Step 2: Daemonize Docker

Objective: Daemonize a Docker image so that it can run in the background.

By default, Docker runs containers in the foreground. The container will exit once it has executed the current command. Recall our image that displayed the date. It started, displayed the date, and then exited. We have to run the containers in the background if we want them to act like a server, not as a client application that we started when we need to use it.

In multitasking computer operating systems, a daemon is a computer program that runs as a background process, rather than being under the direct control of an interactive user. The letter ‘d’ or flag ‘-d’ indicates that process a daemon. For example, syslogd is the daemon that implements the system logging facility, and sshd is a daemon that serves incoming SSH connections. Source: Wikipedia.

5.2.1. Docker Daemon Mode

docker run uses the flag -d to indicate the container should run in the background. However, the container will still exit once the task is completed.

Let’s see how this works in practice.

  1. Start the container using these commands to name the container and run it in the background.

    • --name flag assigns that name to the container.

    • -d flag runs the process in the background.

    docker run --name alpine-demo -d alpine-demo:test
    
    Output
    root@vps298933:~# docker run --name alpine-demo -d alpine-demo:test
    bd90885a90ed24bc575e48f17fd01f27a551c9d7c47af586014a44ed73a329d2
    root@vps298933:~#
    root@vps298933:~# docker ps -a
    CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND     CREATED             STATUS                     PORTS       NAMES
    bd90885a90ed        alpine-demo:test    "date"      4 seconds ago       Exited (0) 3 seconds ago               alpine-demo
    root@vps298933:~#
    

    We see that the container ran and then exited. However, it displayed a long line of text (the long identifier of the container) instead of our expected output. We can still get the output of container from the logs.

  2. View the logs from the alpine-demo container.

    We can use command docker logs [NAME or ID] to get the logs for a specific container. In our case, we’ll use our container name of alpine-demo.

    docker logs alpine-demo
    
    Output
    root@vps298933:~# docker logs alpine-demo
    Fri Feb 15 08:41:00 UTC 2019
    root@vps298933:~# docker logs bd90885a90ed
    Fri Feb 15 08:41:00 UTC 2019
    root@vps298933:~#
    
  3. Create a process that does not exit.

    Docker requires an active process to keep the container alive. Usually, the process is tied to a web process, such as Apache or Ngnix. We can use a simple script that never exits to keep the container running. Our script will use a while loop that pauses for a few seconds and then restarts.

    Script logic
     while true; do
         sleep 1s
     done
    
    1. Run the container using a command that puts it in an infinite loop using a one second delay.

    docker run --name alpine-demo -d alpine-demo:test /bin/sh -c "while true; do sleep 1s; done"
    
    Output
    root@vps298933:~# docker run --name alpine-demo -d alpine-demo:test /bin/sh -c "while true; do sleep 1s; done"
    cca96a2845b301d625ede07b4fcfdef180b95e092c19737d42634493214f59c4
    root@vps298933:~#
    root@vps298933:~# docker ps
    CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS           PORTS        NAMES
    cca96a2845b3        alpine-demo:test    "/bin/sh -c 'while t…"   4 seconds ago       Up 3 seconds                  alpine-demo
    root@vps298933:~#
    root@vps298933:~# docker ps
    CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS           PORTS        NAMES
    cca96a2845b3        alpine-demo:test    "/bin/sh -c 'while t…"   2 minutes ago       Up 2 minutes                  alpine-demo
    root@vps298933:~#
    

    Our container continues to run the background. It will run until the VP is restarted or we stop the process. We can now enter the container using a shell.

  4. Enter the container using the sh shell.

    Note

    We have to use the full path, which is /bin/sh.

    Now that the container is running in the background, we can enter the container to get a terminal prompt using the docker exec command to execute the shell program in interactive mode using flags -it (or -i -t).

    docker exec -it alpine-demo /bin/sh
    
    1. Evaluate the running processes using command ps (process status).

      • Notice that our script has PID 1, which is the first process that is started at boot time.

      • PID 1 has a special status.

      • The container will stop when the process with PID 1 stops.

      • The container will not stop automatically because the scrip never ends.

    Output
    root@vps298933:~# docker exec -it alpine-demo /bin/sh
    / # ps
    PID   USER     TIME  COMMAND
        1 root      0:00 /bin/sh -c while true; do sleep 1s; done
        9 root      0:00 /bin/sh
       15 root      0:00 sleep 1s
       16 root      0:00 ps
    / # cat /etc/*-release
    3.9.0
    NAME="Alpine Linux"
    ID=alpine
    VERSION_ID=3.9.0
    PRETTY_NAME="Alpine Linux v3.9"
    HOME_URL="https://alpinelinux.org/"
    BUG_REPORT_URL="https://bugs.alpinelinux.org/"
    / # exit
    root@vps298933:~#
    
  5. Let’s modify our Dockerfile so that it uses an actual script so that it will always start in daemon mode.

    We will introduce two new commands:

    • COPY copies a file from the host computer to the image when it is built.

