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Tailscale on AWS Lightsail

AWS Lightsail is a low cost means of running either virtual machines or containers. The container deployments in Lightsail can make it difficult to use Tailscale, since it doesn't provide a /dev/net/tun device that Tailscale needs.

In Tailscale v1.12 or later, you can use Tailscale's userspace networking mode to connect your AWS Lightsail apps to your Tailscale network.

Step 1: Generate an auth key to authenticate your AWS Lightsail containers

First, we'll generate an auth key to allow AWS Lightsail to authenticate our container to join our network.

Open the Keys page of the admin console and select Generate auth key. We recommend using an ephemeral key for this purpose, since it will automatically clean up devices after they shut down.

Tailscale's auth key generation page

Next, navigate to the AWS Lightsail Containers tab, and create a new deployment for a container service. In the Containers section of the configuration is an Add environment variables link. Make the variable key TAILSCALE_AUTHKEY with a value of the tskey-<key> string generated earlier.

Step 2: Configure your Dockerfile to install Tailscale

Next, we'll use a multistage Dockerfile, where the first stage builds your application, and the second stage pulls application code and Tailscale into the final image to be uploaded to AWS.

In your Dockerfile:

FROM alpine:latest as builder
COPY . ./
# This is where one could build the application code as well.

FROM alpine:latest
# Copy binary to production image.
COPY --from=builder /app/bootstrap /var/runtime/bootstrap

# Copy Tailscale binaries from the tailscale image on Docker Hub.
COPY /usr/local/bin/tailscaled /var/runtime/tailscaled
COPY /usr/local/bin/tailscale /var/runtime/tailscale
RUN mkdir -p /var/run && ln -s /tmp/tailscale /var/run/tailscale && \
    mkdir -p /var/cache && ln -s /tmp/tailscale /var/cache/tailscale && \
    mkdir -p /var/lib && ln -s /tmp/tailscale /var/lib/tailscale && \
    mkdir -p /var/task && ln -s /tmp/tailscale /var/task/tailscale


# Run on container startup.
ENTRYPOINT ["/var/runtime/bootstrap"]

The Dockerfile specifies /var/runtime/bootstrap as the initial process to run. This script needs to bring Tailscale up and then start the application binary. This is where we can use the TAILSCALE_AUTHKEY variable we defined earlier.

Then, create a file named bootstrap at the root of your app:


mkdir -p /tmp/tailscale
/var/runtime/tailscaled --tun=userspace-networking --socks5-server=localhost:1055 &
/var/runtime/tailscale up --authkey=${TAILSCALE_AUTHKEY} --hostname=aws-lightsail-app
echo Tailscale started
ALL_PROXY=socks5://localhost:1055/ /var/runtime/my-app

Done! When your AWS Lightsail container deploys, it should be able to connect to your private Tailscale network.

Remove ephemeral nodes from a tailnet

When an ephemeral node goes offline, it is automatically removed from your tailnet. You can also control ephemeral node removal using the tailscale logout command to either manually force the removal or incorporate the command into the tailscaled Tailscale daemon. For more information, see Ephemeral nodes.