Bundling up your application into a Docker container has many benefits including making deployments really easy without being bound to a particular cloud host. In this post we will containerize a .NET Core application and deploy it using Docker.
Before we can get started we need a couple of dependencies installed. Make sure you have the latest .NET Core SDK installed. You can download the SDK for your operating system on the project page.
In order to be able to run the Docker containers locally we also need to install Docker. You can find the instructions for your respective operating system on the Docker website.
If you are like me using Visual Studio Code as a code editor, you should also check out the Docker extension.
Creating a .NET Core project
If you already have an existing .NET Core project you are more than welcome to use it. Otherwise create a new empty ASP.NET Core application by opening your command line and typing:
dotnet new web --framework netcoreapp1.1 --name docker-example cd docker-example dotnet restore
This will create a new directory with an empty ASP.NET Core application and install all dependencies. Alternatively you can do this directly in Visual Studio if you prefer that. Once they’re installed we can see if it is working by compiling and running it:
Once it is saying
Now listening on: http://localhost:5000 navigate to http://localhost:5000 in your browser and you should see a
Hello World message on the screen. You can shut down the application now by pressing
Ctrl+C in your command-line.
Creating a Dockerfile
Now that we have an application we need to “dockerize” it by creating a
Dockerfile is used to describe a Docker application, also called a container. It describes what is necessary to get your application running. This includes which operating system to use, setting up the directories, copying your application code into the container etc.
Luckily we do not have to reinvent the wheel for every application we use Docker for. We can always derive our
Dockerfile from another existing image as a base image. There are hundreds of thousands of container images on Docker Hub that we could use as base image.
For our project we will be using the microsoft/dotnet image as our base image. Microsoft provides different versions of this image that are partially denoted with suffixes such as
sdk is an image that will come with the full .NET Core SDK which means you could create or build applications with this image. This is useful for development but not for production. The more lightweight version of the image is tagged with
runtime. It only includes the bits necessary in order to run a .NET Core app. It ultimately results in a smaller sized container image with 251 MB compared to 879 MB for the version
1.1.1. In this blog post we will be using the
Create a new file called
Dockerfile (no file extension) inside your .NET Core project directory and add the following line to it:
FROM microsoft/dotnet:1.1.1-runtime LABEL name "docker-example"
This will define our base image as the
1.1.1-runtime version of the
microsoft/dotnet image. The base image will handle things from setting up the operating system to installing the runtime.
Next we need to copy the files necessary to run our application into a folder in the container. This can be done using the
COPY command in the
Dockerfile. We will be compiling our application later into the
out folder of our project therefore we need to copy them from that location to our working directory in this case called
/app. Add the following lines in your
WORKDIR /app COPY out .
Define which port our ASP.NET Core server will be running on by setting the environment variable
ASPNETCORE_URLS respectively. In our case the port will be
5000. For us to be able to access this port also from outside our Docker container we need to additionally expose it. Do this by appending the following lines to the
ENV ASPNETCORE_URLS http://*:5000 EXPOSE 5000
Lastly we need to start up our .NET application by using the
dotnet executable and pass it the DLL with the name of our application (
ENTRYPOINT ["dotnet", "docker-example.dll"]
Dockerfile should now look like this:
FROM microsoft/dotnet:1.1.1-runtime LABEL name "docker-example" WORKDIR /app COPY out . ENV ASPNETCORE_URLS http://*:5000 EXPOSE 5000 ENTRYPOINT ["dotnet", "docker-example.dll"]
That’s it our
Dockerfile is ready to take a local spin.
Run Docker Container Locally
Before we can create our Docker image and run it locally we first need to compile our project and publish it to the
out folder for our Docker container to pick it up. Run the following command in your command line:
dotnet publish -c Release -o out
Once it’s done compiling we can build our Docker image:
docker build -t docker-example .
This will pull the base image from the Docker Hub and perform the steps specified in the
Dockerfile and bundle the existing system in a container. Now let’s run our container:
docker run -p 5000:5000 -it --rm docker-example
This command will run our
docker-example container in “interactive” mode meaning it will output the console output, additionally it will map the exposed port 5000 of our container to our localhost port 5000 and the
--rm will make sure to remove the Docker container when we quit the application using
You should now be able to go again to https://localhost:5000 and see
If everything is working you can stop the Docker container by exiting it using
Deploy your Docker to now.sh
Our Docker container is ready and it’s time to deploy it to the cloud. The great thing is that we can run this container on various cloud hosts by uploading our built container image into a registry like Docker Hub and then instructing a cloud host like Azure to deploy the respective container image. We will look at an alternative though.
now.sh is a cloud hosting platform that allows us to easily deploy Docker project. The great thing is that it doesn’t require you to build the container image on your computer or host it in any registry. Instead it will build the container for you in the cloud. Additionally it will take care of scaling and host it on Google Cloud Engine as well as Amazon Web Services.
A warning in advance: The free plan of
now is designed for open source projects. As part of that it will enable you to inspect the source of your application by going to
/_src on your deployed project to inspect the source. Meaning only use this free plan if you are deploying an application without sensitive data. Sensitive data should be stored in
secrets and loaded via environment variables.
To start with
now install the CLI or alternatively the now Desktop application (which includes the CLI) from now’s download page. Once it’s installed and you are registered it’s time to deploy our app.
Once the CLI is installed all you need to do run in the command-line of your project directory:
That’s it! It will upload your source code, build the Docker container image and deploy it. It will also copy a URL to your clipboard that your application will be hosted on. It should be of the format:
https://docker-example-xxxxxxxxxx.now.sh. While your application is being deployed you will also see the status of your deployment on this page.
If you do any changes to your application’s code deploying the new version is as easy as re-compiling and running
dotnet publish -c Release -o out now
now will always create a new URL each time you deploy. This means you can deploy a new version, test it and once we are happy we can
alias it to a different “production” URL. Aliasing is as easy as:
now alias docker-example-xxxxxxxxxxx myamazingdockerapp
This will result in mapping your deployment
https://myamazingdockerapp.now.sh. On the paid plan you can also use custom domains and it auto sets up HTTPS for you as well.
That’s it! We are done. We took a .NET Core application from our computer to the cloud using Docker!
So what’s next? Well you are only limited by your imagination but you could look into:
- How you can store data in Google Spreadsheets using .NET Core
- How to use the next generation Twilio Helper Library with .NET Core
Being able to run .NET Core virtually anywhere is pretty exciting to for me and I would love to hear what your experience is! Let me know if you have any questions or built something cool you want to show off. I can’t wait to see what you built!