Installation and configuration


The current stable release, published on PyPI, can be installed using the following command:

pip install docker-fabric

For importing YAML configurations for Docker-Map, you can install Docker-Fabric using

pip install docker-fabric[yaml]


The following libraries will be automatically installed from PyPI:

  • Fabric (tested with >=1.8.0)
  • docker-py (>=0.5.0)
  • docker-map (>=0.3.2)
  • Optional: PyYAML (tested with 3.11) for YAML configuration import

Docker service

Docker needs to be installed on the target machine. On Ubuntu, you can use the task install_docker for automatically installing and configuring the latest release. Additional configuration is only needed if the service has been installed otherwise.


The tool Socat is needed in order to tunnel local TCP-IP connections to a unix socket on the target machine. The socat binary needs to be in the search path. You can either install it yourself and transfer the binary using the Fabric task install_socat, or use the task build_socat (currently only Ubuntu) to build it directly on your target machine.


Docker service

On every target machine, Docker-Fabric needs access to the Docker Remote API and (optionally) to the command line client. With the default Docker configuration, this requires for the connecting SSH user to be in the docker user group. The group assignment provides access to the unix socket.

For assigning an existing user to that group, run

usermod -aG docker <user name>

Note that if you run this command with the same user (using sudo), you need to re-connect. Use disconnect_all() if necessary.


If you plan to use the built-in tasks, include the module in your fabfile module (e.g. Most likely you might want to assign an alias for the task namespace:

from dockerfabric import tasks as docker


In order to customize the general behavior of the client, the following variables can be set in Fabric’s env. All of them are generally optional, but some are needed when tunnelling connections over SSH:

  • docker_base_url: The URL of the Docker service. If not set, defaults to a socket connection in /var/run/docker.sock, which is also the default behavior of the docker-py client. If docker_tunnel_remote_port and/or docker_tunnel_local_port is set, the connection will be tunnelled through SSH, otherwise the value is simply passed to docker-py. For socket connections (i.e. this is blank, starts with a forward slash, or is prefixed with http+unix:, unix:), socat will be used to forward the TCP-IP tunnel to the socket.
  • docker_tunnel_local_port: Set this, if you need a tunneled socket connection. Alternatively, the value docker_tunnel_remote_port is used (unless empty as well). This is the first local port for tunnelling connections to a Docker service on the remote. Since during simultaneous connections, a separate local port has to be available for each, the port number is increased by one on every new connection. This means for example, that when setting this to 2224 and connecting to 10 servers, ports from 2224 through 2233 will be temporarily occupied.
  • docker_tunnel_remote_port: Port of the Docker service.
    • On TCP connections, this is the remote endpoint of the tunnel. If a different port is included in docker_base_url, this setting is ignored.
    • For socket connections, this is the initial local tunnel port. If specified by docker_tunnel_local_port, this setting has no effect.
  • docker_timeout: Request timeout of the Docker service; by default uses DEFAULT_TIMEOUT_SECONDS.
  • docker_api_version: API version used to communicate with the Docker service, as a string, such as 1.16. Must be lower or equal to the accepted version. By default uses DEFAULT_DOCKER_API_VERSION.

Additionally, the following variables are specific for Docker registry access. They can be overridden in the relevant commands (login(), push(), and pull()).

  • docker_registry_user: User name to use when authenticating against a Docker registry.
  • docker_registry_password: Password to use when authenticating against a Docker registry.
  • docker_registry_mail: E-Mail to use when authenticating against a Docker registry.
  • docker_registry_repository: Optional; the registry to connect to. This will be expanded to a URL automatically. If not set, registry operations will run on the public Docker index.
  • docker_registry_insecure: Whether to set the insecure flag on Docker registry operations, e.g. when accessing your self-hosted registry over plain HTTP. Default is False.


For connecting to a remote Docker instance over a socket, install socat on the remote, and put the following in your fabfile:

from fabric.api import env
from dockerfabric import tasks as docker

env.docker_tunnel_local_port = 22024  # or any other available port above 1024 of your choice

If the remote Docker instance accepts connections on port 8000 from localhost (not recommended), use the following:

from fabric.api import env
from dockerfabric import tasks as docker

env.docker_base_url = 'tcp://'
env.docker_tunnel_local_port = 22024  # or any other available port above 1024 of your choice

Checking the setup

For checking if everything is set up properly, you can run the included task version. For example, running

fab docker.version

against a local Vagrant machine (using the default setup, only allowing socket connections) and tunnelling through port 2224 should show a similar result:

[] Executing task 'docker.version'
KernelVersion: 3.13.0-34-generic
Arch:          amd64
ApiVersion:    1.14
Version:       1.2.0
GitCommit:     fa7b24f
Os:            linux
GoVersion:     go1.3.1

Disconnecting from done.