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Dokku Alternative

Unmaintained, Migrate to Dokku as soon as possible

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Docker powered mini-Heroku. The smallest PaaS implementation you've ever seen. It's a fork of the original dokku. The idea behind this fork is to provide complete solution with plugins covering most use-cases which are stable and well tested.


  • Debian-based installation and upgrade!
  • Git deploy
  • Built-in support for MariaDB, PostgreSQL, MongoDB and Redis databases
  • Built-in support for Dockerfile
  • Built-in support for service-only applications
  • Built-in support for domains and redirects
  • Built-in support for TLS and wildcard certificates
  • Built-in support for Docker-args and container persistent volumes
  • Built-in support for container's TOP
  • Built-in support for foreman-based Procfile
  • Data volumes with host-based volumes
  • Preboot / zero-downtime deploy
  • Enter and exec commands in already running containers
  • Access-control: deploy only keys
  • Create-only application
  • HTTP-Basic Auth support
  • Simple SSL commands
  • SPDY and HSTS
  • Configure NGINX listen address and proxy read timeout
  • Custom buildstep image
  • Support better image tagging (yet compatible with dokku)
  • Support for running buildstep-based applications as non-root user
  • Integration with dokku-alt-manager (
  • Run dokku-alt in service in docker container (BETA)

Planned features:

  • Nginx proxy in container with automatic service reload
  • Support for RabbitMQ and Memcached
  • Support for custom nginx templates
  • Support for application scaling
  • Support for CHECKS as described in
  • Full and incremental backup
  • Application migration


Assumes that you use Ubuntu 14.04 LTS right now. Ideally, you should have a domain ready to point to your host. It's designed for and is probably best to use a fresh VM. The debian package will install everything it needs.


$ sudo bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"

Installing (with force-yes)

Sometimes you may want to install dokku-alt in a completely non-interactive way. Now you can do it. Simply without terminal:

$ sudo bash -c "$(curl -fsSL" < /dev/null


If you use the bootstrap script from above, at the end it will fireup ruby installation script. Point your browser to http://<ip>:2000/ and finish configuration.

That's it!

Manual configuration

Set up a domain and a wildcard domain pointing to that host. Make sure /home/dokku/VHOST is set to this domain. By default it's set to whatever hostname the host has. This file is only created if the hostname can be resolved by dig (dig +short $(hostname -f)). Otherwise you have to create the file manually and set it to your preferred domain. If this file still is not present when you push your app, dokku will publish the app with a port number (i.e. - note the missing subdomain).

You'll have to add a public key associated with a username by doing something like this from your local machine:

$ cat ~/.ssh/ | ssh sudo dokku access:add

Upgrade and beta releases

Unlike dokku, this script uses the debian packaging system (deb). To upgrade to the latest version, simply execute: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install dokku-alt.

Alongside the normal (stable) releases we distribute as well beta (bleeding edge). To switch to beta simply execute: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install dokku-alt-beta. It will replace the stable dokku-alt and switch to beta.

Migration from dokku

It should be possible, it should mostly work, but it's not tested and advised. VPS's are very cheap this days so fire-up new machine and setup dokku-alt from scratch.

Deploy an App

Now you can deploy apps on your Dokku. Let's deploy the Heroku Node.js sample app. All you have to do is add a remote to name the app. It's created on-the-fly. Note that you must use the username if you used the script to install dokku-alt.

$ git clone
$ cd node-js-sample
$ git remote add dokku
$ git push dokku master
Counting objects: 296, done.
Delta compression using up to 4 threads.
Compressing objects: 100% (254/254), done.
Writing objects: 100% (296/296), 193.59 KiB, done.
Total 296 (delta 25), reused 276 (delta 13)
-----> Building node-js-app ...
       Node.js app detected
-----> Resolving engine versions

... blah blah blah ...

-----> Application deployed:

You're done!

Right now Buildstep supports buildpacks for Node.js, Ruby, Python, and more. It's not hard to add more, go add more! Please check the documentation for your particular build pack as you may need to include configuration files (such as a Procfile) in your project root.


