Sometimes we want to install a specific version of MariaDB, MariaDB Galera Cluster, or MaxScale on a certain system, but no packages are available. Or maybe, we simply want to isolate MariaDB from the rest of the system, to be sure that we won't cause any damage.

A virtual machine would certainly serve the scope. However, this means installing a system on the top of another system. It requires a lot of resources.

In many cases, the best solution is Docker. Docker is a framework that runs containers. A container is meant to run a specific daemon, and the software that is needed for that daemon to properly work. Docker does not virtualize a whole system; a container only includes the packages that are not included in the underlying system.

Docker requires a very small amount of resources. It can run on a virtualized system. It is used both in development and in production environments.

Docker is an open source project, released under the Apache License, version 2.

Note that, while your package repositories could have a package called docker, it is probably not the Docker we are talking about. The Docker package could be called docker.io or docker-engine.

Installing Docker on your system with the universal installation script

The script below will install the Docker repositories, required kernel modules and packages on the most common Linux distributions:

curl -sSL https://get.docker.com/ | sh

Using MariaDB images

The easiest way to use MariaDB on Docker is choosing a MariaDB image and creating a container.

Downloading an image

You can download a MariaDB image for Docker from the official repository, or choose another image that better suits your needs. You can search Docker Hub (the official set of repositories) for an image with this command:

 docker search mariadb

Once you have found an image that you want to use, you can download it via Docker. Some layers including necessary dependencies will be downloaded too. Note that, once a layer is downloaded for a certain image, Docker will not need to download it again for another image.

For example, if you want to install the default MariaDB image, you can type:

docker pull mariadb:latest

This will install the latest version. :latest is the default tag, and it can be omitted. We can also replace it with a specific version, such as 10.0.

You will see a list of necessary layers. For each layer, Dockers will say if it is already present, or its download progress.

To get a list of installed images:

docker images

Creating a container

An image is not a running process; it is just the software needed to be launched. To run it, we must create a container first. The command needed to create a container can usually be found in the image documentation. For example, to create a container for the official MariaDB image:

docker run --name mariadbtest -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=mypass -d mariadb

mariadbtest is the name we want to assign the container. If we don't specify a name, an id will be automatically generated.

You can specify an optional major or minor version number - if you don't, the latest release will be used:

docker run --name mariadbtest -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=mypass -d mariadb:10.1
docker run --name mariadbtest -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=mypass -d mariadb:10.0.20

Optionally, after the image name, we can specify some options for mysqld. For example:

docker run --name mariadbtest -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=mypass -d mariadb --log-bin --binlog-format=MIXED

Docker will respond with the container's id. But, just to be sure that the container has been created and is running, we can get a list of running containers in this way:

docker ps

We should get an output similar to this one:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND                CREATED             STATUS              PORTS               NAMES
819b786a8b48        mariadb             "/docker-entrypoint.   4 minutes ago       Up 4 minutes        3306/tcp            mariadbtest        

Running and stopping the container

Docker allows us to restart a container with a single command:

docker restart mariadbtest

The container can also be stopped like this:

docker stop mariadbtest

The container will not be destroyed by this command. The data will still live inside the container, even if MariaDB is not running. To restart the container and see our data, we can issue:

docker start mariadbtest

With docker stop, the container will be gracefully terminated: a SIGTERM signal will be sent to the mysqld process, and Docker will wait for the process to shutdown before returning the control to the shell. However, it is also possible to set a timeout, after which the process will be immediately killed with a SIGKILL. Or it is possible to immediately kill the process, with no timeout.

docker stop --time=30 mariadbtest
docker kill mariadbtest

In case we want to destroy a container, perhaps because the image does not suit our needs, we can stop it and then run:

docker rm mariadbtest

Note that the command above does not destroy the data volume that Docker has created for /var/lib/mysql. If you want to destroy the volume as well, use:

docker rm -v mariadbtest

Pausing containers

A container can also be frozen with the pause command. Docker will freeze the process using croups. MariaDB will not know that it is being frozen and, when we unpause it, MariaDB will resume its work as expected.

Both pause and unpause accept one or more container names. So, if we are running a cluster, we can freeze and resume all nodes simultaneously:

docker pause node1 node2 node3
docker unpause node1 node2 node3

Pausing a container is very useful when we need to temporarily free our system's resources. If the container is not crucial at this moment (for example, it is performing some batch work), we can free it to allow other programs to run faster.

Troubleshooting a container

If the container doesn't start, or is not working properly, we can investigate with the following command:

docker logs mariadbtest

This command shows what the daemon sent to the stdout since the last attempt of starting - the text that we typically see when we invoke mysqld from the command line.

Accessing the container

Most MariaDB images, including the official one, have the skip-networking option set in their my.ini file. To use MariaDB we will need to edit the configuration file and restart the container.

To access the container via Bash, we will run this command:

docker exec -it mariadbtest bash

Now we can use normal Linux commands like cd, ls, etc. We will have root privileges. We can even install our favourite file editor, for example:

apt-get install vim

In some images, no repository is configured by default, so we may need to add them.

Note that if we run mysqladmin shutdown or the SHUTDOWN command to stop the container, the container will be deactivated, and we will automatically exit to our system.

Connecting to MariaDB from outside

After modifying the my.cnf file, we will be able to connect to MariaDB from outside the container. Even other Docker containers will be able to connect to each other - for example, to form a Galera cluster.

There is a small caveat. When we try to connect to localhost, the MariaDB library will try to use MariaDB's socket file in our system. But that file is in the container, so it will not be found. We will need to use 127.0.0.1 (IPv4) or ::1 (IPv6).

When running a cluster or a replication setup via Docker, we will want the containers to use different ports. The fastest way to achieve this is mapping the containers ports to different port on our system. We can do this when creating the containers (docker run command), by using the -p option, several times if necessary. For example, for Galera nodes we will use a mapping similar to this one:

-p 4306:3306 -p 5567:5567 -p 5444:5444 -p 5568:5568

Installing MariaDB on another image

It is possible to download a Linux distribution image, and to install MariaDB on it. This is not much harder than installing MariaDB on a regular operating system (which is easy), but it is still the hardest option. Normally we will try existing images first. However, it is possible that no image is available for the exact version we want, or we want a custom installation, or perhaps we want to use a distribution for which no images are available. In these cases, we will install MariaDB in an operating system image.

Daemonizing the operating system

First, we need the system image to run as a daemon. If we skip this step, MariaDB and all databases will be lost when the container stops.

To remonize an image, we need to give it a command that never ends. In the following example, we will create a Debian Jessie daemon that constantly pings the 8.8.8.8 special address:

docker run --name debian -p 3306:3306 -d debian /bin/sh -c "while true; do ping 8.8.8.8; done"

Installing MariaDB

At this point, we can enter the shell and issue commands. First we will need to update the repositories, or no packages will be available. We can also update the packages, in case some of them are newer than the image. Then, we will need to install a text editor; we will need it to edit configuration files. For example:

docker exec -ti debian bash
apt-get -y update
apt-get -y upgrade
apt-get -y install vim

Now we are ready to install MariaDB in the way we prefer.

See also

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