Jenkins in a Docker container

After having our Sonatype Nexus repository running in a Docker container (see my previous post), the next part of our infrastructure I wanted to move into a Docker container was our Jenkins build server.

The most difficult part of this, was to get the Android SDK installed inside the Docker image. After downloading the compressed SDK you have to run the android installer from the tools folder. This installer downloads the requested Android versions and asks for accepting the different license agreements – which is a problem because the building the docker images is non interactive. After a lot of trial and error, I found the Android SDK Installer project on github which provides the necessary scripts.

Here is my resulting Dockerfile using the Android SDK Installer:

The steps in this Dockerfile are

  • installing required libs for the Android SDK via apt
  • downloading the latest Jenkins WAR file
  • using the Android SDK Installer to install the required parts for building our Android apps
  • defining the ANDROID_HOME environment variable
  • defining an entrypoint using the war file for starting Jenkins
  • exposing port 8080 for accessing Jenkins
  • defining a volume for persisting the Jenkins work directory

With the image generated by this Dockerfile it is now possible to start up a Jenkins build wherever I want. To make the running Jenkins docker container available via Apache on Port 80 I use the following reverse proxy config:

The jenkinsPort is defined in an apache config file as 8080.

I am using a data volume for persisting the /jenkins folder as explained in my last post under “Data volumes”.

Because Jenkins allows to install everything else that is required afterwards via the web UI (JDKs, Maven, Gradle, Plugins, …) this basic image is enough. Another great improvement in Jenkins is the ability to configure credentials, like SSH keys and username/password combinations, via the web UI. This way it is not required to stored the secret stuff inside the Docker image anymore.

Again, like for the nexus repository in my last post, it is very nice to update Jenkins to the newest version by just executing docker stop, docker build and docker run.

For our Xcode builds we use the Jenkins config that is executed via SSH access to a Mac mini server. Nothing Jenkins specific had to be installed on the Mac mini, Java, Xcode and a SSH access was enough.

Docker infrastructure

Since I saw the 5 minute long video “The future of Linux containers” last year in April, in which Solomon Hykes presented Docker the first time at PyCon, I wanted to use Docker for running my server side software.

The first thing I thought about, was using it for running our time tracking product timr. It is currently deployed on multiple hosts with multiple tomcat instances and a MySQL database. Docker would make it easy to spin up more instances and to deploy new versions.

We are also hosting server applications for our clients. Sometimes only for testing but in some cases also for production. Most of them are JVM based and it is a tedious task to set up yet another tomcat instance and apache virtual host for every new project. Docker would help here too.

Another topic docker could solve for us, was creating test environments triggered by jenkins builds. Currently we have jenkins jobs that can be run by the QA team to deploy a new version on the test server, but sometimes different testers want to have different versions deployed. I would be nice to create a new test instance from a jenkins build, accessible via an auto generated URL.

Breaking it down

After thinking too long about how to tackle all those tasks at once I thought I should start small. So I started with creating a Docker container for running our Sonatype Nexus artefact repository. Here is the resulting Dockerfile:

As you can see it is based on a docker image called troii/java7 which I will show you later. To install nexus inside the image it does the following:

  • downloads the latest sonatype nexus version into /usr/local
  • extracts the TAR file and deletes it
  • create a symbolic link /usr/local/nexus to the newly created folder
  • uses sed to adapt the nexus script to run as user root
  • changes the context path from /nexus to / in the nexus.properties file

The image exposes the port 8081 (the default port nexus uses) and adds a volume /usr/local/sonatype-work to persist the working directory of the repository. With this Dockerfile it is now possible to start up my nexus server wherever I want within seconds.

Currently it is running on an Ubuntu 14.04 root server at Hetzner. I made it available via apache reverse proxy with this config in a virtual host:

The nexusPort (in this case 8080) is defined in another apache config file where I configure all the ports for my reverse proxies.

Data volumes

If I would only run the image created by the Dockerfile before, keeping the persistent data between stopping and starting containers would not be very intuitive. Though I defined a volume for the directory sonatype-work (which makes it persistent) I would need to start the next container with the option –volumes-from to reuse the volume from the last nexus container I stopped.

Luckily there is an article called “Managing Data in Containers” that handles exactly this topic. What I did was creating a so called “data only” container that is used in the –volumes-from option every time to start the nexus container.

This leads to two images/containers being involved in my nexus docker setup, which raises the question on how to manage the startup configs for my docker containers. Those command lines with all the correct options for starting the container can get very long – should I create separate scripts just to start the containers?

Base images

As I wrote before the nexus docker image is based on the troii/java7 docker image which looks like this

It installs the Oracle JDK 7 and is based on the troii/base image which looks like this

The base image uses Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty and does the following on top of it

  • it configures a nearby ubuntu mirror
  • sets some environment variables, timezone and locale
  • installs zsh, vim, git and other stuff I like to have on the command line

First I started with one big Dockerfile but over the time I started to split them up in this way. The base image is used for every docker image I created in the last weeks.

By creating a separate image with Java installed, it is easy to update the Java version for containers base on it. Just by simply building the troii/java7 image again it downloads the latest version. When a container base on it is rebuilt the Java version is automatically updated too.

Conclusion

So far one of the biggest benefits of “dockerizing” our infrastructure was that the setup and configuration is reproducible stored in git repositories. Creating the Dockerfile really documents how the services are set up.

Another thing I noticed that is really nice about having nexus run in a docker container like this is that I just have to run three simple steps (docker stop, docker build, docker run) and I have updated nexus to the newest available version.

What is next

I want to start a series of blog posts with this one about my ongoing effort on moving more and more to a infrastructure based on Docker. There are still many questions left but some have already been answered … stay tuned!