Build Docker Swarm binary for Windows the "Docker way"

In my last blog post I showed how to run a Windows Docker Swarm. That tutorial just used a prebuilt Swarm Docker image that was loaded from local disk.

Some people asked me how I have built that container image. Assuming you have a Windows Server 2016 TP4 machine you nowadays need nothing more than the right Dockerfiles to do this.

So let's start writing a Dockerfile to build Docker Swarm inside a Docker container. For the next steps open a PowerShell window and then open an editor.

notepad Dockerfile.builder

Use a base image

Swarm is written in Go, so we look for a useful base image. And there already is one useful base image in the Docker Hub. So we begin the Dockerfile with the following line.

FROM microsoft/golang

Install Git

Additionally to Go we also need Git installed inside the Container image. So we use the following lines that will download and install Git for Windows and then remove the installer again. As a further step we add Git to the PATH variable.


RUN powershell -Command \
    Sleep 2 ; \
    wget -outfile gitinstaller.exe ; \
    Start-Process .\gitinstaller.exe -ArgumentList '/VERYSILENT /SUPPRESSMSGBOXES /CLOSEAPPLICATIONS /DIR=c:\git' -Wait ; \
    rm .\gitinstaller.exe

RUN setx PATH %PATH%;C:\git\cmd;C:\git\bin;C:\git\usr\bin

Install and build Godep and Swarm

The Swarm project uses Godep to manage the dependencies. We also need this tool as well as the Swarm sources. So let's install both and run the godep tool to build the swarm.exe.



RUN powershell -Command \
    Sleep 2 ; \
    go get ; \
    mkdir src\\docker ; \
    cd src\\docker ; \
    git clone ; \
    cd swarm ; \
    git checkout %SWARM_VERSION% ; \
    Start-Process -FilePath godep.exe -ArgumentList go, install, . -Wait

Now save the Dockerfile.builder file and close the editor.

Back in the PowerShell build the Docker image with the name swarm-builder and the given Dockerfile with the following command.

docker build -t swarm-builder -f Dockerfile.builder .

This now creates a Docker image with multiple layers, for each ENV and RUN command in the Dockerfile. You can see the actions on your screen and finally the command finishes and you can list your images with

docker images

You should see a image with the name swarm-builder:

REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             VIRTUAL SIZE
swarm-builder       latest              04e557dd075a        31 minutes ago      1.219 GB

The size of the Docker image is not good for deployment as we have all the development tools and source codes inside it.

Test and extract the swarm.exe

We only need the swarm.exe from this image as it is a static binary. So we just run the Docker image and have a very little test of the binary just created by showing its version.

After that we copy the swarm.exe from the container back to the host.

docker run --name swarm-builder swarm-builder swarm --version
docker cp swarm-builder:/go/bin/swarm.exe ./swarm.exe

Build a small Swarm image

The final Docker image for deployment can be produced with a much simpler Dockerfile. As the time of writing the Technical Preview 4 needs a small workaround to access the network inside a container. We have to add a small helper script for now.

nodepad run.ps1

The small PowerShell script just sleeps a little and then calls swarm.exe with the arguments given.

Sleep 2
\swarm.exe $args

Now it is time to write the Dockerfile. So open an editor with the following command. Notice the dot '.' as this helps Notepad create a Dockerfile without an extension.

notepad Dockerfile.

The Dockerfile now uses the windowsservercore base image and copies the helper script and the swarm binary into the image and sets the entrypoint.

FROM windowsservercore

COPY ./swarm.exe /swarm.exe
COPY ./run.ps1 /run.ps1


ENTRYPOINT ["powershell.exe", "-File", "/run.ps1"]
CMD ["--help"]

We now build the final Docker image with

docker build -t swarm .

Just check the size of the Docker images again with

docker images

docker images

If you build a new version of the Swarm image later it is useful to tag each Docker image with its version. For this tutorial we have built Swarm 1.1.3, so we tag it with

docker tag swarm:latest swarm:1.1.3

You now can run a Swarm container eg. with

docker run -it swarm:1.1.3 --version

and you will see the version of the swarm.exe.

Automate all the things

Both the Dockerfiles and a build script can be found in my dockerfiles-windows GitHub repo. Even to download the sources you do not need more than a PowerShell window. Just download it as a ZIP and extract it:

wget -outfile
Expand-Archive .\

The steps to build both the development Docker image as well the final image is added to a small build script which can be run with this commands

cd src\dockerfiles-windows-master\swarm


Even on Windows you now can put development environments into Docker images and build small images for deployment with a two step approach. No special setup is needed on your host machine, just Docker should be reachable.

Everything is reproducable on every team members machines. And a CI build pipeline can take advantage of this dockerized setup as well.

I hope you get a feeling what you can do with your own software project and start dockerizing as well.

If you find this blog post useful, just share it with your friends and colleages. Please leave a comment if you have questions or improvements. You can follow me on Twitter @stefscherer.

Stefan Scherer

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