What is Docker?
Docker is an open source container based technology.
What is a Container?
To more easily explain what containers are, let’s compare them to Virtual Machines:
- A Virtual Machine includes the application, the necessary binaries and libraries and a guest operating system. This means that it tries to do everything a computer has to do, which is quite resource intensive.
- A Container is different from a Virtual Machine. It’s like a box that includes the application and all the dependencies associate with it, but shares the host operating system’s kernel. You can think of it as a lightweight server that contains just enough for it to be whatever it needs to be.
“The Kernel” of an operating system is a collection of software that is the minimum needed to run various hardware. It has complete access and control over everything in and pertaining to the system and is the first thing loaded of your system. It also contains drivers, the bits of code that communicate with and control hardware. [ref: /r/explainlikeimfive ]
Table of Contents
- Step 1 — Installing Docker on Ubuntu
- Step 2 — Allowing Non-sudo Access (Optional)
- Step 3 — Docker Command Basics
- Step 4 — Intro to Docker Images
- Step 5 — Intro to Docker Containers
Why use Docker?
In short, with Docker, only our application and it’s dependencies are contained, which makes it extremely fast and extremely portable, and we don’t have to worry about the OS.
Step 1 — Installing Docker on Ubuntu
Update your package index:
$ sudo apt update
Install the necessary packages so
apt can use packages over HTTPS:
$ sudo apt install apt-transport-https ca-certificates curl software-properties-common
Add the official Docker repository’s GPG key to your system:
$ curl -fsSL https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu/gpg | sudo apt-key add -
Add the Docker APT repository to your system’s APT sources:
$ sudo add-apt-repository "deb [arch=amd64] https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu bionic stable"
Update your list of packages again, since we just added the Docker repository:
$ sudo apt update
Now we can install the latest version of Docker CE (Community Edition):
$ sudo apt install docker-ce
After the installation is complete, the Docker service will start automatically. You can check it’s status by running the following command:
$ sudo systemctl status docker
The output will look something like this:
sudo systemctl status docker
● docker.service -- Docker Application Container Engine
Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/docker.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
Active: active (running) since Sun 2018-11-25 09:25:30 PST; 44min ago
Main PID: 442 (dockerd)
├─442 /usr/bin/dockerd -H fd://
└─470 docker-containerd --config /var/run/docker/containerd/containerd.toml
lines 1-19/19 (END)
If you find that the terminal is locked in the
systemctlcommand’s output as it displays the status information of the requested service ( docker in this case ), then just press
You’ve now installed Docker. This gives you the Docker service and also the Docker Client, or
docker command line utility. We can start using the
docker command to check our Docker version. Here’s my version at the time of writing:
Docker version 18.09.0, build 4d60db4
Step 2 — Allowing Non-sudo Access (Optional)
This step is optional.
If you’d like to execute the
docker command without being
root or always prefixing it with
sudo, then you’ll have to add your username to the
$ sudo usermod -aG docker your_username
To apply the new membership, you’ll have to log out of your current user by typing
CTRL+D and logging back in. You can then test if the changes applied by checking if the user is now part of the docker group:
$ id -nG
vlad sudo docker
NOTE: In the rest of this tutorial we’ll assume that you’re running the
dockercommand as a user that’s not part of the
dockergroup, so we will prefix
sudofor every command, but you don’t have to if you’ve added your current user to the
The reason we continue this way is because some readers may just scan this tutorial for commands.
Step 3 — Docker Command Basics
docker command has the following structure:
$ sudo docker [option] [command] [arguments]
To view all the available commands, just run:
$ sudo docker
The list of commands and subcommands in Docker 18 includes:
attach Attach local standard input, output, and error streams to a running container build Build an image from a Dockerfile commit Create a new image from a container's changes cp Copy files/folders between a container and the local filesystem create Create a new container diff Inspect changes to files or directories on a container's filesystem events Get real time events from the server exec Run a command in a running container export Export a container's filesystem as a tar archive history Show the history of an image images List images import Import the contents from a tarball to create a filesystem image info Display system-wide information inspect Return low-level information on Docker objects kill Kill one or more running containers load Load an image from a tar archive or STDIN login Log in to a Docker registry logout Log out from a Docker registry logs Fetch the logs of a container pause Pause all processes within one or more containers port List port mappings or a specific mapping for the container ps List containers pull Pull an image or a repository from a registry push Push an image or a repository to a registry rename Rename a container restart Restart one or more containers rm Remove one or more containers rmi Remove one or more images run Run a command in a new container save Save one or more images to a tar archive (streamed to STDOUT by default) search Search the Docker Hub for images start Start one or more stopped containers stats Display a live stream of container(s) resource usage statistics stop Stop one or more running containers tag Create a tag TARGET_IMAGE that refers to SOURCE_IMAGE top Display the running processes of a container unpause Unpause all processes within one or more containers update Update configuration of one or more containers version Show the Docker version information wait Block until one or more containers stop, then print their exit codes
To get help on a specific [subcommand] then just run:
$ sudo docker docker-subcommand --help
For system-wide information on Docker, run:
$ sudo docker info
Step 4 — Intro to Docker Images
Docker containers are built from Docker images.