It's a web interface to easily manage your dokku-alt instance. To install manager, simply run:

dokku manager:install

You can enable or disable it anytime:

dokku manager:enable
dokku manager:disable

Or even uninstall if you prefer command line access (it will also wipe used database):

dokku manager:uninstall

Dokku-alt as service in Docker container (BETA)

Dokku-alt can be run using Docker-in-Docker approach ( It requires you to run the dokku-alt container in privileged mode (with full access to host), because dokku-alt uses its own Docker daemon to serve applications. It's still considered beta, but should be pretty safe solution and robust. It's best to use for play with dokku-alt on other not-supported systems (CentOS, RedHat, Debian) or by simply trying how it works.

All dokku-alt services (SSH, Nginx, Dokku daemon) are run in container.

Create persistent data storage

docker run --volume=/home/dokku --volume=/var/lib/docker --name=dokku-alt-data busybox:latest

Start dokku-alt service in container

docker run -d --name=dokku-alt --volumes-from=dokku-alt-data --publish=22:22 --publish=80:80 --publish=443:443 --privileged ayufan/dokku-alt:latest

You can adjust the exposed ports as described in Docker documentation.

Check dokku-alt logs to see if anything started correctly:

docker logs dokku-alt-demo

At the end, you should see something like this:

dokku.1 | SSH Login:
dokku.1 |   user: root
dokku.1 |   password: lfMUjxYEvqpRRLY6
dokku.1 |   ip:
dokku.1 | Starting dokku daemon...

This is a temporary root password to access the container and add your access keys (using dokku access:add as described). This password changes every container restart.

To enter the container shell from the server's terminal (the same which is running docker with dokku-alt) run ssh:

ssh root@

If everything was done right, you should see the container's prompt. By exposing ports in docker run to the outside world you can also access dokku-alt externally.

To upgrade container to newer version simply kill old container and rerun your docker run command:

docker kill dokku-alt
docker pull ayufan/dokku-alt:latest
docker run -d --name=dokku-alt --volumes-from=dokku-alt-data --publish=22:22 --publish=80:80 --publish=443:443 --privileged ayufan/dokku-alt:latest

Dockerfile images

The key feature of dokku-alt is built-in support for Dockerfiles, the docker build process. It allows you to create more advanced and more repetitive application environments. To use Dockerfile simply put Dockerfile in root of the application, dokku-alt will detect it and build application according to specification in Dockerfile.

Dockerfile-based application can (but not required) expose a web-application port. dokku-alt will check if port 80, 8080 or 5000 is exposed. If it is, it will update the assigned vhost and reconfigure nginx to forward all incoming traffic.

Using Dockerfile, you can build service-only applications. Simply don't expose any public facing ports.

Example Dockerfile application:

Nginx and redirects

Dokku-alt has built-in support for additional domains and url redirects. By specifying redirects, any client using that address will automatically be redirected to the first domain assigned to the application.

Remote commands

Dokku commands can be run over ssh. Anywhere you would run dokku <command>, just run ssh -t <command> The -t is used to request a pty. It is highly recommended to do so. To avoid the need to type the -t option each time, simply create/modify a section in the .ssh/config on the client side, as follows :

RequestTTY yes

Run a command in the app environment

It's possible to run commands in the environment of the deployed application:

$ dokku run node-js-app ls -alh
$ dokku run <app> <cmd>

Removing a deployed app

SSH onto the server, then execute:

$ dokku delete myapp

Create-only application

Dokku-alt allows you to create an application before pushing it. It can be useful when you want to specify additional config variables or assign databases. Simply execute:

$ dokku create mynewapp

It's also possible to disable auto-application creation on push. Add to ~/dokkurc:


From now on you will have to do dokku create before pushing.

Allowing push-access (deploy only) access for dokku

Dokku-alt allows you to add additional public keys to applications. The specific case is to add special deploy-only key, used for example by Countinous Integration (ie. Jenkins). Key added as deploy-only can only be used to git push specific application. It will not allowed to execute any dokku commands. You can add an ssh key and give it explicit access to one or many applications.

