Option 2: Setup your own secondary server with dess

Create and run your own @platform secondary server with dess

3 minute read

1. What is dess?

dess is the self-hosted option for secondary servers, and a great tool for developers to debug their applications! You can run several secondary servers on a single instance of dess, as each secondary scales to use 6MB of ram or less.

dess is an acronymn for:

d. Distributed
e. Edge
s. Secondary
s. Server

2. How to get started

There are two parts to setting up dess:

  1. First time setup (run once)
  2. Setup an @‎sign (run for each @‎sign)

3. First Time Setup

Get a server

First get yourself a microserver to run dess on.

We recommend AWS, GCP, or IONOS for hosting.

1 Core + 1 GB is more than enough to run dess comfortably.

Install dess on the server

dess will install everything you need to get up and running.
Run the following command to install dess:

curl -fsSL https://getdess.atsign.com | sudo bash

Alternatively, if you would like to save the installation script to your machine:

curl -fsSL https://getdess.atsign.com -o getdess.sh
sudo bash getdess.sh

The script will be saved as getdess.sh

Setup a domain for your server

If you don’t have a domain available you will have to purchase one to continue.

Once you have a domain available, set an A record pointing to the IP of your server.

For example:

Domain: example.com
Server IP:

Example A record:

A    dess

You may replace “dess” with any valid value for a subdomain.
In this example, my fully qualified domain name (fqdn) is:


Once you have completed these steps, please move on to setting up your secondary server!

4. Setup a secondary server

On my.atsign.com/dashboard

  1. Go to “My @‎signs.”
  2. Select “Manage” for the @‎sign you would like to setup.
  3. Open “Advanced Settings”.
  4. If the atsign is activated, follow the steps to reset it. (Warning: this will erase your data!)
  5. Under “settings” enter the fully qualified domain name from initial setup.
  6. Enter an unused port number.
  7. Press “Activate”

On your dess server

dess will show you the steps to setup a secondary server.

sudo dess-create
> Usage sudo dess-create <@‎sign> <fqdn> <port> <email> <service>
> Example sudo dess-create @‎bob bob.example.com 6464 bob@‎example.com bob


@‎sign: The @‎sign you want to setup.

fqdn: Fully qualified domain name to use for dess.
(The same as entered in your atsign.com dashboard )

port: The port to use for dess.
(The same as entered in your atsign.com dashboard)

email: An email you own to sign the certificates with.

service: A name for the docker service.

5. OS Support

Amazon Linux2
Rocky Linux8

6. dess Setup Guides

If you are ready to get started, please check to see if we have a specific guide available for your platform of choice.

We have guides available for the following platforms:

7. Tips & Tricks

Oops! I forgot to save my QR code!

Don’t worry! dess includes a command to recover QR codes.
Simply run the following:

dess-reshowqr <@‎sign>

Debugging Applications with Dess

dess runs as a docker swarm, to debug an application first run the following:

docker service ls

Docker will list the services running:

ID             NAME                   MODE         REPLICAS   IMAGE                          PORTS
b61ty3y5g41a   secondaries_shepherd   replicated   1/1        mazzolino/shepherd:latest
ex2d0kmiqinn   wolverine_secondary    replicated   0/1        atsigncompany/secondary:dess   *:6464->6464/tcp

For example, I have the service called “wolverine_secondary” running.
To debug this secondary using docker:

docker service logs -f <service_name>
# OR
docker service logs -f wolverine_secondary

While this is running, you will be able to see the secondary in action.

Last modified July 27, 2021: add link to dess-aws guide (70761cda)