Deploy a guest executable to Service Fabric

You can run any type of application, such as Node.js, Java, or native applications in Azure Service Fabric. Service Fabric refers to these types of applications as guest executables. Guest executables are treated by Service Fabric like stateless services. As a result, they are placed on nodes in a cluster, based on availability and other metrics. This article describes how to package and deploy a guest executable to a Service Fabric cluster, by using Visual Studio or a command-line utility.

In this article, we cover the steps to package a guest executable and deploy it to Service Fabric.

Benefits of running a guest executable in Service Fabric

There are several advantages to running a guest executable in a Service Fabric cluster:

  • High availability. Applications that run in Service Fabric are made highly available. Service Fabric ensures that instances of an application are running.
  • Health monitoring. Service Fabric health monitoring detects if an application is running, and provides diagnostic information if there is a failure.
  • Application lifecycle management. Besides providing upgrades with no downtime, Service Fabric provides automatic rollback to the previous version if there is a bad health event reported during an upgrade.
  • Density. You can run multiple applications in a cluster, which eliminates the need for each application to run on its own hardware.


Overview of application and service manifest files

As part of deploying a guest executable, it is useful to understand the Service Fabric packaging and deployment model as described in application model. The Service Fabric packaging model relies on two XML files: the application and service manifests. The schema definition for the ApplicationManifest.xml and ServiceManifest.xml files is installed with the Service Fabric SDK into C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Service Fabric\schemas\ServiceFabricServiceModel.xsd.

  • Application manifest The application manifest is used to describe the application. It lists the services that compose it, and other parameters that are used to define how one or more services should be deployed, such as the number of instances.

    In Service Fabric, an application is a unit of deployment and upgrade. An application can be upgraded as a single unit where potential failures and potential rollbacks are managed. Service Fabric guarantees that the upgrade process is either successful, or, if the upgrade fails, does not leave the application in an unknown or unstable state.

  • Service manifest The service manifest describes the components of a service. It includes data, such as the name and type of service, and its code and configuration. The service manifest also includes some additional parameters that can be used to configure the service once it is deployed.

Application package file structure

To deploy an application to Service Fabric, the application should follow a predefined directory structure. The following is an example of that structure.

|-- ApplicationPackageRoot
    |-- GuestService1Pkg
        |-- Code
            |-- existingapp.exe
        |-- Config
            |-- Settings.xml
        |-- Data
        |-- ServiceManifest.xml
    |-- ApplicationManifest.xml

The ApplicationPackageRoot contains the ApplicationManifest.xml file that defines the application. A subdirectory for each service included in the application is used to contain all the artifacts that the service requires. These subdirectories are the ServiceManifest.xml and, typically, the following:

  • Code. This directory contains the service code.
  • Config. This directory contains a Settings.xml file (and other files if necessary) that the service can access at runtime to retrieve specific configuration settings.
  • Data. This is an additional directory to store additional local data that the service may need. Data should be used to store only ephemeral data. Service Fabric does not copy or replicate changes to the data directory if the service needs to be relocated (for example, during failover).

You don't have to create the config and data directories if you don't need them.

Package an existing executable

When packaging a guest executable, you can choose either to use a Visual Studio project template or to create the application package manually. Using Visual Studio, the application package structure and manifest files are created by the new project template for you.


The easiest way to package an existing Windows executable into a service is to use Visual Studio.

Use Visual Studio to package an existing executable

Visual Studio provides a Service Fabric service template to help you deploy a guest executable to a Service Fabric cluster.

  1. Choose File > New Project, and create a Service Fabric application.
  2. Choose Guest Executable as the service template.
  3. Click Browse to select the folder with your executable and fill in the rest of the parameters to create the service.
    • Code Package Behavior. Can be set to copy all the content of your folder to the Visual Studio Project, which is useful if the executable does not change. If you expect the executable to change and want the ability to pick up new builds dynamically, you can choose to link to the folder instead. Note that you can use linked folders when creating the application project in Visual Studio. This links to the source location from within the project, making it possible for you to update the guest executable in its source destination. Those updates become part of the application package on build.
    • Program specifies the executable that should be run to start the service.
    • Arguments specifies the arguments that should be passed to the executable. It can be a list of parameters with arguments.
    • WorkingFolder specifies the working directory for the process that is going to be started. You can specify three values:
      • CodeBase specifies that the working directory is going to be set to the code directory in the application package (Code directory shown in the preceding file structure).
      • CodePackage specifies that the working directory is going to be set to the root of the application package (GuestService1Pkg shown in the preceding file structure).
      • Work specifies that the files are placed in a subdirectory called work.
  4. Give your service a name, and click OK.
  5. If your service needs an endpoint for communication, you can now add the protocol, port, and type to the ServiceManifest.xml file. For example: <Endpoint Name="NodeAppTypeEndpoint" Protocol="http" Port="3000" UriScheme="http" PathSuffix="myapp/" Type="Input" />.
  6. You can now use the package and publish action against your local cluster by debugging the solution in Visual Studio. When ready, you can publish the application to a remote cluster or check in the solution to source control.
  7. Go to the end of this article to see how to view your guest executable service running in Service Fabric Explorer.

