Build an Application with Docker Compose

This lab will take you through unifying the container work you’ve done so far in the class to build a modern application with multiple components.


It take many containers to build a real application. Up until now we’ve deployed containers one at a time. That’s tedious, accident prone and time consuming. There’s a better way using Docker Compose. This lab will guide you through making a complex application.

Step 1: Install Docker Compose

On recent Ubuntu systems like the ones we’re using you can install the docker-compose command using apt:

$ apt-install docker-compose 


Step 2: Gather All Your Containers in One Place

In the course we’ve built the following containers over the weeks:

  1. Apache (we’ll use this for serving static files)

  2. DNS

  3. HelloApp (the simple app server we created)

Let’s put them into a single directory structure so we can build them as a group. The directory should look like this:

$ tree 
├── Apache
│   └── html
│       └── index.html
├── DNS
│   ├──
│   ├── db.mike-ipv4
│   ├── db.mike-ipv6
│   ├── Dockerfile
│   ├──
│   └── named.conf
├── HelloService
│   ├── Dockerfile
│   └──

We’ll add more containers to this tree in future steps.

Step 3: Create a docker-compose.yaml File

Docker compose works like Docker, it wants a description file in a directory. For compose that’s a file called docker-compose.yaml. Let’s start with a version that shows the awesome power of Docker compose. This file comes from the excellent sample apps on Docker’s website.

version: '3.3'

     image: mysql:5.7
       - db_data:/var/lib/mysql
     restart: always
       MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD: somewordpress
       MYSQL_DATABASE: wordpress
       MYSQL_USER: wordpress
       MYSQL_PASSWORD: wordpress

       - db
     image: wordpress:latest
       - "8000:80"
     restart: always
       WORDPRESS_DB_HOST: db:3306
       WORDPRESS_DB_USER: wordpress
       WORDPRESS_DB_PASSWORD: wordpress
       WORDPRESS_DB_NAME: wordpress
    db_data: {}

Source: Quickstart: Compose and Wordpress

Step 4: Test it!

Now let’s run our application:

$ docker-compose up 

If everything worked your application will be running on localhost.

Step 5: Add DNS

Now let’s add instructions for our DNS server:

    build: DNS   
    restart: always 
      - "53000:53/udp"

This will build the Dockerfile in the DNS directory.

$ docker-compose build 
$ docker-compose up 

Step 6: Add an Apache Server for Files

We want to be able to serve files with a plain, fast Apache server. We want the files to be easily accessible from the host so we’ll specify a volume that’s a host path. Add the following to your services:

    image: httpd:2
      - htdocs:/usr/local/apache2/htdocs

Now add this to your volumes:

      driver: local
        o: bind
        type: none
        device: /var/www/html

Step 7: Create our Hello Application

Let’s add a Python application to our site. We’ll reuse the Hello app from a few weeks ago. Add the following to your services:

    build: HelloService 

That will build and run our HelloService container.

Step 8: Add a Proxy Server

Finally, it’s time to glue all of our services together. We want them to all be accessible from a single host. We’ll use a front-end load balancer and proxy to enable access to different parts of our application. The Caddy web server is fast, easy, efficient and made for containerization. Create a directory called Proxy and put two file in it Dockerfile and Caddyfile.

Step 8.1: Dockerfile

FROM caddy:2
COPY Caddyfile /etc/caddy/Caddyfile

Step 8.2: Caddyfile

# The name of your host:
#  Use localhost for testing 
#  Replace this with your real host when you're ready to deploy

# URL patter to access our Hello app
route /hello/* {
	uri strip_prefix /hello
    reverse_proxy hello:5000

# URL patter to access our static files
route /static/* {
	uri strip_prefix /static
    reverse_proxy static:80

# Default URL pattern goes to Wordpress
reverse_proxy * wordpress:80

Step 8.3: Add the Proxy

Now let’s add the proxy service to our docker-compose.yaml file.

    build: Proxy 
      - dns 
      - wordpress
      - hello
      - static
    restart: always
      - "8000:80"
      - "8443:443"

Caddy enable SSL by default so we must expose 80 and 443. The dependencies say that we should not start the proxy server until all of the other services are ready.

Step 8.4: Remove Port 8000 From the Wordpress Configuration

Important! You stack won’t start unless you do this!

Remove the following lines from the configuration of the wordpress container:

       - "8000:80"

Step 9: Test the Stack

Now let’s test the full stack.

$ docker-compose build
$ docker-compose up 

If it works the following URL will be available:

  1. Wordpress: https://localhost:8443/

  2. HelloApp: https://localhost:8443/hello

  3. Files in /var/www: https://localhost:8443/static

Step 10: Go to Production

Moving the stack to your AWS machine takes a few tweaks. Do the following:

  1. Change port numbers in docker-compose.yaml to be production ports:

  2. 8000 -> 80

  3. 8443 -> 443

  4. 53000 -> 53/udp

  5. Change the passwords for the MySQL root user and the wordpress user.

  6. Replace localhost in Caddyfile with the name of your server.

The last step is important if you want a real certificate issued to you by Let’s Encrypt.