What is a Docker image? To put it simply, a Docker image is basically a template that you use for your container. It’s a binary that includes all the requirements and instructions necessary to run a Docker container.
Most images are kept at Docker Hub, which is a Docker registry managed by Docker, the company behind the Docker project. By default, Docker is configured to automatically pull images from there when you request them. It’s easy to use and a great resource featuring excellent Docker images. There you’ll find most applications and Linux distributions that you need.
Check if you have access and can download images from Docker Hub with the mandatory
hello world example:
$ sudo docker run hello-world
The output will look something like this:
sudo docker run hello-world
Unable to find image ‘hello-world:latest’ locally
latest: Pulling from library/hello-world
d1725b59e92d: Pull complete
Status: Downloaded newer image for hello-world:latest
Hello from Docker!
This message shows that your installation appears to be working correctly.
As you may tell from the output,
docker was initially unable to find the
hello-world image locally, so it downloaded it from Docker Hub, created a container from it, and ran the application within the container, which displayed the
Hello from Docker [...] message.
Searching for Docker Images
You can also search for various images, using the
search subcommand. The script will search Docker Hub and list all images matching the string you used:
$ sudo docker search wordpress
$ sudo docker search wordpress NAME DESCRIPTION STARS OFFICIAL AUTOMATED wordpress The WordPress rich content management system… 2652 [OK] bitnami/wordpress Bitnami Docker Image for WordPress 95 [OK] appcontainers/wordpress Centos/Debian Based Customizable WordPress C… 34 [OK] etopian/alpine-php-wordpress Alpine WordPress Nginx PHP-FPM WP-CLI 18 [OK] centurylink/wordpress WordPress image with MySQL removed. 14 [OK] raulr/nginx-wordpress Nginx front-end for the official wordpress:f… 11 [OK] 1and1internet/ubuntu-16-nginx-php-5.6-wordpress-4 ubuntu-16-nginx-php-5.6-wordpress-4 6 [OK] dalareo/wordpress-ldap WordPress images with LDAP support automatic… 6 [OK] withinboredom/scalable-wordpress An easy to scale WordPress 5 [OK] 1and1internet/ubuntu-16-nginx-php-7.1-wordpress-4 ubuntu-16-nginx-php-7.1-wordpress-4 3 [OK] julianxhokaxhiu/docker-awesome-wordpress A Docker that combines all the most awesome … 2 [OK] wodby/wordpress-nginx Nginx for WordPress 2 [OK] gwee/wordpress-sendmail-docker wordpress with sendmail 2 [OK] wodby/wordpress-php PHP for WordPress 2 [OK] dsteinkopf/wordpress wordpress clone plus some php extensions 1 [OK] julianxhokaxhiu/docker-wordpress-ldaps WordPress Docker image with LDAPS support 1 [OK] arm64v8/wordpress The WordPress rich content management system… 1 bakudankun/wordpress-ja WordPress Japanese Edition forked from offic… 1 [OK] owncloud/wordpress WordPress image for ownCloud websites 1 apsl/wordpress WordPress on LAMP managed with circus. Wordp… 1 [OK] davask/d-wordpress Dockerfile for wordpress 0 [OK] itherz/wordpress WordPress 0 [OK] erikzenker/wordpress wordpress docker image 0 ansibleplaybookbundle/wordpress-ha-apb An APB which deploys WordPress HA 0 [OK] mattti/wordpress WordPress adjusted to my own needs 0 [OK]
OK in the OFFICIAL column indicates that the image is created and supported by the company behind the software
Downloading (Pulling) Docker Images
If you decide what image you want to use, you can download it to your machine by using the
For example, we’ll download the official WordPress image. To do this run:
$ sudo docker pull wordpress
After it finishes downloading the image, the output will look something like this:
$ sudo docker pull centos Using default tag: latest latest: Pulling from library/centos aeb7866da422: Pull complete Digest: sha256:67dad89757a55bfdfabec8abd0e22f8c7c12a1856514726470228063ed86593b Status: Downloaded newer image for centos:latest
After the image is downloaded, you can run a container using it using the
run command, as we’ve done in the
hello-world example. If the image has not yet been downloaded, Docker will attempt to pull it from Docker Hub, and then run a container using it.
Listing Docker Images
To list all of our downloaded images just run:
$ sudo docker images
sudo docker images
REPOSITORY TAG IMAGE ID CREATED SIZE
centos latest 75835a67d134 6 weeks ago 200MB
hello-world latest 4ab4c602aa5e 2 months ago 1.84kB
Further in this tutorial, we’ll see how downloaded images can be modified and generated into new images, which we can then upload to Docker Hub or other Docker registries.
Step 5 — Intro to Docker Containers
Earlier we played around with the
hello-world container. We downloaded the image and used it to run the
hello-world container which just displayed a message and exited after showing us the message. That was just a basic example. Docker containers can do more than that, and we can use them interactively, just like we would with a VPS, but much more resource friendly.
