Nebula is a tool to provision new Orbs Hybrid Blockchain Constellations
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Setting up an Orbs Public Blockchain Node using Nebula CLI

This step-by-step guide will walk you through creating a new node and connecting it to an existing Orbs network.


To complete this guide you will need the following set up:

  • Mac or Linux machine

  • An SSH public key (by default we use ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub). We go into details on how to generate it below

  • A clean, new AWS account with admin programmatic access.


    Use brew install awscli to get it installed

  • An AWS credentials profile set correctly:

    See more here

    We require the aws_access_key_id and aws_secret_access_key of an admin account for our Terraform script to execute correctly

  • Node.js version 8 or above

    Use brew install node to get it installed

  • Terraform

    Nebula currently supports the latest Terraform (v0.12.x) and have been tested on version v0.12.23 for most scenarios. We recommend installating this specific version to have a fail-proof experience.

    For macOS:

    Download Terraform by running this command in your Terminal: wget https://releases.hashicorp.com/terraform/0.12.23/terraform_0.12.23_darwin_amd64.zip

    Then unzip it: unzip terraform_0.12.23_darwin_amd64.zip

    Grant it executable permissions: chmod +x terraform && sudo mv terraform /usr/local/bin/

    Make sure it's installed by typing in: terraform --version - you should see the version printed out

    For Linux:

    Download Terraform by running this command in your Terminal: curl -O https://releases.hashicorp.com/terraform/0.12.23/terraform_0.12.23_darwin_amd64.zip

    Then unzip it: (If unzip is not installed, install it by running apt-get install unzip) unzip terraform_0.12.23_darwin_amd64.zip

    Grant it executable permissions: chmod +x terraform && sudo mv terraform /usr/local/bin/

    Make sure it's installed by typing in: terraform --version - you should see the version printed out

  • Orbs Key Generator

    Use brew install orbs-network/devtools/orbs-key-generator to get it installed (requires a Mac)

Generating SSH public and private keys

We require a valid public/private keys to run our deployment scripts and set up the EC2 resources. The key file should remain secret with the exception of feeding it to the configuration during setup. (providing the path for the pub file in the orbs-node.json setup file as described below)

The generated key should not have a passphrase. It is okay to generate a key by any means, such as based on the following tutorial by GitHub

The gist of creating such a key is running:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "your_email@example.com"

Allocating an IP on Amazon

The Orbs node that you provision must have a static IPs in order to communicate with the network.

  • Go to your AWS Console
  • Pick a region (for example ca-central-1)
  • Allocate 1 Elastic IPs

That IP address and region will later be used in the node configuration file.

Generating Orbs addresses

An Orbs node is identified by a public key and any action of the node should be signed with the corresponding private key. These keys should be generated in a secure fashion and the private key should be securely stored.

We require an Orbs private key and an Orbs address. These can be generated using the Orbs key generator by running orbs-key-generator node

The output of the key generator should be securely stored and used in the orbs-node.json configuration file and node deployment command as explained below. You will need the NodeAddress and NodePrivateKey later on without the leading 0x.

Install Nebula via NPM

To install Nebula run

npm install -g @orbs-network/orbs-nebula

If you have previously installed Nebula and you are performing a new deploy, we recommend updating it by running npm update -g @orbs-network/orbs-nebula

Configure the boilerplate JSON file

The thing to do next is to create the orbs-node.json file and configure it as required for the new node.

The content of the orbs-node.json should be:

    "name": "$VALIDATOR_NAME-orbs-prod",
    "awsProfile": "default",
    "sshPublicKey": "$LOCATION_TO_PUB_FILE",
    "orbsAddress": "$ORBS_PUBLIC_NODE_ADDRESS",
    "publicIp": "$NODE_AWS_IP",
    "backend": true,
    "ephemeralStorage": false,
    "region": "$NODE_AWS_REGION",
    "nodeSize": "m4.xlarge",
    "nodeCount": 1,
    "bootstrapUrl": "https://s3.amazonaws.com/orbs-bootstrap-prod/boyar/config.json",
    "ethereumChain": "mainnet",
    "ethereumTopologyContractAddress": "0x804c8336846d8206c95CEe24752D514210B5a240",
    "cachePath": "./_terraform",
    "ethereumEndpoint": "$ETHEREUM_NODE_ADDRESS",
    "incomingSshCidrBlocks": ["$YOUR_OFFICE_IP/32"]

You will need:

