Saturday, June 20, 2015

Expose Any Shell Command or Script as a Web API

I implemented a tool that can expose any shell command or script as a simple web API. All you have to specify is the binary (command/script) that needs to be exposed, and optionally a port number for the HTTP server. Source code of the tool in its entirety is shown below. In addition to exposing simple web APIs, this code also shows how to use Golang's built-in logging package, slice to varargs conversion and a couple of other neat tricks.
// This tool exposes any binary (shell command/script) as an HTTP service.
// A remote client can trigger the execution of the command by sending
// a simple HTTP request. The output of the command execution is sent
// back to the client in plain text format.
package main

import (

func main() {
 binary := flag.String("b", "", "Path to the executable binary")
 port := flag.Int("p", 8080, "HTTP port to listen on")

 if *binary == "" {
  fmt.Println("Path to binary not specified.")

 l := log.New(os.Stdout, "", log.Ldate|log.Ltime)
 http.HandleFunc("/", func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
  var argString string
  if r.Body != nil {
   data, err := ioutil.ReadAll(r.Body)
   if err != nil {
    http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalServerError)
   argString = string(data)

  fields := strings.Fields(*binary)
  args := append(fields[1:], strings.Fields(argString)...)
  l.Printf("Command: [%s %s]", fields[0], strings.Join(args, " "))

  output, err := exec.Command(fields[0], args...).Output()
  if err != nil {
   http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalServerError)
  w.Header().Set("Content-Type", "text/plain")

 l.Printf("Listening on port %d...", *port)
 l.Printf("Exposed binary: %s", *binary)
 http.ListenAndServe(fmt.Sprintf("", *port), nil)
Clients invoke the web API by sending HTTP GET and POST requests. Clients can also send in additional flags and arguments to be passed into the command/script wrapped within the web API. Result of the command/script execution is sent back to the client as a plain text payload.
As an example, assume you need to expose the "date" command as a web API. You can simply run the tool as follows:
./bash2http -b date
Now, the clients can invoke the API by sending an HTTP request to http://host:8080. The tool will run the "date" command on the server, and send the resulting text back to the client. Similarly, to expose the "ls" command with the "-l" flag (i.e. long output format), we can execute the tool as follows:
./bash2http -b "ls -l"
Users sending an HTTP request to http://host:8080 will now get a file listing (in the long output format of course), of the current directory of the server. Alternatively users can POST additional flags and a file path to the web API, to get a more specific output. For instance:
curl -v -X POST -d "-h /usr/local" http://host:8080
This will return a file listing of /usr/local directory of the server with human-readable file size information.
You can also use this tool to expose custom shell scripts and other command-line programs. For example, if you have a Python script which you wish to expose as a web API, all you have to do is:
./bash2http -b "python"


Unknown said...

I have gone through this post. But i do not understand in which language you have written the tool. Is it python, perl??

Hiranya Jayathilaka said...

It's Go