Introduction

Docker is a great tool for automating the deployment of Linux applications inside software containers, but to take full advantage of its potential each component of an application should run in its own individual container. For complex applications with a lot of components, orchestrating all the containers to start up, communicate, and shut down together can quickly become unwieldy.

The Docker community came up with a popular solution called Fig, which allowed you to use a single YAML file to orchestrate all your Docker containers and configurations. This became so popular that the Docker team decided to make Docker Compose based on the Fig source, which is now deprecated. Docker Compose makes it easier for users to orchestrate the processes of Docker containers, including starting up, shutting down, and setting up intra-container linking and volumes.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to install Docker Compose, a tool to help you manage multi-container applications.

Prerequisites

To follow this article, you will need an Ubuntu 16.04 server with the following:

A non-root user with sudo privileges (Initial Server Setup with Ubuntu 16.04 explains how to set this up.)
Docker installed with the instructions from Step 1 and Step 2 of How To Install and Use Docker on Ubuntu 16.04
Once these are in place, you’re ready to follow along.

Step 1 — Installing Docker Compose

We’ll begin by installing Docker Compose from the Docker GitHub repository. The command below is slightly different than the one you’ll find on the Releases page. By using the -oflag to specify the output file first rather than redirecting the output, this syntax avoids running into a permission denied error caused when using sudo.

We’ll check the current release and if necessary, update it in the command below:

  • sudo curl -o /usr/local/bin/docker-compose -L “https://github.com/docker/compose/releases/download/1.8.1/docker-compose-$(uname -s)-$(uname -m)”

Next we’ll set the permissions:

  • sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/docker-compose

Then we’ll verify that the installation was successful by checking the version:

  • docker-compose -v

This will print out the current version:

Output
docker-compose version 1.8.1, build 878cff1

Now that we have Docker Compose installed, we’re ready to run a “Hello World” example.

Step 2 — Running a Container with Docker Compose

The public Docker registry, Docker Hub, includes a Hello World image for demonstration and testing. It illustrates the minimal configuration required to run a container using Docker Compose: a YAML file that calls a single image:

First, we’ll create a directory for the YAML file and move into it:

  • mkdir hello-world
  • cd hello-world

Then, we’ll create the YAML file:

  • nano docker-compose.yml

Put the following contents into the file, save the file, and exit the text editor:

docker-compose.yml
my-test:
 image: hello-world

The first line in the YAML file is used as part of the container name. The second line specifies which image to use to create the container. When we run the command docker-compose up it will look for a local image by the name we specified, hello-world. With this in place, we’ll save and exit the file.

We can look manually at images on our system with the docker images command:

  • docker images

When there are no local images at all, only the column headings display:

Output
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE

Now, while still in the ~/hello-world directory, we’ll execute the following command:

  • docker-compose up

The first time we run the command, if there’s no local image named hello-world, Docker Compose will pull it from the Docker Hub public repository:

Output
Pulling my-test (hello-world:latest)...
latest: Pulling from library/hello-world
c04b14da8d14: Downloading [==================================================>] c04b14da8d14: Extracting [==================================================>]  c04b14da8d14: Extracting [==================================================>]  c04b14da8d14: Pull complete
Digest: sha256:0256e8a36e2070f7bf2d0b0763dbabdd67798512411de4cdcf9431a1feb60fd9
Status: Downloaded newer image for hello-world:latest
. . .

After pulling the image, docker-compose creates a container, attaches, and runs the hello program, which in turn confirms that the installation appears to be working:

Output
. . .
Creating helloworld_my-test_1...
Attaching to helloworld_my-test_1
my-test_1 |
my-test_1 | Hello from Docker.
my-test_1 | This message shows that your installation appears to be working correctly.
my-test_1 |
. . .

Then it prints an explanation of what it did:

Output of docker-compose up
1. The Docker client contacted the Docker daemon.
2. The Docker daemon pulled the "hello-world" image from the Docker Hub.
3. The Docker daemon created a new container from that image which runs the executable that produces the output you are currently reading.
4. The Docker daemon streamed that output to the Docker client, which sent it to your terminal.

Docker containers only run as long as the command is active, so once hello finished running, the container stopped. Consequently, when we look at active processes, the column headers will appear, but the hello-world container won’t be listed because it’s not running.

  • docker ps
Output
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS                      PORTS               NAMES

We can see the container information, which we’ll need in the next step, by using the -a flag which shows all containers, not just the active ones:

  • docker ps -a
Output
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS                      PORTS               NAMES
06069fd5ca23        hello-world         "/hello"            35 minutes ago      Exited (0) 35 minutes ago                       drunk_payne

This displays the information we’ll need to remove the container when we’re done with it.

Step 3 — Removing the Image (Optional)

To avoid using unnecessary disk space, we’ll remove the local image. To do so, we’ll need to delete all the containers that reference the image using the docker rm command, followed by either the CONTAINER ID or the NAME. Below, we’re using the CONTAINER ID from the docker ps -a command we just ran. Be sure to substitute the ID of your container:

  • docker rm 06069fd5ca23

Once all containers that reference the image have been removed, we can remove the image:

  • docker rmi hello-world

Conclusion

We’ve now installed Docker Compose, tested our installation by running a Hello World example, and removed the test image and container.

While the Hello World example confirmed our installation, the simple configuration does not show one of the main benefits of Docker Compose — being able to bring a group of Docker containers up and down all at the same time.

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