By Ryan Veazey
May 1, 2017
Docker is a containerization platform that allows you to wrap up all the parts needed to run a piece of software on a system. These containers are described in a simple, declarative way that can also serve as requirement documentation.
One of the advantages of container images over something like a virtual machine is how much more efficient they are with respect to the allocation of resources; one server (or VM) can run many containers. However, some platforms require a complicated or heavy build tool-chain that is required to build the software, but not to run it.
For example, the base container images for Ruby or Go can be several hundred MB or more. There are often alternative tags of these images with smaller sizes, usually inheriting from Alpine Linux, a minimal distribution, but for compiled languages or when the result is some sort of build artifact, the build tools aren’t needed at all during runtime.
One solution that has been common is to have one container for building artifacts, which are exposed on the host machine and later picked up in the build of a second, different container. While this works, it requires yet another step and another dependency on the machine running docker. It also makes it more difficult to use systems which automatically build docker images from source repositories like GitHub.
The current edge release of Docker includes support for a solution called multi-stage builds. In essence, it’s not much different from the idea of copying files from one container into another, but it’s now built in to the system.
If you’ve been reading technical posts on the Jungle Disk Blog, you may have seen it mentioned that we use Jekyll to build our retail website and blog. Jekyll is a tool that can build complicated static websites from templates and content that can be written in html, markdown and other formats. It’s a great way to speed up a website, since no processing needs to be done when visiting the site, just building it. We then host the content with Nginx running in Docker containers (since we do need some routing and redirecting logic) which is behind a content delivery network.
We started out just putting all the requirements in one container to minimize the difficulty of everyone being able to contribute to the site.
Now, with multi-stage builds, we start from the official Ruby image to build the site, but copy it into a fresh Nginx image.
FROM ruby:2.4.1 as build-env RUN apt-get update && apt-get install -y build-essential ruby-dev nodejs RUN gem install bundler COPY Gemfile Gemfile.lock ./ RUN bundle install COPY . ./ RUN JEKYLL_ENV=production bundle exec jekyll build --verbose FROM nginx:1.13.0-alpine COPY --from=build-env _site _site COPY nginx.conf /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf
After we name the container here with
as build-env, we continue normally. Then, when we want to create our actual web server image, we simply run another
FROM command to start from a new Nginx image. Then, during the copy command, we use
--from=build-env to specify that we’re copying from the file system of the build-env container rather than the build system.
Now, we’ve still got a single Dockerfile, with no new dependancies, but we’ve shrunk the size from around 670MB to a little over 100 MB.
If you’re interested in using multi-stage builds, you’ll need to make sure you have Docker version 17.05.0 or greater, which as of this writing, has not yet been released as stable, but is available as an edge release. The resulting images shouldn’t have this dependency, so you only need to upgrade your local/CI boxes.