Swiftpack.co - Package - tylermilner/VaporDockerDemo


A simple project showcasing how the Vapor server-side Swift framework can be used with Docker all the way from development to production deployment.

Docker Overview

I won't go into too much detail about what Docker is, but essentially it allows you to create a lightweight "container" that packages up everything you need to run your server app. The main advantage of containerization is the ability to have complete control over the environment in which your app will run. This allows your development environment to mimic what will be used in production.


The Dockerfile specifies instructions for building a Docker image. We'll be creating both a development and production version of this file.

Docker Compose File

The Docker Compose file defines how our Docker containers are setup and operate together. We'll also be creating both a development and production version of this file.

Common Docker Commands

docker ps

The ps command lists all currently running Docker containers. We'll use it to check which containers are running so that we can attach to them when needed. When a container is running, the output of this command looks something like:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS              PORTS                    NAMES
7c61d587b9f8        api:dev             "bash"              About an hour ago   Up About an hour>8080/tcp   vapordockerdemo_api_1

docker attach

The attach command will attach the current terminal instance to the specified container. If the container includes an entrypoint like bash, then it will allow us to execute terminal commands inside of the running container.

docker stop

The stop command will stop the specified container. You'll need to use when you want to stop containers that are running in the background.

docker build

The build command will take a Dockerfile as input to generate a Docker container image. We'll be using this command to generate our production server image.

docker-compose up --build

The docker-compose up command will use a Docker Compose file to create and start a group of containers. We'll be using this command to launch our container ecosystem during both the development and production process.

Development vs Production Docker Configuration

Using Docker during the development process differs from how you might use it to deploy your production app. The main difference is that your server app won't automatically start when the container is launched. This allows you to be a little more "hands on" during the development process by attaching to the server app's container instance and executing compilation and run commands inside of the Docker container when necessary. A production setup would automatically launch your server app's binary when the container is started.

The Server App

The Vapor Swift server app in this repo is just the standard Vapor API template app, which is a simple backend that stores Todo list items in a database. The source code has been modified slightly to use a PostgreSQL database rather than the default SQLite database, but all other functionality remains the same. The following endpoints are available when the app is running:

  • GET /
  • GET /hello
  • GET /todos
  • POST /todos
  • DELETE /todos

Getting Started

Installing Docker

In order to get started, you'll need to install Docker. Since I'm on macOS, I'm using the Docker Community Edition for Mac.

Developing with Docker

Development Dockerfile

Currently, Dockerfile-dev only specifies the latest Swift Docker image as its base image. This is fine for our development environment since we just need something that can build and run Swift apps.

Development Docker Compose File

docker-compose.yml currently specifies an "api" and a "db" container, which corresponds to our Vapor server app and PostgreSQL database, respectively. The file also maps directories and ports inside of the container to directories and ports on our host machine so that we can share the same development folder on the filesystem and easily test the app from our host machine.

Running the App

Starting the Docker Containers

Once Docker is installed and running, navigate to the project directory and run the following command to start up the containers:

docker-compose --file docker-compose-dev.yml up --build

Attaching to the Vapor App Container

In a separate terminal window, execute the following command to list the running containers:

docker ps

Take note of the CONTAINER ID for the api:dev image, which is the container that will be running the Vapor app.

Attach to the Vapor app container by executing the following command, replacing <container_id> with the identifier output from the command above:

docker attach <container_id>

Your terminal prompt should now start with something like root@<container_id>:/app#, which reflects the fact that you're now running as a bash instance inside of that container.

NOTE: If the command appears to stall or not do anything, you might try hitting return again. I've needed to do this in the past, but it doesn't currently seem to be an issue for me.

Because of the way the development Docker Compose file is configured, your project directory on your local filesystem is actually mounted as a volume inside of the container. If you execute the ls command inside of your Docker container's terminal instance, you should see the contents of the project directory.

Building the Vapor App

To build the Swift Vapor app, execute the following commands in the terminal window that's attached to the Docker container:

swift build

Running the Vapor App

Once the build has finished, execute the following command to start the Vapor app inside of the container:

swift run Run serve -b

The Vapor app should then startup and output the following to your terminal window:

Server starting on

Notice the -b option passed to the serve command. We need to specify the IP address since that's the one that's been assigned to the Docker container (via the output of the docker ps command that we ran previously). By default, a swift run command will start the server on localhost, which is not what we want (i.e. the app will not be accessible from our host machine).