    • ENTRYPOINT file-path specifies the file that the container will run once it starts.

    1. Edit Dockerfile and add the new commands

    File contents of Dockerfile
     1
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    # A simple Dockerfile using Alpine
    
    FROM alpine
    
    RUN apk update && \
        apk add nano curl
    
    # Print the date
    CMD ["date"]
    
    # Copy the file, set the execute flag
    COPY entrypoint.sh /entrypoint.sh
    RUN chmod +x /entrypoint.sh
    
    # This script runs when a container is created
    ENTRYPOINT ["/entrypoint.sh"]
    
  6. Create file entrypoint.sh.

    We will create a simple shell script that runs when the Docker container starts. It is the entrypoint into the container. Typically, a shell script has the file extension of .sh.

    File contents of entrypoint.sh
    #!/bin/sh
    
    # Keeps the container alive
    while true; do sleep 1s; done
    
  7. Build the container and then run it.

    Let’s give it a new tag. Notice the new steps in the output. Step 4 copies the file into the image and then step 5 sets the entry point. We will add the letter ‘d’ to our container name so we know that it is a daemonized process.

    docker build -t alpine-demo:daemon .
    docker images
    docker run --name alpine-demod -d alpine-demo:daemon
    
    Output
    root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine#
    root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine# docker build -t alpine-demo:daemon .
    Sending build context to Docker daemon  3.072kB
    Step 1/6 : FROM alpine:latest
     ---> 5cb3aa00f899
    Step 2/6 : RUN apk update &&     apk add nano &&     apk add curl
     ---> Using cache
     ---> bffd4113050a
    Step 3/6 : CMD ["date"]
     ---> Using cache
     ---> 5b250f17b87a
    Step 4/6 : COPY entrypoint.sh /entrypoint.sh
     ---> 565e02e06c07
    Step 5/6 : RUN chmod +x /entrypoint.sh
     ---> Running in eaa78413a547
    Removing intermediate container eaa78413a547
     ---> 77dfe19816fd
    Step 6/6 : ENTRYPOINT ["/entrypoint.sh"]
     ---> Running in 3404f1544c7e
    Removing intermediate container 3404f1544c7e
     ---> ce272b995894
    Successfully built ce272b995894
    Successfully tagged alpine-demo:daemon
    root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo# docker images
    REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
    alpine-demo         daemon              ce272b995894        5 seconds ago       16.8MB
    alpine-demo         test                5b250f17b87a        4 hours ago         16.8MB
    alpine              latest              5cb3aa00f899        5 weeks ago         5.53MB
    root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo# docker run --name alpine-demod -d alpine-demo:daemon
    1cd0b2b19e16ed6e51e5586026510896b7e3a5d84c55f6cafb00b8a35292d12e
    root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo# docker ps
    CONTAINER ID        IMAGE                 COMMAND                  CREATED              STATUS              PORTS        NAMES
    1cd0b2b19e16        alpine-demo:daemon    "/entrypoint.sh date"    About a minute ago   Up About a minute                alpine-demod
    e0abd9624ce5        alpine-demo:test      "/bin/sh -c 'while t…"   3 hours ago          Up 3 hours                       alpine-demo
    root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo#
    root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo# docker exec -it alpine-demod /bin/sh
    / #
    / # ps
    PID   USER     TIME  COMMAND
        1 root      0:00 {entrypoint.sh} /bin/sh /entrypoint.sh date
     1185 root      0:00 /bin/sh
     1192 root      0:00 sleep 1s
     1193 root      0:00 ps
    / # exit
    root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo#
    

5.2.2. Debugging

docker build builds images by parts. An incorrect command, missing file, or something that is not correct might stop the build process. docker build does not stop on all errors. It could proceed and report a Successfully built message that leaves behinds unnamed builds. For example, you build an image and then try to run the container. docker run created a container, but it would not run. Inspecting the images indicates that the image did not build properly.

