Docker 1.13 is out

Docker 1.13 finally made it out the door earlier this week and I found some time to play around with it this weekend. I shan’t enumerate all of the new features here as the introductory post from Docker does a good job of that (or you can see the release notes for the gory details). Instead I’ll talk a little bit about some of the features that are of particular interest to me.

Top of the list has to be CLI backwards compatibility. It has been a frustration for some time that you’ve had to set the DOCKER_API_VERSION environment variable in order to have a client to talk an engine using an older version of the API. I almost always hit this following an upgrade or when accessing remote engines. It also made it difficult to have an image containing a Docker client, for example to talk to the engine it was running on. You ended up either having to create an image for each API version or trying to work out the engine’s version so you could set the variable appropriately. It’s a shame that compatibility only goes back as far as 1.12 but it’s a step in the right direction.

Another feature that I’ve been holding out for for some time is the --squash option on docker build. The way it has been implemented, this will squash all of the layers from the current build down in to one, preserving the image history in the process. This means that you no longer have to jump through hoops to make sure temporary files introduced in the build are created, used and deleted all in the same Dockerfile command.

I tested the option out on the build for our websphere-liberty images and was initially surprised that it didn’t reduce the size at all. I know that some files get overwritten in subsequent layers but unfortunately that happens across different images e.g. the javaee7 image overwrites some files in the webProfile7 image. Likewise, for our websphere-traditional images we currently have a two-step build process to avoid getting Installation Manager (IM) in the final image. I had hoped that we’d just be able to uninstall IM and then squash the layers but this would only work if we didn’t install IM in a separate base image. Hopefully the squash flag will gain some options in future to control just how many layers are squashed.

Another space-saving feature is the docker system prune command. Yes, pretty much every Docker user probably already had a script to do this using a host of nested commands but, as with the corresponding docker system df command, it’s good to see Docker making this that bit easier for everyone,.

The area of restricting CPU usage for containers has also been something of a black art involving shares, cpusets, quotas and periods. (I should know as we’ve given quite some consideration as to what this means for IBM’s PVU and vCPU pricing models.) It’s therefore great to see the --cpus option being added to docker run to radically simplify this area.

Perhaps the biggest feature in Docker 1.13 has to be the introduction of the Docker Compose V3 file format and the ability to deploy these Compose files directly to a swarm using docker stack deploy. This was a glaring hole when swarm mode was introduced in 1.12. It still sits a little uneasily with me though. Docker Compose started out as a tool for the developer. Despite exposing much the same Docker API, there were a few holes that started to creep in when trying to use the same YAML with a classic Swarm. For example, you really had to be using images from a repository for each node to be able to access them and the inability to specify any sort of scaling in the file meant it wasn’t really of use for actual deployment. The latter problem is, at least, resolved with V3 and swarm mode but only at the expense of moving away from something that feels like it is also of use to the developer. Perhaps experience will show that a combination of Compose file extensibility and Distributed Application Bundles will enable reuse of artifacts between development and deployment.

I don’t wish to end on a negative note though as, all in all, there’s a lot of good stuff in this release. Roll on Docker 1.14!

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