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An init for use inside Docker containers
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miekg Merge pull request #16 from devnev/handle-spaces
Support spaces in arguments of start, stop and socket commands.
Latest commit 32da416 Oct 15, 2016



./dinit [OPTIONS] -r CMD [OPTIONS..] [-r CMD [OPTIONS...]...]


Docker-init or dinit is a small init-like "daemon" (it is not a daemon) for use within Docker containers.

Dinit will pass any environment variables through to the programs it is starting. It will pass signals (SIGHUP, SIGTERM and SIGINT) through to the children it is managing. It will not restart any of its children if they die, i.e. we want the container to die and be restarted or noticed by the supervisor.

If one of the programs fails to start dinit will exit with an error. If programs daemonize dinit will lose track of them.

Dinit has the concept of a primary process which is the last process listed. If that process dies dinit will kill the remaining processes and exit. This allows for cleanups and container restarts. You can also mark all processes as primary, meaning that if one of them dies, all of them are stopped.

If dinit runs as pid 1 it will cleanup zombies that might be created by any of the processes.


See But a simpler solution. Get a standard container image and instead of:

ENTRYPOINT ["/bin/sleep", "80"]


ADD dinit /dinit
ENTRYPOINT ["/dinit", "-r", "/bin/sleep", "80"]


ENTRYPOINT ["/dinit", "-r", "/bin/sleep, "$TIMEOUT"]

Where $TIMEOUT will be expanded by dinit itself. If you need -r as a flag to a command just escape it with \-r, which will be removed by dinit.

The last command in the list given to dinit will also get the arguments given to docker run, so the above sleep can be rewritten like:

ENTRYPOINT ["/dinit", "-r", "/bin/sleep"]

And then call docker run .... 80

Note that the -start and -stop still take one argument which is split on whitespace and then executed.

Socket Interface

When running dinit it opens a Unix socket named /tmp/dinit.sock. This enables a text interface that allows for starting extra processes as children of dinit. The interface is extremely simple: you give it a commandline as you would normally give to dinit, terminated with a newline.

The string being sent is the command and its arguments: -r CMD ARG1 ARG2 ... \n.

The maximum length of the command line that can be sent is 512 characters including the newline.

With dinit -submit you can easily access this functionality:

% dinit -submit -r sleep 20


  • maxproc or core-fraction: set GOMAXPROCS to the number of CPUs on the host multiplied by maxproc, typical values are 0.5 or 1.0. When 0.0 dinit will not set GOMAXPROCS by itself. If GOMAXPROCS is already set in the environment this does nothing.
  • start: run a command when starting up. On any failure, dinit exits. The complete command must be given as one string, enclosed with quotes.
  • stop: run command on exit. The complete command must be given as one string, enclosed with quotes.
  • timeout: time in seconds before SIGKILL is sent after the SIGTERM has been sent.
  • primary: consider all commands primary; if one of them dies then take down the other processes.
  • submit: submit a command line to dinit's socket interface.


Start "sleep 2" with dinit, but before you do run sleep 1:

% ./dinit -start "/bin/sleep 1" -r /bin/sleep 2
2015/07/29 21:49:04 dinit: pid 16759 started: [/bin/sleep 2]
2015/07/29 21:49:06 dinit: pid 16759, finished: [/bin/sleep 2]
2015/07/29 21:49:06 dinit: all processes exited, goodbye!

With -submit you can start extra processes that will be children of the original dinit process.

% dinit -submit -r /bin/sleep 2

Or when dinit is running in a docker container:

% docker exec a7a55cd8fcf3 /dinit -submit -r /bin/sleep 10


The following environment variables are used by dinit:

  • DINIT_TIMEOUT: default value to use for timeout.
  • DINIT_START: command to run during startup.
  • DINIT_STOP: command to run during teardown.
  • GOMAXPROCS: the GOMAXPROCS for Go programs.

Dinit opens a Unix socket named /tmp/dinit.sock.

See Also

Dinit is partly inspired by my_init. And init(8).

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