Skip to content
This repository has been archived by the owner on Dec 17, 2021. It is now read-only.


Switch branches/tags

Name already in use

A tag already exists with the provided branch name. Many Git commands accept both tag and branch names, so creating this branch may cause unexpected behavior. Are you sure you want to create this branch?

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

A minimal Docker Base Image based on Amazon Linux Container Image

baseimage-amzn is a Docker Base Image that is configured for use within Docker containers. It is based on Amazon Linux Container Image, plus:

  • Modifications for Docker-friendliness.
  • Administration tools that are useful in the context of Docker.
  • Mechanisms for running multiple processes.

You can use it as a base for your own Docker images.

baseimage-amzn is available for pulling from the docker registry!

If you need additional help, please contact us on our support channels or open a GitHub Issue.

baseimage-amzn is inspired by baseimage-docker project. We would like to say thank you to Phusion for providing some good ideas and code. We would also like to say thank you to Amazon Linux Team for providing excellent Amazon Linux Container Image.

Related resources: Website | Slack | Discussion Forum | Twitter | Blog | FAQs

Table of contents

What's inside the image?


Component Why is it included? / Remarks
Amazon Linux The base system.
A init process baseimage-amzn comes with an init process. Available as /sbin/my_init.
rsyslog Syslog daemon is used by various services and applications to log to /var/log/* files.
logrotate Rotates and compresses logs files on a regular basis.
cron A cron daemon for cron jobs to run within the container.
runit Used for service supervision and management.
setuser A tool for running a command as another user. Sets $HOME correctly. Available as /sbin/setuser.
ll-user Image is configured with ll-user:ll-user unix user and group, and has a UID/GID pair of 500/500. This UID/GID pair maps correctly to ec2-user:ec2-user on Amazon Linux EC2 host. Correct UID/GID mapping between host and container helps avoid permission related issues.

A note about SSH server

We do not ship SSH server in our image. For most users we recommend using docker exec instead.

While it is certainly possible to run SSH server within baseimage-amzn, securing SSH correctly in an operational setting is non-trivial. If your use-case really requires running SSH server within baseimage-amzn, please contact us and we will find a good way to help you.

baseimage-amzn Version Numbering

We would like to give an overview of the version numbering convention that we follow and how that relates to Amazon Linux releases.

Amazon Linux is a rolling distribution. We can think of Amazon Linux as a single river of packages, and images themselves are just snapshots in time. When we run yum update our package set gets updated to the tip of this flow.

Releases usually occur in March and September. Release version numbers have the form 20YY.MM, where YY refers to the year, and MM refers to the month. For example 2017.03.

Between major releases, point releases are made by Amazon Linux Team. Point releases have the form 20YY.MM.X, where X is the point release number. For example 2017.03.1.

baseimage-amzn uses version numbering of the form 20YY.MM-00X, where 00X is our point release. For example 2017.03-003.

We will see the form 20YY.MM-00X used in the documentation below. You can find the list of baseimage-amzn versions here

Inspecting baseimage-amzn

To look around the image as root user, run:

docker run --rm -t -i lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn:2017.03-003 /sbin/my_init -- /bin/bash -l

docker run --rm -t -i lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn:<20YY.MM-00X> /sbin/my_init -- /bin/bash -l

To look around the image as ll-user user, run:

docker run --rm -t -i lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn:2017.03-003 /sbin/my_init -- /sbin/setuser ll-user /bin/bash -l

docker run --rm -t -i lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn:<20YY.MM-00X> /sbin/my_init -- /sbin/setuser ll-user /bin/bash -l

Here <20YY.MM-00X> is baseimage-amzn version number.

You don't have to download anything manually. The above command will automatically pull baseimage-amzn image from the Docker registry.

Using baseimage-amzn as Docker Base Image

Getting started

The image is called lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn and is available on the Docker registry.

# Use lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn as base image.
# See for
# a list of version numbers.
FROM lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn:<20YY.MM-00X>

# Use baseimage-amzn's init system
CMD ["/sbin/my_init"]

  # Update RPM packages
  yum update && \

  # ...put your own build instructions here...

  # Clean up YUM when done
  yum clean all && \
  rm -rf /var/cache/yum/* && \
  rm -rf /tmp/* && \
  rm -rf /var/tmp/*

Building and running our Docker Image

We use docker build command to build our Docker Image.