Output
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine# docker build -t alpine-demo:daemon .
Sending build context to Docker daemon  3.072kB
Step 1/6 : FROM alpine
 ---> caf27325b298
Step 2/6 : RUN apk update &&     apk add nano curl
 ---> Using cache
 ---> 6a5ee9cd840c
Step 3/6 : CMD ["date"]
 ---> Using cache
 ---> f81cfdbe1e26
Step 4/6 : COPY entrypoint.sh /entrypoint.sh
 ---> Using cache
 ---> 6b686904f2ab
Step 5/6 : RUN chmod +x /entrypoint.sh
 ---> Running in 7f2dfb77bb67
Removing intermediate container 7f2dfb77bb67
 ---> 16241fe9e9b6
Step 6/6 : ENTRYPOINT ["/entrypoint.sh"]
 ---> Running in f951f26f4b33
Removing intermediate container f951f26f4b33
 ---> 02bf62b546b4
Successfully built 02bf62b546b4
Successfully tagged alpine-demo:daemon
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine#
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine# docker run --name alpine-demod -d alpine-demo:daemon
11d5dd7125c76697633acfe43b4b694a86fd3bad77a541a7add9f4c03b425943
docker: Error response from daemon: OCI runtime create failed: container_linux.go:348: starting container process caused
"exec: \"/bin/sh -c /entrypoint.sh\": stat /bin/sh -c /entrypoint.sh: no such file or directory": unknown.
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine# docker ps -a
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS          PORTS      NAMES
85cbdde72e8a        alpine-demo:daemon  "/entrypoint.sh date"    7 minutes ago       Created                    alpine-demod
f087d867c18e        alpine-demo:test    "/bin/sh -c 'while t…"   18 minutes ago      Up 18 minutes              alpine-demo
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine# docker rm alpine-demod

Inspecting the images using docker images shows three unnamed images, which are three failed builds.

Output
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine# docker images
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
alpine-demo         daemon              34931c7cb89b        7 minutes ago       16.8MB
<none>              <none>              4a5247bf507f        10 minutes ago      16.8MB
<none>              <none>              02bf62b546b4        17 minutes ago      16.8MB
<none>              <none>              2d4f3357a4c6        About an hour ago   16.8MB
alpine-demo         test                f81cfdbe1e26        25 hours ago        16.8MB
alpine              latest              caf27325b298        2 weeks ago         5.53MB

We can evaluate the failed build. Docker calls these dangling images.

docker images -f "dangling=true" -q

We can cleanup dangling images quickly using a single command.

docker rmi $(docker images -f "dangling=true" -q)
Output
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine#
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine# docker images
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
alpine-demo         daemon              34931c7cb89b        22 minutes ago      16.8MB
<none>              <none>              4a5247bf507f        25 minutes ago      16.8MB
<none>              <none>              02bf62b546b4        32 minutes ago      16.8MB
<none>              <none>              2d4f3357a4c6        2 hours ago         16.8MB
alpine-demo         test                f81cfdbe1e26        25 hours ago        16.8MB
alpine              latest              caf27325b298        2 weeks ago         5.53MB
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine#
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine# docker rmi $(docker images -f "dangling=true" -q)
Deleted: sha256:4a5247bf507f8e706a488f32ac3553b11d6d6581d2ba1358daf81d7bac6c481b
Deleted: sha256:02bf62b546b489fa6956692f8fd3c542e4bdbac322072311bf1417d2f1394c2a
Deleted: sha256:16241fe9e9b6fac70c742e4d25be41dcdf61d457d569855371ae254482dc54ba
Deleted: sha256:4811c004c04495e046bebfed53f13e4981f2f3b150bc9dff05d79882acb7d98a
Deleted: sha256:2d4f3357a4c613d5c539410dea851910dcc855e5f094b548f41b88fc9f0915ce
Deleted: sha256:6b686904f2abbb350a8eeff4c1c481ea412a065957e5e69bccc04479033db5b7
Deleted: sha256:a4fa6ef5ebd3cb02c7f8fd82ee4e8554139aa8e48b55d0f3a3b7860c51a11c9c
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine# docker images
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
alpine-demo         daemon              34931c7cb89b        22 minutes ago      16.8MB
alpine-demo         test                f81cfdbe1e26        25 hours ago        16.8MB
alpine              latest              caf27325b298        2 weeks ago         5.53MB
root@vps298933:~/alpine-demo-alpine#

5.2.3. Wrap-up

We learned how to create a daemonized container or one that runs in the background.

  1. We can start a container that runs in the background using docker run -d image:tag /bin/sh -c "while true; do sleep 1s; done"

    • -d flag directs the container to run in the background.

    • /bin/sh -c "while true; do sleep 1s; done" starts a script that runs without stopping.

  2. We can build a container that will start in daemon mode using the ENTRYPOINT command in the Dockerfile.

    • COPY source destination command copies a file to the image.

    • RUN chmod +x /filename set the executable flag on the file.

    • ENTRYPOINT ["/path/filename"] specifies a file to run when a container is created from the image.

Next, we’ll build an image that includes a webserver and a Python script.