Securely control a remote docker daemon CLI using ssh forwarding, no SSL setup needed.
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Securely control a remote docker daemon CLI using ssh forwarding, no SSL setup needed.


If you want it available on your system run the following (you may need elevated privileges for this to work):

curl -L https://github.com/dvddarias/rdocker/raw/master/rdocker.sh > /usr/local/bin/rdocker
chmod +x /usr/local/bin/rdocker

If you just want it lying around on your file system:

git clone https://github.com/dvddarias/rdocker.git
cd rdocker


Lets assume you want to control the docker daemon on your webserver.com server from your local machine. You just run:

rdocker [email protected]

This will open a new bash session with a new DOCKER_HOST variable setup. Any docker command you execute will take place on the remote docker daemon. To test the connection run:

docker info

Check the Name: field it should have the remote hostname .... That's it!!!

You could for example:

  • Run docker build to build an image on the remote host and then docker save -o myimage.tar image_name to store it locally.
  • Run docker exec -it container_name bash to open a shell session on a remote container.
  • Run rdocker [email protected] docker logs container_name -f --tail 10 to follow the log output of a container.

You can choose the local port the docker daemon will be forwarded to, by passing it as the last argument:

rdocker [email protected] 9000

You can also interact with the remote daemon from any other terminal by using the -H parameter of the docker client:

docker -H localhost:9000 images

To stop controlling the remote daemon and close the ssh forwarding, just exit the newly created bash session (press Ctrl+D).

Dependencies & Configuration

Basically None. If you can login to your server over ssh and run docker commands this script should work out of the box.

Just remember:

  • The user you log in with should have permissions access the /var/run/docker.sock otherwise you will get a lot of: An error occurred trying to connect.... To solve this add the user to the docker group.
  • It uses ssh to connect to the host so you should also have the the appropriate permissions (private-key, password, etc..).
  • On the remote host it uses: python(2/3), bash, and ssh but these are already installed on most linux distributions.
  • Needless to say you need docker installed on both computers ;).

How does it work

This is a general overview of how it works, feel free to check the script for further details:

  1. Connects over ssh to the remote host, finds a free port on both computers, and opens ssh forwarding
  2. Runs over the ssh connection a python script that forwards connections on the remote host from localhost:remote_port to the unix domain socket at /var/run/docker.sock
  3. Starts a new bash session with DOCKER_HOST environment variable set to tcp://localhost:local_port
  4. On session exit it SIGTERMs the ssh connection.

Tested on Ubuntu, Mint and Debian. It should work on any linux based OS. I don't have a Mac around to test it :(. Contributions are of course welcome.

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