Manta: Triton's object storage and converged analytics solution

Manta, Triton's object storage and converged analytics solution, is a highly scalable, distributed object storage service with integrated compute that enables the creation of analytics jobs (more generally, compute jobs) which process and transform data at rest. Developers can store and process any amount of data at any time where a simple web API call replaces the need for spinning up instances. Manta compute is a complete and high performance compute environment including R, Python, node.js, Perl, Ruby, Java, C/C++, ffmpeg, grep, awk and others. Metering is by the second with zero provisioning, data movement or scheduling latency costs.

This page describes the service and how to get started. You can also skip straight to some compute examples.


Some features of the service include

Some Use Cases

There are a number of use cases that become possible when you have a facility for running compute jobs directly on object storage nodes.

These are all possible without having to download or move your data to other instances. For more examples, see the Job Examples and Patterns page.

Real-world systems

These are systems that customers and Joyent engineers have built on top of Manta.

Sign Up

To use Triton's object storage, you need a Triton Public Cloud account. If you don't already have an account, you can create one at You will not be charged for object storage until you use it.

Once you have signed up, you will need to add an SSH public key to your account. Joyent recommends using RSA keys, as the node-manta CLI programs will work with RSA keys both locally, and with the ssh agent. DSA keys will only work if the private key is on the same system as the CLI, and not password-protected.

An Integral Part of the Triton Public Cloud

The Triton object storage service is just one of a family of services. Triton Public Cloud services range from instances in our standard Persistent Compute Service (metered by the hour, month, or year) to our ephemeral Manta compute service (by the second). All are designed to seamlessly work with our Object Storage and Data Services.

Getting Started

This tutorial assumes you've signed up for a Joyent account and have an RSA public SSH key added to your account. We will cover installing the node.js SDK and CLI, setting up your shell environment variables, and then working through examples of creating directories, objects, links and finally running compute jobs on your data.

The CLI is the only tool used in these examples, and the instructions assume you're doing this from a Mac OS X, SmartOS, Linux or BSD system, and know how to use SSH and a terminal application such as It helps to be familiar with basic Unix facilities like the shells, pipes, stdin, and stdout.

Using the Mac OS X installer

If you do not have node.js installed you can use the complete installer for Mac. This installer installs node.js 0.10.x, npm, node-manta and smartdc.

OS X Installer

If You Have node.js Installed

If you have at least node.js 0.8.x installed (0.10.x is recommended) you can install the CLI and SDK from an npm package. All of the examples below work with both node.js 0.8.x and 0.10.x.

sudo npm install manta -g

Additionally, as the API is JSON-based, the examples will refer to the json tool, which helps put JSON output in a more human readable format. You can install from npm:

sudo npm install json -g

Lastly, and while optional, if you want to use verbose debug logging with the SDK, you will want bunyan:

sudo npm install bunyan -g

Setting Up Your Environment

While you can specify command line switches to all of the node-manta CLI programs, it is significantly easier for you to set them globally in your environment. There are four environment variables that all command line tools look for:

Copy all of the text below, and paste it into your ~/.bash_profile or ~/.bashrc.

export MANTA_URL=
unset MANTA_SUBUSER # Unless you have subusers
export MANTA_KEY_ID=$(ssh-keygen -l -f $HOME/.ssh/ | awk '{print $2}')

An easy way to do this in Mac OS X, is to copy the text, then use the pbpaste command to add the text in the clipboard to your file. like this:

pbpaste >> ~/.bash_profile

Edit the ~/.bash_profile or ~/.bashrc file, replacing $TRITON_CLOUD_USER_NAME with your Triton Public Cloud username.


source ~/.bash_profile


source ~/.bashrc

or restart your terminal to pick up the changes you made to ~/.bash_profile or ~/.bashrc.

Everything works if typing mls /$MANTA_USER/ returns the top level contents.


The shortcut ~~ is equivalent to typing /$MANTA_USER. Since many operations require full Manta paths, you'll find it useful. We will use it for the remainder of this document.

mls ~~/


This Getting Started guide uses command line tools that are Manta analogs of common Unix tools (e.g. mls == ls). You can find man pages for these tools in the CLI Utilities Reference

Create Data

Now that you've signed up, have the CLI and have your environment variables set, you are ready to create data. In this section we will create an object, a subdirectory for you to place another object in, and create a SnapLink to one of those objects. These examples are written so that you can copy from here wherever you see a $ and paste directly into

If you're the kind of person who likes understanding "what all this is" before going through examples, you can read about the Storage Architecture in the Object Storage Reference. Feel free to pause here, go read that, and then come right back to this point.


