Docker v23

TPA can create Docker containers and deploy a cluster to them. At present, it sets up containers to run systemd and other services as if they were ordinary VMs.

Deploying to docker containers is an easy way to test different cluster configurations. It is not meant for production use.


Just select the platform at configure-time:

[tpa]$ tpaexec configure clustername --platform docker []
[tpa]$ tpaexec provision clustername
[tpa]$ tpaexec deploy clustername

Operating system selection

Use the standard --os Debian/Ubuntu/RedHat/SLES configure option to select which distribution to use for the containers. TPA will build its own systemd-enabled images for this distribution. These images will be named with a tpa/ prefix, e.g., tpa/redhat:8.

Use --os-image some/image:name to specify an existing systemd-enabled image instead. For example, the centos/systemd image (based on CentOS 7) can be used in this way.

TPA does not support Debian 8 (jessie) or Ubuntu 16.04 (xenial) for Docker containers, because of bugs in the old version of systemd shipped on those distributions.

Installing Docker

We test TPA with the latest stable Docker-CE packages.

This documentation assumes that you have a working Docker installation, and are familiar with basic operations such as pulling images and creating containers.

Please consult the Docker documentation if you need help to install Docker and get started with it.

On MacOS X, you can install "Docker Desktop for Mac" and launch Docker from the application menu.


Support for CgroupVersion 2 is not fully baked yet for docker sdk in ansible and related tooling. So while we recommend using a recent version of docker; we rely on CgroupVersion 1 until version 2 is fully supported. Instructions below suggest the changes to switch to CgroupVersion 1 if your platform uses CgroupVersion 2 by default.

On Linux:

$ echo 'GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX=systemd.unified_cgroup_hierarchy=false' > \
$ update-grub
$ reboot

On MacOS:

  1. Edit ~/Library/Group\ Containers/ and make the following replacement "deprecatedCgroupv1": false"deprecatedCgroupv1": true
  2. Restart Docker Desktop app


TPA expects the user running it to have permission to access to the Docker daemon (typically by being a member of the docker group that owns /var/run/docker.sock). Run a command like this to check if you have access:

[tpa]$ docker version --format '{{.Server.Version}}'

WARNING: Giving a user the ability to speak to the Docker daemon lets them trivially gain root on the Docker host. Only trusted users should have access to the Docker daemon.

Docker container privileges

Privileged containers

By default TPA provisions Docker containers in unprivileged mode, with no added Linux capabilities flags. Such containers cannot manage host firewall rules, file systems, block devices, or most other tasks that require true root privileges on the host.

If you require your containers to run in privileged mode, set the privileged boolean variable for the instance(s) that need it, or globally in instance_defaults, e.g.:

  privileged: true

WARNING: Running containers in privileged mode allows the root user or any process that can gain root to load kernel modules, modify host firewall rules, escape the container namespace, or otherwise act much as the real host "root" user would. Do not run containers in priviliged mode unless you really need to.

See man capabilities for details on Linux capabilities flags.

security_opts and the no-new-privileges flag

tpaexec can start docker containers in a restricted mode where processes cannot increase their privileges. setuid binaries are restricted, etc. Enable this in tpaexec with the instance_defaults or per-container variable docker_security_opts:

    - no-new-privileges

Other arguments to docker run's --security-opts are also accepted, e.g. SELinux user and role.

Linux capabilities flags

tpaexec exposes Docker's control over Linux capabilities flags with the docker_cap_add list variable, which may be set per-container or in instance_defaults. See man capabilities, the docker run documentation and the documentation for the Ansible docker_containers module for details on capabilities flags.

Docker's --cap-drop is also supported via the docker_cap_drop list.

For example, to run a container as unprivileged, but give it the ability to modify the system clock, you might write:

  privileged: false
    - sys_time
    - all

Docker storage configuration

Caution: The default Docker configuration on many hosts uses lvm-loop block storage and is not suitable for production deployments. Run docker info to check which storage driver you are using. If you are using the loopback scheme, you will see something like this:

 Storage Driver: devicemapper
  Data file: /dev/loop0

Consult the Docker documentation for more information on storage configuration:

Docker container management

All of the docker containers in a cluster can be started and stopped together using the start-containers and stop-containers commands:

[tpa]$ tpaexec start-containers clustername
[tpa]$ tpaexec stop-containers clustername

These commands don't provision or deprovision containers, or even connect to them; they are intended to save resources when you're temporarily not using a docker cluster that you need to keep available for future use.

For a summary of the provisioned docker containers in a cluster, whether started or stopped, use the list-containers command:

[tpa]$ tpaexec list-containers clustername