Get Started, Part 4: SwarmsEstimated reading time: 18 minutes
Get Docker Machine, which is pre-installed with Docker for Mac and Docker for Windows, but on Linux systems you need to install it directly. On pre Windows 10 systems without Hyper-V, as well as Windows 10 Home, use Docker Toolbox.
Read the orientation in Part 1.
Learn how to create containers in Part 2.
Make sure you have published the
friendlyhelloimage you created by pushing it to a registry. We’ll be using that shared image here.
Be sure your image works as a deployed container. Run this command, slotting in your info for
docker run -p 80:80 username/repo:tag, then visit
Have a copy of your
docker-compose.ymlfrom Part 3 handy.
Here in part 4, you deploy this application onto a cluster, running it on multiple machines. Multi-container, multi-machine applications are made possible by joining multiple machines into a “Dockerized” cluster called a swarm.
Understanding Swarm clusters
A swarm is a group of machines that are running Docker and joined into a cluster. After that has happened, you continue to run the Docker commands you’re used to, but now they are executed on a cluster by a swarm manager. The machines in a swarm can be physical or virtual. After joining a swarm, they are referred to as nodes.
Swarm managers can use several strategies to run containers, such as “emptiest node” – which fills the least utilized machines with containers. Or “global”, which ensures that each machine gets exactly one instance of the specified container. You instruct the swarm manager to use these strategies in the Compose file, just like the one you have already been using.
Swarm managers are the only machines in a swarm that can execute your commands, or authorize other machines to join the swarm as workers. Workers are just there to provide capacity and do not have the authority to tell any other machine what it can and cannot do.
Up until now, you have been using Docker in a single-host mode on your local machine. But Docker also can be switched into swarm mode, and that’s what enables the use of swarms. Enabling swarm mode instantly makes the current machine a swarm manager. From then on, Docker will run the commands you execute on the swarm you’re managing, rather than just on the current machine.
Set up your swarm
A swarm is made up of multiple nodes, which can be either physical or virtual
machines. The basic concept is simple enough: run
docker swarm init to enable
swarm mode and make your current machine a swarm manager, then run
docker swarm join on other machines to have them join the swarm as workers.
Choose a tab below to see how this plays out in various contexts. We’ll use VMs
to quickly create a two-machine cluster and turn it into a swarm.
Create a cluster
VMs on your local machine (Mac, Linux, Windows 7 and 8)
First, you’ll need a hypervisor that can create virtual machines (VMs), so install Oracle VirtualBox for your machine’s OS.
Note: If you are on a Windows system that has Hyper-V installed, such as Windows 10, there is no need to install VirtualBox and you should use Hyper-V instead. View the instructions for Hyper-V systems by clicking the Hyper-V tab above. If you are using Docker Toolbox, you should already have VirtualBox installed as part of it, so you are good to go.
Now, create a couple of VMs using
docker-machine, using the VirtualBox driver:
docker-machine create --driver virtualbox myvm1 docker-machine create --driver virtualbox myvm2
VMs on your local machine (Windows 10)
First, quickly create a virtual switch for your virtual machines (VMs) to share, so they will be able to connect to each other.
- Launch Hyper-V Manager
- Click Virtual Switch Manager in the right-hand menu
- Click Create Virtual Switch of type External
- Give it the name
myswitch, and check the box to share your host machine’s active network adapter
Now, create a couple of VMs using our node management tool,
docker-machine create -d hyperv --hyperv-virtual-switch "myswitch" myvm1 docker-machine create -d hyperv --hyperv-virtual-switch "myswitch" myvm2
List the VMs and get their IP addresses
You now have two VMs created, named
Use this command to list the machines and get their IP addresses.
Here is example output from this command.
$ docker-machine ls NAME ACTIVE DRIVER STATE URL SWARM DOCKER ERRORS myvm1 - virtualbox Running tcp://192.168.99.100:2376 v17.06.2-ce myvm2 - virtualbox Running tcp://192.168.99.101:2376 v17.06.2-ce
Initialize the swarm and add nodes
The first machine will act as the manager, which executes management commands and authenticates workers to join the swarm, and the second will be a worker.
