Sunday, February 01, 2015

Entrypoint scripts and data persistency: mounting a NFS fileshare inside a docker container

This is a quick article; you have been warned.

The traditional way to have persistent data in a docker container is to feed it with a volume from the docker host. You begin by locating a directory, be it in the local docker host drive, network mounted to the docker host, or a volume in another docker container. Then feed it to the container using the VOLUME statement defined in the Dockerfile or to command line. We all know that. But what some (very few we hope) of you might not have been aware of is the volume is only mounted/attached to the container when you tell docker to run the container, which might make running/configuring something that require files in those volumes a bit challenging.

At this point I would expect one of you to shout "Aha! But you can then use an entrypoint script to do all that monkeying that needs to happen after volume is mounted and before whatever service this container provides starts!" And you would be quite right! Here's a quick example in case we lost somebody: if our Dockerfile ended up like this:

# Put the entrypoint script somewhere we can find

# Start service
CMD ["/usr/sbin/sshd", "-D"]

we would have created a file called in the root path of the container, which is run just after the volume is created and before the, in this example, sshd service is started. Said entrypoint file could do, I don't know:

set -e

# Do something in /home, which is the mounted volume

# And we  are done here
exec "$@"

point is that is called only after the persistent volume is mounted into the container.

What if you want to mount a network fileshare straight into the container? Before I have time to answer that, someone from the audience will jump and state "Why would you want to do that? You can mount the network fileshare in the docker host and then use VOLUME just like Wicked Witch of the West intended!" What if I don't want to do that? What if I can't for whatever reason mount a network fileshare on the docker host?

The answer is that it is completely doable; you just have to ask the entrypoint script to do the mounting for you. To show what I mean I will use the example of mounting a NFSv4 fileshare that is supposed to be used by some website. So we modify our little entrypoint script a bit

set -e

# /export/www was created in the Dockerfile
mount.nfs4 /www/some-website 

# And we are done here
exec "$@"

Since we are using NFSv4, chances are you might need to add something like

RUN sed -i -e '/^#Domain/a Domain =' /etc/idmapd.conf

to your dockerfile in addition to telling it to get the nfs client packages, but the general idea should apply for, say, SMB or ZFS or whatever other network filesystem that you fancy: let your entrypoint script do the heavy lifting!

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