Learning About Docker

Over the next dozen or so few days I’ll be ramping up on Docker, where my gaps are and where the project itself is going. I’ve been using it on and off and will have more technical content, but today I wanted to write a short piece about what, where, who and how Docker came to be.

As an open source engine Docker automates deployment of lightweight, portable, resilient and self-sufficient containers that run primarily on Linux. Docker containers are used to contain a payload, encapsulate that and consistently run it on a server.

This server can be virtual, on AWS or OpenStack, in clusters, public instances or private, bare-metal servers or wherever one can get an operating system to run. I’d bet it would show up on an Arduino cluster one of these days. ¬†ūüėČ

User cases for Docker include taking packaging and deployment of applications and automating it into a simple container bundle. Another is to build PaaS style environments, lightweight that scale up and down extremely fast. Automate testing and continuous integration and deployment, because we all want that. Another big use case is simply building resilient, scalable applications that then can be deployed to Docker containers and scaled up and down rapidly.

A Little History

The creators of Docker formed a company called dotCloud that provided PaaS Services. On October 29th, 2013 however they changed the name from dotCloud to Docker Inc to emphasize the focus change from the dotCloud PaaS Technology to the core of dotCloud, Docker itself. As Docker became the core of a vibrant ecosystem the founders of dotCloud chose to focus on this exciting new technology to help guide and deliver on an ever more robust core.

Docker Ecosystem from the Docker Blog. Hope they don't mind I linked it, it shows the solid lifecycle of the ecosystem. (Click to go view the blog entry that was posted with the image)
Docker Ecosystem from the Docker Blog. Hope they don’t mind I linked it, it shows the solid lifecycle of the ecosystem. (Click to go view the blog entry that was posted with the image)

The community of docker has been super active with a dramatic number of contributors, well over 220 now, most who don’t work for Docker and they’ve made a significant percentage of the commits to the code base. As far as the repo goes, it has been downloaded over a 100,000 times, yup, over a hundred. thousand. times!!! It’s container tech, I’m still impressed just by this fact! On Github the repo has thousands of starred observers and over 15,000 people are using Docker. One other interesting fact is the slice of languages, with a very prominent usage of Go.

Docker Language Breakout on Github
Docker Language Breakout on Github

Overall the Docker project has exploded in popularity, which I haven’t seen since Node.js set the coder world on fire! It’s continuing to gain steam in how and in which ways people deploy and manage their applications – arguably more effectively in many ways.

Portland Docker Meetup. Click image for link to the meetup page.
Portland Docker Meetup. Click image for link to the meetup page.

The community is growing accordingly too, not just a simple push by Docker/dotCloud itself, but actively by grass roots efforts. One is even sprung up in Portland in the Portland Docker Meetup.

So Docker, Getting Operational

The Loading Bay
The Loading Bay

One of the best ways to describe docker (which the Docker team often uses, hat tip to the analogy!) and containers in general is to use a physical parallel. One of the best stories that is a great example is that of the shipping and freight industry. Before containers ships, trains,

Manually Guiding Freight, To Hand Unload Later.
Manually Guiding Freight, To Hand Unload Later.

trucks and buggies (ya know, that horses pulled) all were loaded by hand. There wasn’t any standardization around movement of goods except for a few, often frustrating tools like wooden barrels for liquids, bags for grains and other assorted things. They didn’t mix well and often were stored in a way that caused regular damage to good. This era is a good parallel to hosting applications on full hypervisor virtual machines or physical machines with one operating system. The operating system kind of being the holding bay or ship, with all the freight crammed inside haphazardly.

Shipping Yards, All of a Sudden Organized!
Shipping Yards, All of a Sudden Organized!

When containers were introduced like the shiny blue one shown here, everything began a revolutionary change. The manpower dramatically

A Flawlessly Rendered Container
A Flawlessly Rendered Container

dropped, injuries dropped, shipping became more modular and easy to fit the containers together. To put it simply, shipping was revolutionized through this invention. In the meantime we’ve all benefitted in some way from this change. This can be paralleled to the change in container technology shifting the way we deploy and host applications.

Next post, coming up in just a few hours “Docker, Containers Simplified!”

Linux Containers, LXC, FreeBSD Jails, VServer…

These days containerization of work, applications and storage on systems has become a hot topic. Not to say it wasn’t before, but it’s got a boost from the cloud computing segment of the industry. With that I felt the need to write up what I’ve discovered of the history in this industry so far. I’d love feedback and corrections if I’ve got anything out of order here or if – heaven forbid – I’ve got something wrong.

What are Containers?

Before I get into what a container is, it is best to define what operating system-level virtualization is. Sometimes this is referred to as jailed services or apps running in a jail.

This level of virtualization often provides extremely similar functionality as a VMware, Virtual Box or Hyper-V virtual server would provide. The difference however is primarily around the idea that the operating system-level virtualization actually runs as a service, usually protected, that runs apps as if it were an operating system itself.

So what’s a container?

Linux Contains is a feature that allows Linux to run a single or more isolated virtual systems that each have their own network interfaces, computer process threads and namespaces, user namespaces and states.

