirectories: A list of directories on the deploying host to include in the Spawnpoint container. All directories retain their names, but are placed under /srv/spawnpoint within the container. Example: [/home/oski/configurations,]
  • volumes: A list of volume names to be used by the container. If a volume does not exist on the hosting Spawnpoint, it will be created. Otherwise, the existing volume is attached to the container. All volumes are mounted under the /srv directory, so a volume named foo is available within the container as /srv/foo. Example: [thermotatHistory, configurations]
  • useHostNet: A boolean specifying if the service container should use the Spawnpoint host's networking stack rather than Docker's bridge interface. This must be explicitly enabled by the host's daemon because it represents a security risk. Defaults to false. Example: true
  • devices: A list of device file paths to map from the host machine into the Spawnpoint container. This functionality must be specifically enabled by the host daemon, because it represents a security risk. Example: [/dev/tty4, /dev/tty8, /dev/tty15]

Conveniently Re-running a Deployment

You can use the deploy-last command to rerun the same deploy command that was last executed in the current directory. For example, if you run this command immediately after the deploy command given above:

$ spawnctl deploy-last
This will run:
    spawnctl deploy -e <BW2 Entity> -u scratch.ns/spawnpoint.alpha -c deploy.yaml -n demosvc
Proceed? [Y/n]

To confirm execution of the command, type in Y or y and hit <ENTER>. To skip this confirmation phase, pass the flag -y to deploy-last.

Spawnpoint stores previous deploy commands in a history file, specified by the SPAWNCTL_HISTORY_FILE environment variable. If this variable is not set, the history file defaults to ~/.spawnpoint_history.

Manipulating a Running Service

To restart or stop a running service, you must know the base URI of its host Spawnpoint instance as well as its unique name. To restart the service demoservice on Spawnpoint scratch.ns/spawnpoint/alpha:

$ spawnctl restart -u scratch.ns/spawnpoint.alpha -n demosvc
Tailing service logs. Press CTRL-c to eit...
[SUCCESS] Restarted service container

To stop rather than restart the service, simply replace restart with stop as the command for spawnctl. Just as with deployment, the service's logs are tailed until the user exits via <CTRL>-c or a timeout specified by -t expires.

To replace an existing service with a new version, you must first stop the original service explicitly by using spawnctl stop. Then, run a spawnctl deploy with the new version on the same Spawnpoint.

Running a Spawnpoint Daemon

To enable Spawnpoint services to run on a machine, you will need to take the following preliminary steps:

  1. Install the latest release of Bosswave 2
  2. Install Docker

We have provided a Spawnpoint installation shell script. The easiest way to use it is to run the following command:

$ curl | bash

The script will download the spawnd docker container and initialize all of the necessary configuration files for you. See the installation script documentation, under the installer directory in the Spawnpoint repository, for full details.

Just like Spawnpoint services, the Spawnpoint daemon is configured using a YAML file of key-value parameters. The required parameters are:

  • bw2Entity: The Bosswave entity that identifies this Spawnpoint and its permissions within the Bosswave URI space.
  • path: The Spawnpoint's base Bosswave URI. It should uniquely identify this Spawnpoint daemon instance. The last element of this base path will be used as a shorthand identifier for this host.
  • cpuShares: The number of CPU shares in the daemon's global pool. 1024 shares correspond to a single CPU core.
  • memory: The size of the daemon's global memory pool, in MiB.

The optional parameters, which only need to be specified to override default values, are:

  • bw2Agent: The Bosswave agent that should be used by the daemon for all pub/sub operations. Defaults to
  • enableHostNetworking: Allow containers to use the host's networking stack. Defaults to false. Enabling host networking represents a security risk.
  • enableDeviceMapping: Allow devices from the host's file system to be mapped into service containers. Defaults to false. Enabling device mapping represents a security risk.


Deployment of Distributed, Managed Containers via Bosswave




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