You can send commands to your VMs using
docker-machine ssh. Instruct
to become a swarm manager with
docker swarm init and you’ll see output like
$ docker-machine ssh myvm1 "docker swarm init --advertise-addr <myvm1 ip>" Swarm initialized: current node <node ID> is now a manager. To add a worker to this swarm, run the following command: docker swarm join \ --token <token> \ <myvm ip>:<port> To add a manager to this swarm, run 'docker swarm join-token manager' and follow the instructions.
Ports 2377 and 2376
docker swarm initand
docker swarm joinwith port 2377 (the swarm management port), or no port at all and let it take the default.
The machine IP addresses returned by
docker-machine lsinclude port 2376, which is the Docker daemon port. Do not use this port or you may experience errors.
As you can see, the response to
docker swarm init contains a pre-configured
docker swarm join command for you to run on any nodes you want to add. Copy
this command, and send it to
docker-machine ssh to have
join your new swarm as a worker:
$ docker-machine ssh myvm2 "docker swarm join \ --token <token> \ <ip>:2377" This node joined a swarm as a worker.
Congratulations, you have created your first swarm!
docker node ls on the manager to view the nodes in this swarm:
$ docker-machine ssh myvm1 "docker node ls" ID HOSTNAME STATUS AVAILABILITY MANAGER STATUS brtu9urxwfd5j0zrmkubhpkbd myvm2 Ready Active rihwohkh3ph38fhillhhb84sk * myvm1 Ready Active Leader
Leaving a swarm
If you want to start over, you can run
docker swarm leavefrom each node.
Deploy your app on the swarm cluster
The hard part is over. Now you just repeat the process you used in part
3 to deploy on your new swarm. Just remember that only swarm managers
myvm1 execute Docker commands; workers are just for capacity.
docker-machine shell to the swarm manager
So far, you’ve been wrapping Docker commmands in
docker-machine ssh to talk to
the VMs. Another option is to run
docker-machine env <machine> to get
and run a command that configures your current shell to talk to the Docker
daemon on the VM. This method works better for the next step because it allows
you to use your local
docker-compose.yml file to deploy the app
“remotely” without having to copy it anywhere.
docker-machine env myvm1, then copy-paste and run the command provided as
the last line of the output to configure your shell to talk to
The commands to configure your shell differ depending on whether you are Mac, Linux, or Windows, so examples of each are shown on the tabs below.
Docker machine shell environment on Mac or Linux
docker-machine env myvm1 to get the command to configure your shell to talk to
$ docker-machine env myvm1 export DOCKER_TLS_VERIFY="1" export DOCKER_HOST="tcp://192.168.99.100:2376" export DOCKER_CERT_PATH="/Users/sam/.docker/machine/machines/myvm1" export DOCKER_MACHINE_NAME="myvm1" # Run this command to configure your shell: # eval $(docker-machine env myvm1)
Run the given command to configure your shell to talk to
eval $(docker-machine env myvm1)
docker-machine ls to verify that
myvm1 is now the active machine, as indicated by the asterisk next to it.
$ docker-machine ls NAME ACTIVE DRIVER STATE URL SWARM DOCKER ERRORS myvm1 * virtualbox Running tcp://192.168.99.100:2376 v17.06.2-ce myvm2 - virtualbox Running tcp://192.168.99.101:2376 v17.06.2-ce
Docker machine shell environment on Windows
docker-machine env myvm1 to get the command to configure your shell to talk to
PS C:\Users\sam\sandbox\get-started> docker-machine env myvm1 $Env:DOCKER_TLS_VERIFY = "1" $Env:DOCKER_HOST = "tcp://192.168.203.207:2376" $Env:DOCKER_CERT_PATH = "C:\Users\sam\.docker\machine\machines\myvm1" $Env:DOCKER_MACHINE_NAME = "myvm1" $Env:COMPOSE_CONVERT_WINDOWS_PATHS = "true" # Run this command to configure your shell: # & "C:\Program Files\Docker\Docker\Resources\bin\docker-machine.exe" env myvm1 | Invoke-Expression
Run the given command to configure your shell to talk to
& "C:\Program Files\Docker\Docker\Resources\bin\docker-machine.exe" env myvm1 | Invoke-Expression
docker-machine ls to verify that
myvm1 is the active machine as indicated by the asterisk next to it.
