In this tutorial, we'll be building a real world web application to showcase how docker works with real world apps.

We’ll be covering the following topics:

  • How to Dockerize a web application & create production grade DockerFile.
  • Will go through a number of CLI Commands
  • Will learn how to persist data from docker containers using docker volumes
  • Networking multiple docker containers together
  • Learn tactics to optimize docker images and cleanup disk space
  • will learn how to run custom scripts after docker container starts

Creating a Simple Web Application

We’ll be creating a super simple flask application which runs a counter for us which increments upon page reload, the counter state is being saved on redis (in-memory key-value data store). We’ll be looking into the real world scenarios and examples.

Directory Structure

Here we have the following set of files:

  • Dockerfile (which we’ll create in a while)
from flask import Flask

app = Flask(__name__)

def counter():
    return '0'
  • requirements.txt


FROM python:3.8-alpine

RUN mkdir /app

COPY requirements.txt requirements.txt
RUN pip install -r requirements.txt 

COPY . .

LABEL maintainer="Usama Munir <[email protected]>" \ 

CMD flask run --host= --port=5000

Building the Docker Image

docker image build -t web1 .

This will run our Dockerfile from top to bottom and builds us the docker image.

Inspect the Docker Image

docker image inspect web1

This will result in a json output showcasing a lot of useful information about our image.

Rebuilding the Docker image with version

docker image build -t web1:1.0

Here we’ve rebuilt the image with a specific 1.0 tag. You can see it in the json dump on inspect.

List all Docker Images

docker image ls

Deleting the docker Image

docker image rm <repository>:<tag>

To be more precise:

docker image rm web1:1.0

Authenticate the Docker CLI

docker login

Tagging Image to Docker Hub Username

docker image tag web1 usamamuneer/web1:latest 

Pushing Image to Docker Hub

docker image push usamamuneer/web1:latest

Pulling from Docker Hub

docker pull usamamuneer/web1:latest

Running Docker Containers

docker container run -it -p 5000:5000 -e web1

Listing Containers

docker container ls

We can also list view stopped containers likeso,

docker container ls -a

Removing the Container

docker container rm <name>

Or we can also do the same in container run comamnd likeso,

docker container run -it --rm --name web1 -p 5000:5000 -e web1

Now if we stopped the container, it’ll automatically deletes the container for us using its name variable.

Running Container in the Background

docker container run -it --rm --name web1 -p 5000:5000 -e -d web1

We can simply pass a -d flag and it’ll run the container in the background while allowing us to use the same terminal window to run the other commands.

Viewing Container Logs

docker container logs web1

Also, we can pass a -f flag to view logs in real time likeso,

docker container logs -f web1

Viewing Docker Stats

docker container stats

Stopping the Containers

docker container stop <name>

Restarting Containers on failure

docker container -it --name web1_2 -p 5000 -e -d --restart no-failure web1 

Notice that, here we’ve used the --restart flag. If somehow our docker daemon crashes out or something else happened, our docker container will be back up & running without having to manually start it over.

Code Reloading with Volumes

Now we’ll look into how to make code changes to the app and see them in the browser.

If you notice, when any changes are made in the file while the container the up it won’t reflect until we stop the container and rebuild the image and re-run the container. That’s a number of commands only to reflect changes on the browser. Well docker came in for the rescue here and provides with volumes & we can simply add up the -v flag postfix the directory we want to use as a volume likeso,

docker container run -it -p 5000:5000 -e -d --rm --name web1 -v $PWD:/app web1

Linking Containers with Docker Networks

Now we’ll see how to link multiple containers together over a docker network.

Here we need to boot up another container, we’ll be booting up a redis container here. Let’s pull in redis first likeso;

docker pull redis

Also, let’s include redis in our as well before building image.

from flask import Flask
from flask_redis import FlaskRedis

app = Flask(__name__)
app.config['REDIS_URL'] = 'redis://redis:6379/0'

redis = FlaskRedis(app)

def counter():
    return str(redis.incr('web2_counter'))

Please note that in order to connect two containers, they need to belong to the same network. It doesn’t matter if they are on virtual machines or physical hardware. If they’re not on the same network, they won’t be able to talk to each other.
Let’s say we’ve only two types of networks: Internal(LAN) and External (WAN).

Here we’ve a number of computers connected to a router over wifi. In this example each computer will be able to talk to the others because they’re all on the same local network. Also if we run a local container running at on the laptop (as shown in picture below), the other computers can access this address too.

Docker allows us to run containers on multiple networks & we can choose from Dockers’ default networks or can even use our own internal or external networks. Now let’s see how we can use networks with Dockers.

By default Docker creates some default networks for you, view it like:

docker network ls

Inspecting Docker Network

docker network inspect bridge

Here bridge is the name of a default docker network. It’ll output the JSON information of the network.