One of the common abbreviations for Linux Containers you’ll see is LxC. There are however many distinct operating system-level virtualization solutions.

  • Open VZ – this technology uses a single patched Linux kernel, providing the ability to use the architecture and kernel version of the system that is executing the container.
  • Linux V-Server – this technology is a virtual private server implementation that was created by adding operating system-level virtualization to the Linux kerne. The project was started by¬†Jacques G√©linas. It is now maintained by Herbert P√∂tzl of¬†Austria¬†and is not related to the¬†Linux Virtual Server¬†project. The server breaks things into partitions called security contexts, within that is the virtual private server.
  • FreeBSD Jail – This container technology breaks apps and services into jails.
  • Workload Partitions – This is a technology built for AIX, introduced in AIX 6.1. Workload Partitions breaks things into¬†WPARs. These are software partitions that are created from the resources of a single AIX OS instance. WPARs can be created on any¬†system p¬†(the new old thing, was the RS/6000 tech)¬†hardware that supports AIX 6.1 or higher versions. There are two kinds of WPARs, System WPARs and Application WPARs.
  • Solaris Containers –¬†is a container tech for x86 and SPARC systems. It was first released in February 04′ for Solaris 10. It is also available in OpenSolaris, SmartOS and others as well os Oracle Solaris 11. The Solaris container combines resource controls in seperations referred to as zones. These zones act as completely isolated virtual servers within a OS.

What is so great about a container?

Ok, so I’ve covered what a container is. You’re probably asking, “so what do I do with these containers?” There are a number of things, for starters speed is a huge advantage with containers. You can spool up entire functional application or service systems, like an API facade or something, in seconds. Often times a container will spool up and be ready in less than a second. This provides a huge amount of power to build out flexible, resilient, self-healing distributed systems that otherwise are just impossible to build with slow loading traditional virtual machine technology.

Soft memory is another capability that most containers have. This is the capability of being allocated, or being allocated and running, in memory. As one may already know, if you run something purely out of memory it is extremely fast, often 2-10x faster than running something that has to swap on a physical drive.

Managing crashing services or damaged ecosystem elements. If the containers are running, but one gets hit with an overloaded compute ask, software crashes on it, or one of the many receive some type of blocking state like a DDOS of sorts, just reboot it. Another option is just to kill it and spool up and entirely new instance of the app or service in a container. This ability really is amplified in any cloud environment like AWS where a server instance may crash with some containers on it, but having another instance running with multiple containers on it is easy, and restarting those containers on running instances is easy and extremely fast.

Security is another element that can be assisted with container technology. As I alluded to in the previous point above, if a container gets taken over or otherwise compromised, it’s very easy to just kill it and resume one that is not compromised. Often buying more time to resolve the security concern. Also, by having each container secured against each other container, controlling a container does not result in a compromised physical machine and operating system. This is a huge saving grace when security is breached.

Container Summary

Containers are a hot ticket topic, for good reason. They provide increase management of apps and services, can utilize soft memory, increase security and they’re blazing fast. The technology, albeit having been around for a good decade, is starting to grow in new ways. Containers are starting to also become a mainstay of cloud technology, almost a requirement for effective management of distributed environments.

Next up, I’ll hit on Docker tech from DotCloud and Salomon Hykes @solomonstre.

For now, anybody got some additions or corrections for this short history and definitions of containers? ¬†ūüôā

Getting Docker Installed on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

A few days ago I posted the blog entry “Using SSH Locally to Work With Ubuntu VM + VMware Tools Installation via Shell“, it was related to getting a clean Ubuntu Server install running with VMware Tools and so that I could use it as a hosted instance. Simply put, being able to SSH into it just as I would a hosted AWS or Windows Azure Ubuntu Server image. Once I had the default virtual machine running 12.04 LTS I went about another installation that is needed to run Docker. Docker will have issues with anything pre-3.8 kernel. Running the command below will show that kernel 3.5 is the current kernel in 12.04 LTS.

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
apt-cache search linux-headers-$(uname -r)

To update to the 3.8 kernel I ran the following command and then rebooted.

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
sudo apt-get install linux-image-generic-lts-raring linux-headers-generic-lts-raring
sudo shutdown -r now

With the reboot complete, I checked the kernel version again and 3.8 was installed successfully.

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
@ubuntu:~$ apt-cache search linux-headers-$(uname -r)
linux-headers-3.8.0-33-generic – Linux kernel headers for version 3.8.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP

To get Docker installed (as of 0.6) run the following command.

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
sudo sh -c "wget -qO- https://get.docker.io/gpg | apt-key add -"
sudo sh -c "echo deb http://get.docker.io/ubuntu docker main\
> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list"

Next update the sources, then install lxc-docker.

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install lxc-docker

To verify that docker is installed I executed the following command and…

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
sudo docker run -i -t ubuntu /bin/bash

…see similar results just after issuing the command.

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
Unable to find image ‘ubuntu’ (tag: latest) locally
Pulling repository ubuntu
8dbd9e392a96: Download complete
b750fe79269d: Download complete
27cf78414709: Download complete

After that displays then I typed exit to leave docker. I now have a running version of docker on the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS instance ready for testing and hacking with docker.