20 May 2015

Docker 101 on Mac for developers

Docker is a new virtualization technology, was the first thing, I heard about it. But I realized, that it is something different and it can be very useful for software development. You can easily run a PostgreSQL database, an elasticsearch server and many other tools on your local development machine without installing any of them. You can even share the settings across your team. So Docker is a great complement to your Maven, SBT, Bundler, …

The basics

Docker is build of a daemon and a command line interface.

The daemon creates and runs the containers and since they are Linux containers, the daemon must run on a Linux machine. Sadly Mac OS X is UNIX but not Linux, so you can not run the daemon under Mac OS X. The easiest way to fix this is installing docker-machine via Homebrew

brew install docker-machine

docker-machine allows you to create virtual machines running Linux with a preinstalled Docker daemon. You can run them on Amazon EC2, Rackspace, …, or just locally on VirtualBox. So download and install VirtualBox and create a machine on it.

docker-machine create --driver virtualbox dev

This will create a Linux machine based on boot2docker - a tiny Linux distribution for running Docker via VirtualBox. The created machine is named dev and will be available under this name through docker-machine. You can create other machines on AWS …, if you want, but for local development this might be enough for the moment.

The second component of Docker is its command line interface. This runs also on Mac OS X and access the Docker daemon via a RESTful API. To install the command line interface use Homebrew

brew install docker

The default behavior of the docker command is connecting to a local daemon via a UNIX socket. This works fine under Linux, but not Mac OS X, where the daemon is running somewhere else. But docker-machine to the rescue

eval "$(docker-machine env dev)"

This will setup your environment in a way, that the docker client will connect to the daemon on the machine named dev. Life will even become much easier, when you put the above command to your .bashrc or .zshrc file, so everything will be ready in a fresh shell.

Run and use containers

Lets try a simple example with our new Docker environment and launch elasticsearch in a container. If we install and run elasticsearch locally, it will be available via curl

curl http://localhost:9200

Running elasticsearch in a container is easy, since there is an official elasticsearch image available.

docker run --rm -p 9200:9200 elasticsearch

This will pull the latest version of the elasticsearch image, publish the container's port 9200 to our Linux vm's port 9200 and delete the container, once we stoped elasticsearch. Since the container is running in our Linux vm, we cannot access it it via localhost and need the machine's IP instead. docker-machine will provide it to us

curl http://`docker-machine ip`:9200

Use it in software projects

Running the above command to start a new docker container during development is hard to maintain. You can create a little shell script to share the command with your colleagues, but it is much easier with docker-compose (former fig). You can also install it via Homebrew

brew install docker-compose

In a software project, where you use elasticsearch, you can just create a file named docker-compose.yml with the following content

  image: elasticsearch:1.5
    - "9200:9200"

Now run it via

docker-compose up es

This will do the same as above, but you can easily share additional configurations and define multiple containers and dependendencies between them in the YAML file.

What else?

With docker-machine, docker and docker-compose you should have some cool tools to work with Docker and you can install all of them via Homebrew. But there are even more things for your Mac.

If your are an oh-my-zsh user, there is also a docker plugin available. It provides you great autocompletion for the docker command and makes it even more fun.

On Mac OS X there is also a GUI available. It is named Kitematic and provided by the Docker guys.