Manually package and deploy an existing executable

The process of manually packaging a guest executable is based on the following general steps:

  1. Create the package directory structure.
  2. Add the application's code and configuration files.
  3. Edit the service manifest file.
  4. Edit the application manifest file.

Create the package directory structure

You can start by creating the directory structure, as described in the preceding section, "Application package file structure."

Add the application's code and configuration files

After you have created the directory structure, you can add the application's code and configuration files under the code and config directories. You can also create additional directories or subdirectories under the code or config directories.

Service Fabric does an xcopy of the content of the application root directory, so there is no predefined structure to use other than creating two top directories, code and settings. (You can pick different names if you want. More details are in the next section.)


Make sure that you include all the files and dependencies that the application needs. Service Fabric copies the content of the application package on all nodes in the cluster where the application's services are going to be deployed. The package should contain all the code that the application needs to run. Do not assume that the dependencies are already installed.

Edit the service manifest file

The next step is to edit the service manifest file to include the following information:

  • The name of the service type. This is an ID that Service Fabric uses to identify a service.
  • The command to use to launch the application (ExeHost).
  • Any script that needs to be run to set up the application (SetupEntrypoint).

The following is an example of a ServiceManifest.xml file:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<ServiceManifest xmlns:xsd="" xmlns:xsi="" Name="NodeApp" Version="" xmlns="">
      <StatelessServiceType ServiceTypeName="NodeApp" UseImplicitHost="true"/>
   <CodePackage Name="code" Version="">
         <Endpoint Name="NodeAppTypeEndpoint" Protocol="http" Port="3000" Type="Input" />

The following sections go over the different parts of the file that you need to update.

Update ServiceTypes

  <StatelessServiceType ServiceTypeName="NodeApp" UseImplicitHost="true" />
  • You can pick any name that you want for ServiceTypeName. The value is used in the ApplicationManifest.xml file to identify the service.
  • Specify UseImplicitHost="true". This attribute tells Service Fabric that the service is based on a self-contained app, so all Service Fabric needs to do is to launch it as a process and monitor its health.

Update CodePackage

The CodePackage element specifies the location (and version) of the service's code.

<CodePackage Name="Code" Version="">

The Name element is used to specify the name of the directory in the application package that contains the service's code. CodePackage also has the version attribute. This can be used to specify the version of the code, and can also potentially be used to upgrade the service's code by using the application lifecycle management infrastructure in Service Fabric.

Optional: Update SetupEntrypoint


The SetupEntryPoint element is used to specify any executable or batch file that should be executed before the service's code is launched. It is an optional step, so it does not need to be included if there is no initialization required. The SetupEntryPoint is executed every time the service is restarted.

There is only one SetupEntryPoint, so setup scripts need to be grouped in a single batch file if the application's setup requires multiple scripts. The SetupEntryPoint can execute any type of file: executable files, batch files, and PowerShell cmdlets. For more details, see Configure SetupEntryPoint.

In the preceding example, the SetupEntryPoint runs a batch file called LaunchConfig.cmd that is located in the scripts subdirectory of the code directory (assuming the WorkingFolder element is set to CodeBase).

Update EntryPoint


The EntryPoint element in the service manifest file is used to specify how to launch the service. The ExeHost element specifies the executable (and arguments) that should be used to launch the service.

  • Program specifies the name of the executable that should start the service.
  • Arguments specifies the arguments that should be passed to the executable. It can be a list of parameters with arguments.
  • WorkingFolder specifies the working directory for the process that is going to be started. You can specify three values:
    • CodeBase specifies that the working directory is going to be set to the code directory in the application package (Code directory in the preceding file structure).
    • CodePackage specifies that the working directory is going to be set to the root of the application package (GuestService1Pkg in the preceding file structure).
      • Work specifies that the files are placed in a subdirectory called work.

The WorkingFolder is useful to set the correct working directory so that relative paths can be used by either the application or initialization scripts.

Update Endpoints and register with Naming Service for communication

   <Endpoint Name="NodeAppTypeEndpoint" Protocol="http" Port="3000" Type="Input" />

In the preceding example, the Endpoint element specifies the endpoints that the application can listen on. In this example, the Node.js application listens on http on port 3000.

Furthermore you can ask Service Fabric to publish this endpoint to the Naming Service so other services can discover the endpoint address to this service. This enables you to be able to communicate between services that are guest executables. The published endpoint address is of the form UriScheme://IPAddressOrFQDN:Port/PathSuffix. UriScheme and PathSuffix are optional attributes. IPAddressOrFQDN is the IP address or fully qualified domain name of the node this executable gets placed on, and it is calculated for you.

In the following example, once the service is deployed, in Service Fabric Explorer you see an endpoint similar to published for the service instance. Or if this is a local machine, you see http://localhost:3000/myapp/.