Once the image is built, we can start our container with docker run command.

docker run -d <DOCKER_IMAGE>

Since our Dockerfile includes the instruction CMD ["/sbin/my_init"], Docker will start the my_init process. my_init will set up our container environment and start runit process supervisor. Runit then launches and manage processes inside our container.

We can run pstree command within the Docker container to see this behavior in action.

Find the container name of the running Docker container.

docker ps

Execute pstree command in the container.

docker exec <CONTAINER_NAME> /usr/bin/pstree


We can stop the running Docker container with docker stop command.

Adding additional daemons

We can add additional daemons (e.g. our own app) to the image by creating runit entries. We have to write a small shell script which runs our daemon, and runit will keep it running for us, restarting it when it crashes, etc.

Runit requires the shell script to be named run. It must be an executable, and should be placed in the directory /etc/service/<NAME>.

Here is an example showing how a memcached server runit entry can be made.

Create a file Make sure this file is has execute permission set (chmod +x).

# `/sbin/setuser memcached` runs the given command as the user `memcached`.
# If you omit that part, the command will be run as root.
exec /sbin/setuser memcached /usr/bin/memcached >> /var/log/memcached.log 2>&1

In Dockerfile:

RUN mkdir /etc/service/memcached
ADD /etc/service/memcached/run

Note that the daemon being executed by the run shell script must not put itself into the background and must run in the foreground. Daemons usually have a command line flag or a config file option for running in foreground mode.

Running scripts during container startup

The baseimage-amzn init system, /sbin/my_init, can run scripts during startup. They are run in the following order if they exist.

  • All executable scripts in /etc/my_init.d. The scripts in this directory are executed in alphabetical order.
  • The script /etc/rc.local.

All scripts must exit correctly, that is with an exit code 0. If any script exits with a non-zero exit code, the booting will fail.

The following example shows us how to add startup script. This script logs the time of boot to the file /tmp/boottime.txt.

Create a file We need to make sure this file has execute permission set (chmod +x).

date > /tmp/boottime.txt

In Dockerfile:

RUN mkdir -p /etc/my_init.d
ADD /etc/my_init.d/

Environment variables

When we use /sbin/my_init as our main container command, any environment variables defined using docker run --env or the ENV instruction in the Dockerfile will be picked up by /sbin/my_init. These environment variables will be passed to all child processes, including /etc/my_init.d startup scripts, runit and runit managed services.

Following example shows this in action.

$ docker run --rm -t -i \
  --env FOO=bar --env HELLO='my beautiful world' \
  lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn:<20YY.MM-00X> /sbin/my_init -- /bin/bash -l


*** Running /bin/bash -l...
[root@ff6cbb791855] / # echo $FOO
[root@ff6cbb791855] / # echo $HELLO
my beautiful world
[root@ff6cbb791855] / #

Here <20YY.MM-00X> is baseimage-amzn version number.

Defining environment variables in our image at build time

When /sbin/my_init starts up, before running any startup scripts, /sbin/my_init imports environment variables from the directory /etc/container_environment. This directory contains files that are named after the environment variable names. The file contents contain the environment variable values.

/etc/container_environment is a good place to define our environment variables at build time. The environment variables defined in /etc/container_environment is inherited by all startup scripts and runit services.

For example, here is how we can define an environment variable in our Dockerfile.

RUN echo Apachai Hopachai > /etc/container_environment/MY_NAME

We can verify that it works, as follows:

$ docker run --rm -t -i \
  <DOCKER_IMAGE> /sbin/my_init -- /bin/bash -l


*** Running /bin/bash -l...
[root@2a3356297ec4] / # echo $MY_NAME
Apachai Hopachai
[root@2a3356297ec4] / #

Using environment variable dump files

Certain services such as Nginx, resets the environment variables of its child processes. When this happens, /sbin/my_init provides a way to query the original environment variables that was passed at the time of container launch.

During startup, right after importing environment variables from /etc/container_environment, /sbin/my_init dumps all its environment variables (that is, all variables imported from /etc/container_environment and variables picked up from docker run --env) to the following locations.