PS C:PATH> docker-machine ls NAME ACTIVE DRIVER STATE URL SWARM DOCKER ERRORS myvm1 * hyperv Running tcp://192.168.203.207:2376 v17.06.2-ce myvm2 - hyperv Running tcp://192.168.200.181:2376 v17.06.2-ce
Deploy the app on the swarm manager
Now that you have my
myvm1, you can use its powers as a swarm manager to
deploy your app by using the same
docker stack deploy command you used in part
myvm1, and your local copy of
You are connected to
myvm1 by means of the
configuration, and you still have access to the files on your local host. Make
sure you are in the same directory as before, which includes the
docker-compose.yml file you created in part
Just like before, run the following command to deploy the app on
docker stack deploy -c docker-compose.yml getstartedlab
And that’s it, the app is deployed on a swarm cluster!
Now you can use the same docker commands you used in part
3. Only this time you’ll
see that the services (and associated containers) have been distributed between
$ docker stack ps getstartedlab ID NAME IMAGE NODE DESIRED STATE jq2g3qp8nzwx getstartedlab_web.1 john/get-started:part2 myvm1 Running 88wgshobzoxl getstartedlab_web.2 john/get-started:part2 myvm2 Running vbb1qbkb0o2z getstartedlab_web.3 john/get-started:part2 myvm2 Running ghii74p9budx getstartedlab_web.4 john/get-started:part2 myvm1 Running 0prmarhavs87 getstartedlab_web.5 john/get-started:part2 myvm2 Running
Connecting to VMs with
To set your shell to talk to a different machine like
myvm2, simply re-run
docker-machine envin the same or a different shell, then run the given command to point to
myvm2. This is always specific to the current shell. If you change to an unconfigured shell or open a new one, you need to re-run the commands. Use
docker-machine lsto list machines, see what state they are in, get IP addresses, and find out which one, if any, you are connected to. To learn more, see the Docker Machine getting started topics.
Alternatively, you can wrap Docker commands in the form of
docker-machine ssh <machine> "<command>", which logs directly into the VM but doesn’t give you immediate access to files on your local host.
On Mac and Linux, you can use
docker-machine scp <file> <machine>:~to copy files across machines, but Windows users need a Linux terminal emulator like Git Bash in order for this to work.
This tutorial demos both
docker-machine env, since these are available on all platforms via the
Accessing your cluster
You can access your app from the IP address of either
The network you created is shared between them and load-balancing. Run
docker-machine ls to get your VMs’ IP addresses and visit either of them on a
browser, hitting refresh (or just
You’ll see five possible container IDs all cycling by randomly, demonstrating the load-balancing.
The reason both IP addresses work is that nodes in a swarm participate in an
ingress routing mesh. This ensures that a service deployed at a certain port
within your swarm always has that port reserved to itself, no matter what node
is actually running the container. Here’s a diagram of how a routing mesh for a
my-web published at port
8080 on a three-node swarm would
Having connectivity trouble?
Keep in mind that in order to use the ingress network in the swarm, you need to have the following ports open between the swarm nodes before you enable swarm mode:
- Port 7946 TCP/UDP for container network discovery.
- Port 4789 UDP for the container ingress network.
Iterating and scaling your app
From here you can do everything you learned about in parts 2 and 3.
Scale the app by changing the
In either case, simply run
docker stack deploy again to deploy these changes.
You can join any machine, physical or virtual, to this swarm, using the
docker swarm join command you used on
myvm2, and capacity will be added
to your cluster. Just run
docker stack deploy afterwards, and your app will
take advantage of the new resources.
Cleanup and reboot
Stacks and swarms
You can tear down the stack with
docker stack rm. For example:
docker stack rm getstartedlab
Keep the swarm or remove it?