Let’s see an example of how a container can be similar to a VPS. Given the fact that we’re using Ubuntu, let’s go a little crazy and run a container using the latest image of CentOS. Don’t worry if you’ve never used CentOS – what we’re doing is similar to what we’d do on Ubuntu.
We’ll use the combination of the
-t switches to get interactive shell access to the container:
$ sudo docker run -it centos
Docker will most likely not find the image on your machine and pull it from Docker Hub. After it’s downloaded and the container is run, your command prompt will change, reflecting the fact that you’re working inside the container:
The seemingly random sequence of letters and numbers,
35e04744a977, represents the container ID. We use that to identify the container and need it should we want to remove the container.
Now let’s run some basic commands, like update the package database inside the container. On CentOS, to do this, we use
yum instead of
apt. You also don’t need to use
sudo, as you’re now acting as
root in this container.
# yum update
Now let’s install an application on it, such as
# yum install php
When the installation, if I check the version, I get the following output:
PHP 5.4.16 (cli) (built: Apr 12 2018 19:02:01)
Copyright (c) 1997-2013 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.4.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2013 Zend Technologies
Any changes you make in the container only apply to that container.
To exit the container just run
List Docker Containers
After you’ve used Docker for a while, you’ll most likely be managing a few Docker containers, active and inactive.
To view your active containers run the following:
$ sudo docker ps
Since we’ve got our demo containers inactive, we’ll get the following output:
CONTAINER ID IMAGE COMMAND CREATED STATUS PORTS NAMES
So far we’ve run two containers. One from the
hello-world image, and the other from the
centos image, but now they’re both stopped.
To view all of the containers, active and inactive, run the following:
$ sudo docker ps -a
This is the output I’m seeing:
CONTAINER ID IMAGE COMMAND CREATED STATUS PORTS NAMES 35e04744a977 centos "/bin/bash" 6 hours ago Exited (137) 3 hours ago pensive_northcutt 82d53d646a6c hello-world "/hello" 19 hours ago Exited (0) 19 hours ago frosty_allen
To view the latest created container, run the following:
docker ps -l
CONTAINER ID IMAGE COMMAND CREATED STATUS PORTS NAMES 35e04744a977 centos "/bin/bash" 6 hours ago Exited (137) 3 hours ago pensive_northcutt
Start/Stop Docker Containers
To start a stopped container use
docker start, followed by the container’s ID (
35e04744a977) or name (
pensive_northcutt). In our example I’ll start by using its’ name:
$ sudo docker start pensive_northcutt
Now let’s see if it started by listing our active containers:
$ sudo docker ps
CONTAINER ID IMAGE COMMAND CREATED STATUS PORTS NAMES 35e04744a977 centos "/bin/bash" 9 hours ago Up 33 seconds pensive_northcutt
To stop the running container, you run
docker stop followed by the container name or ID:
$ sudo docker stop pensive_northcutt
Useful Basic Docker Commands
Running commands inside an active
When you use
docker start you’ll notice that it’s started, but you’re not interacting with it, such as when you first ran it. To run commands inside it, you can use
docker exec -it, followed by the ID or name of the container, and followed by
/bin/bash. You’ll notice your prompt change, letting you know that you’ve opened up a new terminal in it:
sudo docker exec -it pensive_northcutt /bin/bash
-t switch opens a terminal, the
-i switch makes it interactive, and the
/bin/bash option opens a bash shell to the running container.
Exit a container without stopping it
You may find yourself needing to exit the container but wanting it to remain active. To do this, you can type
Ctrl+P followed by
Ctrl+Q. You’ll see something like the following output:
[root@35e04744a977 /]# read escape sequence
Renaming a container
To rename a container, you can use
docker rename, followed by the current name or ID of the container, and then the desired name.
For example, to better organize my containers, I may want to rename my container named
pensive_northcutt to a name similar to the naming convention that Docker seems to use, so I’ll call it
$ sudo docker rename pensive_northcutt mr_tiny_nipples
If I run
sudo docker ps (because my container is still active), I get the output:
CONTAINER ID IMAGE COMMAND CREATED STATUS PORTS NAMES 35e04744a977 centos "/bin/bash" 10 hours ago Up 8 minutes mr_tiny_nipples
Additionally, you can give a container a name of your choosing, when creating it, by using the
Remove Docker Containers
When you no longer have use for a container you can remove it by using
docker rm, followed by its’ name or ID:
$ sudo rm mr_tiny_tipples
In this tutorial, you’ve hopefully learned to install Docker and a little about using it and managing containers. We’ve just covered a few of the basics, however, and there’s a lot more you can do with it. There’s a reason some of the top companies in the world leverage Docker, and we’ll try to cover more in future tutorials.
To learn more about Docker, we recommend that you check out the official Docker documentation.
Should you encounter any issues when following this tutorial, or would like specific aspects covered, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
If you’re in need of a VPS to run Docker on, then feel free to check out our KVM SSD VPS plans. Our VPS offer starts at 2GB RAM + 10GB SSD at only $5.99/mo.