fish-pepper - Docker on Capsaicin

September 7, 2015

When I had to create multiple Docker base images which only differ slightly for some minor variations I couldn’t avoid to feel quite dirty because of all the copying & pasting of Dockerfile fragments. We all know how this smells, but unfortunately Docker has only an answer for inheritance but not for composition of Docker images. Luckily there is now fish-pepper, a multi-dimensional docker build generator, which steps into the breach.

For example consider a Java base image: Some users might require Java 7, some want Java 8. For running Microservices a JRE might be sufficient. In other use cases you need a full JDK. These four variants are all quite similar with respect to documentation, Dockerfiles and support files like startup scripts. Copy-and-paste might seem to work for the initial setup but there are severe drawbacks considering image evolution or introduction of even more parameters.

With fish-pepper you can use flexible templates which are filled with variations of the base image (like 'version' : ['java7', 'java8'], 'type': ['jdk', 'jre']) and which will create multiple, similar Dockerfile builds.

The main configuration of an image family is images.yml which defines the possible parameters. For the example above it is

    - "version"
    - "type"

The possible values for these parameters are given in a dedicated config section:

      java: "java:7u79"
      fullVersion: "OpenJDK 1.7.0_79"
      java: "java:8u45"
      fullVersion: "OpenJDK 1.8.0_45"
      extension: "-jre"
      extension: "-jdk"

Given this configuration, four builds will be generated when calling fish-pepper, one for each combination of version (“openjdk7” and “openjdk8”) and type (“jre” and “jdk”) parameter values.

These value can now be filled into templates which are stored in a templates/ directory. The Dockerfile in this directory can refer to this configuration through a context object fp:

FROM {{= + fp.config.type.extension }}

Templates use DoT.js as template engine, so that the full expressiveness of JavaScript is available. The fish-pepper context object fp holds the configuration and more.

The given configuration will lead to four Docker build directories:

  +---- openjdk7
  |        +--- jre -- Dockerfile, ...
  |        +--- jdk -- Dockerfile, ...
  +---- opendjk8
           +--- jre -- Dockerfile, ...
           +--- jdk -- Dockerfile, ...

The generated build files can also be used directly to create the images with fish-pepper build. This will reach out to a Docker daemon and create the images java-openjdk7-jre, java-openjdk7-jdk, java-openjdk8-jre and java-openjdk8-jdk.

Alternatively these builds can be used as content for automated Docker Hub builds when checked into Github. The full example can be found on GitHub.

But wait, there is more:

  • Blocks can be used to reuse Dockerfile snippets and files to include across images. Blocks can be stored locally or referenced via a remote Git repository. Examples for blocks are generic startup scripts or other value add functionality like enabling agents like agent bond.
  • Flexible file mappings allow multiple alternative templates.
  • Defaults allow shared configuration between multiple parameter values.

fish-pepper can be seen in its fully beauty in fabric8io/base-images where more than twenty five base images are maintained with fish-pepper.

With node.js you can install fish-pepper super easy with

npm -g install fish-pepper

In the following blogs I will show more usage examples, especially how “blocks” can be easily reused and shared.