Add locally:

$ cat .ssh/ | dokku deploy:allow myapp

Add key remotely:

$ cat .ssh/ | ssh dokku@dokku deploy:allow myapp

To later revoke key execute:

$ dokku deploy:revoke myapp FINGERPRINT

You can also list all fingerprints allowed to deploy an application:

$ dokku deploy:list myapp

Add a new admin user:

$ cat .ssh/ | dokku access:add

Revoke permissions for admin user:

$ dokku access:revoke FINGERPRINT

Environment variable management

Typically, an application will require some environment variables to run properly. Environment variables may contain private data, such as passwords or API keys, so it is not recommend to store them in your application's repository.

The config plugin provides the following commands to manage your variables:

config <app> - display the config vars for an app  
config:get <app> KEY - display a config value for an app  
config:set <app> KEY1=VALUE1 [KEY2=VALUE2 ...] - set one or more config vars
config:unset <app> KEY1 [KEY2 ...] - unset one or more config vars

Available environment variables

Image tagging

When you successfully deploy an app, you can tag it with a name/version. This lets you quickly roll back to that image in the event of failure in a later deployment.

$ dokku tag:add gitlab v6.9.0
=====> Tagged latest image of dokku/gitlab as v6.9.0
$ dokku tag:list gitlab
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             VIRTUAL SIZE
dokku/gitlab        build               fc3baf1216d2        4 weeks ago         954.9 MB
dokku/gitlab        latest              fc3baf1216d2        4 weeks ago         954.9 MB
dokku/gitlab        release             fc3baf1216d2        4 weeks ago         954.9 MB
dokku/gitlab        v6.9.0              fc3baf1216d2        4 weeks ago         954.9 MB
$ dokku deploy gitlab release <-- it will deploy GIT head
$ dokku deploy gitlab v6.9.0 <-- it will deploy tagged image


Dokku-alt has built-in support for all modern database engines: MariaDB (former MySQL), PostgreSQL and MongoDB. The database image will be downloaded and provisioned when first used.

First create a database:

$ dokku mariadb:create test-db
-----> MariaDB database created: test-db

Second link the database to an app:

$ dokku mariadb:link node-js-sample test-db
-----> Releasing node-js-sample ...
-----> Deploying node-js-sample ...
-----> Shutting down old containers
=====> Application deployed:

Verify the application environment variables:

$ dokku config node-js-sample
=== node-js-sample config vars ===
DATABASE_URL:  mysql2://node-js-sample:random-password@mariadb:3306/test-db

To use a different database engine, simply replace mariadb with postgresql or mongodb.

Preboot / zero-downtime boot

Similar to functionality provided by dokku-alt supports zero-downtime. To enable zero-downtime deployment, execute command: dokku preboot:enable APP. Alongside with preboot, there's a checks plugin based on For now, it simply checks if the application started serving requests. If the checks module fails, it will not replace the application.

Preboot and checks can be configured using a few environment variables:

  • PREBOOT_WAIT_TIME - number of seconds to wait for container boot (default 5s)
  • PREBOOT_COOLDOWN_TIME - number of seconds to wait finish container request processing (default 30s)
  • DOKKU_CHECKS_WAIT - number of seconds to wait before request retries (default 10s)
  • DOKKU_CHECKS_TIMEOUT - number of seconds to wait for each response (default 20s)
  • DOKKU_CHECKS_RETRY - number of retries (default 3)

Data volumes

Docker allows you to have persistent data storage. Dokku-alt exposes this feature as Data Volumes. You can create unlimited number of data volumes and any data volume can be attached to unlimited number of apps. Simply create a data volume and specify container paths which you want to be persistant.

First, create a data volume:

$ dokku volume:create shared-test-volume /app/logs /app/tmp /app/uploads
-----> Volume created: volume_data_shared-test-volume

Second, link the volume to an app:

$ dokku volume:link node-js-sample shared-test-volume
-----> Volume shared-test-volume linked to an aplication: node-js-sample
-----> Releasing node-js-sample ...
-----> Deploying node-js-sample ...
-----> Shutting down old containers
=====> Application deployed:

It is just simple as this.

