Improve `docker service update` command to fit in CI/CD world

Posted in category ci on 2017-01-06

Table of Contents

The issue

Docker Swarm mode is an excellent tool that recently became available to us developers as well as operations (DevOps). docker service update is an invaluable asset to everyone trying to integrate Docker with their CI/CD setup. But rather soon you would encounter small annoying issue related to it - it is completely asynchronous, i.e. after verifying validity of input parameters it will simply send off the request to do the job to the docker host (swarm manager) and returns to the user saying that everything went well. In reality service update could have failed miserably. As you suspect this is not how it should work in CI/CD space.

Here I will try to suggest one way that will help to overcome this issue.


Solution that will be suggested later is based on a few assumptions that is important to understand before applying it in your environment.

On the other hand, solution does not assume following:


Following is a very simple wrapping bash script that is doing a little magic to help wait for the feedback from an update process of a service in docker cluster:

The script fetches service status by running docker service ps <service_name> which gives information about currently running containers as well as old containers that are not active any longer. Number of old instances of a container corresponds with the number of times user ran docker service update command on that particular service. But docker will show only last 4 entries.

Before starting to update a service, this script will detect old incarnations of currently running instances and ignore them, such that it would be possible to track status by simply counting the number of new incarnations of service instances. It might sound a little too abstract, so if that is the case please have a look at the code - it is always better :)

#!/usr/bin/env bash

if [[ "$#" -ne 5 ]]; then
  echo Expected arguments are missing: \
  exit 1

timeout_per_replica=$(echo $2 | sed 's/[^0-9]//g')
stability_delay=$(echo $3 | sed 's/[^0-9]//g')
error_slip=$(echo $4 | sed 's/[^0-9]//g')

# find all currently visible containers (running and shut down) to ignore while inspecting status changes
ignore_ids=$(docker service ps $name | awk '(NR > 1) {print "|"$1}' | xargs echo | awk '{gsub(/ /, ""); print}')
function get_new_running_ids() {
  # all new ids (failed + running)
  i=$(docker service ps $name | awk -v ids="$ignore_ids" '(NR > 1) && ($1 !~ ids) {print $1}' | wc -l)
  # all new ids (failed only)
  j=$(docker service ps $name | grep "_ $name" | awk -v ids="$ignore_ids" '(NR > 1) && ($1 !~ ids) {print $1}' | wc -l)
  echo $(($i - $j))
function get_new_ids() {
  # all new ids (failed + running)
  echo $(docker service ps $name | awk -v ids="$ignore_ids" '(NR > 1) && ($1 !~ ids) {print $1}' | wc -l)

replicas=$(docker service inspect $name | grep -i replicas | sed 's/[^0-9]//g')
timeout=$(($timeout_per_replica * $replicas))

echo ""
echo "     Update command:  $update_cmd"
echo "      # of replicas:  $replicas"
echo "    Timeout/replica:  $timeout_per_replica sec"
echo "      Total timeout:  $timeout sec"
echo "    Stability delay:  $stability_delay sec"
echo "         Error slip:  $error_slip"
echo -n "   Updating service:  "
eval $update_cmd
if [ "$exit_code" -ne 0 ]; then
  echo "ERROR: cannot update service"
  exit $exit_code

# test that there are at least $(($replicas+$error_slip)) more containers after update
echo -n " Remaining replicas:  "
while [ "$m" -lt "$replicas" ]; do
  if [ "$i" -gt "$m" ]; then
    echo -n "$(($replicas-$i+1)) "
  if [ "$(($x * $delay))" -gt "$stability_delay" ]; then
    if [ "$m" -eq "0" ]; then
      echo "SKIPPED: it seems that there is nothing to update"
      exit 0
  if [ "$(($x * $delay))" -gt "$timeout" ]; then
    echo "ERROR: update is taking too long time (timeout reached)"
    exit 2
  sleep $delay
echo "done"

echo -n "     Stability test:  "
max_n=$(($replicas + $replicas * $error_slip))
if [ "$k" -gt "$max_n" ]; then
  echo "failed"
  exit 3
sleep $stability_delay
if [ "$k" -gt "$max_n" ]; then
  echo "failed"
  exit 3
echo "done"
echo ""

echo "SUCCESS"

The use of sed and awk is probably not conventional here and one might argue that it is possible to use only one. Author ended up using both.

The script is pretty talkative and will produce a lot of information which is typically what you want when running it as part of your CI/CD setup to ensure that troubleshooting process is not a nightmare.

Usage example

./ redis-slave 60 2 \
  "docker service update --image redis:3.2.6-alpine --update-delay 5s redis-slave"

It will output something like this:

     Update command:  docker service update --image redis:3.2.6-alpine --update-delay 5s redis-slave
      # of replicas:  3
    Timeout/replica:  60 sec
      Total timeout:  180 sec
    Stability delay:  2 sec
   Updating service:  redis-slave
 Remaining replicas:  3 2 1 done
     Stability test:  done


In case of a failure script is producing non-zero result code which is what is typically getting detected by CI/CD setup.

There is a follow up post regarding docker service create here.