Objects are the main entity you will use. An object is non-interpreted data of any size that you read and write to the store. Objects are immutable. You cannot append to them or edit them in place. When you overwrite an object, you completely replace it.

By default, objects are replicated to two physical servers, but you can specify between one and six copies, depending on your needs. You will be charged for the number of bytes you consume, so specifying one copy is half the price of two, with the trade-off being a decrease in potential durability and availability.

When you write an object, you give it a name. Object names (keys) look like Unix file paths. This is how you would create an object named ~~/stor/hello-foo that contains the data in the file hello.txt:

echo "Hello, Manta" > /tmp/hello.txt
$ mput -f /tmp/hello.txt ~~/stor/hello-foo
.../stor/hello-foo    [==========================>] 100%      13B

$ mget ~~/stor/hello-foo
Hello, Manta

The service fully supports streaming uploads, so piping the classic "Treasure Island" would also work:

curl -sL | \
    mput -H 'content-type: text/plain' ~~/stor/treasure_island.txt

In the example above, we don't have a local file, so mput doesn't attempt to set the MIME type. To make sure our object is properly readable by a browser, we set the HTTP Content-Type header explicitly.

Now, about ~~/stor. Your "namespace" is /:login/stor. This is where all of your data that you would like to keep private is stored. In a moment we'll make some directories, but you can create any number of objects and directories in this namespace without conflicting with other users.

In addition to /:login/stor, there is also /:login/public, which allows for unauthenticated reads over HTTP and HTTPS. This directory is useful for you to host world-readable files, such as media assets you would use in a CDN.


All objects can be stored in Unix-like directories. As you have seen, /:login/stor is the top level directory. You can logically think of it like / in Unix environments. You can create any number of directories and sub-directories, but there is a limit to how many entries can exist in a single directory, which is 1,000,000 entries. In addition to /:login/stor, there are a few other top-level "directories" that are available to you.

/:login/jobsJob reports. Only you can read and destroy them; it is written by the system only.
/:login/publicPublic object storage. Anyone can access objects in this directory and its subdirectories. Only you can create and destroy them.
/:login/reportsUsage and Access log reports. Only you can read and destroy them; it is written by the system only.
/:login/storPrivate object storage. Only you can create, destroy, and access objects in this directory and its subdirectories.

Directories are useful when you want to logically group objects (or other directories) and be able to list them efficiently (including feeding all the objects in a directory into parallelized compute jobs). Here are a few examples of creating, listing, and deleting directories:

mmkdir ~~/stor/stuff
$ mls
$ mls ~~/stor/stuff
$ mls -l ~~/stor
drwxr-xr-x 1 loginname             0 May 15 17:02 stuff
-rwxr-xr-x 1 loginname        391563 May 15 16:48 treasure_island.txt
$ mmkdir -p ~~/stor/stuff/foo/bar/baz
$ mrmdir ~~/stor/stuff/foo/bar/baz
$ mrm -r ~~/stor/stuff

SnapLinks are a concept unique to the Manta service. SnapLinks are similar to a Unix hard-link, and because the system is "copy on write," data changes are not reflected in the SnapLink. This property makes SnapLinks a very powerful entity that allows you to create any number of alternate names and versioning schemes that you like.

As a concrete example, note what the following sequence of steps creates in the objects foo and bar:

echo "Object One" | mput ~~/stor/original
$ mln ~~/stor/original ~~/stor/moved
$ mget ~~/stor/moved
Object One
$ mget ~~/stor/original
Object One
$ echo "Object Two" | mput ~~/stor/original
$ mget ~~/stor/original
Object Two
$ mget ~~/stor/moved
Object One

As another example, while the service does not allow a "move" operation, you can mimic a move with SnapLinks:

mmkdir ~~/stor/books
$ mln ~~/stor/treasure_island.txt ~~/stor/books/treasure_island.txt
$ mrm ~~/stor/treasure_island.txt
$ mls ~~/stor
$ mls ~~/stor/books

Running Compute on Data

You have now seen how to work with objects, directories, and SnapLinks. Now it is time to do some text processing.

The jobs facility is designed to support operations on an arbitrary number of arbitrarily large objects. While performance considerations may dictate the optimal object size, the system can scale to very large datasets.

