Last updated on September 6, 2020 by Dan Nanni
As you may be well aware, Docker container technology has emerged as a viable lightweight alternative to full-blown virtualization. There are a growing number of use cases of Docker that the industry adopted in different contexts, for example, enabling rapid build environment, simplifying configuration of your infrastructure, isolating applications in multi-tenant environment, and so on. While you can certainly deploy an application sandbox in a standalone Docker container, many real-world use cases of Docker in production environments may involve deploying a complex multi-tier application in an ensemble of multiple containers, where each container plays a specific role (e.g., load balancer, LAMP stack, database, UI).
There comes the problem of Docker container networking: How can we interconnect different Docker containers spawned potentially across different hosts when we do not know beforehand on which host each container will be created?
One pretty neat open-source solution for this is
weave. This tool makes interconnecting multiple Docker containers pretty much hassle-free. When I say this, I really mean it.
In this tutorial, I am going to demonstrate how to set up Docker networking across different hosts using
Let's first see how weave works. Weave creates a network of
peers, where each peer is a virtual router container called
weave router residing on a distinct host. The weave routers on different hosts maintain TCP connections among themselves to exchange topology information. They also establish UDP connections among themselves to carry inter-container traffic. A weave router on each host is then connected via a bridge to all other Docker containers created on the host. When two containers on different hosts want to exchange traffic, a weave router on each host captures their traffic via a bridge, encapsulates the traffic with UDP, and forwards it to the other router over a UDP connection.
Each weave router maintains up-to-date weave router topology information, as well as container's MAC address information (similar to switch's MAC learning), so that it can make forwarding decision on container traffic. Weave is able to route traffic between containers created on hosts which are not directly reachable, as long as two hosts are interconnected via an intermediate weave router on weave topology. Optionally, weave routers can be set to encrypt both TCP control data and UDP data traffic based on public key cryptography.
Before using weave on Linux, of course you need to set up Docker environment on each host where you want to run Docker containers. Check out these tutorials on how to create Docker containers on Ubuntu or CentOS/Fedora.
Once Docker environment is set up, install
weave on Linux as follows.
$ wget https://github.com/zettio/weave/releases/download/latest_release/weave $ chmod a+x weave $ sudo cp weave /usr/local/bin
Make sure that
/usr/local/bin is include in your
PATH variable by appending the following in
Repeat weave installation on every host where Docker containers will be deployed.
Weave uses TCP/UDP
6783 port. If you are using firewall, make sure that these port numbers are not blocked by the firewall.
When you want to interconnect Docker containers across multiple hosts, the first step is to launch a weave router on every host.
On the first host, run the following command, which will create and start a weave router container.
$ sudo weave launch
The first time you run this command, it will take a couple of minutes to download a weave image before launching a router container. On successful launch, it will print the ID of a launched weave router.
To check the status of the router, use this command:
$ sudo weave status
Since this is the first weave router launched, there will be only one peer in the peer list.
You can also verify the launch of a weave router by using
$ docker ps
On the second host, run the following command, where we specify the IP address of the first host as a peer to join.
$ sudo weave launch <first-host-IP-address>
When you check the status of the router, you will see two peers: the current host and the first host.
As you launch more routers on subsequent hosts, the peer list will grow accordingly. When launching a router, just make sure that you specify any previously launched peer's IP address.
At this point, you should have a weave network up and running, which consists of multiple weave routers across different hosts.
Now it is time to launch Docker containers on different hosts, and interconnect them on a virtual network.
Let's say we want to create a private network
10.0.0.0/24, to interconnect two Docker containers. We will assign random IP addressses from this subnet to the containers.
When you create a Docker container to deploy on a weave network, you need to use
weave command, not
docker command. Internally, the
weave command uses
docker command to create a container, and then sets up Docker networking on it.
Here is how to create a Ubuntu container on
hostA, and attach the container to
10.0.0.0/24 subnet with an IP addresss
hostA:~$ sudo weave run 10.0.0.1/24 -t -i ubuntu
On successful run, it will print the ID of a created container. You can use this ID to attach to the running container and access its console as follows.
hostA:~$ docker attach <container-id>
hostB, and let's create another container. Attach it to the same subnet (
10.0.0.0/24) with a different IP address
hostB:~$ sudo weave run 10.0.0.2/24 -t -i ubuntu
Let's attach to the second container's console as well:
hostB:~$ docker attach <container-id>
At this point, those two containers should be able to ping each other via the other's IP address. Verify that from each container's console.
If you check the interfaces of each container, you will see an interface named
ethwe which is assigned an IP address (e.g.,
10.0.0.2) you specified.
Weave offers a number of pretty neat features. Let me briefly cover a few here.
Using weave, you can create multiple virtual networks and dedicate each network to a distinct application. For example, create
10.0.0.0/24 for one group of containers, and
10.10.0.0/24 for another group of containers, and so on. Weave automatically takes care of provisioning these networks, and isolating container traffic on each network. Going further, you can flexibly detach a container from one network, and attach it to another network without restarting containers. For example:
First launch a container on
$ sudo weave run 10.0.0.2/24 -t -i ubuntu
Detach the container from
$ sudo weave detach 10.0.0.2/24 <container-id>
Re-attach the container to another network
$ sudo weave attach 10.10.0.2/24 <container-id>
Now this container should be able to communicate with other containers on
10.10.0.0/24. This is a pretty useful feature when network information is not available at the time you create a container.
Sometimes you may need to allow containers on a virtual weave network to access physical host network. Conversely, hosts may want to access containers on a weave network. To support this requirement, weave allows weave networks to be integrated with host network.
For example, on hostA where a container is running on network
10.0.0.0/24, run the following command.
hostA:~$ sudo weave expose 10.0.0.100/24
This will assign IP address
hostA, so that
hostA itself is also connected to
10.0.0.0/24 network. Obviously, you need to choose an IP address which is not used by any other containers on the network.
At this point,
hostA should be able to access any containers on
10.0.0.0/24, whether or not the containers are residing on
hostA. Pretty neat!
As you can see, weave is a pretty useful Docker networking tool. This tutorial only covers a glimpse of its powerful features. If you are more ambitious, you can try its multi-hop routing, which can be pretty useful in multi-cloud environment, dynamic re-routing, which is a neat fault-tolerance feature, or even its distributed DNS service which allows you to name containers on weave networks. If you decide to use this gem in your environment, feel free to share your use case!
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