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Since FOLIO modules can consist of range of application and programming environments, running modules as Linux containers provides a nice way to avoid issues related to the complexities of installing and managing a system with mixed environments. Docker is a popular container framework and has been adopted as a primary distribution model for FOLIO modules. Dockerfiles describe how to build and run an application in a Docker container.

The following outlines some general best practices for adding Dockerfiles to a FOLIO module project. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and, as with all best practices, there will always be exceptions as well as a bit of controversy (indeed, it may be less controversial to re-title this document “FOLIO Dockerfile tips”). This best practice guide from Docker also provides a good overview.

  • All FOLIO modules should include one or more Dockerfiles called ‘Dockerfile’ that will build and run a Docker container suitable for a runtime environment. As a general rule, images should be as lean and concise as possible and should not contain things like SDKs, build dependencies, and development tools. It is often desirable to include a separate Dockerfile that will bootstrap a module from source to get something up and running quickly for prototyping and development. This type of Dockerfile should be named ‘’ to differentiate it from the runtime Dockerfile.

  • Most FOLIO Docker images will be derived from a pre-existing base image. If possible, use an existing base image from an “official repository” located on Docker Hub. Examples include the following:

    If it is necessary to start with an OS base image, the following are good choices:

    Alpine is ideal because of its small footprint. However, it may not be compatible with all projects. Test your Docker image to ensure your module functions correctly.

  • Run apk upgrade (or apt-get upgrade) in the Dockerfile. This fixes known vulnerabilities and is needed because base images don’t get upgraded when a fix for a dependency is available. Security Updates in Docker explains why the recommendation was different a few years ago.

  • Utilize the “one process per container” rule whenever possible and run the process as PID 1 to ensure that the process responds properly to a SIGTERM sent by ‘docker stop’. Using the exec form of the CMD or ENTRYPOINT instruction will typically accomplish this.

    CMD ["executable", "param1", "param2"]
    ENTRYPOINT ["executable", "param1", "param2"]

    This can become more complex depending on whether the process started in the container is actually coded to exit gracefully when receiving a SIGTERM. If a different signal should be used to gracefully stop a container process, i.e. SIGQUIT or something else, it should be noted somewhere in the module documentation.

  • If it is necessary to run more than one process in your container, use ‘supervisord’ to manage your processes. Supervisor should be run as PID 1 in this case. See Using Supervisor for additional information.

  • It is often necessary to pass optional arguments to a module running inside a container. For example, the FOLIO mod-circulation module can take an optional argument to run an embedded MongoDB data store (generally NOT a good idea for a production module!).

    docker run -d mod-circulation embed_mongo=true

    One way to accomplish this is to exec the module using ENTRYPOINT and include CMD with an empty array. For example:

    ENTRYPOINT ["java", "-jar", "circulation-fat.jar"]
    CMD []
  • With Java-based modules, it is often necessary to pass options to Java (as opposed to the application) at runtime. The exec forms of ENTRYPOINT and CMD in the previous example, however, do not support variable substitution. A method to accomplish this is to use the shell form of ENTRYPOINT instead.

    ENTRYPOINT exec java $JAVA_OPTS circulation-fat.jar

    Now run the container by passing in JAVA_OPTS as an environment variable:

    docker run -d -e JAVA_OPTS='-Xmx1g -Xms1g' mod-circulation

    Unfortunately, mixing the shell form of ENTRYPOINT with the exec form of CMD is not possible, so combining support for application options as outlined in the previous example with support for Java options becomes much more difficult. At this point, it’s probably time to start thinking about a proper ENTRYPOINT script.

  • Limit the number of RUN steps in your Dockerfile by chaining together commands with ‘&&’ when possible.

  • Run the container process as a non-root user by utilizing ‘USER’ in your Dockerfile. Note, it is necessary to ensure that the user exists or is created in the container image in order for USER to work.

    # Create user/group 'folio'
    RUN groupadd folio && \
        useradd -r -d $VERTICLE_HOME -g folio -M folio && \
        chown -R folio.folio $VERTICLE_HOME
    # Run as this user
    USER folio
  • The module running inside the container should log to STDOUT by default - not to a log file inside the container. By logging to STDOUT, the developer can easily look at module logs when debugging and the Docker administrator can choose to redirect the logs elsewhere according to their own site preferences.