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docker deployer

This is some tools for deploying docker containers to a host which is providing access to the docker with nginx.

I wanted something similar to heroku, rapid deployment of new things, but without being bound to heroku and having to pay for an account to scale and all those things.


2014 September - make the deployment start a daemon on the remote host to continually ping the docker's HTTP and restart it. The daemon has a fifo that it reads for commands, you can get a list of commands by sending it "help". Everything is stored in /tmp/ddctrl/{name-of-image}

2014 August - handle nginx configs with upstreams instead of direct HTTP addresses in backend statements. The support isn't great but without parsing the nginx config totally (and the best placed thing to do that would be nginx) there's not a lot we can do better.


You need:

  • bash
  • curl
  • jq
  • docker - duh
  • an app that has a Dockerfile
  • something that exports a port with Docker, probably a webapp because this uses nginx
  • a live host to host your container
  • an ssh key relationship with your remote host such that you can ssh remotehost
  • an account on the docker registry

how to

$ bash <(curl -L

will download the script and ask a few questions:

docker image: nicferrier/elnode-gnudoc
nginx config: /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/gnudoc.conf
remote host name:
  • docker image - the name of the docker image you want to build, this will be pushed to the docker registry
  • nginx config - the nginx config on the live host which proxies the docker
  • remote host name - the host name of the live host for the docker, the docker will be pulled here from the docker registry

If you have VOLUME export statements in your Dockerfile it will also ask you where thet are mapped.

The script then creates a minimal deploy script which you can run to deploy your docker app to the host you specified:

$ bash deploy

You can safely check that into version control.

what does the deploy script do?

Here's an example:

# Docker deploy script generated by deploy-make

[ -f ./.deploy-test ] && source ./.deploy-test
[ -f ./.deploy ]     || curl -o ./.deploy     || { echo "can't http the deployscript" ; exit 1; }
. ./.deploy
deploy ${1:-"deploy"} nicferrier/elnode-linky 8005 /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/linky.conf /home/nferrier/linky/db:/home/emacs/elnode-linky/db

So what does it do?

  • builds the current Dockerfile to docker image
  • pushes the docker image to the docker registry
  • pushes a function to the remote host name with ssh and executes it to start a daemon to:
  • pull the new docker image from the docker registry
  • start the pulled docker image as a container
  • alter the nginx config to proxy the newly exported port
  • restart nginx
  • monitor the started docker for http
  • restart the docker when it fails (and update nginx)

other stuff the deploy script supports

The deploy script that gets created actually supports a few more tricks than just the deployment.

You can run just the build step of the deployment:

$ bash deploy build

This will not push to the docker registry.

You can also run the build and push to docker registry, without doing the deploy:

$ bash deploy push

stuff the deploy doesn't take care of

  • creating your live environment outside the docker
  • no nginx setup
  • no creation of volume exported directories


This is very imperfect. It has a lot of assumptions:

  • you're using a webapp
  • you're exporting one port
  • you're proxying with nginx
  • you're using the docker registry
  • ... and that's just for starters

However, it's a start and it is repeatable.

is the download safe?

Perhaps you've heard that doing:

$ curl http://something | bash -

is unsafe. Is:

bash <(curl http://something)

any safer?

NO! Never use a curl and a bash together if you don't know what they're doing. It's completely mad.

However, once you are confident of the script then you can do it.

If you're not confident of what the script does then go look at it.


Why not just use Heroku? or some other sexy PAAS?

Because this is just as usable and probably more scalable. By that I mean that I can persuade it do new things easier than I can get Heroku to do new things.

With Heroku I'm working with someone else's constraints. With this I'm working with mine.


a shell script to help with deploying dockers






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