I’m just starting to play around with docker, and I’ve been investigating the use of CoreOS for deploying a cluster of docker containers. Though I’ve only been using it for a week, I really like what I’ve seen so far. CoreOS is makes it very easy to cluster together a group of machines using etcd, and in particular, I really like their fleet software, which allows you to manage systemd units (which you can use to run docker containers) across an entire CoreOS cluster. Fleet makes it easy to do things like high availability, failure recovery, and other useful things without too much extra effort right out of the box. The one piece missing is how to connect the containers together. There are some ways they’ve documented to do it, but honestly most of the ways I’ve seen on the internet consist of a bunch of shell script glue that feels really hacky to me.
In the docker community, something called the ‘ambassador’ pattern has emerged, which is this idea of proxying connections to container A from container B via container P, and container P has enough smarts in it to transparently redirect connections to many different containers depending on parameters. However, most of the stuff I’ve found on the web is very labor intensive and full of nasty shell scripting that is easy to mess up.
Jeff Lindsay has created the first stage of what I think is a really good general solution to this problem — namely, his projects called registrator and ambassadord. Registrator listens for docker containers to startup, and automatically adds them something like etcd or consul. You link your containers to ambassadord, and when your container tries to make an outgoing connection, it will do a lookup to figure out where the connection needs to go, and connect you there. It’s pretty easy, with very little configuration needed for the involved containers.
CoreOS already ships with etcd built-in, so CoreOS + registrator + ambassadord seems to be a great combination to me. I’ve modified CoreOS’s sample vagrant cluster to demonstrate how to use these to connect containers together.