Getting started with the many ways to Docker

This is a followup on how to use Docker after building a Swarm cluster. I think it is important for people to understand the different ways to create containers and choose the best way for their needs.This blog post will explain docker-compose, docker engine, and how to do persistent storage.

[Docker Compose]

Let’s begin with docker-compose. This utility allows a user to create a manifest file of all the containers needed and how they communicate with each other. This example will show you how to create a MySQL container and connect it to a web application called nodechat.


Download the sample docker-compose.yml in a new directory. Below is the contents of the file for reference.  Since YAML files are space sensitive and not easy share in a blog post, please do not copy and paste the contents below.



image: rusher81572/mysql
restart: always

image: rusher81572/nodechat
restart: always
– 8080:8080
– mysql:mysql


Type the following command to create the containers.

docker-compose up

A lot of output will be displayed on the screen next and may not bring you back to a terminal prompt. It is safe to press ctrl+c when you see the following:

nodechat_1 |
nodechat_1 | listening on *:8080
nodechat_1 | Creating Database…..
nodechat_1 | Creating Table……

Now that the containers have been created, it is time to start them.

docker-compose start

Run the following command to find out which host is running nodechat with:

docker ps


Use your web browser to navigate to the host running nodechat on port 8080. Feel free to chat with yourself =)


This is how you can stop and remove your running containers built with the compose file:

docker-compose stop

docker-compose rm -f


[Docker Engine]

Now let’s run the equivalent Docker engine commands to accomplish the same result as the docker-compose file so you will have a better understanding on how Docker works.


Pull the image from the repository:

docker pull rusher81572/mysql
docker pull rusher81572/nodechat

Run the containers in daemon mode (In the background) with -d. The -p argument exposes a port for outside access. The format for -p is outside_port:inside_port. The “name” argument specifies a container name. This will allow us to link the nodechat application to the MySQL container simply by using a name. The”link” argument links the MySQL container to Nodechat using the container name. This will allow connectivity between nodechat and MySQL to store the chat data. The format for “link” is:  container_name:link_name.

docker run -d –name mysql rusher81572/mysql

docker run -d –link mysql:mysql -p 8080:8080 rusher81572/nodechat

(If you have any issues copying and pasting the above commands….There should be two “-” before name and link. For some reason, WordPress changes them to a single minus sign)

Find out what host is running nodechat with “docker ps” and use your web browser to navigate to the host running nodechat on port 8080



Dockerfile’s contain all of the steps needed to create a container such as adding files, defining volumes, installing software, and setting environment variables. The following steps will explain how to create persistent storage for containers by creating a container to share volumes with other containers.


Create a directory called “fileserver” with a file called “Dockerfile” with the following contents:

FROM ubuntu
VOLUME /share
CMD sleep infinity

Build the filesever container. The -t argument specifies the tag for the container which is basically a name for it.

docker build -t fileserver .
mkdir data

Run the container in daemon mode. The -v argument allows you to share a local directory inside the container as a volume. Replace location_to_data_dir with the full path to the data directory created in the previous step.

docker run -d -v location_to_data_dir:/share –name fileserver fileserver

(If you have any issues copying and pasting the above command….There should be two “-” before name)


Now we have a container named fileserver that can share volumes with other containers. The files will be store locally in the data directory. To create a client, create a directory called “fileserver-client” with a file called “Dockerfile” with the following contents:

FROM ubuntu
CMD sleep infinity

Build the fileserver-client container image.

docker build -t fileserver-client .

Now let’s run the fileserver-client container in interactive mode to create a test file. Interactive mode runs a container in the foreground so you can see what is happening and even interact with the shell. The argument “volumes-from” will mount all of the volumes from the container specified. Please note that the container will stop and return you to the shell after running the command.

docker run -it –volumes-from fileserver fileserver-client touch /share/foo.txt

(If you have any issues copying and pasting the above command….There should be two “-” before volumes-from)


Run another fileserver-client container to see list of files on the fileserver.

docker run -it –volumes-from fileserver fileserver-client ls /share

Check to ensure that the files are being stored locally.

ls location_to_data_dir/data

The file should be displayed in the terminal. Feel free to play around with this more. I hope that you learned something new today.