Writing your Module

NStack Modules contain the functions that can be used on the NStack platform. They are the building blocks which can be used to build workflows and applications.

After this tutorial, we will have a simple Python module deployed to our NStack instance, where it can be hooked up to event and data-sources. This module has a single function in it which simply counts the number of characters in some text.


Before starting, check that NStack is installed by running nstack --version in your terminal. If you got information about the version of NStack you have, you’re good to go. If that didn’t work, check out Installation again.

Step 1: init

We want to create a new Python module.

Create a directory called demo where you would like to build your module (NStack uses the name of the directory as the default name of the module) and cd into that directory using your terminal.

To create a new module, run nstack init python. You should see the following output confirming that this operation was successful.

~> mkdir Demo
~> cd Demo
~/Demo> nstack init python
python module 'Demo:0.0.1' successfully initialised at ~/Demo

A successful init will have created some files in the directory.

> ls
nstack.yaml  requirements.txt  service.py  setup.py

This is the skeleton of an NStack module. nstack.yaml is the configuration file for your module, and service.py is where the code of your module lives (in this case, it’s a Python class). requirements.txt and setup.py are both standard files for configuring Python.

We’re going to be concerned with nstack.yaml and service.py. For a more in-depth look at all these files, refer to Module Structure.

In service.py, there is a Service class. This is where we would write the functions we want to use on NStack. It is pre-populated with a sample function, numChars, that counts the number of characters in some text.

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
demo Service
import nstack

class Service(nstack.BaseService):
    def numChars(self, x):
        return len(x)

nstack.yaml is where the configuration for this module lives. NStack fills in the service, stack, and parent for you, so we don’t need to worry about them for now.

# Service name (a combination of lower case letters, numbers, and dashes)
name: Demo:0.0.1

# The language stack to use
stack: python

# Parent Image
parent: NStack.Python:0.24.0

api: |
  numChars : Text -> Integer

We’re going to focus on the api section, where you tell NStack which of the functions in your service.py you want to turn into functions on NStack, and their input and output schemas (also known as types).


The schema – or type – system is a key feature of NStack that lets you define the sort of data your function can take as input, and produce as output. This helps you ensure that your module can be reused and works as intended in production.

In this instance, we want to expose one function, numChars, which takes Text and returns an Integer.

Step 2: build

To build and publish our module on NStack, we use the build command.

~/demo> nstack build
Building NStack Container module demo. Please wait. This may take some time.
Module demo built successfully. Use `nstack list functions` to see all available functions

When we run this, the code in the directory is packaged up and sent to the server, where NStack transforms it into a module.


Learn more about how NStack packages and runs your module using containers in the Architecture section.

We can check that our numChars function is live by running the suggested nstack list functions command:

~/Demo> nstack list functions
Demo.numChars : Text -> Integer

Now that our numChars function is live on NStack, we can productionise it by connecting it to input and output data. We do this by attaching it to an event source and an event sink using NStack’s Workflow Language.

Advanced: Framework Modules

You may want to create a common parent module that has lots of complex dependencies already installed, either to save time or for standardisation. NStack supports this with _Framework Modules_. Simply create a new module similar to above, nstack init framework [parent], and modify the resulting nstack.yaml as needed.

You can then build this module using nstack build, and refer to it within your future modules within the parent field of their nstack.yaml config file.