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Nginx in Docker for Stackato buildpacks

I’m about to write a few articles about creating buildpacks for Stackato, which is a derivative of CloudFoundry and the technology behind Helion Development Platform. The approach for deploying nginx in docker as part of a buildpack differs from the approach I published previously. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Stackato discourages root access to the docker image
  • All services will run as the stackato user
  • The PORT to which services must bind is assigned and in the free range (no root required)

Get a host setup to run docker

The easiest way to follow along with this tutorial is to deploy stackato somewhere like The resulting host will have the docker image you need to follow along below.

Manually prepare a VM to run docker containers

You can also use Vagrant to spin up a virtual host where you can run these commands.

vagrant init ubuntu/trusty64

Modify the Vagrantfile to contain this line

  config.vm.provision :shell, path: ""

Then create a the file based on the details below.

#!/usr/bin/env bash
# set proxy variables
#export http_proxy=
#export https_proxy=
# bootstrap ansible for convenience on the control box
apt-key adv --keyserver hkp:// --recv-keys 36A1D7869245C8950F966E92D8576A8BA88D21E9
sh -c "echo deb docker main > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list"
apt-get update
apt-get -y install lxc-docker
# need to add proxy specifically to docker config since it doesn't pick them up from the environment
#sed -i '$a export http_proxy=' /etc/default/docker
#sed -i '$a export https_proxy=' /etc/default/docker
# enable non-root use by vagrant user
groupadd docker
gpasswd -a vagrant docker
# restart to enable proxy
service docker restart
# give docker a few seconds to start up
sleep 2s
# load in the stackato/stack-alsek image (can take a while)
docker load < /vagrant/stack-alsek.tar

Get the stackato docker image

Before the last line in the above script will work, it’s necessary to place the docker image for Stackato in the same directory as the Vagrantfile. Unfortunately the Stackato docker image is not published independently, which makes it more complicated to get. One way to do this is to deploy stackato locally and grab a copy of the image with this command.

docker save stackato/stack-alsek > stack-alsek.tar

You might want to save a copy of stack-alsek.tar to save time in the future. I’m not sure if it can be published (legally), but you’ll want to update this image with each release of Stackato anyway.

Launch a new docker instance using the Stackato image

You should now have three files in the directory where you did ‘vagrant init’.

-rw-rw-rw-   1 user     group          4998 Oct  9 14:01 Vagrantfile
-rw-rw-rw-   1 user     group           971 Oct  9 14:23
-rw-rw-rw-   1 user     group    1757431808 Oct  9 14:02 stack-alsek.tar

At this point you should be ready to create a new VM and spin up a docker instance. First tell Vagrant to build the virtual server.

vagrant up

Next, log in to your server and create the docker container.

vagrant@vagrant-ubuntu-trusty-64:~$ docker run -i -t stackato/stack-alsek:latest /bin/bash

Build and configure your services

Once you have a system setup and can create docker instances based on the Stackato image, you’re ready to craft your buildpack compile script. One of the first things I do is install the w3m browser so I can test my setup. In this example, I’m just going to build and test nginx. The same process could be used to build any number of steps into a compile script. It may be necessary to manage http_proxy, https_proxy and no_proxy environment variables for both root and stackato users while completing the steps below.

apt-get -y install w3m

Since everything in a stackato DEA is expected to run as the stackato user, we’ll switch to that user and move into the home directory

root@33ad737d42cf:/# su stackato
stackato@33ad737d42cf:/$ cd
stackato@33ad737d42cf:~$ pwd

Next I’m going to grab the source for nginx and configure and make.

wget -e use_proxy=yes
tar xzf nginx-1.6.2.tar.gz
cd nginx-1.6.2

By this point nginx has been built successfully and we’re in the nginx source directory. Next I want to update the configuration file to use a non-privileged port. For now I’ll use 8080, but Stackato will assign the actual PORT when deployed.

mv conf/nginx.conf conf/nginx.conf.original
sed 's/\(^\s*listen\s*\)80/\1 8080/' conf/nginx.conf.original > conf/nginx.conf

I also need to make sure that there is a logs directory available for nginx error logs on startup.

mkdir logs

It’s time to test the nginx build, which we can do with the command below. A message should be displayed saying the test was successful.

stackato@33ad737d42cf:~/nginx-1.6.2$ ./objs/nginx -t -c conf/nginx.conf -p /home/stackato/nginx-1.6.2
nginx: the configuration file /home/stackato/nginx-1.6.2/conf/nginx.conf syntax is ok
nginx: configuration file /home/stackato/nginx-1.6.2/conf/nginx.conf test is successful

With the setup and configuration validated, it’s time to start nginx and verify that it works.

./objs/nginx -c conf/nginx.conf -p /home/stackato/nginx-1.6.2

At this point it should be possible to load the nginx welcome page using the command below.

w3m http://localhost:8080


Next steps

If an application requires other resources, this same process can be followed to build, integrate and test them within a running docker container based on the stackato image.


  1. […] server environment, look at the script/code that is responsible for provisioning it. Even better, create a new container and play around with it. Once you get things just right, update your code so that every new container incorporates the […]

  2. Hi, am a PhD student and am trying to create my own microcloud with stackato. Can stackato be deployed on windows? Cause am having problem installing debian. If yes, then how do I go about it. Tnx

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