The zapp.yaml File

The zapp.yaml plays a central role when writing an application for deployment on ZeroCloud. This is where you specify things such as:

  • Meta-data about the zapp, such as the name of the author and the version number.
  • Where to find the NaCl executables (“nexes”) and other files that make up the ZeroVM applicaiton. These are the files that zpm bundle include into the zapp.
  • Arguments that must be specifed when the application is execution. These will be invocation specific.

A sample zapp.yaml file for a simple “Hello World” application looks like this:

  Version: "0.1"
  name: hello
  Author-email: Your Name <>
  Summary: A small Hello World app

    - name: hello
      path: file://python2.7:python
      args: /
      - name: python2.7
      - name: stdout

  description: Enter your name and you will be greeted
  - [name, Your name]


The file is a simple YAML document. At the top, there is a mapping with a number of keys which we will call “sections” in the following. Each section describes part of the zapp file produced. We will go throught the sections now.

The meta Section

This section describes the generated zapp. The meta data here is currently unused, but we expect it to be used for a future zapp repository, i.e., a website where you can upload a zapp and let others download it.

The keys in this section are:

The short name of your zapp.
A short summary of what your zapp does.
Your name and email.
The version number of your zapp.

The execution Section

This section describes the runtime behavior of your zapp: which groups of nodes to create and which nexe to invoke for each. The groups key is a list of individual groups. Each group has these keys:

The name of this group. You use reference this name when you connect a group of nodes to another group.
Path to the nexe that all nodes in this group will execute. You will typically specify this as file://image:nexe, which means that the nexe is found in the system image called image under the name nexe. The path to the nexe is relative to the root of the system image.
Command line arguments that will be passed to the nexe.

List of devices that this group need. Each device has a name which determines the type of device. These are the standard devices that are always present:

This device feeds standard input to your program. You need to specify a path as well as name. The path can be a swift:// URL pointing to an object, which will make ZeroCloud execute the application on a Swift nodes that holds his object.
This device captures the standard output of your program. If you don’t specify a path, the output is simply passed back to you when you invoke the program. This is how the default web UI shows the program output. If you do specify a swift:// URL in path, the output is stored there.
This device captures the standard output of your program. You need to specify where the output should be stored using a swift:// URL in path. Otherwise the error output will be discarded.

In addition a ZeroCloud installation can offer a number of system images. They will have to be installed by the system adminitrator of the system your users deploy the zapp onto. Referencing a system image will cause it to be mounted as the root filesystem when nexe is executed. These are the initially supported system images:

This gives you a Python 2.7 environment. The interpreter should be specified as file://python27:python in the path key.


List of other groups that this group should be connected with. Before the execution starts, devices will automatically be created to connect the nodes in the groups.

If a group with n nodes named foo connects to a group with m nodes called bar, then. Nodes in the foo group will find devices named:


corresponding to each of the m instances in the bar group. Each of the n nodes in bar will find these devices:


If there is only a single node in a group, the corresponding device is named /dev/out/bar or /dev/in/foo.

What is written on channel in /dev/out appears on the corresponding channel in /dev/in.


Defaults to 1. This can be used to specify the number of nodes in a group that would otherwise just have a single node, i.e., because the node writes to a single output object. The count is ignored if a device path contains a wildcard.


Defaults to 1 which means no replication, other supported values are 2 and 3. This will make ZeroCloud run multiple copies of the nodes in the group.


Override the strategy used by ZeroCloud to place nodes in the Swift cluster. By default, ZeroCloud will start jobs on the node holding the input and output objects. When attach specifies a device that has a swift:// path, ZeroCloud will run the job with on the node holding this object.

The help Section

This section allows you to describe the command line arguments needed for your application. It is used when you let zpm auto-generate a web UI for your application. The keys are:

A short description, similar to what programs print when invoked with no arguments.
A list of arguments. Each list entry is a tuple (really a two-element list) with the name of the argument and a corresponding help text.

The bundling Section

For zpm bundle to work, it needs to know which files to include in the zapp. You specify them here as a list of glob patterns (such as src/*.py). The patterns are expanded relative to the project root, i.e., the directory containing the zapp.yaml file.

The ui Section

You can optionally include a ui section. If it is left out, zpm will create a simple web UI for you. The section works like the bundling section: you specify a list of glob patterns and these files will be included in the zapp. The UI files are extracted when zpm deploy is run.

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