  • $VALIDATOR_NAME-orbs-node - Name for your Validator name, such as a company name or brand name.
  • $LOCATION_TO_PUB_FILE - The SSH public and private key file path (the generated pub file)
  • $ORBS_PUBLIC_NODE_ADDRESS - The Orbs node address (from the Orbs key generator - without the leading 0x)
  • $NODE_AWS_IP - The IP address (from AWS)
  • Backend is a new feature that allows you to securely store your Terraform state created by Nebula into your AWS account. (Into a designated S3 bucket) Making it easy to share with other DevOps personel in your company, or aid in recovery or migration of your Nebula deployment between computers. For example, create a node from one laptop, and still be able to destroy or upgrade it from a completely different one. Terraform knows how to sync the state into the S3 bucket between all users / usages of it automatically and also brings to the plate a feature rich provisioning state lock to prevent from 2 people trying to alter your Orbs node in the same exact time.
  • $NODE_AWS_REGION - The AWS region (from AWS)
  • $ETHEREUM_NODE_ADDRESS - this parameter is optional, used to configure an external Ethereum node. If the parameter is not included, an internal Ethereum node will be used. If you have your own synced Ethereum node, you can use it as a value for ethereumEndpoint. Alternatively, you can use "http://eth.orbs.com" , which we provide for your convenience (configure it by writing "ethereumEndpoint": "http://eth.orbs.com"). Our long term goal is to use the Ethereum node that is internal to the Orbs node.
  • $YOUR_OFFICE_IP - This is the IP address/range that we will grant access to for ssh connections to the node, you will still need the public key to connect - it is required only in cases of troubleshooting. The format is standard CIDR so a range may be provided by changing the mask. Any IP not in the range will not be able to SSH to the node, even if it has the SSH key file.

Other parameters (no need to change them):

The cachePath configuration tells nebula where to store the terraform installation meta-data created during the deploy stage. It is required in cases where you wish to remove the node from AWS. You should store these files and back them up so you can run maintenance if required.

The awsProfile configuration can be changed if you are using multiple aws configurations and want a specific one to be applied.

The ephemeralStorage option (default value: false) provides an ability to make the provisioned EFS disk for block storage become ephemeral meaning it will be destroyed upon destroying the node. (aka nebula destroy) this is usually not preferred by validators unless you wish to re-sync the entire storage on every node upgrade/maintenance.

Some warning as to updating your node configuration JSON file

While the configuration is quite easily changeable, please do remember that any modification to your configuration file MUST be done while the node is DOWN. For example: if you decide you want to set a backend syncing using the Terraform state syncing to S3 (Just as an example). You should do the following to perform the change:

  • run nebula destroy
  • update your configuration JSON file to reflect your changes (for example add "backend": true)
  • run nebula create

Run Nebula CLI to deploy the node

To avoid having the orbs node private key as part of your command history, we recommend creating a file called orbs-private-key.txt and put the orbs node private key inside it, without the leading 0x. That key was generated by the key generator and should be in a hex string of size 64 characters, like f5f83Ee70a85fFF2exxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx334932F34C8D629165Ed.

To provision the resources required for the node:

nebula create -f orbs-node.json --orbs-private-key $(cat path/to/orbs-private-key.txt)

Terraform files corresponding to nodes can be found in the folder defined in cachePath and should be backed up.

If needed, the command to remove all resources provisioned for the node is:

nebula destroy -f orbs-node.json


After deployment make sure to backup and securely store -

  1. Orbs keys (and any other credentials you used and configured, such as SSH keys)
  2. _terraform folder contents - these are required to destroy or redeploy the node
  3. The orbs-node.json file

Registering to the Orbs public network

In order to register on the network, please follow the Validator Registration process

Contact Orbs after registration is done.

What happens after deployment

Once the deployment finishes, the node goes through several stages:

  1. First it will wait for the Ethereum node to finish syncing - this can take several hours and until that is done, the node will not be operational
  2. It will then bootstrap the initial network configuration.
  3. It will retrieve the network topology from an Ethereum contract to learn who are its other peers and connect to them.

At that point if everything passes and the node is part of the topology, it will start syncing with other nodes.

How to inspect the network health

Now, your node has joined the network and should be syncing the existing blocks.

To inspect your node operation on every virtual chain, Orbs has developed a special inspection route available on each node that provides access to node metrics. To access the metrics, navigate to http://$NODE_IP/vchains/1100000/metrics replacing $NODE_IP with your node IP.

You node will not be able to respond to any requests until its Ethereum node finished syncing - this can take several hours from deploy.

The JSON you see will include a property called BlockStorage.BlockHeight, which indicates the block height that the network is currently on. Try refreshing this metrics page a couple of times, you should see this value increasing.

If this is the case it means that the network is alive and healthy.



  1. If you get an Terraform error that your IP does not exist, check whether the combination of ip and region is correct in the node configuration file (orbs-node.json)

  2. If the metrics page does not respond, it could be that the Ethereum node did not finish syncing - this takes several hours.

  3. If you are having trouble with Ethereum node, add "ethereumEndpoint": "http://eth.orbs.com" to your node.json and redeploy the node (nebula destroy and then nebula create as usual). If you have your own synced Ethereum node, you can use it as a value for ethereumEndpoint. We only provide eth.orbs.com for your convenience. Our long term goal is to use the Ethereum node that belongs to the Orbs node.

  4. Contact Orbs for any other issues

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