Link via an ambassador container

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Rather than hardcoding network links between a service consumer and provider, Docker encourages service portability, for example instead of:

(consumer) --> (redis)

Requiring you to restart the consumer to attach it to a different redis service, you can add ambassadors:

(consumer) --> (redis-ambassador) --> (redis)

Or

(consumer) --> (redis-ambassador) ---network---> (redis-ambassador) --> (redis)

When you need to rewire your consumer to talk to a different Redis server, you can just restart the redis-ambassador container that the consumer is connected to.

This pattern also allows you to transparently move the Redis server to a different docker host from the consumer.

Using the svendowideit/ambassador container, the link wiring is controlled entirely from the docker run parameters.

Two host example

Start actual Redis server on one Docker host

big-server $ docker run -d --name redis crosbymichael/redis

Then add an ambassador linked to the Redis server, mapping a port to the outside world

big-server $ docker run -d --link redis:redis --name redis_ambassador -p 6379:6379 svendowideit/ambassador

On the other host, you can set up another ambassador setting environment variables for each remote port we want to proxy to the big-server

client-server $ docker run -d --name redis_ambassador --expose 6379 -e REDIS_PORT_6379_TCP=tcp://192.168.1.52:6379 svendowideit/ambassador

Then on the client-server host, you can use a Redis client container to talk to the remote Redis server, just by linking to the local Redis ambassador.

client-server $ docker run -i -t --rm --link redis_ambassador:redis relateiq/redis-cli
redis 172.17.0.160:6379> ping
PONG

How it works

The following example shows what the svendowideit/ambassador container does automatically (with a tiny amount of sed)

On the Docker host (192.168.1.52) that Redis will run on:

# start actual redis server
$ docker run -d --name redis crosbymichael/redis

# get a redis-cli image for connection testing
$ docker pull relateiq/redis-cli

# test the redis server by talking to it directly
$ docker run -t -i --rm --link redis:redis relateiq/redis-cli
redis 172.17.0.136:6379> ping
PONG
^D

# add redis ambassador
$ docker run -t -i --link redis:redis --name redis_ambassador -p 6379:6379 alpine:3.2 sh

In the redis_ambassador container, you can see the linked Redis containers env:

/ # env
REDIS_PORT=tcp://172.17.0.136:6379
REDIS_PORT_6379_TCP_ADDR=172.17.0.136
REDIS_NAME=/redis_ambassador/redis
HOSTNAME=19d7adf4705e
SHLVL=1
HOME=/root
REDIS_PORT_6379_TCP_PORT=6379
REDIS_PORT_6379_TCP_PROTO=tcp
REDIS_PORT_6379_TCP=tcp://172.17.0.136:6379
TERM=xterm
PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin
PWD=/
/ # exit

This environment is used by the ambassador socat script to expose Redis to the world (via the -p 6379:6379 port mapping):

$ docker rm redis_ambassador
$ CMD="apk update && apk add socat && sh"
$ docker run -t -i --link redis:redis --name redis_ambassador -p 6379:6379 alpine:3.2 sh -c "$CMD"
[...]
/ # socat -t 100000000 TCP4-LISTEN:6379,fork,reuseaddr TCP4:172.17.0.136:6379

Now ping the Redis server via the ambassador:

Now go to a different server:

$ CMD="apk update && apk add socat && sh"
$ docker run -t -i --expose 6379 --name redis_ambassador alpine:3.2 sh -c "$CMD"
[...]
/ # socat -t 100000000 TCP4-LISTEN:6379,fork,reuseaddr TCP4:192.168.1.52:6379

And get the redis-cli image so we can talk over the ambassador bridge.

$ docker pull relateiq/redis-cli
$ docker run -i -t --rm --link redis_ambassador:redis relateiq/redis-cli
redis 172.17.0.160:6379> ping
PONG

The svendowideit/ambassador Dockerfile

The svendowideit/ambassador image is based on the alpine:3.2 image with socat installed. When you start the container, it uses a small sed script to parse out the (possibly multiple) link environment variables to set up the port forwarding. On the remote host, you need to set the variable using the -e command line option.

--expose 1234 -e REDIS_PORT_1234_TCP=tcp://192.168.1.52:6379

Will forward the local 1234 port to the remote IP and port, in this case 192.168.1.52:6379.

#
# do
#   docker build -t svendowideit/ambassador .
# then to run it (on the host that has the real backend on it)
#   docker run -t -i -link redis:redis -name redis_ambassador -p 6379:6379 svendowideit/ambassador
# on the remote host, you can set up another ambassador
#    docker run -t -i -name redis_ambassador -expose 6379 -e REDIS_PORT_6379_TCP=tcp://192.168.1.52:6379 svendowideit/ambassador sh
# you can read more about this process at https://docs.docker.com/articles/ambassador_pattern_linking/

# use alpine because its a minimal image with a package manager.
# prettymuch all that is needed is a container that has a functioning env and socat (or equivalent)
FROM	alpine:3.2

RUN apk update && \
	apk add socat && \
	rm -r /var/cache/

CMD	env | grep _TCP= | (sed 's/.*_PORT_\([0-9]*\)_TCP=tcp:\/\/\(.*\):\(.*\)/socat -t 100000000 TCP4-LISTEN:\1,fork,reuseaddr TCP4:\2:\3 \&/' && echo wait) | sh
chat icon Feedback? Suggestions? Can't find something in the docs?
Edit this page Request docs changes Get support