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How To Install And Configure Docker Compose On an Ubuntu 18.04 VPS or Dedicated Server


Docker is a robust, open platform that is designed to help developers and system administrators build, distribute, and deploy container-based applications in software containers. To experience Docker's full potential, each application’s component must be implemented in its unique container.

Now, if you are running multi-faceted applications with multiple components, it can be daunting to enable all containers to cooperate, start, or even stop.

However, there is a tool built to help you seamlessly orchestrate containers with ease. The tool is called the Docker Compose. Docker Compose is a great tool that makes it easy to define and run complex container-based applications, using a YAML file. The tool allows you to run a single command to create and initiate all the Docker services from YAML configuration.

This guide will help you install and set up Docker Compose on your Ubuntu 18.04 server.

Ready? Let’s get started!


For the installation to run flawlessly, you need the following:

  • Ubuntu 18.04 VPS or dedicated server hosting
  • Installed Docker
  • A non-root user with Sudo permissions

Step 1 - Installing Docker Compose

In this tutorial, we’ll install the Docker Compose from the official Docker’s GitHub repository and not the one from Ubuntu repositories. This is because the Docker Compose application from GitHub repository is the latest release and is ideally suited for Ubuntu 18.04.

Run the command below to install the current release of Docker Compose:

$ sudo curl -L https://github.com/docker/compose/releases/download/1.21.2/docker-compose-`uname -s`-`uname -m` -o /usr/local/bin/docker-compose

The command above includes the -o flag which stipulates the output file first instead of redirecting the output. This syntax prevents permission issues when running the command using sudo.

Now, execute the command below to adjust the permissions:

$ sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/docker-compose

Next, run the command below to check the version:

$ sudo docker-compose --version

This will give you the output below:

docker-composeversion 1.21.2, builda133471

The output confirms that the installation process was successful.

Step 2  - Deploying A Container Via Docker Compose

To run a container, the Hello World image available for testing and demonstration purposes from the Docker Hub; a public Docker registry. The image will help us illustrate the YAML configuration as required to deploy a Container using the Docker Compose.

First, run the command below to create a new directory for the file, then move into it:

$ sudo mkdir hello-world
$cd hello-world

Next, execute the command below to fashion the YAML file:

$ sudo nano docker-compose.yml

This will open the docker-compose.yml file. Add the content below into this file:

 image: hello-world

The first part of the above content stipulates the container name, whereas the second part specifies the image to be used to create a container. If you don't want to use this image, you can run the command below to check the images available in your system manually:

$ sudo docker images

This should show you a list of the available images. However, if there are no images you will get the output below:

REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE

Now, execute the command below, while in the  ~/hello-world file:

$ sudo docker-compose up

This command will search for a local image called hello-world. If this image is not available, then Docker Composer will source it from Docker Hub. In this case, you will get the output below:

latest: Pullingfromlibrary/hello-world
c04b14da8d14: Downloading[==================================================>] c04b14da8d14: Extracting[==================================================>]  c04b14da8d14: Extracting[==================================================>]  c04b14da8d14: Pullcomplete
Digest: sha256:0256e8a36e2070f7bf2d0b0763dbabdd67798512411de4cdcf9431a1feb60fd9
Status: Downloadednewerimagefor hello-world:latest

Once the image is found, Docker Compose will generate a container, link, and deploy the hello world program.

Note: This will only happen if the installation is working properly, and will be confirmed by the output of docker-compose up:

  1. The Docker client communicated with the Docker daemon.
  2. The daemon then pulled a "hello-world" image from the Docker Hub.
  3. The daemon also generated a new container from the image which implements the executable which delivers the output we are currently reading.
  4. The daemon streamed the output to the Docker client, which relayed it to the terminal.

Once the hello completed running, the Docker container stopped. This is because Docker containers run for as long as the command remains active. As a result, if you inspect the active process, you will not see the hello world container. However, the output will show the column header:

$ sudo docker ps

This will give you the output below:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS                      PORTS               NAMES

However, this does not bar us from viewing the container information. Run the command below to see the details of the container:

$ sudo docker ps -a

This will give you the output below:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS                      PORTS               NAMES
06069fd5ca23        hello-world         "/hello"            35 minutes ago      Exited (0) 35 minutes ago                       drunk_payne

The details displayed in the output will be helpful when trying to do away with the container.

Step 3  - Removing The Local Image

This an optional step and it's useful when in need of extra disk space.  Here, we’ll use the docker rm command to remove any container referencing the image. First, execute the command below to  remove all containers referencing the image:

$ sudo docker rm 06069fd5ca23

Next, run the command below to remove the image:

$ sudo docker rmi hello-world


That's it! You have successfully installed and configured Docker Compose on your Ubuntu 18.04 system. You’ve also learned how to test its installation, and flawlessly removed the test containers as well as the image. Hope, you enjoyed the whole process!

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