        "Name": "bridge",
        "Id": "9d123c48b88ea84597632216c61168d473970f4cdd2447a13e85a568a9b0b666",
        "Created": "2020-04-13T19:28:06.563405654Z",
        "Scope": "local",
        "Driver": "bridge",
        "EnableIPv6": false,
        "IPAM": {
            "Driver": "default",
            "Options": null,
            "Config": [
                    "Subnet": "",
                    "Gateway": ""
        "Internal": false,
        "Attachable": false,
        "Ingress": false,
        "ConfigFrom": {
            "Network": ""
        "ConfigOnly": false,
        "Containers": {},
        "Options": {
            "": "true",
            "": "true",
            "": "true",
            "": "",
            "": "docker0",
            "": "1500"
        "Labels": {}

Note that the Containers object is empty in this network, now let’s run a redis container in the background.

docker container run --rm --name redis -itd -p 6379:6379 redis:latest

Now if we re run the docker container inspect bridge command again, we’ll notice the change in the Containers object.

 "Containers": {
            "cb3c953c8fa23ea696dd841c41196a1330bf20c2f48d6d1bb0b08fb32cc246d4": {
                "Name": "redis",
                "EndpointID": "98a9d18fab39f36c6ffc5956ef323bee3f5ba2f94fcc4e7a5f639009599a63b8",
                "MacAddress": "02:42:ac:11:00:02",
                "IPv4Address": "",
                "IPv6Address": ""

Now we’ll run the other container

docker container run --rm -itd -p 5000:5000 -e -e FLASK_DEBUG=1 --name web2 -v "$PWD:/app" web2

We can check the running containers on the servers using ifconfig and ping commands, but docker recently removed ifconfig and ping from alpine images. So let’s fix that first. Add the following in your Dockerfile (under Alpine image)

RUN apt-get update && apt-get install -y net-tools iputils-ping

and stop & Rebuild the container. Run the following commands in order:

docker container stop web2

docker image build -t web2 .

docker container run --rm -itd -p 5000:5000 -e -e FLASK_DEBUG=1 --name web2 -v "$PWD:/app" web2

Verifying the IP Addresses of the containers over the network

docker exec redis ifconfig

docker exec web2 ifconfig

and later can ping to their respective ip addresses to verify if its working likeso:

docker exec redis ping

docker exec web3 ping

Please note that, in your case, IP address could be different.

Now let’s try to use redis with our flask app & with docker we don’t have to bind the specific IP addresses. Let’s start by binding containers to our own custom network.

Create a new Custom Bridge Network

docker network create --driver bridge mynetwork

Now stop & restart our containers & bind to our newly created custom docker network

docker container stop redis

docker container stop web2

docker container run --rm -itd -p 6379:6379 --name redis --net mynetwork redis

docker container run --rm -itd -e -e FLASK_DEBUG=1 -p 5000:5000 --name web2 --net mynetwork web2

Here we’ve used a --net flag to assign our custom docker network. Now let’s inspect our custom network likeso;

docker network inspect mynetwork

Now let’s ping redis from our flask app.

docker exec web2 ping redis

Debug Redis from Redis-CLI

We can also debug inside of our redis container if we ran into a problem like:

docker exec -it redis redis-cli

Persisting Data using Named Volumes

We’ll use named volumes to persist data in our redis.

Creating Named Volumes

docker volume create web2_redis

Now stop & re-run our redis container with the volume.

docker container run --rm -itd -p 6379:6379 --name redis --net mynetwork -v web2_redis:/data redis

Now head over to the browser and reload the page a couple of times to increment the counter. Now stop and re-run the redis container and try this step again, you’ll see the state is being maintained now in your browser and the counter starts from where you’ve left it.

Sharing Data between Containers

Sometimes we’ve scenarios where we need to need files between containers name it as our static js files or our css files or fonts, could be anything.

Modify Dockerfile to add Volume

Let’s say we have a public folder containing folders of js and css alongwith some files.

Firstly, open up Dockerfile and add the following line init.

VOLUME ["/app/public"]

Now re-build the image and re-run the containers.

docker container run --rm -itd -e -e FLASK_DEBUG=1 -p 5000:5000 --name web2 --net mynetwork web2

docker container run --rm -itd -p 6379:6379 --name redis --net mynetwork --volumes-from web2 redis

Now let’s check on the redis container if this works

docker container exec -it redis sh

We can now simply cd into /app/public directory and we shall see the folders and files.

Real-Time File Manipulation

What if we want to keep track of our files in real-time as we’re making changes on these. Well we can do this using volumes again.

Let’s stop both containers and re-run. This time we’ll be assigning an additional explicit volume flag to the flask container to persist realtime changes on the shared volume directory.

docker container run --rm -itd -e -e FLASK_DEBUG=1 -p 5000:5000 --name web2 --net mynetwork -v "$PWD:/app" -v "/app/public"  web2

docker container run --rm -itd -p 6379:6379 --name redis --net mynetwork -v web2_redis:/data --volumes-from web2  redis

Now if we bash again in our redis container, we shall see the real-time changes we make on the public folder.

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