Running Docker in Docker (DinD): A Comprehensive Guide

Gopeshkhandelwal
3 min readAug 9, 2023

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Docker has revolutionized the way we develop, deploy, and manage applications, offering unparalleled containerization capabilities. One intriguing concept within the Docker ecosystem is running Docker itself within a container, aptly named Docker in Docker (DinD). This technique can be incredibly useful for various scenarios, including CI/CD pipelines, testing, and isolation. In this article, we will delve into the world of running Docker in Docker, providing a detailed step-by-step guide to help you master this advanced concept.

Prerequisites

Before we jump into the guide, ensure you have the following prerequisites in place:

  1. Docker Installed: Make sure you have Docker installed on your system. You’ll be using the Docker command-line interface extensively.
  2. Basic Docker Knowledge: A fundamental understanding of Docker and containerization concepts will greatly assist you in comprehending DinD.

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Pull the DinD Image

The first step is to obtain the DinD image. Open your terminal and run the following command:

docker pull docker:20.10-dind

This command fetches the DinD image from Docker Hub, tagged as version 20.10.

Step 2: Launch the DinD Container

Now that you have the DinD image, you can spin up a container. Run the following command:

docker run --privileged --name dind-container -d docker:20.10-dind

In this command:

  • --privileged: This flag grants the container additional privileges, which are necessary for running Docker within a container.
  • --name dind-container: Assigns a name to the container, allowing you to easily manage it later.
  • -d: Runs the container in detached mode, freeing up your terminal while the container runs in the background.

Step 3: Access the DinD Container

To interact with the DinD container, you need to access its shell. Execute the following command:

docker exec -it dind-container sh

This command opens an interactive shell within the DinD container, giving you direct access to its environment.

Step 4: Test Docker Within the DinD Container

Now that you’re inside the DinD container’s shell, you can run Docker commands as if you were working on a standalone Docker host. For instance, you can try:

docker info

This command will display information about the Docker environment running inside the DinD container.

Step 5: Run Containers Inside the DinD Container

While the primary purpose of DinD is to run Docker, you can also create and manage containers within the DinD container itself. This can be particularly useful for running tests or isolated development environments.

docker run -it --rm alpine

This command will run an Alpine Linux container interactively within the DinD container.

Step 6: Clean Up

When you’re done experimenting with DinD, you can clean up by stopping and removing the container:

docker stop dind-container
docker rm dind-container

Conclusion

Running Docker in Docker can be a powerful tool in various development and testing scenarios. However, it’s important to note that DinD comes with its own set of challenges and security considerations. It’s not recommended for production use due to potential security risks and performance overhead. Yet, for isolated testing and experimentation, DinD can be an invaluable addition to your Docker toolkit.

By following this comprehensive guide, you’ve gained a solid understanding of how to set up and use Docker in Docker. Remember to explore further, experiment responsibly, and always consider the security implications of the techniques you employ in your containerized workflows. Happy Dockerizing!

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