Plugin system

GoShimmer is a complex application that is used in a research environment where requirements often changed and new ideas arise. The Plugin system allows to quickly and easily add and remove modules that need to be started. However, one thing that might be non-intuitive about the use of plugins is that it's taken to an extreme - everything is run through plugins. The only code that is not executed through a plugin system is the code responsible for configuring and starting the plugins. All new future features added to the GoShimmer must be added by creating a new plugin.

Plugin structure

Plugin structure is defined as following.

type Plugin struct {
	Node   *Node
	Name   string
	Status int
	Events pluginEvents
	wg     *sync.WaitGroup

Below is a brief description of each field:

  • Node - contains a pointer to Node object which contains references to all the plugins and node-level logger. #TODO: figure out why it is there - not really used anywhere
  • Name - descriptive name of the plugin.
  • Status - flag indicating whether plugin is enabled or disabled.
  • Events - structure containing events used to properly deploy the plugin. Details described below.
  • wg - a private field containing WaitGroup. #TODO: figure out why it is there - not really used anywhere

Plugin events

Each plugin defines 3 events: Init, Configure, Run. Those events are triggered during different stages of node startup, but the plugin doesn't have to define handlers for all of those events in order to do what it's been designed for. Execution order and purpose of each event is described below:

  1. Init - is triggered almost immediately after a node is started. It's used in plugins that are critical for GoShimmer such as reading config file or initializing global logger. Most plugins don't need to use this event.
  2. Configure - this event is used to configure the plugin before it is started. It is used to define events related to internal plugin logic or initialize objects used by the plugin.
  3. Run - this event is triggered as the last one. The event handler function contains the main logic of the plugin. For many plugins, the event handler function creates a separate worker that works in the background, so that the handler function for one plugin can finish and allow other plugins to be started.

Each event could potentially have more than one handler, however currently all existing plugins follow a convention where each event has only one handler.

It is important to note that each event is triggered for all plugins sequentially, so that the event Init is triggered for all plugins, then Configure is triggered for all plugins and finally Run. Such order is crucial, because some plugins rely on other plugins' initialization or configuration. The order in which plugins are initialized, configured and run is also important and this is described below.

Handler functions for all plugin events share the same interface, so they could potentially be used interchangeably. Sample handler functions look like this:

func configure(_ *node.Plugin) {
    // configure stuff

func run(*node.Plugin) { 
    // run plugin	

The handler functions receive one argument of type *Plugin. The code responsible for triggering those events passes a pointer to the plugin object itself. The object needs to be passed so that the handler function can access plugin fields (e.g. plugin name to configure logger).

Creating new plugin

A plugin object can be created by calling the node.NewPlugin method. The method creates and returns a new plugin object, as well as registers it so that GoShimmer knows the plugin is available. It accepts the following arguments:

  • name string - plugin name.
  • status int - flag indicating whether plugin is enabled or disabled by default. This can be overridden by enabling/disabling the plugin in the external configuration file. Possible values: node.Enabled, node.Disabled.
  • callbacks ...Callback - list of event handler functions. The method will correctly create a plugin when passing up to 2 callbacks. Note: type Callback = func(plugin *Plugin), which is a raw function type without being wrapped in events.Closure.

There is a couple of ways that the method can be called, depending on which plugin events need to be configured.

  • Define Configure and Run event handlers. It's the most common usage that plugins currently use.
plugin = node.NewPlugin(PluginName, node.Enabled, configure, run)
  • Define only Configure event. It's used for plugins that are used to configure objects used (or managed) by other plugins, such as creating API endpoints.
plugin = node.NewPlugin(PluginName, node.Enabled, configure)
  • Define a plugin without Configure or Run event handlers. This is used to create plugins that perform some action when the Init event is triggered.
plugin = node.NewPlugin(PluginName, node.Enabled)

However, the Init event handler cannot be attached using the node.NewPlugin method. In order to specify this handler, plugin creator needs to attach it manually to the event, for example inside the package's init() method in the file containing the rest of the plugin definition.

func init() {
	plugin.Events.Init.Attach(events.NewClosure(func(*node.Plugin) {
		// do something

It's important to note, that the node.NewPlugin accepts handler functions in a raw format, that is, without being wrapped by the events.Closure object as the method does the wrapping inside. However, when attaching the Init event handler manually, it must be wrapped by the events.Closure object.

It's crucial that each plugin is created only once and sync.Once class is used to guarantee that. Contents of a file containing sample plugin definition is presented. All plugins follow this format.

const PluginName = "SamplePlugin"

var (
	// plugin is the plugin instance of the new plugin plugin.
	plugin     *node.Plugin
	pluginOnce sync.Once

// Plugin gets the plugin instance.
func Plugin() *node.Plugin {
	pluginOnce.Do(func() {
		plugin = node.NewPlugin(PluginName, node.Enabled, configure, run)
	return plugin

// Handler functions
func init() {
    plugin.Events.Init.Attach(events.NewClosure(func(*node.Plugin) {
        // do something
func configure(_ *node.Plugin) {
    // configure stuff

func run(*node.Plugin) {
    // run stuff	

Running new plugin

In order to correctly add a new plugin to GoShimmer, apart from defining it, it must also be passed to the node.Run method. Because there are plenty of plugins, in order to improve readability and make managing plugins easier, they are grouped into separate wrappers passed to the node.Run method. When adding a new plugin, it must be added into one of those groups, or a new group must be created.


You can add a plugin simply by calling the Plugin() method of the newly created plugin and passing the argument further. An example group definition is presented below. When it's added, the plugin is correctly added and will be run when GoShimmer starts.

var Core = node.Plugins(
    // other plugins ommited 

Background workers

In order to run plugins beyond the scope of the short-lived Run event handler, possibly multiple daemon.BackgroundWorker instances can be started inside the handler function. This allows the Run event handler to finish quickly, and the plugin logic can continue running concurrently in a separate goroutine.

Background worker can be started by running the daemon.BackgroundWorker method, which accepts following arguments:

  • name string - background worker name
  • handler WorkerFunc - long-running function that will be started in its own goroutine. It accepts a single argument of type <-chan struct{}. When something is sent to that channel, the worker will shut down. Note: type WorkerFunc = func(shutdownSignal <-chan struct{})
  • order - value used to define in which shutdown order this particular background worker must be shut down (higher = earlier). The parameter can either accept one or zero values, more values will be ignored. When passing zero values, default value of 0 is assumed. Values are normalized in the package, and it should be used instead of passing integers manually. Correct shutdown order is as important as correct start order, because different plugins depend on others working correctly, so when one plugin shuts down too soon, other plugins may run into errors, crash and leave an incorrect state.

An example code for creating a background worker:

func start(shutdownSignal <-chan struct{}) {
	// long-running function
	// possibly start goroutines here
	// wait for shutdown signal

if err := daemon.BackgroundWorker(backgroundWorkerName, start, shutdown.PriorityGossip); err != nil {
	log.Panicf("Failed to start as daemon: %s", err)