Sample app overview

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

This example is built around a web-based voting application that collects, tallies, and returns the results of votes (for cats and dogs, or other choices you specify). The voting app includes several services, each one running in its own container. We’ll deploy the app as a stack to introduce some new concepts surfaced in Compose Version 3, and also use swarm mode, which is cluster management and orchestration capability built into Docker Engine.

Got Docker?

If you haven’t yet downloaded Docker or installed it, go to Get Docker and grab Docker for your platform. You can follow along and run this example using Docker for Mac, Docker for Windows, Docker Toolbox, or Docker for Linux.

If you are totally new to Docker, you might want to work through the Get Started with Docker tutorial first, then come back here.

What you’ll learn and do

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to:

  • Use docker machine to create multiple virtual local hosts or dockerized cloud servers
  • Use docker commands to set up and run a swarm with manager and worker nodes
  • Deploy the vote app services across the two nodes by feeding our example docker-stack.yml file to the docker stack deploy command
  • Test the app by voting for cats and dogs, and view the results
  • Use the visualizer to explore and understand the runtime app and services
  • Update the docker-stack.yml and redeploy the app using a different vote image to implement a poll on different choices
  • Use features new in Compose Version 3, highlighted in the sample app

Preview of voting app stack and how it works

These next few topics provide a quick tour of the services, deployment configuration, files, and commands we will use.

This diagram represents the application stack at runtime. It shows dependencies among the services, and a potential division of services between the manager and worker nodes in a swarm. As you’ll discover in the tutorial, some services are constrained to always run on a manager node, while others can run on either a manager or workers, at the discretion of swarm load balancing.

voting app diagram

Services and images overview

A service is a bit of executable code designed to accomplish a specific task. A service can run in one or more containers. Defining a service configuration for your app (above and beyond docker run commands in a Dockerfile) enables you to deploy the app to a swarm and manage it as a distributed, multi-container application.

The voting app you are about to deploy is made up of several services, each based on an image that the app will pull from Docker Hub at runtime:

Service Description Base Image on Docker Hub
vote Displays the web page where you cast your vote at <manager-IP>:5000 Based on a Python image, dockersamples/examplevotingapp_vote
result Shows the voting results in a web browser at <manager-IP>:5001 Based on a Node.js image, dockersamples/examplevotingapp_result
visualizer Shows a realtime map of services deployed across the available nodes, viewable at <manager-IP>:8080 Based on a Node.js image, dockersamples/visualizer
redis Collects raw voting data and stores it in a key/value queue Based on the Alpine version of the official redis image, redis:alpine
db A PostgreSQL service which provides permanent storage on a host volume Based on the official postgres image, postgres:9.4
worker A background service that transfers votes from the queue to permanent storage Based on a .NET image, dockersamples/examplevotingapp_worker

Each service will run in its own container. Using swarm mode, we can also scale the application to deploy replicas of containerized services distributed across multiple nodes.

docker-stack.yml deployment configuration file

In the Getting Started with Docker tutorial, you wrote a Dockerfile for the whalesay app then used it to build a single image and run it as a single container.

For this tutorial, the images are pre-built, and we use a stack file instead of a Dockerfile to specify the images. When we deploy, each image will run as a service in a container (or in multiple containers, for those that have replicas defined to scale the app).

To follow along, you need only have Docker running and a copy of the docker-stack.yml file that we provide.

This file defines all the services we want to use along with details about how and where those services will run; their base images, configuration details such as ports, networks, volumes, application dependencies, and the swarm configuration.

This example snip-it taken from our docker-stack.yml shows one of the services fully defined. (The full file is here.)

  image: dockersamples/examplevotingapp_vote:before
    - 5000:80
    - frontend
    - redis
    replicas: 2
      parallelism: 2
      condition: on-failure
  • The image key defines which image the service will use. The vote service uses dockersamples/examplevotingapp_vote:before. This specifies the path to the image on Docker Hub (as shown in the table above), and an image tag, before to indicate the version of the image we want to start with. In the second part of the tutorial, we will edit this file to call a different verson of this image with an after tag.

  • The depends_on key allows you to specify that a service is only deployed after another service. In our example, vote only deploys after redis.

  • The deploy key specifies aspects of a swarm deployment. For example, in this configuration we create replicas of the vote service (2 containers for vote will be deployed to the swarm). The result service, not shown in the file snip-it above, will also have 2 replicas. Additionally, we will use the deploy key to constrain some other services (db and visualizer) to run only on a manager node.

docker stack deploy command

To deploy the voting app, we will run the docker stack deploy command with appropriate options, using the configuration in our docker-stack.yml file to pull the referenced images and launch the services in a swarm.

Where to learn more

If you are interested in reading more about Compose version 3.x, stack files, Docker Engine 1.13.x, swarm mode integration, Docker CE, or Docker EE, jump to the list of resources at the end of this tutorial.

What’s next?

Ready to get started? In the next step, we’ll set up two Dockerized hosts.

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