Host-based volumes

Dokku-alt allows you to bind host-based volumes in a very simple manner. To use this feature, you have to be logged as root and then simply type:

dokku volume:create host-based-volume /path/to/host/volume:/path/to/volume/in/container

HTTP-Basic Auth support

Dokku-alt allows you to secure any application with HTTP-Basic Auth. There are a few commands that makes it happen:

htpasswd:add <app> <user>                       Add http-basic auth user
htpasswd:disable <app>                          Remove http-basic Auth
htpasswd:remove <app> <user>                    Remove user

If you want to enable and add a new user, simply type the command below and when prompted, type your password twice:

dokku htpasswd:add myapp myuser

You can also pipe the password:

echo mypass | dokku htpasswd:add myapp myuser

To revoke user's permission:

dokku htpasswd:remove myapp

To remove HTTP-Basic Auth completely:

dokku htpasswd:disable myapp

TLS support

Dokku provides easy TLS support out of the box. To enable TLS connection to your application, copy the .crt and .key files into the /home/dokku/:app/ssl folder (notice, file names should be server.crt and server.key, respectively). Redeployment of the application will be needed to apply TLS configuration. Once it's redeployed, the application will be accessible by https:// (redirection from http:// is applied as well).

TLS support

Dokku-alt extends this even further by allowing you to use command line interface for certificates:

ssl:generate <app>                              Generate certificate signing request for an APP
ssl:certificate <app>                           Pipe signed certifcate with all intermediates for an APP
ssl:forget <app>                                Wipes certificate for an APP
ssl:info <app>                                  Show info about certifcate and certificate request
ssl:key <app>                                   Pipe private key for an APP

First use: dokku ssl:generate myapp to generate certificate signing request (CSR). At the end of process you will receive BEGIN CERTIFICATE REQUEST which you can ten copy-n-paste to your SSL signer (ie.

When you receive your signed certificate pipe it with ALL INTERMEDIATES to dokku ssl:certificate myapp. If done correctly you have SSL enabled for your site.

cat mycert.pem intermediate.pem ca.pem | dokku ssl:certificate myapp

If it happens that you have already created certificate you can use it, by piping your UNENCRYPTED your certificate and your private key:

cat mycert.pem intermediate.pem ca.pem | dokku ssl:certificate myapp
cat mycert.key | dokku ssl:key myapp

To view asigned certificate:

dokku ssl:info myapp

HSTS support

HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) is a web security policy mechanism whereby a web server declares that complying user agents (such as a web browser) are to interact with it using only secure HTTPS connections. Once enabled all further communication will be done over TLS only, there's no revert mechanism. As this is additional security feature you have to do it by hand. To enable HSTS for site use:

dokku config:set myapp DOKKU_ENABLE_HSTS=1

Serve an app over HTTP as well

By default dokku-alt for all TLS-enabled apps will create redirects which requires user to use https://. In some cases it maybe required to allow http:// access which is potentially insecure. To enable simulatenous HTTP and HTTPS set specific config:

dokku config:set myapp DOKKU_ENABLE_HTTP_HOST=1

dokkurc Configuration

You can fine-tune some aspects of Dokku behaviour and its plugins by setting variables in dokkurc file placed in Dokku root directory – usually /home/dokku. dokkurc is sourced by the main dokku script.


export BUILDSTEP_IMAGE="ayufan/dokku-alt-buildstep:foreman"

Known configuration variables

  • DOKKU_DISABLE_AUTO_APP_CREATE – when set to 1, applications won't be automatically created on push; see Create only application.
  • BUILDSTEP_IMAGE – buildstep image to be used by Docker, defaults to ayufan/dokku-alt-buildstep:foreman.
  • MARIADB_IMAGE – Docker image to be used for MariaDB plugin, defaults to ayufan/dokku-alt-mariadb.
  • MONGODB_IMAGE – Docker image to be used for MongoDB plugin, defaults to ayufan/dokku-alt-mongodb.
  • POSTGRESQL_IMAGE – Docker image to be used for PostgreSQL plugin, defaults to ayufan/dokku-alt-postgresql.
  • REDIS_IMAGE – Docker image to be used for Redis plugin, defaults to ayufan/dokku-alt-redis.
  • DOKKU_LISTEN_IPV4 - Set the IPV4 address on which NGINX will listen for requests
  • DOKKU_LISTEN_IPV6 - Set the IPV6 address on which NGINX will listen for requests
  • DOKKU_FORCE_ENABLE_HSTS - Force to enable HSTS header (validity for one year) for all TLS-enabled apps
  • DOKKU_DISABLE_NGINX_X_FORWARDED - Disable setting of X-Forwarded headers by nginx, useful for CDN installations.

