nginx Docker Container

Posted on 17 Mar 2015 by Eric Oestrich

As part of my Raspberry Pi cluster (aka “bramble” as I found out recently) I have an nginx load balancer. Here are the steps I took to create it.

FROM oestrich/arch-pi
MAINTAINER Eric Oestrich ""

RUN pacman -Syu --noconfirm \
  && pacman -S --noconfirm \
    nginx \
  && pacman -Sc --noconfirm

RUN ln -sf /dev/stdout /var/log/nginx/access.log
RUN ln -sf /dev/stderr /var/log/nginx/error.log

VOLUME ["/var/cache/nginx"]

EXPOSE 80 443

CMD ["nginx", "-g", "daemon off;"]

This starts with the base nginx container, which I took from here and adapted for arch-pi.

nginx Dockerfile
FROM oestrich/nginx-pi
MAINTAINER Eric Oestrich ""

ADD ssl /etc/nginx/ssl
ADD sites /etc/nginx/sites
ADD nginx.conf /etc/nginx/nginx.conf

Next I have a container that will have all of the information required built into it. This is very specific to my cluster and will only be published on the private registry I have.

There are two folders and a file that gets added in. /etc/nginx/ssl contains all of the ssl certificates that will be required. /etc/nginx/sites has all of the virtual hosts that this nginx container will be serving. Lastly, /etc/nginx/nginx.conf is the base nginx configuration.

user root;
worker_processes  2;

events {
    worker_connections  1024;

http {
    include       mime.types;
    default_type  application/octet-stream;

    sendfile        on;
    keepalive_timeout  65;
    gzip  on;

    ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
    ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
    ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;

    # If you have a lot of virtual hosts, this is required
    server_names_hash_bucket_size  64;

    include /etc/nginx/sites/*;

This is a pretty simple nginx.conf file. I added in my ssl configuration and that’s about it.

upstream website {
  server docker01:5000;

server {
  listen 80;
  rewrite ^(.*) https://$host$1 permanent;

server {
  listen 443;

  ssl on;
  ssl_certificate /etc/nginx/ssl/example_com.crt;
  ssl_certificate_key /etc/nginx/ssl/example_com.key;

  location / {
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto https;
    proxy_set_header Host $http_host;
    proxy_redirect off;
    proxy_pass http://website;

  keepalive_timeout 10;
  server_tokens off;

  add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000";

This virtual host configuration file sets up a redirect for regular http to https, and has all server traffic go over https. One very important thing to remember when using nginx with proxy passing, make sure you set the X-Forwarded-Proto or rails will think you are accessing it via http and not https. It took a good amount of time to figure that out. HSTS is also set for a year to make sure clients always return via https.

Once all of this is set up you build the container and push it to a private repository. Pull the nginx container to the docker host and install this service file.


ExecStart=/usr/bin/docker run --rm -p 443:443 -p 80:80 --name nginx


This service file keeps the nginx container running. It will always restart the service to make sure nginx is running. The --rm flag is important so that after the container is stopped it will remove the named container. This allows for the container to start again with the same name when systemd starts the service next.

That’s it. You should now have an nginx docker container that will serve traffic.

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