Developing a custom processing block

Walking you through developing your first custom processing block.

This guide provides a quick introduction for setting up and running blocks locally to make development easier.

While developing custom blocks in Python, the UP42 block utilities package can help. This package contains base classes for data and processing blocks, and several facilities to handle testing.

The examples in this guide use a bash-compatible shell (sh, ash, dash or similar) in a Unix-like environment, but you can build blocks in any environment that you can run Docker in. It assumes you have previous knowledge of Docker, if that is not the case then please go to docker documentation to familiarize yourself with it.

If you do not want to start from scratch developing your own block, take a look into data block template and processing block template as a starting point. For more inspiration, view the UP42 list of FLOSS blocks which presents examples of processing and data block implementations.

Using an UP42 free software block

The first part of the guide uses a very simple processing block developed by UP42 and published on github as free software. It implements an unsharpen masking filter algorithm.

Please see the README file to make sure you have met all the requirements and also how to use the block.

Also be aware that you have two options to run the block:

  1. Push to the UP42 docker registry and run the custom block inside a workflow you have created.

  2. Run the block locally.

Option 1 implies you logging into the docker registry and providing your user ID to make.

Option 2 implies you providing the necessary data, either an image with a AOI from an AOI clipped data block. If you want to use a larger AOI then please provide a tiled image. You can get that by creating a workflow with just one data block and the processing block Raster Tiling.

Building and running the block

For specifics on how to build and run the block please see the README.

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. When testing locally, you don’t yet need to worry about attaching the manifest file, so you can just build the block without it and also ommit the user ID (UID) and start running immediately it to get the output.

  2. The docker tag is latest by default, you can change that and use a custom tag through the DOCKER_TAG make variable.

  3. The output must be always composed of three things: + A GeoJSON file that enumerates all the output images. + A directory with all the images in vector or raster format.

See the data transfer format for additional explanations.

# Layout of output directory.
ls -la output/

total 13520
drwxr-xr-x     7 user  staff      224 Aug 20 11:14 .
drwxr-xr-x     3 user  staff       96 Aug 19 12:39 ..
drwxr-xr-x  2403 user  staff    76896 Aug 20 01:25 ab3760b7-340c-4bac-8b62-701b581a2e22
-rw-r--r--     1 user  staff  5748184 Aug 20 01:25 data.json


  • data.json: GeoJSON metadata file.

  • ab3760b7-340c-4bac-8b62-701b581a2e22: directory with output images.

  1. Is optional to specify job parameters. See the provided defaults in the README.

  2. When running the block locally any logging output or errors should appear in the terminal as the block runs.

Understanding the block building process

This section aims to make you familiar with the details of building a block. Above we just took advantage of the example Land cover block and build and run it without paying attention to the details of the overall block development process.

Input and output data

Blocks read their input data from the local filesystem, and write their output the same way. The UP42 workflow orchestrator takes care of copying this data between the blocks and managing storage, so you do not need to connect to a storage API to interface with the platform.

Input data can always be read from the /tmp/input directory, while output data should always be written to the /tmp/output directory.

At the very least, a block should output a /tmp/output/data.json file, consisting of a GeoJSON FeatureCollection object.

For a full description of how to work with this data, see the data transfer format section.

Writing the manifest

Docker Images intended to run on UP42 need to provide a valid JSON manifest.

By convention, this JSON data is stored in the UP42Manifest.json file inside the block. The full manifest specification can be found here, along with examples.

Once you have written your manifest file, you can validate it against an endpoint provided by the UP42 platform by using e.g. curl

$ curl -X POST -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d @UP42Manifest.json

The service endpoint will provide detailed error messages to allow for debugging of the manifest file. If you use an IDE like IntelliJ or Eclipse, you can also configure the IDE to provide automatic hinting and validation by fetching the manifest specification from the publicly available link.

Attaching the manifest to your block

Once you’ve written your manifest, it needs to be attached to the Docker image as a LABEL, which you can do using the following Dockerfile instruction:

LABEL "up42_manifest"=<manifest-contents>

The content of the label needs to be an entire valid manifest file as a string. The easiest way to do this is to provide the contents of the manifest as a build arg to Docker.

To do this, create a Dockerfile along these lines:

FROM python:3.7-alpine
ARG manifest

LABEL "up42_manifest"=$manifest


Testing the block

When testing your block locally, you can mount any directory you like into the container as the input/output directories using Docker volumes (the -v or --mount options).

You can then use docker build and docker run commands as you normally would to build and run the container locally.

Pushing the block

In the project overview, under Custom blocks in the sidebar, you will find the custom blocks screen.

If you click on Push custom block, the UI will provide you with the commands you need to run to push a new block.

Those commands are the following:

  1. To authenticate against the registry, run docker login with your UP42 login credentials:
    $ docker login -u <up42-user-email>
  1. When building your block image, tag the image with the UP42 registry URL you will push the block to:
    $ docker build . -t<user_id>/<image_name>:<tag>

    # You will probably want to combine this with the manifest build arg as shown above. In that case, the full
    # build command (with an example user ID and image name) becomes:

    $ docker build . \
         -t<user_id>/my-block:latest \
         --build-arg manifest="$(cat UP42Manifest.json)"

You will need to replace `<user_id>`, `<image_name>`, and `<tag>` with your own values. Your **user id** can be found in the example `docker` commands shown on the “Custom Blocks” screen. The **image name** is simply what you want to call your block, and should match the name provided in the manifest. The **tag** should be a uniquely identifying tag or UUID so that you can fetch the block later if you need to debug that specific version.
  1. When you are ready to push your block, you can then run:
    $ docker push<user_id>/<image_name>:<tag>

    # Or following the example above:
    $ docker push<user_id>/my-block:latest

Pushing updates

In order to push updates you simply need to rebuild your Docker image and run the docker push command again.

When running a workflow that contains your block, the latest version will always be used.