You Should Know: This is a legacy article that references docker-machine, which is no longer the recommended method for OSX/docker development. It is recommended you use Docker for Mac.

Deploying a docker-machine to a VMWare VSphere Host

Docker-Machine and VSphere

By default, docker-machine on OSX leverages Virtualbox to deploy a Boot2Docker VM to serve as an endpoint for the host docker commands. This configuration satisfies a common use case for development, but does suffer from drawbacks relating to “the 3 P’s” : Performance, Persistence and Permission issues (due to VBoxSF). You can dodge some of these by provisioning Boot2Docker VM on a vSphere managed host, instead of your local computer.

If you have access to a VMWare VSphere host, the steps are as follows:

1. Determine your VSphere user credentials

This post assumes you have credentials for a remote user on VSphere, which will be referred to as vsphere-user. It is recommended that you not use the root account. For additional assistance, see VMWare KB #2082641.

2. Install GovC (OSX)

govc is a vSphere CLI utility built on top of govmomi, a go library for the VMware vSphere API. It is necessary to automatically provision a virtual machine on the VMWare host using docker-machine. To install govc

a. Install go

The package govc is built on go, and requires it to run. Download the latest go package installer. Run the installer, then verify go is working correctly:

> go version

go version go1.4.2 darwin/amd64

b. Set up the go build environment

To build govc, we will need to set up the go build environment. To do so:

Using bash shell

> export GOPATH=$HOME/src/go
> mkdir -p $GOPATH
> export PATH=$PATH:$GOPATH/bin

Using fish shell

> set -Ux GOPATH $HOME/src/go
> mkdir -p $GOPATH
> set --universal fish_user_paths $fish_user_paths $GOPATH/bin

c. Install govc

Now that go is installed, we can install govc.

> go get

3. Export Environment Variables and Test vSphere Host Connection

The package govc needs environment variables set to communicate with the vSphere host. To set them:

Using bash shell

> export GOVC_URL=https://vsphere-user:*PASSWORD*@
> export GOVC_INSECURE=1

Using fish shell

> set -Ux GOVC_URL https://vsphere-user:*PASSWORD*@

Where is the IP address of your vSphere host. You may then test govc:

> govc about

Name:         VMware ESXi
Vendor:       VMware, Inc.
Version:      5.5.0
Build:        2718055
OS type:      vmnix-x86
API type:     HostAgent
API version:  5.5
Product ID:   embeddedEsx

4. Deploy a New VM with docker-machine

We are now able to provision a new docker-machine instance on the VSphere host. To do so:

> docker-machine create -d vmwarevsphere \
  --vmwarevsphere-vcenter="" \
  --vmwarevsphere-username="docker" \
  --vmwarevsphere-password="*PASSWORD*" \
  --vmwarevsphere-datacenter="ha-datacenter" \
  --vmwarevsphere-compute-ip="" \
  --vmwarevsphere-datastore="datastore1" \
  --vmwarevsphere-network="NET.Building01" \
  --vmwarevsphere-cpu-count=4 \
  --vmwarevsphere-memory-size=4096 \

Running pre-create checks...
Creating machine...
(docker-vsphere-host) Generating SSH Keypair...
(docker-vsphere-host) Uploading Boot2docker ISO ...
(docker-vsphere-host) Creating directory docker-vsphere-host on datastore datastore1 of vCenter
(docker-vsphere-host) Uploading /Users/jsanford/.docker/machine/boot2docker.iso to docker-vsphere-host on datastore datastore1 of vCenter
(docker-vsphere-host) Creating virtual machine docker-vsphere-host of vCenter
(docker-vsphere-host) Configuring the virtual machine docker-vsphere-host...
(docker-vsphere-host) Powering on virtual machine docker-vsphere-host of vCenter
Waiting for machine to be running, this may take a few minutes...
Machine is running, waiting for SSH to be available...
Detecting operating system of created instance...
Detecting the provisioner...
Provisioning with boot2docker...
Copying certs to the local machine directory...
Copying certs to the remote machine...
Setting Docker configuration on the remote daemon...
Checking connection to Docker...
Docker is up and running!
To see how to connect Docker to this machine, run: docker-machine env docker-vsphere-host

5. Run docker commands on the new VSphere instance.

To run commands on the newly deployed instance, we must first define environment variables so any docker commands are routed to the newly-created VSphere VM endpoint. docker-machine can tell us how to do so:

> docker-machine env docker-vsphere-host

set -gx DOCKER_TLS_VERIFY "1";
set -gx DOCKER_HOST "tcp://";
set -gx DOCKER_CERT_PATH "/Users/jsanford/.docker/machine/machines/docker-vsphere-host";
set -gx DOCKER_MACHINE_NAME "docker-vsphere-host";
# Run this command to configure your shell:
# eval (docker-machine env docker-vsphere-host)

Running that command:

> eval (docker-machine env docker-vsphere-host)
> docker ps

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS              PORTS               NAMES

All docker commands will now run on the VSphere host.

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