   <Endpoint Name="NodeAppTypeEndpoint" Protocol="http" Port="3000"  UriScheme="http" PathSuffix="myapp/" Type="Input" />

You can use these addresses with reverse proxy to communicate between services.

Edit the application manifest file

Once you have configured the Servicemanifest.xml file, you need to make some changes to the ApplicationManifest.xml file to ensure that the correct service type and name are used.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<ApplicationManifest xmlns:xsd="" xmlns:xsi="" ApplicationTypeName="NodeAppType" ApplicationTypeVersion="1.0" xmlns="">
      <ServiceManifestRef ServiceManifestName="NodeApp" ServiceManifestVersion="" />


In the ServiceManifestImport element, you can specify one or more services that you want to include in the app. Services are referenced with ServiceManifestName, which specifies the name of the directory where the ServiceManifest.xml file is located.

  <ServiceManifestRef ServiceManifestName="NodeApp" ServiceManifestVersion="" />

Set up logging

For guest executables, it is useful to be able to see console logs to find out if the application and configuration scripts show any errors. Console redirection can be configured in the ServiceManifest.xml file using the ConsoleRedirection element.


Never use the console redirection policy in an application that is deployed in production because this can affect the application failover. Only use this for local development and debugging purposes.

    <ConsoleRedirection FileRetentionCount="5" FileMaxSizeInKb="2048"/>

ConsoleRedirection can be used to redirect console output (both stdout and stderr) to a working directory. This provides the ability to verify that there are no errors during the setup or execution of the application in the Service Fabric cluster.

FileRetentionCount determines how many files are saved in the working directory. A value of 5, for example, means that the log files for the previous five executions are stored in the working directory.

FileMaxSizeInKb specifies the maximum size of the log files.

Log files are saved in one of the service's working directories. To determine where the files are located, use Service Fabric Explorer to determine which node the service is running on, and which working directory is being used. This process is covered later in this article.


The last step is to deploy your application. The following PowerShell script shows how to deploy your application to the local development cluster, and start a new Service Fabric service.

Connect-ServiceFabricCluster localhost:19000

Write-Host 'Copying application package...'
Copy-ServiceFabricApplicationPackage -ApplicationPackagePath 'C:\Dev\MultipleApplications' -ImageStoreConnectionString 'file:C:\SfDevCluster\Data\ImageStoreShare' -ApplicationPackagePathInImageStore 'nodeapp'

Write-Host 'Registering application type...'
Register-ServiceFabricApplicationType -ApplicationPathInImageStore 'nodeapp'

New-ServiceFabricApplication -ApplicationName 'fabric:/nodeapp' -ApplicationTypeName 'NodeAppType' -ApplicationTypeVersion 1.0

New-ServiceFabricService -ApplicationName 'fabric:/nodeapp' -ServiceName 'fabric:/nodeapp/nodeappservice' -ServiceTypeName 'NodeApp' -Stateless -PartitionSchemeSingleton -InstanceCount 1

Compress the package before copying to the image store if the package is large or has many files. Read more here.

A Service Fabric service can be deployed in various "configurations." For example, it can be deployed as single or multiple instances, or it can be deployed in such a way that there is one instance of the service on each node of the Service Fabric cluster.

The InstanceCount parameter of the New-ServiceFabricService cmdlet is used to specify how many instances of the service should be launched in the Service Fabric cluster. You can set the InstanceCount value, depending on the type of application that you are deploying. The two most common scenarios are:

  • InstanceCount = "1". In this case, only one instance of the service is deployed in the cluster. Service Fabric's scheduler determines which node the service is going to be deployed on.
  • InstanceCount ="-1". In this case, one instance of the service is deployed on every node in the Service Fabric cluster. The result is having one (and only one) instance of the service for each node in the cluster.

This is a useful configuration for front-end applications (for example, a REST endpoint), because client applications need to "connect" to any of the nodes in the cluster to use the endpoint. This configuration can also be used when, for example, all nodes of the Service Fabric cluster are connected to a load balancer. Client traffic can then be distributed across the service that is running on all nodes in the cluster.

Check your running application

In Service Fabric Explorer, identify the node where the service is running. In this example, it runs on Node1:

Node where service is running

If you navigate to the node and browse to the application, you see the essential node information, including its location on disk.

Location on disk

If you browse to the directory by using Server Explorer, you can find the working directory and the service's log folder, as shown in the following screenshot.

Location of log

Creating a guest executable using Yeoman for Service Fabric on Linux

The procedure for creating and deploying a guest executable on Linux is the same as deploying a csharp or java application.

  1. In a terminal, type yo azuresfguest.
  2. Name your application.
  3. Name your service, and provide the details including path of the executable and the parameters it must be invoked with.

Yeoman would have created an application package with the appropriate application and manifest files along with install and uninstall scripts.

Next steps

In this article, you have learned how to package a guest executable and deploy it to Service Fabric. See the following articles for related information and tasks.