You perform arbitrary compute tasks in an isolated OS instance, using MapReduce to manage distributed processing. MapReduce is a technique for dividing work across distributed servers, and dramatically reduces network bandwidth as the code you want to run on objects is brought to the physical server that holds the object(s), rather than transferring data to a processing host.

The MapReduce implementation is unique in that you are given a full OS environment that allows you to run any code, as opposed to being bound to a particular framework/language. To demonstrate this, we will compose a MapReduce job purely using traditional Unix command line tools in the following examples.

Upload some datasets

First, let's get a few more books into our data collection so we're processing more than one file:

curl -sL | \
    mput -H 'content-type: text/plain' ~~/stor/books/sherlock_holmes.txt
$ curl -sL | \
    mput -H 'content-type: text/plain' ~~/stor/books/huck_finn.txt
$ curl -sL | \
    mput -H 'content-type: text/plain' ~~/stor/books/moby_dick.txt
$ curl -sL | \
    mput -H 'content-type: text/plain' ~~/stor/books/dracula.txt

Now, just to be sure you've got the same 5 files (and to learn about mfind), run the following:

mfind ~~/stor/books

mfind is powerful like Unix find, in that you specify a starting point and use basic regular expressions to match on names. This is another way to list the names of all the objects (-t o) that end in txt:

mfind -t o -n 'txt$' ~~/stor

Basic Example

Here's an example job that counts the number of times the word "vampire" appears in Dracula.

echo ~~/stor/books/dracula.txt | mjob create -o -m "grep -ci vampire"
added 1 input to 7b39e12b-bb87-42a7-8c5f-deb9727fc362

This command instructs the system to run grep -ci vampire on ~~/stor/books/dracula.txt. The -o flag tells mjob create to wait for the job to complete and then fetch and print the contents of the output objects. In this example, the result is 32.

In more detail: this command creates a job to run the user script grep -ci vampire on each input object and then submits ~~/stor/books/dracula.txt as the only input to the job. The name of the job is (in this case) 7b39e12b-bb87-42a7-8c5f-deb9727fc362. When the job completes, the result is placed in an output object, which you can see with the mjob outputs command:

mjob outputs 7b39e12b-bb87-42a7-8c5f-deb9727fc362

The output of the user script is in the contents of the output object:

mget $(mjob outputs 7b39e12b-bb87-42a7-8c5f-deb9727fc362)

You can use a similar invocation to run the same job on all of the objects under ~~/stor/books:

mfind -t o ~~/stor/books | mjob create -o -m "grep -ci human"
added 5 inputs to 69219541-fdab-441f-97f3-3317ef2c48c0

In this example, the system runs 5 invocations of grep. Each of these is called a task. Each task produces one output, and the job itself winds up with 5 separate outputs.

When searching for strings of text you need to put them inside single quotes

echo ~~/stor/books/treasure_island.txt | mjob create -o -m "grep -ci 'you would be very wrong'"
added 1 input to 67cf98ac-063a-4e86-861a-b9a8ebc3618d


If the grep command exits with a non-zero status (as grep does when it finds no matches in the input stream) or fails in some other way (e.g., dumps core), You'll see an error instead of an output object. You can get details on the error, including a link to stdout, stderr, and the core file (if any), using the mjob errors command.

mfind -t o ~~/stor/books | mjob create -o -m "grep -ci vampires"
added 5 inputs to ef797aef-6254-4936-95a0-8b73414ff2f4
mjob: error: job ef797aef-6254-4936-95a0-8b73414ff2f4 had 4 errors

In this job, the four errors do not represent actual failures, but just objects with no match, so we can safely ignore them and look only at the output objects.

And this last one should have 5 "errors"

mfind -t o ~~/stor/books | mjob create -o -m "grep -ci tweets"
added 5 inputs to ae47972a-c893-433a-a55f-b97ce643ffc0
mjob: error: job ae47972a-c893-433a-a55f-b97ce643ffc0 had 5 errors

Multiple phases and reduce tasks

We've just described the "map" phase of traditional map-reduce computations. The "map" phase performs the same computation on each of the input objects. The reduce phase typically combines the outputs from the map phase to produce a single output.

