Using Docker

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Docker is a platform for distributed applications for developers and system administrators that allows running applications in containers. It enables you to use specific software, such as Redis or MongoDB, or a specific version of software, which might not be supported by your operating system or might need compiling.

Docker is available as a Plesk extension. Plesk allows you to run and manage containers that are based on specific Docker images, and to use Docker not only on the local host, but also on the specified remote machine.


In this chapter:

Requirements and Limitations

How to Start Using Docker

The Image Catalog

Container Settings

Operations with Containers

Using Remote Docker

Creating Images with Custom Settings

Managing Local Images

Setting up nginx to Proxy Requests from Domains to a Container


Requirements and Limitations



How to Start Using Docker

Install the Docker extension in Plesk.

To start using it, go to Docker in the left navigation panel.


The Image Catalog

In the catalog (Docker > Docker Image Catalog), Plesk displays images from By default, only recommended images are displayed. To view more images, use the search box or filters.

For each application, multiple versions can be available. You can run a specific version by selecting the appropriate tag, as shown below:


To use filters:

  1. Click the arrow arrow next to the search box.
  2. Specify both or one of the following: image name and repository.

    The repositories that you can select:

To run a container:

  1. Go to Docker > Docker Image Catalog.
  2. Use the search box or filters to quickly find applications in the catalog.
  3. To view the application description and documentation on Docker Hub, click the image name. This does not apply to local images.
  4. To run a specific version, click the arrow next to the Run button, and select the application version.
  5. To run the latest version of the selected application, click Run.

    If the image is stored locally, the button appears as Run (local).

    Plesk creates a container and prompts you to specify its settings, such as environment variables, and then runs it. You can cancel running by clicking Cancel on the Settings screen. For details about the settings, see Container Settings later on this page.

  6. The container appears in the list of containers at the top of the Docker Catalog page.


See the log (Logs) to find out what settings the container needs to run successfully.



Container Settings

Note: If you want to change container settings, you do not need to stop the container: When you save new settings, Plesk recreates the container.

To edit container settings, go to Settings or Details > Settings.


Limiting memory

By default, using RAM in a Docker container is unlimited. To limit using RAM, clear the Unlimited checkbox and enter the limit value in megabytes in the Memory limit field.

Note: CPU and Disk usage cannot be limited for a Docker container at the moment.

Note: Docker containers are administrator-level objects, and are not controlled by subscription-level cgroup limits (CPU, RAM, Disk usage).

Automatic Start

If the option Automatic start after system reboot is not selected, then after system reboot the websites that use this container might be down and you will need to start the container manually.

Port Mapping

By default, Automatic port mapping is turned on and the container's internal port is mapped to a random port on the host system (for example, 32768).

To change the port on the host system, clear the option Automatic port mapping and specify another external port in Manual mapping. If no Manual mapping appears when you clear the check box, it means that the container does not expose ports.

Important: If port mapping is configured, Docker binds to the specified port on all network interfaces of the host system. Usually, this means that the application can be accessed from anywhere. Docker presumes that authentication is carried out by the application itself, but sometimes it is not so (for example, MySQL does not allow anonymous access by default, but redis does).
Plesk cannot determine what service is installed in a specific Docker container, and cannot control access to it. If you need to prohibit access to the application from outside Plesk, do it manually using the firewall on the host system.

Volume Mapping

Docker volumes are directories on your server mounted to a Docker container, so that you have persistent storage that can be accessed from your host system. The data in Docker volumes can be backed up, and, more importantly, it is not deleted when you stop or delete a container.

For more information about data in containers, refer to the Docker documentation.

To add a volume mapping, specify the following:

To map more directories, click Add Mapping.

Setting Environment Variables

Environment variables are used by the application inside a container. You might need to add more variables or edit existing variables. Plesk allows you to add as many variables as required. 


Operations with Containers

You can do the following with containers:


Recreating a Container

Usually, you need to recreate a container when you want to update the application to a newer version. In fact, you can rebuild a container using any application version available in the catalog, not only a newer one.