MariaDB specific

These parameters should only be changed when you are using a MariaDB image that has a different setup.

  • MARIADB_PORT - MariaDB listen port, defaults to 3306
  • MARIADB_COMMAND - MariaDB startup command for Docker, defaults to /usr/bin/
  • MARIADB_CONTAINER_VOLUME - Where the data volume gets mounted in the MariaDB container, defaults to /opt/mysql
  • MARIADB_CONTAINER_PASSWORD - Where the password file gets mounted in the MariaDB container, defaults to /opt/mysql_password

MongoDB specific

These parameters should only be changed when you are using a MongoDB image that has a different setup.

  • MONGODB_PORT - MongoDB listen port, defaults to 27017
  • MONGODB_COMMAND - MongoDB startup command for Docker, defaults to /usr/bin/
  • MONGODB_CONTAINER_VOLUME - Where the data volume gets mounted in the MongoDB container, defaults to /opt/mongodb
  • MONGODB_CONTAINER_PASSWORD - Where the password file gets mounted in the MongoDB container, defaults to /opt/mongodb_password

PostgreSQL specific

These parameters should only be changed when you are using a PostgreSQL image that has a different setup.

  • POSTGRESQL_USER - PostgreSQL admin user, defaults to root
  • POSTGRESQL_PORT - PostgreSQL listen port, defaults to 5432
  • POSTGRESQL_COMMAND - PostgreSQL startup command for Docker, defaults to /usr/bin/
  • POSTGRESQL_CONTAINER_VOLUME - Where the data volume gets mounted in the PostgreSQL container, defaults to /opt/postgresql
  • POSTGRESQL_CONTAINER_PASSWORD - Where the password file gets mounted in the PostgreSQL container, defaults to /opt/postgresql_password

Redis specific

These parameters should only be changed when you are using a Redis image that has a different setup.

  • REDIS_PORT - Redis listen port, defaults to 6379
  • REDIS_COMMAND - Redis startup command for Docker, defaults to /usr/bin/
  • REDIS_CONTAINER_VOLUME - Where the data volume gets mounted in the Redis container, defaults to /var/lib/redis