One of the earlier examples computed the number of times the word "human" appeared in each book. We can use a simple awk script in the reduce phase to get the total number the of times "human" appears in all the books.

mfind -t o ~~/stor/books | \
        mjob create -o -m "grep -ci human" -r "awk '{s+=\$1} END{print s}'"
added 5 inputs to 12edb303-e481-4a39-b1c0-97d893ce0927

This job has two phases: the map phase runs grep -ci human on each input object, then the reduce phase runs the awk script on the concatenated output from the first phase. awk '{s+=$1} END {print s}' sums a list of numbers, so it sums the list of numbers that come out of the first phase. You can combine several map and reduce phases. The outputs of any non-final phases become inputs for the next phase, and the outputs of the final phase become job outputs.

While map phases always create one task for each input, reduce phases have a fixed number of tasks (just one by default). While map tasks get the contents of the input object on stdin as well as in a local file, reduce tasks only get a concatenated stream of all inputs. The inputs may be combined in any order, but data from separate inputs are never interleaved.

In the next example, we'll also introduce an alternative ^ and ^^ to the -m and -r flags, and see the first appearance of maggr.

Run a MapReduce Job to calculate the average word count

Now we have 5 classic novels uploaded, on which we can perform some basic data analysis using nothing but Unix utilities. Let's first just see what the "average" length is (by number of words), which we can do using just the standard wc and the maggr command.

mfind -t o ~~/stor/books | mjob create -o 'wc -w' ^^ 'maggr mean'
added 5 inputs to 69b747da-e636-4146-8bca-84b883ca2a8c

Let's break down what just happened in that magical one-liner. First, we'll look at the mjob create command. mjob create -o submits a new job, and then waits for the job to finish, then fetches and concatenates the outputs for you, which is very useful for interactive ad-hoc queries. 'wc -w' ^^ 'maggr mean' is a MapReduce definition that defines a 'map' "phase" of wc -w, and a reduce "phase" of maggr mean. maggr is one of several tools we have in the compute instances that mirror similar Unix tools.

A "phase" is simply a command (or chain of commands) to execute on data. There are two types of phases: map and reduce. Map phases run the given command on every input object and stream the output to the next phase, which may be another map phase, or likely a reduce phase. Reduce phases are run once, and concatenate all data output from the previous phase.

The system runs your map-reduce commands by invoking them in a new bash shell. By default your input data is available to your shell over stdin, and if you simply write output data to stdout, it is captured and moved to the next phase (this is how almost all standard Unix utilities work).

mjob create uses the symbols ^ and ^^ to act like the standard Unix | (pipe) operator. The single ^ character indicates that the following command is part of the map phase. The double ^^ indicates that the following command is a reduce phase.

In this syntax, the first phase is always a map phase. So the string 'wc -w' ^^ 'maggr mean', means "execute wc -w on all objects given to the job" and "then run maggr mean on the data output from wc -w." maggr is a basic math utility function that is part of the compute environment.

The above command could also have been written as:

mfind -t o ~~/stor/books | \
  mjob create -o 'wc -w' ^^ 'paste -sd+ | echo "($(cat -))/$(mjob inputs $MANTA_JOB_ID | wc -l)" | bc'

Which would create a mathematical string that bc can use that sums and then calculates the average by dividing by the number of inputs (which is retrieved dynamically).

Running Jobs Using Assets

Although the compute facility provides a full Joyent SmartOS environment, your jobs may require special software, additional configuration information, or any other static file that is useful. You can make these available as assets, which are objects that are copied into the compute environment when your job is run.

For example suppose you want to do a word frequency count using shell scripts that contain your map and reduce logic. We can do this with two awk scripts, so let's write them and upload them as assets. outputs a mapping of word to occurrence, like hello 10:

#!/usr/bin/nawk -f
    for (i = 1; i <= NF; i++) {
} END {
    for (i in counts) {
        print i, counts[i];

Copy the above and paste into a file named, or if you are on Mac OS X, you can use the command below

pbpaste > simply combines the output of all the map outputs:

#!/usr/bin/nawk -f
    byword[$1] += $2;
} END {
    for (i in byword) {
        print i, byword[i]

Copy the above and paste into a file named, or if you are on Mac OS X, you can use the command below

pbpaste >

To make the scripts available as assets, first store them in the service.

mput -f ~~/stor/
$ mput -f ~~/stor/

Then use the -s switch to specify and use them in a job:

mfind -t o ~~/stor/books |
    mjob create -o -s ~~/stor/ \
    -m '/assets/$MANTA_USER/stor/' \
    -s ~~/stor/ \
    -r '/assets/$MANTA_USER/stor/ | sort -k2,2 -n'

