Building and Pushing Images with the dch-photon Docker Engine

vSphere Integrated Containers Engine is an enterprise container runtime that you use as a deployment endpoint for container VMs. As such, it does not have native docker build or docker push capabilities. The job of building and pushing container images is typically part of a continuous integration (CI) pipeline, that does this by using standard Docker Engine instances.

vSphere Integrated Containers can deploy standard Docker Engine instances for you, in the form of a container image repository named dch-photon. The dch-photon image allows you to deploy container VMs that run a Docker Engine instance, known as a Docker container host (DCH). In this version of vSphere Integrated Containers, the dch-photon Docker Engine runs on Photon OS 2.0. You can deploy any number of these dch-photon Docker Engine instances to perform docker build and docker push operations as part of your CI infrastructure.

vSphere Integrated Containers 1.5.x supports dch-photon version 17.06. The dch-photon image is pre-loaded in the default-project in vSphere Integrated Containers Registry, or you can pull it from Docker Hub.

Advantages of Using dch-photon

Virtual container hosts (VCHs) focus on running pre-existing images in production. An advantage of using VCHs over standard Docker Engine instances is the opinionated, strongly isolated provisioning model of container VMs as compared to standard containers. VCHs assume that image creation happens elsewhere in the CI process. vSphere Integrated Containers provides the dch-photon Docker Engine as a container image so that you can easily deploy Docker Engine instances to act as build slaves in your CI infrastructure.

By bringing the ephemeral quality of running the Docker Engine itself as a container VM, dch-photon provides the following advantages:

  • Eliminates snowflake deployments of Docker Engine.
  • Promotes efficient use of resources by providing an easy mechanism for provisioning and removing Docker Engine instances that fits well with CI automation.

The workflow for using dch-photon Docker Engines is as follows:

  1. Pull the dch-photon image from vSphere Integrated Containers Registry and instantiate it.
  2. Use the Docker Engine running in dch-photon to build and push an image to vSphere Integrated Containers Registry.
  3. Remove the dch-photon container VM.
  4. Pull the new image from vSphere Integrated Containers Registry into a VCH and run it in production.

Because of the ephemeral quality of the dch-photon Docker Engine and because it is itself a container image, this process can be scripted or integrated with an existing CI tool, such as Jenkins.

Requirements for Using dch-photon

To use dch-photon, your environment must satisfy the following conditions:

Anonymous dch-photon Volumes

Each dch-photon container VM that you run creates an anonymous volume in the default volume store. By default, all of the images you pull into dch-photon go into this volume. The anonymous volume has a 2 GB limit. If you require more than 2 GB to store images and container state, you must explicitly specify a volume with a higher limit when you run dch-photon. For information about how to specify a larger volume, see Expand the Root Disk on a dch-photon Docker Engine.

The anonymous volumes that dch-photon creates are not deleted when you delete a dch-photon container VM. This is by design, so that you can persist your image cache and container state beyond the lifespan of an individual dch-photon container VM. When you delete dch-photon container VMs, you must manually remove the anonymous volume from the volume store if you do not require them.

Using dch-photon with vSphere Integrated Containers Registry

For dch-photon to be able to authenticate with vSphere Integrated Containers Registry, it needs to have the registry's CA certificate. The purpose of dch-photon is primarily to build images and push them to registries, so each dch-photon instance must be able to authenticate with the registry to which it pushes. Even if you use the same Docker client to pull and run the dch-photon image as you use to push built images back to the registry, the dch-photon container VM still needs to have the appropriate registry certificate so that it can successfully push images.

You can provide the certificate to dch-photon in one of two ways:

  • Build a custom dch-photon image that has the certificate embedded in it. This method is preferable since you only need to perform the operation once.
  • Manually copy the certificate in to a dch-photon container running in a VCH by using docker cp.

When you have deployed dch-photon with the registry certificate, you can use it to build an image and push that image from dch-photon to vSphere Integrated Containers Registry. You can then pull the image from the registry into a VCH for deployment.

For an example of how to deploy a dch-photon instance that you can use with vSphere Integrated Containers Registry, see Deploy a Test dch-photon Instance.

For more advanced use of dch-photon, see Advanced Use of dch-photon.

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