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  • Writer's pictureGal Cohen

Reduce docker image size and build time

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

Design pattern for lean docker images and fast develop / build iterations

Problems to be solved

  1. Long build time

  2. Long upload to registry

Ways solving the problems

  1. Avoid installing dependencies on high frequency builds (i.e install dependencies on base image)

  2. Reduce image size by using small base image, install dependencies for compile time and runtime, remove all compile time dependencies when build finished



Base layer

Depending on what we are trying to achieve, we will select a relatively small image. For comparison, the suggested Alpine image weight only 4MB

Middle layer

This layer will be maintained in the service / team level, this layer will be responsible of having preinstalled python / nginx / jvm whatever dependency that the application layer will need, without the application layer need to install / reinstall it

Application layer

This layer will be responsible of the installation of the projects code to the local venv, creating shared volumes / users. This layer will not install any dependencies

Dockerfile for middle layer

FROM alpine:3.7


ADD requirements.txt /

RUN apk add --update \

python \

python-dev \

py-pip \

build-base \

postgresql-dev \

gcc \

musl-dev \

linux-headers \

nginx \

bash \

&& rm -r -f /var/cache/apk/* \

&& pip install -r /requirements.txt \

&& apk del gcc \

python-dev \

build-base \

musl-dev \


As you can see, we install all the compile-time and run-time dependencies, and after installation of /requirements.txt, we remove all compile-time dependencies. This produces image in ~60MB of size

Dockerfile for application layer

FROM galco/base:alpine-python2.7


RUN [ -d svc ] || mkdir /svc

COPY . /svc


RUN pip install -e . --no-deps

COPY ops/etc/nginx.conf /etc/nginx/

COPY $SUPERVISORD /etc/supervisord.conf

COPY ops/etc/uwsgi.ini /etc/uwsgi.ini


As you can see, nothing is being installed in this layer, the previous layer is pushed to galco/base repository, and project is installed without its dependencies (--no-deps ) - the dependencies are pre-installed in previous layer

This layer is lightwieghted, and should not pass 2MB of size. This layer will be built frequently

Some docker shenanigans

$ docker history <image-id>

The above command will show you the different layers that the image is compund from, and each layer size and command that created it

The command below will let you persisting your image to your local storage, and let you share it with other machines. For instance if you have CI machines, you can share the cache by using shared volume as AWS EFS

$ docker save <images-ids> > svc-cache.tar

The following command will let you load the persisted image to your local docker cache, and might save you time when building / uploading new layers

$ docker load < svc-cache.tar

Sum things up

What this post is all about is making the dev team making more efficient work, by building images faster, in shorter iterative manner.

This was accomplished by creating smaller images, and using base image that all different dependencies are pre-installed on

Thanks for reading

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