  • /etc/ - Contains the environment variables in bash format. We can source this file from a bash shell script.
  • /etc/container_environment.json - Contains the environment variables in JSON format.

Multiple formats makes it easy to query the original environment variables from our favorite programming/scripting language.

Here is an example showing how this works.

$ docker run --rm -t -i \
  --env FOO=bar --env HELLO='my beautiful world' \
  lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn:<20YY.MM-00X> /sbin/my_init -- /bin/bash -l


*** Running /bin/bash -l...
[root@42d4b4cd09b3] / # ls /etc/container_environment
[root@42d4b4cd09b3] / # cat /etc/container_environment/FOO; echo
[root@42d4b4cd09b3] / # cat /etc/container_environment/HELLO; echo
my beautiful world
[root@42d4b4cd09b3] / # cat /etc/container_environment.json; echo
{"LANG": "en_US.UTF-8", "TERM": "xterm", "PS1": "[\\u@\\h] \\w \\$ ", "HOSTNAME": "42d4b4cd09b3", "LC_CTYPE": "en_US.UTF-8", "PATH": "/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin", "HOME": "/", "FOO": "bar", "HELLO": "my beautiful world"}
[root@42d4b4cd09b3] / # source /etc/
[root@42d4b4cd09b3] / # echo $HELLO
my beautiful world
[root@42d4b4cd09b3] / # ls -la /etc/
-rw-r----- 1 root docker_env 249 Jun 25 11:02 /etc/
[root@42d4b4cd09b3] / # ls -la /etc/container_environment.json
-rw-r----- 1 root docker_env 254 Jun 25 11:02 /etc/container_environment.json

Here <20YY.MM-00X> is baseimage-amzn version number.

/etc/ and /etc/container_environment.json files are owned by root and accessible only by the docker_env group. To read these files as non-root user, we need to add the non-root user to docker_env group.

Installing and updating packages inside the container

Packages can be installed and updated inside the container using yum install and yum update commands.

We recommend that including the following in Dockerfile so that the docker image has the latest packages.

  yum update && \
  yum clean all && \
  rm -rf /var/cache/yum/* && \
  rm -rf /tmp/* && \
  rm -rf /var/tmp/*

Container administration

When working with containers, we will encounter situations where we may want to run a command inside a container or login to it. This could be for development, debugging or inspection purposes.

Running a one-shot command in a new containers

This section describes how to run a command inside a new container. To run a command inside an existing container see Running a command inside an existing, running container.

baseimage-amzn provides a facility to run a single one-shot command inside a new container the following way.

docker run <DOCKER_IMAGE> /sbin/my_init -- COMMAND ARGUMENTS ...

This command does the following.

  • Runs all system startup files, such as /etc/my_init.d/* and /etc/rc.local.
  • Starts all runit services.
  • Runs the specified command.
  • When the specified command exists, stops all runit services.

For example:

$ docker run lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn:<20YY.MM-00X> /sbin/my_init -- /bin/ls
*** Running /etc/rc.local...
*** Booting runit daemon...
*** Runit started as PID 7
*** Running /bin/ls...


*** /bin/ls exited with status 0.
*** Shutting down runit daemon (PID 7)...
*** Killing all processes...

We can customize how /sbin/my_init is invoked. Run docker run <DOCKER_IMAGE> /sbin/my_init --help for more information.

The following example runs /bin/ls without running the startup files, in quite mode, while running all runit services.

$ docker run lambdalinux/baseimage-amzn:<20YY.MM-00X> \
  /sbin/my_init --skip-startup-files --quiet -- /bin/ls



Here <20YY.MM-00X> is baseimage-amzn version number.

Running a command in an existing container

Start Docker container:

docker run -d <DOCKER_IMAGE>

Find the container name of the running Docker container.

docker ps

Once we have the container name, we can use docker exec to run commands in the container. For example, to run echo hello world:

docker exec <CONTAINER_NAME> /bin/echo hello world

To open a bash session inside a running container, we need to pass -t -i so that a terminal is available.

docker exec -t -i <CONTAINER_NAME> /bin/bash -l


Thank you for using baseimage-amzn.


A minimal Docker Base Image based on Amazon Linux








No releases published


No packages published