Testing Things Out


A quick test can be performed in your web browser to verify the server app is working properly.

Because of the way the docker-compose.yml file is configured, port 8080 inside of the container is mapped to port 8080 on our local machine. This means that you should be able to open up your favorite browser and navigate to http://localhost:8080/hello to see the default "Hello, world!" output of the Vapor app. Navigating to will also work.


In order to test the app's integration with the PostgreSQL database, you need to be able to execute POST and DELETE requests in additon to standard GET requests. Inside of the Postman directory, a Postman collection has been provided that contains these requests to create, delete, and return TODO items. Import the VaporDockerDemo.postman_collection.json collection and VaporDockerDemo-Dev.postman_environment.json environment into your Postman app and execute the provided requests. Note that an item identifier must be provided in the path of the "Delete TODO" request. By default, it will delete the first item so the request will only work once, assuming an item already exists.

Stopping the Containers

Doing a standard CTL + C in the Terminal instance that you executed the docker-compose command will automatically shutdown the containers that were started. You can also manually stop each container by issuing docker stop commands, as mentioned above.

Deploying with Docker

Production Dockerfile

Dockerfile-prod uses a multi-stage build process to create a standalone Docker container image that contains our production server application. The first stage simply builds the release version of the server app, creating an application binary called Run. The second stage builds upon a stock Ubuntu docker image, adding the necessary dependencies for running the binary produced in the first stage and specifies the container entrypoint, or command that gets run when the image is launched.

Building the Docker Image

Docker images are tagged in the format name:version. Execute the following command to build the Docker image from the production Dockerfile:

docker build --file Dockerfile-prod --tag vapordockerdemo:0.0.1 .

Running the Docker Image

Once the image is built, execute the following command to start it up:

docker run --publish 8080:8080 vapordockerdemo:0.0.1

The image will run, but the server application will immediately crash on launch with a message like the following:

Fatal error: Error raised at top level: NIO.ChannelError.connectFailed(NIO.NIOConnectionError(host: "db", port: 5432, dnsAError: Optional(NIO.SocketAddressError.unknown(host: "db", port: 5432)), dnsAAAAError: Optional(NIO.SocketAddressError.unknown(host: "db", port: 5432)), connectionErrors: [])): file /home/buildnode/jenkins/workspace/oss-swift-4.2-package-linux-ubuntu-16_04/swift/stdlib/public/core/ErrorType.swift, line 191

The app crashes because it can't initiate a connection to the PostgreSQL database. That's expected at this stage because we haven't yet created a production Docker Compose file that specifies the other containers that need to be launched with our server app (i.e. the PostgreSQL container).

Production Docker Compose File

In order to stand up all the necessary containers at once, we'll again use a Docker Compose file. The production Compose file is very similar to the one that's used for development, but differs in the following ways:

  • The "api" container no longer includes a build step. Instead, it makes use of the vapordockerdemo:0.0.1 image that we built using the production Dockerfile.
  • The "api" container is no longer concerned with mounting the project directory on the host machine to the /app directory inside of the container. Likewise, a bash prompt is no longer the entrypoint for the container.
  • The "api" container no longer maps port 8080 on the host machine to port 8080 of the container. Instead, port 80 on the host machine gets mapped to port 8080 on the container. This more accurately reflects what you would typically expect for a production application - HTTP traffic being served over port 80.

In the end, the only pieces of data that we need to define our production "api" container are the Docker image to use, the port mapping, and any environment variables.

Starting the Docker Containers

Again, the docker-compose command is used to launch the containers. However, this time we need to specify that we want to use the production compose file:

docker-compose --file docker-compose-prod.yml up --build

Testing Things Out

Once the containers are running, you should be able to follow the same steps above to test the server application using a web browser or HTTP client like Postman. Note that you will need to use port 80 instead of port 8080 this time, navigating to http://localhost/hello in your web browser or using the VaporDockerDemo-Prod.postman_environment.json Postman environment.


The content in this repo is based on this excellent article by bygri.


  • Security
    • Incorporate suggestions about running Docker apps as non-root user from this blog post.


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