Sorna Documentation

Sorna is an online code execution service that runs arbitrary user codes safely in resource-constrained environments, using Docker and our own sandbox wrapper. It currently supports Python 2/3, R, PHP and NodeJS, with more being added. Sorna’s primary target is to provide a zero-configuration evaluation tool for short-running programs used in education and scientific researches, such as problem solving and plotting.


The idea of a code (or function) execution service is not new. Here we describe key differences to existing products and software with similar purposes.

  • What is the difference to AWS Lambda?
    • On-the-fly execution of code snippets: AWS Lambda mandates its users to package their own programs with libraries as a series of zip files and explicitly deploy them to run. Meanwhile, Sorna provides a variety of pre-configured sandbox containers and its users pass the code snippets on-the-fly at runtime as individual API requests.
    • Result evaluation API: Sorna offers additional APIs to evaluate the code execution results with a given set of answers for educators.
    • On-premise deployability: AWS Lambda is a strictly cloud-only service which requires Internet connections always, while Sorna can be deployed on your on-premise machines and portable PCs such as Intel NUC devices for use in off-line lecture rooms.
  • What is the difference to Jupyter/IPython Notebook?
    • Horizontal scalability: Jupyter Notebook is designed for a single-user PC. JupyterHub supports multi-user scenarios but for only modest-sized, semi-trusted user groups. Sorna is designed for multiple arbitrary users and multiple servers to scale out from the very beginning.
    • Additional security: Sorna adds a sandbox layer using Docker containers and a custom system call filter to safely execute malicious, unpredictable user inputs without breaking the system and other users.

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