What is Vaultwarden?

Vaultwarden is an alternative implementation of Bitwarden server API written in Rust. It’s compatible with official Bitwarden clients and is a perfect choice for a self-hosted vault. Being written in Rust makes it lightweight, unlike the original Bitwarden which is written in C# and quite resource-heavy.

Why Podman?

Docker doesn’t work properly as a systemd service. The problem is that systemd doesn’t monitor a docker container but a docker client. It means if the container crashes but the client is running, the systemd will not restart the container. It’s caused by Dockers’ client-server architecture. There’s a workaround for it but using a native solution seems more reasonable.

Podman is an open-source, daemon-less, Linux-native tool to run containers. It was developed under OCI standards and it works perfectly with systemd. Because of its daemon-less nature, it allows running containers under an arbitrary user.

Install Podman

I will show how to install podman in Ubuntu 20.10, fo other distributions refer to the official guide :

> sudo apt update
> sudo apt install podman

Run Vaultwarden

My normal setup includes the admin panel enabled and registration of new users disabled. To enable the admin panel we have to pass an ADMIN_TOKEN environment variable. It is recommended to use a long random string for this value. We can generate it using the openssl rand command:

> openssl rand -base64 48

One more thing to do before we run our vault is to create a data directory. In this directory Vaultwarden stores its config and database:

> sudo mkdir /vaultwarden-data

Now everything is ready to run Vaultwarden:

> sudo podman pull vaultwarden/server:latest
> sudo podman run -d --name vaultwarden.pod -e ADMIN_TOKEN=YOUR_RANDOM_TOKEN_GOES_HERE -v /vaultwarden-data/:/data/ -p 8000:80 vaultwarden/server:latest

Create systemd service

Create a service file under /etc/systemd/system/vaultwarden.pod.service:

> sudo touch /etc/systemd/system/vaultwarden.pod.service

I like to have the .pod suffix to differentiate native services from containerized, but you can omit it if you like so.

Put the following content to the service file:

Description=Vaultwarden/Bitwarden Server (Rust Edition)

ExecStart=/usr/bin/podman start -a vaultwarden.pod
ExecStop=/usr/bin/podman stop vaultwarden.pod


Here are a few things worth pointing out:

  • Restart=on-failure is instructing to only restart the service when it exits with non-zero code. It allows us to stop the service using the podman stop as well as the systemctl command.
  • To store the container’s logs to syslog we have podman start -a. The -a option instructs to attach the container’s STDOUT and STDERR.
  • WantedBy is needed to start our container on system boot. The multi-user.target option basically means that the service should be started when all network services are up and the system is ready to accept logins. If you omit the WantedBy option your service will NOT start on boot.
  • The Wants=syslog.service option tells that syslog should be started when our service is being started. However, it’s a weak requirement and the service will still start if syslog fails to start. In other words, we would like to have logs but it’s not mandatory for our service.

Reload the daemon:

> sudo systemctl daemon-reload

And check the Vaultwarden status:

> sudo systemctl status vaultwarden.pod
● vaultwarden.pod.service - Vaultwarden/Bitwarden Server (Rust Edition)
     Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/vaultwarden.pod.service; disabled; vendor preset: enabled)
     Active: active (running) since Thu 2022-05-26 15:25:08 UTC; 1 day 20h ago
       Docs: https://github.com/dani-garcia/vaultwarden
   Main PID: 19461 (podman)
      Tasks: 11 (limit: 1112)
     Memory: 26.9M
     CGroup: /system.slice/vaultwarden.pod.service
             ├─19461 /usr/bin/podman start -a vaultwarden.pod
             └─19574 /usr/libexec/podman/conmon --api-version 1 -c e2a6a794ddf8bb74308a9f64b98871913f6a46a8370c921dcb353f5db721cea0 -u e2a6a794ddf8bb74308a9f64b98871913f6a46a8370c921dcb353f5db721cea0 -r /usr/bin/crun -b /var/lib/containers/storage/overlay-containers/e2a6a7>

Now you can stop/start the Vaultwarden service:

> sudo systemctl stop vaultwarden.pod
> sudo systemctl start vaultwarden.pod