4 min read

Deploying your own Toshi API Bitcoin Node using CoreOS + Docker + AWS

In September, Coinbase open-sourced Toshi, their in-house Bitcoin full node for querying the Bitcoin blockchain and broadcasting transactions, powered by Ruby and PostgreSQL. Compared to Bitcoin Core, it allows much richer SQL querying at the expense of a much larger data store (220GB vs 25GB as of September). You can read more about what Toshi can do over in their official README.

In this blog post, I'd like to guide you through the process of deploying Toshi using Docker on CoreOS Linux, hosted on Amazon AWS.

Docker is a way to get all the custom configurations required for an application in an isolated container without the overhead of a full virtual machine. The Toshi team has provided us with a Docker container so this is a fantastic way to get all our required configurations to run Toshi in one go.

We'll be using CoreOS, which is a very lightweight Linux distribution that requires all of its applications to be deployed using Docker. Since we'll be using Docker and git, and don't need much else bogging down our EC2 machine, this is perfect for our purposes.

We'll set up three Docker containers:

  1. The Toshi container containing the Toshi API
  2. A Redis key-value data store container
  3. A PostgreSQL database container

We'll link these three docker containers and set up the correct environment variables so we can get Toshi up and running.

Setting up our AWS instance

First, we'll launch a new instance on Amazon EC2. I will be assuming you know how to do this, but here is the EC2 configuration you will want:

  • CoreOS beta 310.1.0 as your AMI
  • m3.medium
  • 400GB General SSD Storage on EBS
  • For the security group: set ports 22, 5000 TCP open inbound and all traffic open outbound
  • Attached to a permanent Elastic IP for convenience

You will need your .pem file from the key pair you launched your instance with to SSH into the launched instance. CoreOS requires you to SSH as the 'core' user, like so from a terminal:


Setting up Toshi, Redis, PostgreSQL

First simply, clone the Toshi repository:

$ git clone https://github.com/coinbase/toshi.git
$ cd toshi

Now we'll build the Docker container for Toshi. Docker looks at the Dockerfile in the folder to figure out how to setup the right configuration for our Toshi container:

$ docker build -t=coinbase/node .

Don't forget the "." at the end of the line.

Next we'll setup the Redis and PostgreSQL containers that Toshi requires to store blockchain information:

$ docker run -d --name toshi_db postgres
$ docker run -d --name toshi_redis redis

Here, we're using the official Redis and PostgreSQL Docker containers ('redis' and 'postgres', respectively) with default configurations, since these work perfectly well for our purposes. We've named our two containers 'toshi_db' and 'toshi_redis' to make them easy to reference.

Type in docker ps to see your two containers running. You should see something like:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND                CREATED             STATUS              PORTS               NAMES
ebd13a7a2085        redis:latest        "/entrypoint.sh redi   1 seconds ago       Up 1 seconds        6379/tcp            toshi_redis         
805b03a9e3f0        postgres:latest     "/docker-entrypoint.   11 seconds ago      Up 11 seconds       5432/tcp            toshi_db

Now, we'll launch our Toshi container:

$ docker run -p 5000:5000 --name toshi -t -i --link toshi_db:db --link toshi_redis:redis coinbase/node

We're doing a few important things here while launching our Toshi container:

  • Naming our container 'toshi' for easy reference
  • Mapping port 5000 on the container to port 5000 on our actual EC2 instance so we can access Toshi at this port once we have it up and running.
  • Linking our toshi_redis and toshi_db containers to our toshi container. Docker containers are usually live in complete isolation, so we need to do this so they can communicate and exchange data with each other. Docker will give our Toshi container environment variables which tell it how to connect to our Redis and PostgreSQL containers, and we'll use those shortly.

After running that command, you should be sitting in the root prompt for your Toshi container, something like this:


Where f87ea74ff3b2 will be your Toshi container ID. Now, we set environment variables so Toshi knows where to find our Redis and PostgreSQL containers, using the environment variables Docker provides for linked containers:

$ export DATABASE_URL=postgres://postgres:@$DB_PORT_5432_TCP_ADDR:$DB_PORT_5432_TCP_PORT

Please note that we are using the default login credentials postgres:<no password> for our PostgreSQL container. In a production environment, you would obviously set actual login credentials, but this is fine for our purposes of just getting Toshi running.

We need to set the environment that Toshi will work in. For our purposes now, let's use the Testnet (not the actual Bitcoin blockchain):

$ export TOSHI_ENV=test

To download and work with actual Bitcoin transactions, you want to set 'test' above to 'production'.

We run database migrations for Toshi:

$ bundle exec rake db:migrate

Finally, we are ready to launch Toshi! We launch Toshi using foreman:

$ foreman start

Voila! You should see a whole stream of output from Toshi, hopefully with no errors. You'll see it grabbing blocks and transactions from the network. This will take a very, very long time (depending on AWS's network bandwidth). I have not yet timed how long this may take, but suffice to say it will be a long time. I will post more numbers about this as I continue to play around with Toshi.

To see Toshi's web interface, which shows blocks and transactions as they are downloaded, go to http://YOUR_EC2_ELASTIC_IP:5000 in your browser, where you should see something like this.

You can also play around with the full range of API calls that Toshi supports, like going to http://YOUR_EC2_ELASTIC_IP:5000/api/v0/blocks/ < block_hash > to get block information directly from the blockchain. Check out everything you can do with Toshi at the official README.

Congratulations! You've just deployed your own Toshi full Bitcoin node! In future blog posts, I'd like to help you get more out of your Toshi node, including:

  • How to set data-only containers for PostgreSQL and Redis, so that we can make sure the downloaded blockchain remains persistent.
  • Play around with the Toshi API to find out some cool information from the Bitcoin blockchain.
  • Querying our PostgreSQL DB with raw SQL to find some really cool information from the Bitcoin blockchain.

Till then, enjoy and let me know any issues you run into at me _AT_ soroushjp.com or on Twitter at @soroushjp. Thanks for reading guys and gals :)