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Yannick Pereira-Reis

DevOps (docker swarm, haproxy, CI/CD, ELK, prometheus, grafana, ansible, automation, RabbitMQ, LVM, MySQL replication...) and fullstack web developer Symfony 2/3/4/5 + VueJs in Valence (France).

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docker-machine is a really powerful tool to control your remote docker daemons. Let’s see how to configure everything to manage your remote containers easily from your local host.


Remote server

Docker machine user

Add a user on the remote server to control your docker daemon:

sudo adduser dockeradmin

Create a custom ssh key and add it on the remote server to allow connection with this user.

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 2048
ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/dockeradmin.pem [-p 22345] dockeradmin@domain.fr

Sudo or not sudo

Your user must have sudo access without asking for password:

$ sudo nano /etc/sudoers

# User alias specification
dockeradmin      ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL
dockeradmin      ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: /bin/netstat


Your user must have netstat access. As I’m using a grs kernel I need to create a wrapper to add netstat access for the dockeradmin user:

$ cat netstat 
exec /usr/bin/sudo /bin/netstat "$@"

$ chmod +x netstat
$ sudo cp netstat /usr/local/bin/


By default docker-machine uses port 2376 to communicate with docker daemons. Of course we need to open this port on the remote server:

# Docker machine port 2376
iptables -t filter -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 2376 -j ACCEPT
iptables -t filter -A OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 2376 -j ACCEPT

Docker daemon

docker-machine and generic driver do not work with aufs storage driver. So we need to explicitly define the storage-driver as devicemapper on the server daemon side and on the docker-machine client.

On my remote server, my processes are managed by systemd, a part of this configuration is automatically updated by the docker-machine client:

$ sudo cat /etc/systemd/system/docker.service
ExecStart=/usr/bin/docker daemon -H tcp:// -H unix:///var/run/docker.sock --storage-driver devicemapper --tlsverify --tlscacert /etc/docker/ca.pem --tlscert /etc/docker/server.pem --tlskey /etc/docker/server-key.pem --label provider=generic 


Local configuration

Install docker-machine


$ docker-machine version
docker-machine version 0.6.0, build e27fb87

Create your first machine

The command to start your docker-machine is the following. Note the use of specific:

  • ssh port
  • ssk key

Very important, the --engine-storage-driver devicemapper configuration:

docker-machine create -d generic \
--generic-ssh-user dockeradmin \
--generic-ssh-key ~/.ssh/dockeradmin.pem \
--generic-ssh-port 22XXX \
--engine-storage-driver devicemapper \
--generic-ip-address domain.fr \

$ docker-machine ls  
NAME           ACTIVE   DRIVER    STATE     URL                          SWARM   DOCKER    ERRORS
MACHINE_NAME   -        generic   Running   tcp://domain.fr:2376           v1.11.0   

Switch between environments

$ docker-machine env MACHINE_NAME        
export DOCKER_HOST="tcp://domain.fr:2376"
export DOCKER_CERT_PATH="/home/USER/.docker/machine/machines/MACHINE_NAME"

# Run this command to configure your shell: 
$ eval $(docker-machine env MACHINE_NAME)

Execute a docker ps and you will control your remote daemon and see your remote containers.

Reset your client configuration to manage your local containers.

$ eval $(docker-machine env --unset)