Dockerize Vue.js App

Simple Example

So you built your first Vue.js app using the amazing Vue.js webpack template and now you really want to show off with your colleagues by demonstrating that you can also run it in a Docker container.

Let’s start by creating a Dockerfile in the root folder of our project:

FROM node:9.11.1-alpine

# install simple http server for serving static content
RUN npm install -g http-server

# make the 'app' folder the current working directory

# copy both 'package.json' and 'package-lock.json' (if available)
COPY package*.json ./

# install project dependencies
RUN npm install

# copy project files and folders to the current working directory (i.e. 'app' folder)
COPY . .

# build app for production with minification
RUN npm run build

CMD [ "http-server", "dist" ]

It may seem reduntant to first copy package.json and package-lock.json and then all project files and folders in two separate steps but there is actually a very good reason for that (spoiler: it allows us to take advantage of cached Docker layers).

Now let’s build the Docker image of our Vue.js app:

docker build -t vuejs-cookbook/dockerize-vuejs-app .

Finally, let’s run our Vue.js app in a Docker container:

docker run -it -p 8080:8080 --rm --name dockerize-vuejs-app-1 vuejs-cookbook/dockerize-vuejs-app

We should be able to access our Vue.js app on localhost:8080.

Real-World Example

In the previous example, we used a simple, zero-configuration command-line http server to serve our Vue.js app which is perfectly ok for quick prototyping and may even be ok for simple production scenarios. After all, the documentation says:

It is powerful enough for production usage, but it’s simple and hackable enough to be used for testing, local development, and learning.

Nevertheless, for realistically complex production use cases, it may be wiser to stand on the shoulders of some giant like NGINX or Apache and that is exactly what we are going to do next: we are about to leverage NGINX to serve our Vue.js app because it is considered to be one of the most performant and battle-tested solutions out there.

Let’s refactor our Dockerfile to use NGINX:

# build stage
FROM node:9.11.1-alpine as build-stage
COPY package*.json ./
RUN npm install
COPY . .
RUN npm run build

# production stage
FROM nginx:1.13.12-alpine as production-stage
COPY --from=build-stage /app/dist /usr/share/nginx/html
CMD ["nginx", "-g", "daemon off;"]

Ok, let’s see what’s going on here:

  • we have split our original Dockerfile in multiple stages by leveraging the Docker multi-stage builds feature;
  • the first stage is responsible for building a production-ready artifact of our Vue.js app;
  • the second stage is responsible for serving such artifact using NGINX.

Now let’s build the Docker image of our Vue.js app:

docker build -t vuejs-cookbook/dockerize-vuejs-app .

Finally, let’s run our Vue.js app in a Docker container:

docker run -it -p 8080:80 --rm --name dockerize-vuejs-app-1 vuejs-cookbook/dockerize-vuejs-app

We should be able to access our Vue.js app on localhost:8080.

Additional Context

If you are reading this cookbook, chances are you already know why you decided to dockerize your Vue.js app. But if you simply landed on this page after hitting the Google’s I'm feeling lucky button, let me share with you a couple of good reasons for doing that.

Today’s modern trend is to build applications using the Cloud-Native approach which revolves mainly around the following buzzwords:

  • Microservices
  • DevOps
  • Continuous Delivery

Let’s see how these concepts actually affect our decision of dockerizing our Vue.js app.

Effects of Microservices

By adopting the microservices architectural style, we end up building a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms. These services are built around business capabilities and independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery.

So, committing to this architectural approach most of the time implies developing and delivering our front-end as an independent service.

Effects of DevOps

The adoption of DevOps culture, tools and agile engineering practices has, among other things, the nice effect of increasing the collaboration between the roles of development and operations. One of the main problem of the past (but also today in some realities) is that the dev team tended to be uninterested in the operation and maintenance of a system once it was handed over to the ops team, while the latter tended to be not really aware of the system’s business goals and, therefore, reluctant in satisfying the operational needs of the system (also referred to as “whims of developers”).

So, delivering our Vue.js app as a Docker image helps reducing, if not removing entirely, the difference between running the service on a developer’s laptop, the production environment or any environment we may think of.

Effects of Continuous Delivery

By leveraging the Continuous Delivery discipline we build our software in a way that it can potentially be released to production at any time. Such engineering practice is enabled by means of what is normally called continuous delivery pipeline. The purpose of a continuous delivery pipeline is to split our build into stages (e.g. compilation, unit tests, integration tests, performance tests, etc.) and let each stage verify our build artifact whenever our software changes. Ultimately, each stage increases our confidence in the production readiness of our build artifact and, therefore, reduces the risk of breaking things in production (or any other environment for that matters).

So, creating a Docker image for our Vue.js app is a good choice here because that would represent our final build artifact, the same artifact that would be verified against our continuous delivery pipeline and that could potentially be released to production with confidence.

Alternative Patterns

If your company is not into Docker and Kubernetes just yet or you simply want to get your MVP out the door, maybe dockerizing your Vue.js app is not what you need.

Common alternatives are:

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