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Version: v0.14.0

Run a cluster alone


Charon is in an early alpha state and is not ready to be run on mainnet


  • Ensure you have docker installed.
  • Ensure you have git installed.
  • Make sure docker is running before executing the commands below.

Step 1. Download the components and set up the environment

  1. Clone the charon-distributed-validator-cluster repo and cd into the directory.

    # Clone the repo
    git clone

    # Change directory
    cd charon-distributed-validator-cluster/
  2. Prepare the environment variables

    # Copy the sample environment variables
    cp .env.sample .env

    .env.sample is a sample environment file that allows overriding default configuration defined in docker-compose.yml. Uncomment and set any variable to override its value.

Step 2. Create the artifacts needed to run a DV cluster

Run the following command:

# Enter required validator addresses

# Create a distributed validator cluster
docker run --rm -v "$(pwd):/opt/charon" obolnetwork/charon:v0.14.0 create cluster --name="mycluster" --withdrawal-addresses="${WITHDRAWAL_ADDR}" --fee-recipient-addresses="${FEE_RECIPIENT_ADDR}" --nodes 6 --threshold 5

This command will create a subdirectory .charon/cluster. In it are six folders, one for each charon node created. Each folder contains partial private keys that together make up the distributed validator described in .charon/cluster/cluster-lock.json. Note that charon versions prior to v0.14.0 had a single --withdrawal-address flag which was changed to the --withdrawal-addresses flag in the v0.14.0 release.

This guide will launch all six charon clients in separate containers along with an execution client and consensus client. To distribute your cluster physically, copy each directory with one (or several) private keys within it to the other machines you want to use. Consider using the single node docker compose, the kubernetes manifests, or the helm chart example repos to get your nodes up and connected.

Distributed Validator Cluster

The default cluster consists of:

The intention is to support all validator clients. Read more about our client support here.

Step 3. Start the cluster

Run this command from each machine containing private keys to start your cluster containers

# Start the distributed validator cluster
docker compose up --build

Check the monitoring dashboard and see if things look all right

# Open Grafana
open http://localhost:3000/d/laEp8vupp

Step 4. Activate the validator

If all the above went correctly, it's natural to see logs like:

INFO sched No active DVs for slot {"slot": 3288627}

This is because you need to activate your freshly created distributed validator on the testnet with the existing launchpad. The validator deposit data should be in .charon/cluster/deposit-data.json.

This process can take a minimum of 16 hours, with the maximum time to activation being dictated by the length of the activation queue, which can be weeks. You can leave your distributed validator cluster offline until closer to the activation period if you would prefer. You can also use this time to improve and harden your monitoring and alerting for the cluster.

Step 5. Validator Voluntary Exit


This step only needs to be taken when you decide to exit your DV cluster.

A voluntary exit is when a validator chooses to stop performing its duties, and exits the beacon chain permanently. To voluntarily exit, the validator must continue performing its validator duties until successfully exited to avoid penalties.

To trigger a voluntary exit, a sidecar docker-compose command is executed that signs and submits the voluntary exit to the active running charon node that shares it with other nodes in the cluster. The commands below should be executed in the terminal on the same machine and same folder as the active running charon-distribute-validator-node docker compose.


A threshold of nodes in the cluster need to perform this task to exit a validator.

  • Create a new exit_keys folder next to .charon/validator_keys: mkdir .charon/exit_keys
  • Copy the validator keys and passwords that you want to exit from the validator_keys folder to the exit_keys folder.
    • E.g. to exit validator #4: cp .charon/validator_keys/keystore/keystore-4* .charon/exit_keys/
    • Warning: all keys copied to the exit_keys folder will be exited, so be careful!
  • Ensure the external network in compose-voluntary-exit.yml is correct.
    • Confirm the name of the exiting charon-distributed-validator-node docker network: docker network ls.
    • If it isn't charon-distributed-validator-node-dvnode, then update compose-voluntary-exit.yml accordingly.
  • Ensure the latest fork version epoch is used:
    • Voluntary exists require an epoch after which they take effect.
    • All VCs need to sign and submit the exact same messages (epoch) in DVT.
    • --epoch=1 would be ideal, since all chains have that epoch in the past, so the validator should exit immediately.
    • compose-voluntary-exit.yml is configured with --epoch=162304 which is the latest Capella fork on Goerli.
    • If the Charon cluster is running on a different chain, ALL operators must update --epoch to the same latest fork version returned by curl $BEACON_NODE/eth/v1/config/fork_schedule.
  • Run the command to submit this node's partially signed voluntary exit:
    • docker compose -f compose-voluntary-exit.yml up
    • Confirm the logs: Exit for validator XXXXX submitted
    • Exit the container: Ctrl-C
  • The charon metric core_parsigdb_exit_total will be incremented each time a voluntary exit partial signature is received, either from this node or from peers.

Run Prysm VCs in a DV Cluster

We have provided experimental support of prysm validator client through compose-prysm.yml which needs a prysm beacon node to work alongside a REST based beacon node. Here are the steps to test prysm in a DV Cluster:

  1. Run the following command:
    cp docker-compose.override.yml.sample docker-compose.override.yml
  2. Disable the VCs in docker-compose.override.yml that are to be replaced by corresponding prysm VCs by un-commenting profiles field (more details on profiles). Also disable the prysm VCs that are not required in the cluster in docker-compose.override.yml.
  3. Run the following command:
    docker compose -f docker-compose.yml -f compose-prysm.yml -f docker-compose.override.yml up --build

Note: Support for prysm validator clients is in an experimental phase as prysm doesn't provide complete support for running their validator client on a beacon node REST API.


If you have gotten this far through the process, and whether you succeeded or failed at running the distributed validator successfully, we would like to hear your feedback on the process and where you encountered difficulties. Please let us know by joining and posting on our Discord. Also, feel free to add issues to our GitHub repos.