Custom settings are preserved during recreation. To preserve data used by the application inside a container, you should specify volume mapping before you recreate a container. Volume mapping enables you to have access to directories used inside a container (see Volume Mapping in container settings).

To recreate a container:

  1. Go to Docker and click Details below the container you want to recreate.
  2. Click Recreate in the container settings and specify the image version, and whether to use default environment variables.


Using Remote Docker

By default, Plesk uses Docker installed as a Plesk component. However, you can use one or more Docker services installed outside of Plesk. Note that you can use only one service at a time. The hostname of the selected server is displayed in the title of Docker Catalog in Plesk.

Important: Managing remote Docker services requires a Plesk license key add-on. Without this add-on, you can only manage the local Docker service, which is running on the Plesk server.

Configuring Remote Services

Configure the remote server that runs Docker as described in the Docker documentation to use it as a remote server in Plesk.

Managing Remote Services

The following steps are applicable to both Plesk for Linux and for Windows.

To start using Docker that runs on a remote host:

  1. Go to Tools & Settings > Docker (under Server Management).
  2. Click Add Server and specify the settings of the remote server with Docker.
  3. To start using this Docker service in Plesk, leave Set active selected.

The link to Docker will appear in the left navigation panel.

To switch between Docker services:

  1. Go to Tools & Settings > Docker (under Server Management).
  2. In the list of servers, select the server that you are going to use and click Set Active.

Alternatively, you can set the server as active while editing its settings.




Creating Images with Custom Settings

If you want to create a new image based on the changes that you have made to a container, use the Save as Image command. This takes a snapshot of your container, which appears as a new image in the image catalog. In this way, you can create images with custom settings such as environment variables.

To create an image from one of your containers:

Go to Docker > Details under the container name > Save as Image, and optionally specify:

The created image appears in the image catalog and is marked Local image.



Managing Local Images

Local images are images that are stored by Docker on a local disk, so there is no need to download them from the Image Catalog.

An image becomes local in the following situations:

If Docker has at least one downloaded version from a group of versions belonging to an image, this image is marked Local image in the catalog. Run (local) means that the latest version was already downloaded. Plesk also shows how many local images exist for a product.


To view local images and remove outdated local images:

  1. Go to Docker > Docker Image Catalog.
  2. To find all local images, click the arrow next to the search box and select Local in the Repository filter.
  3. To view all local images of a specific product, click the link under the product name. All local images' tags and occupied disk space will be displayed.


  4. To remove all images, click Clean All Images.
  5. To remove a specific image, click the Remove docker_icon_remove icon next to the image that you want to remove.



Setting up nginx to Proxy Requests from Domains to a Container

Some Docker containers expose ports so that applications in containers could be accessible via those ports.

When you use an application in Docker container on your website, you may find it inconvenient to specify the non-standard port in its URL. To avoid inconvenience, you can set up nginx to proxy requests from domains to that port, so domains can use a standard port (such as 80) and there is no need to explicitly specify the port in URL.


After you have mapped the port inside a container manually to some port on your system (for example, 32768), you can set up nginx to proxy requests from domains to that port, so domains can use a standard port on nginx (for example, 80). To make this possible, add a rule for nginx in the domain settings in the following way:

Go to Websites & Domains > the domain > Proxy Rules > Add Rule and specify the following:

 Proxy rules are implemented in the web server configuration, e.g., in the website's file nginx.conf (in /var/www/vhosts/system/$domain/conf/):

#extension docker begin
location ~ ^/.* {
    proxy_set_header Host             $host;
    proxy_set_header X-Real-IP        $remote_addr;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For  $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
#extension docker end

Proxy rules should work fine on servers behind NAT.

Note: Docker containers connected via Proxy Rules to a website are not counted towards the subscription's disk space usage. An exception to this would be when a website directory is mounted to a Docker container as a volume, as in this case all files located in the container will be counted towards the disk space usage of the website.