$ dokku help
apps:disable <app>                              Disable specific app
apps:enable <app>                               Re-enable specific app
apps:list                                       List app
apps:restart <app>                              Restart specific app (not-redeploy)
apps:start <app>                                Stop specific app
apps:status <app>                               Status of specific app
apps:stop <app>                                 Stop specific app
apps:top <app> [args...]                        Show running processes
backup:export [file]                            Export dokku configuration files
backup:import [file]                            Import dokku configuration files
config <app>                                    display the config vars for an app
config:get <app> KEY                            display a config value for an app
config:set <app> KEY1=VALUE1 [KEY2=VALUE2 ...]  set one or more config vars
config:unset <app> KEY1 [KEY2 ...]              unset one or more config vars
delete <app>                                    Delete an application
domains:get <app>                               Get domains for an app
domains:redirect:get <app>                      Get redirect domains for an app
domains:redirect:set <app> <domains...>         Set redirect app domains
domains:set <app> <domains...>                  Set app domains
enter <app>                                     Enter into currently running container
exec <app> <cmd>                                Execute command in currently running container
help                                            Print the list of commands
logs <app> [-t] [-f]                            Show the last logs for an application (-t or -f follows)
mariadb:console <app> <db>                      Launch console for MariaDB container
mariadb:create <db>                             Create a MariaDB database
mariadb:delete <db>                             Delete specified MariaDB database
mariadb:dump <app> <db>                         Dump database for an app
mariadb:info <app> <db>                         Display application informations
mariadb:link <app> <db>                         Link database to app
mariadb:list <app>                              List linked databases
mariadb:unlink <app> <db>                       Unlink database from app
mongodb:console <app> <db>                      Launch console for MongoDB container
mongodb:create <db>                             Create a MongoDB database
mongodb:delete <db>                             Delete specified MongoDB database
mongodb:dump <app> <db> <collection>            Dump database collection in bson for an app
mongodb:export <app> <db> <collection>          Export database collection for an app
mongodb:import <app> <db> <collection>          Import database collection for an app
mongodb:info <app> <db>                         Display application informations
mongodb:link <app> <db>                         Link database to app
mongodb:list <app>                              List linked databases
mongodb:unlink <app> <db>                       Unlink database from app
plugins-install                                 Install active plugins
plugins                                         Print active plugins
postgresql:console <app> <db>                   Launch console for PostgreSQL container
postgresql:create <db>                          Create a PostgreSQL database
postgresql:delete <db>                          Delete specified PostgreSQL database
postgresql:dump <app> <db>                      Dump database for an app
postgresql:info <app> <db>                      Display application informations
postgresql:link <app> <db>                      Link database to app
postgresql:list <app>                           List linked databases
postgresql:unlink <app> <db>                    Unlink database from app
preboot:cooldown:time <app> <secs>              Re-enable specific app
preboot:disable <app>                           Stop specific app
preboot:enable <app>                            Stop specific app
preboot:status <app>                            Status of specific app
preboot:wait:time <app> <secs>                  Restart specific app (not-redeploy)
rebuild:all                                     Rebuild all apps
rebuild <app>                                   Rebuild an app
redis:create <app>                              Create a Redis database
redis:delete <app>                              Delete specified Redis database
redis:info <app>                                Display application information
run <app> <cmd>                                 Run a command in the environment of an application
tag:add <app> <tag>                             Tag latest running image using specified name
tag:list <app>                                  List all image tags
tag:rm <app> <tag>                              Tag latest running image using specified name
url <app>                                       Show the URL for an application
version                                         Print dokku's version
volume:create <name> <paths...>                 Create a data volume for specified paths
volume:delete <name>                            Delete a data volume
volume:info <name>                              Display volume information
volume:link <app> <name>                        Link volume to app
volume:list:apps <name>                         Display apps linked to volume
volume:list                                     List volumes
volume:unlink <app> <name>                      Unlink volume from app

Additional Help

dokku volume:help

It works for all ranges :)

dokku mariadb:help
dokku ssl:help

FAQ / Support

You can use Github Issues.

How can I use custom domains as

dokku domains:set myapp

How do I connect my app to access an external database server?

"I deployed my Rails application on a fresh new machine using dokku-alt but I already own a bare metal, replicated PostgreSQL server that's reachable from the dokku host as it's on the same network. How do I connect?"

Run the following:

dokku config:set <app> DATABASE_URL=postgresql://user:password@dbserver-ip:5432/DBNAME

You have to feed application with your DATABASE_URL. You can even use databases from heroku.

Linking to other containers

You can create file: /home/dokku/APPNAME/DOCKER_ARGS and fill it with additional arguments as described in These arguments will be injected when deploying the application or invoking dokku run.

Out of memory

The following error typically occurs on boxes with 512MB of memory:

runtime: panic before malloc heap initialized
fatal error: runtime: cannot allocate heap metadata

Run the following (it will create 512MB swap file, you can adjust it for your needs):

dd if=/dev/zero of=/extraswap bs=1M count=512
mkswap /extraswap

Add it to /etc/fstab:

/extraswap         none            swap    sw                0       0

Turn it on:

swapon -a

Fix Shellshock vulnerability

Shellshock (CVE-2014-6271, CVE-2014-7169, CVE-2014-7186, CVE-2014-7187) is a vulnerability in GNU's bash shell that gives attackers access to run remote commands on a vulnerable system. More info you can find there:

  1. sudo dokku plugins-install

  2. If you use Dockerfile you need for every app which uses it redownload image names used by FROM. Then issue docker pull every image used by FROM: docker pull ubuntu:trusty. You don't have to do it for buildstep-based images, it were done by plugins-install. Please check Dockerfile of the app:

     FROM ubuntu:trusty
     RUN ...

    Then run in server's terminal: docker pull ubuntu:trusty

  3. Rebuild all applications with cache wipe: dokku rebuild:all:force.

  4. Voila. Your are secure!





Dokku on steroids (this project is no longer actively maintained)







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