ASP.NET Core Apps in Docker Swarm

Note: Please read the previous posts before continuing with this one, I discuss the basics of Docker and show how to deploy a simple and multiple applications using Docker.


How to deploy a cluster of ASP.NET Core applications using Docker Swam mode.


First we need few Virtual Machines to make a cluster of machines to run Docker on. I am using Windows 10 and will use Hyper-V for this purpose. If you’re using another OS then skip the first part of tutorial where I setup VMs.

Open Hyper-V Manager and click the Virtual Switch Manager to create an External switch:

Create VMs using docker-machine CLI command:

You’ll have the three VMs in Hyper-V Manager:

You could use docker-machine ls to get a list of VMs:

In order to work within the VMs you need to run the docker-machine env [name], which gives you a command to run and change your environment to VM i.e. as if you are logged into the VM:

Note: you could run docker info to confirm the name of machine. Another option is to run docker-machine ls and notice a * in ACTIVE column, indicating your current environment.

Make one node manager by initializing the swarm in it, using docker swarm init command:

Get the token used to create worker roles, using docker swarm join-token worker command:

Make the other two nodes workers by joining them to swarm, using the token from previous step. You’ll need to first docker-machine env [name] command to change your environment and then run join command from previous step:

Once you’ve joined all the VMs, you could confirm by running docker node ls command, which lists all the nodes in a swarm:

Next we’ll create docker-compose.yml for our services:

And run docker stack deploy command (you need to be in the manger node):

Note: -c specifies the docker compose file.

You could check the running services using docker service ls command:

You could access your services now using the IP addresses for the VMs (you can get them by running docker-machine ls):

In order to make changes to services, just update the docker-compose.yml file and run docker stack deploy command again.

When you want to remove the stack, run docker stack rm [name] command:


Docker provides a mechanisms to run multiple containers on multiple machines, a cluster of docker containers, using Swarm mode. A swarm is a group of machines that all run docker and distribute work (services) among themselves.


Each machine is referred to as a Node and can be either a Manager or Worker. Manager nodes authorise one or more nodes to join the cluster as Worker nodes and subsequently these worker nodes run services.

In the solution above we initiated the swarm using docker swarm init command, which made the active node as manager. Then we generated a token using docker swarm join-token command and finally added a worker node by using docker swarm join command.

You could list the nodes using docker node ls command (from the manager node) and also remove a node using docker node rm command. A worker node can be promoted to a manger node using docker node promote command and a manager node can be demoted to worker node using docker node demote command.

Docker Machine

To setup an environment with multiple virtual machines I used Docker Machine. It’s a tool that install Docker engine on virtual machines and manage them using docker-machine commands. You don’t have to use Docker Machine to setup VMs, you could also use something like Vagrant. An example of using Vagrant could be found in Wes Higbee course here.

Few of the commonly used docker-machine commands are:

  • To list machines: docker-machine ls
  • To start machines: docker-machine start
  • To stop machines: docker-machine stop
  • To restart machines: docker-machine restart
  • To remove machines: docker-machine rm
  • To get IP address of machines: docker-machine ip

Note: The machine with Docker engine installed is also referred to as Dockerized Host, Managed Machine or simply Machine.

Docker Stack

We can create various services (containers) using docker service commands however that can be painful for multiple services with interdependencies. A simpler approach is to use a stack file, which is a compose file with few extra sections to deal with deployment. For instance, using the stack file we can set number of instances of each service we need (replicas).

We create a stack i.e. deploy all the services as a group, using docker stack deploy command. You could use docker stack rm command to remove the stack i.e. remove all the services. One really useful feature of grouping your services in a stack is that to update the stack e.g. to increase the number of replicas, just change the file and run docker stack deploy again. To view list of services in a stack you could use docker stack services command.


In the solution above, I used a tool “visualiser” as part of my stack file. It’s not a mandatory part of stack file, it’s just a tool (great tool) to help visualise the nodes and services running on it.

Further Resources

For an excellent and in-depth look at Docker, check out Wes Higbee courses on Pluralsight.

Source Code

Compose File:

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