At some point later, you can remove this swarm if you want to with
docker-machine ssh myvm2 "docker swarm leave"on the worker and
docker-machine ssh myvm1 "docker swarm leave --force"on the manager, but you’ll need this swarm for part 5, so please keep it around for now.
Unsetting docker-machine shell variable settings
You can unset the
docker-machine environment variables in your current shell
with the following command:
eval $(docker-machine env -u)
This disconnects the shell from
docker-machine created virtual machines,
and allows you to continue working in the same shell, now using native
commands (for example, on Docker for Mac or Docker for Windows). To learn more,
see the Machine topic on unsetting environment variables.
Restarting Docker machines
If you shut down your local host, Docker machines will stop running. You can check the status of machines by running
$ docker-machine ls NAME ACTIVE DRIVER STATE URL SWARM DOCKER ERRORS myvm1 - virtualbox Stopped Unknown myvm2 - virtualbox Stopped Unknown
To restart a machine that’s stopped, run:
docker-machine start <machine-name>
$ docker-machine start myvm1 Starting "myvm1"... (myvm1) Check network to re-create if needed... (myvm1) Waiting for an IP... Machine "myvm1" was started. Waiting for SSH to be available... Detecting the provisioner... Started machines may have new IP addresses. You may need to re-run the `docker-machine env` command. $ docker-machine start myvm2 Starting "myvm2"... (myvm2) Check network to re-create if needed... (myvm2) Waiting for an IP... Machine "myvm2" was started. Waiting for SSH to be available... Detecting the provisioner... Started machines may have new IP addresses. You may need to re-run the `docker-machine env` command.
Recap and cheat sheet (optional)
In part 4 you learned what a swarm is, how nodes in swarms can be managers or workers, created a swarm, and deployed an application on it. You saw that the core Docker commands didn’t change from part 3, they just had to be targeted to run on a swarm master. You also saw the power of Docker’s networking in action, which kept load-balancing requests across containers, even though they were running on different machines. Finally, you learned how to iterate and scale your app on a cluster.
Here are some commands you might like to run to interact with your swarm and your VMs a bit:
docker-machine create --driver virtualbox myvm1 # Create a VM (Mac, Win7, Linux) docker-machine create -d hyperv --hyperv-virtual-switch "myswitch" myvm1 # Win10 docker-machine env myvm1 # View basic information about your node docker-machine ssh myvm1 "docker node ls" # List the nodes in your swarm docker-machine ssh myvm1 "docker node inspect <node ID>" # Inspect a node docker-machine ssh myvm1 "docker swarm join-token -q worker" # View join token docker-machine ssh myvm1 # Open an SSH session with the VM; type "exit" to end docker node ls # View nodes in swarm (while logged on to manager) docker-machine ssh myvm2 "docker swarm leave" # Make the worker leave the swarm docker-machine ssh myvm1 "docker swarm leave -f" # Make master leave, kill swarm docker-machine ls # list VMs, asterisk shows which VM this shell is talking to docker-machine start myvm1 # Start a VM that is currently not running docker-machine env myvm1 # show environment variables and command for myvm1 eval $(docker-machine env myvm1) # Mac command to connect shell to myvm1 & "C:\Program Files\Docker\Docker\Resources\bin\docker-machine.exe" env myvm1 | Invoke-Expression # Windows command to connect shell to myvm1 docker stack deploy -c <file> <app> # Deploy an app; command shell must be set to talk to manager (myvm1), uses local Compose file docker-machine scp docker-compose.yml myvm1:~ # Copy file to node's home dir (only required if you use ssh to connect to manager and deploy the app) docker-machine ssh myvm1 "docker stack deploy -c <file> <app>" # Deploy an app using ssh (you must have first copied the Compose file to myvm1) eval $(docker-machine env -u) # Disconnect shell from VMs, use native docker docker-machine stop $(docker-machine ls -q) # Stop all running VMs docker-machine rm $(docker-machine ls -q) # Delete all VMs and their disk images