1 unstable release

0.1.0 Nov 22, 2023

#2 in #blockstream

29 downloads per month

MIT license


Blockstream Greenlight

Read the Documentation Crates.io

This repository contains everything to get you started with Blockstream Greenlight, your self-sovereign Lightning node in the cloud.

greenlight exposes a number of services over grpc allowing applications to integrate, and users to manage and control their node running on our infrastructure. The protocol buffers files are provided as well as a number of language bindings for easier integration.

The core two services currently exposed are:

  • The scheduler which allows users and applications to register new accounts, recover accounts based on the seed secret used to create the account, schedule their node on our infrastructure and looking up already scheduled nodes. Scheduling returns a grpc URI where the node itself can be reached.
  • The node represents the scheduled user node running, and is used to interact with the c-lightning instance. It can be used to send and receive payments, manage channels and liquidity.

The application can have two possible roles:

  • Remote control: the application can authenticate as a user and can interact with its node to receive payments, initiate payments, manage channels and funds.
  • Key manager: the application has access to the secret keys that are necessary to sign off on actions initiated by a remote control, or as a reaction to some state change on the node. This usually involves running a part of c-lightning called the hsmd and is the binary portion of the language bindings in this repository.

An application can implement either one or both of these roles at the same time. Particular care has to be taken when implementing the key manager role, but only one application implementing this role must be present at a time, freeing others from that duty.

Getting started

The following is a quick walkthrough based on the python glcli command line tool to get you started:

Install and updating glcli and python API

There are prebuilt glcli and gl-client-py packages on a private repository. These allow developers to hit a running start, without having to bother with compiling the binary extensions.

pip install -U gl-client
pip install --extra-index-url=https://us-west2-python.pkg.dev/c-lightning/greenlight-pypi/simple/ -U glcli

Should you encounter any issues with the installation it is likely due to there not being a prebuilt version of the gl-client-py library. Please refer to its documentation on how to build the library from source, and let us know your platform so we can add it to our build system if possible.

Register / recover an account

Registration and recovery are managed by the scheduler, hence the scheduler prefix in the following commands.

$ glcli scheduler register --network=testnet
  "device_cert": "-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----\n...\n-----END CERTIFICATE-----\n\n\n",
  "device_key": "-----BEGIN PRIVATE KEY-----\n...\n-----END PRIVATE KEY-----\n"

This returns an mTLS certificate and a matching private key that is used to authenticate and authorize the application with the services. These should be stored on the device and be used for all future communication. In particular, nodes will only accept incoming connections that are authenticated with the user's certificate. In order to register as a new user a signature from the key manager is required.

The recovery process is also based on the key manager providing a signature:

$ glcli scheduler recover
  "device_cert": "-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----\n...\n-----END CERTIFICATE-----\n\n\n",
  "device_key": "-----BEGIN PRIVATE KEY-----\n...\n-----END PRIVATE KEY-----\n"

This too provides a certificate and a matching private key that can be used to authenticate and authorize the application.


While glcli takes care of scheduling the node automatically if another command is provided, when implementing the client this must be done as a separate step:

$ glcli scheduler schedule
  "grpc_uri": "",
  "node_id": "A27DtykCS7EjvnlUCB0yjrSMz4KSN4kGOo0Hm2Gd+lbi"

Notice that protocol buffers encode binary values using base64, which is why the node_id isn't hex encoded. The node can now be reached directly at the provided URI. Notice that glcli will automatically look up the current location:

$ glcli getinfo
  "addresses": [],
  "alias": "LATENTGLEE",
  "blockheight": 2003446,
  "color": "A27D",
  "network": "testnet",
  "node_id": "A27DtykCS7EjvnlUCB0yjrSMz4KSN4kGOo0Hm2Gd+lbi",
  "num_peers": 0,
  "version": "0.10.0"

In order to attach the hsmd to the node run the following:

$ glcli hsmd 
[2021-06-07 18:38:02,574 - DEBUG] Found existing hsm_secret file, loading secret from it
[2021-06-07 18:38:02,575 - DEBUG] Initializing libhsmd with secret
[2021-06-07 18:38:02,583 - DEBUG] libhsmd initialized for node_id=036ec3b729024bb123be7954081d328eb48ccf82923789063a8d079b619dfa56e2
[2021-06-07 18:38:02,584 - DEBUG] Contacting scheduler at to wait for the node to be scheduled.
[2021-06-07 18:38:02,594 - DEBUG] Waiting for node 036ec3b729024bb123be7954081d328eb48ccf82923789063a8d079b619dfa56e2 to be scheduled
[2021-06-07 18:38:03,229 - INFO] Node was scheduled at, opening direct connection
[2021-06-07 18:38:03,230 - DEBUG] Streaming HSM requests

Not all commands require the hsmd to be running, however it is good practice to have it running in parallel with other commands being executed. Future versions of glcli will automatically spawn an instance if needed by the command in question.

From hereon the node can be managed just as if it were a local node, including sending and receiving on-chain transactions, sending and receiving off-chain transactions, opening and closing channels, etc.

glcli --help
Usage: glcli [OPTIONS] COMMAND [ARGS]...

  --help  Show this message and exit.

  hsmd         Run the hsmd against the scheduler.

Best practices

Secret generation

The language bindings expect a 32 byte securely generated secret from which all private keys and secrets are generated. This secret must be kept safe on the user device, and under no circumstances should be stored on the application server, as it controls the user funds. When generating the seed secret ensure that the source of randomness is suitable for cryptographically secure random numbers!

In order to guarantee portability, the seed should be generated according with the BIP 39 standard, and show the mnemonic during the creation so they can initialize other client applications with the same secret. The mnemonic should not be shown afterwards.


greenlight currently supports 3 networks: bitcoin, testnet and regtest. We suggest mostly using testnet for testing. We plan to open up our regtest and add signet in the near future to make testing simpler as well, but the public testnet should serve that purpose well for now. Keep in mind that the testnet can sometimes be a bit flaky, and the lightning network running on testnet is not the best maintained, expect bitcoin to perform better 🙂


Scheduled nodes are preempted after some minutes of inactivity. The timer can be reset by performing any interaction, except attaching the key device. This is to conserve server resources, reflect that the node can't do much without a key manager attached, and provide our operational team the flexibility to take down nodes for maintenance. There is currently no absolute deadline by which nodes are shut down, however keep in mind that that might eventually become necessary if applications just keep nodes alive indefinitely.


Currently the environment consists of a single cluster in us-west2, with both scheduler and nodes in this region. We plan to implement geo-load-balancing of the nodes (and associated databases) and thus considerably reduce the roundtrip times from the rest of the world.

Currently the roundtrip times can be relatively high from more distant regions, and an mTLS handshake requires multiple roundtrips the first time (parts of the handshake can be cached in memory and skipped on reconnects). This is only temporary until geo-load-balancing gets rolled out.

To minimize the overhead of the mTLS handshake it is suggested to keep the grpc connections open and reuse them whenever possible.



~1M SLoC