You'll see a trailing output like

    a 13451
    to 14979
    of 15314
    and 21338
    the 32241

If you'd like to see how long this takes

time mfind -t o ~~/stor/books |
    mjob create -o -s ~~/stor/ \
            -m '/assets/$MANTA_USER/stor/' \
            -s ~~/stor/ \
            -r '/assets/$MANTA_USER/stor/ | sort -k2,2 -n'

The time output at the end will look like

    real    0m7.942s
    user    0m1.324s
    sys     0m0.169s

Note that assets are made available to you in the compute environment under the path /assets/$MANTA_USER/stor/.... A more sophisticated program would likely use a list of stopwords to get rid of common words like "and, the" and so on, which could also be mapped in as an asset.

Advanced Usage

This introduction gave you a basic overview of Manta storage service: how to work with objects and how to use the system's compute environment to operate on those objects. The system provides many more sophisticated features, including:

Let take you through some simple examples of running node.js applications directly on the object store. We'll be using some assets that are present in the mantademo account. This is also a good example how you can run compute with and on data people have made available in their ~~/public directories.

We'll start with a "Hello,Manta" demo using node.js, you can see the script with an mget:

mget /mantademo/public/hello-manta-node.js

Now let's create a job using the what we talked about above in the Running Jobs Using Assets section. We're going to start by both something that's "obvious" and won't work.

mjob create -s /mantademo/public/hello-manta-node.js -m "node /mantademo/public/hello-manta-node.js"
  30706a6b-6386-495b-9657-8a572b99d4f8  [this is a unique JOB ID]

$ mjob get 30706a6b-6386-495b-9657-8a572b99d4f8 [replace with your actual JOB ID]

      "id": "30706a6b-6386-495b-9657-8a572b99d4f8",
      "name": "",
      "state": "running",
      "cancelled": false,
      "inputDone": false,
      "stats": {
                "errors": 0,
                "outputs": 0,
                "retries": 0,
                "tasks": 0,
                "tasksDone": 0
      "timeCreated": "2013-06-16T19:47:30.610Z",
      "phases": [
                   "assets": [
                   "exec": "node /mantademo/public/hello-manta-node.js",
                   "type": "map"
      "options": {}

The inputDone field is "false" because we asked mjob to create a map phase, which requires at least one key, but we did not provide any keys. It's sort of an artifact of the hello world example and makes a important point.

Let's cancel this job, in fact, let's cancel all jobs so we can clean up anything we've left running from the examples above.

mjob list -s running | xargs mjob cancel

This also highlights that any CLI tool is normal Unix. The following two commands are equivalent.

mjob get `mjob list`

$ mjob list | xargs mjob get

Back to the node.js example, if we pipe the hello-manta-node.js in as a key and do it as a map phase with the -m flag:

echo /mantademo/public/hello-manta-node.js | mjob create -o -m "node"
  added 1 input to e7711dda-caac-412f-9355-61c8006819ae

We can also do this as a reduce phase (using the -r flag). Reduce phases always run, even without keys.

mjob create -o </dev/null -s /mantademo/public/hello-manta-node.js \
              -r "node /assets/mantademo/public/hello-manta-node.js"

The flag -o </dev/null is that so that we're redirecting from /dev/null and mjob create knows to not attempt to read any additional keys.

Now let's take it up one more level. You can see what's inside a simple node.js application that capitalizes all the text in an input file.

mget /mantademo/public/capitalizer.js

  #!/usr/bin/env node
    process.stdin.on('data', function(d) {
      process.stdout.write(d.toString().replace(/\./g, '!').toUpperCase());

$ mget /mantademo/public/manta-desc.txt

  Joyent Manta Storage Service is a cloud service that offers both a highly
  available, highly durable object store and integrated compute. Application
  developers can store and process any amount of data at any time, from any
  location, without requiring additional compute resources.

$ echo /mantademo/public/manta-desc.txt | mjob create -o -s /mantademo/public/capitalizer.js -m 'node /assets/mantademo/public/capitalizer.js'
  added 1 input to 2aa8a0a9-92e9-47f3-8b66-acf2a22d25a8

For more details compute jobs see the Compute Jobs Reference documentation, along with the default installed software and some of our built-in compute utilities.