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machinery is a command-line tool to operate on a whole cluster of Docker Machine virtual or bare-metal machines. machinery uses a YAML definition of the whole cluster to create machines, bring them up or down, remove them at will and create (overlay) networks to be used across deployed containers. In short, machinery is to docker-machine what docker-compose is to docker. In addition, machinery provides Docker Swarm and Swarm Mode, and Docker Compose integration. It will automatically arrange for the created virtual machines to join the swarm cluster, generate the token(s) as needed or even manage the life-cycle of several compose projects to be run on the cluster. machinery can automatically bring up specific project files onto machines that it controls. machinery is able to substitute the value of local environment variables in the compose project files before bringing the services up. Together with conventions for the dynamic construction of network-related environment variables, this provides for a simple mechanism for service discovery.

In short machinery provides you with an at-a-glance view of your whole cluster, from all the (virtual) machines that build it up, to all the services that should be run, and on which machine(s). machinery provides both a command-line and a REST API for operating on your cluster from the central controlling point that it constructs. This document provides a quick introduction to the main features of machinery, read the documentation for a thorough description of all its functionality.

Quick Tour

machinery reads its default configuration from the file cluster.yml in the local directory. YAML definition files have a straightforward syntax. For example, the following content would define 3 machines using the virtualbox driver, one with more memory and ready to be duplicated through using the YAML anchoring facilities, another one with more disk than the defaults provided by docker-machine and the last one as the master of the cluster. The description also defines some labels that can be used by swarm to schedule services on specific nodes and arrange for the machine called core to have access to your home directory. Finally, it arranges for the services pinpointed by a relative compose project file to automatically be started up when db is brought up and created.

version: '2'

    wk01: &worker
      driver: virtualbox
      memory: 2GiB
        role: worker
      driver: virtualbox
      size: 40G
        role: db
          file: ../compose/backend/db.yml
      driver: virtualbox
      master: on
        role: core
        - $HOME

Given access to a cluster definition file such as the one described above, the following command would create all the configured machines and arrange for a swarm token to be created when first executed.

machinery up

And the following command would gently bring the machine called db down and then destroy it.

machinery destroy db

If you had a YAML compose project description file called myapp.yml describing the containers to run on your cluster, you could schedule it for execution by calling:

machinery swarm myapp.yml

Do you want to try for yourself at once? Read the next section ant try the example. You might want to download a "compiled" binary to avoid having to solve the few dependencies machinery has yourself. For a complete description, read the documentation.

Giving it a Quick Test

The directory test contains a test cluster with a single machine. Try for yourself by running the following command from the main directory of the repository.

./machinery -cluster test/test.yml up

You should see an output similar to the following one on the terminal. Actually, what you will see is a colourised output without timestamps. machinery automatically segregates terminals from regular file descriptor and the following was captured using a file redirection.

[20150414 204739] [NOTICE] Generating new token
[20150414 204739] [INFO] Detaching from vm...
[20150414 204739] [INFO] Creating swarm token...
[20150414 204740] [NOTICE] Created cluster token 87c9e52eb6be5d0c794afa7053462667
[20150414 204740] [INFO] Token for cluster definition at test/test.yml is 87c9e52eb6be5d0c794afa7053462667
[20150414 204740] [NOTICE] Creating machine test-test
[20150414 204741] [INFO]   Creating SSH key...
[20150414 204741] [INFO]   Creating VirtualBox VM...
[20150414 204743] [INFO]   Starting VirtualBox VM...
[20150414 204743] [INFO]   Waiting for VM to start...
[20150414 204829] [INFO]   Configuring Swarm...
[20150414 204849] [INFO]   "test-test" has been created and is now the active machine.
[20150414 204849] [INFO]   To point your Docker client at it, run this in your shell: $(docker-machine env test-test)
[20150414 204849] [INFO] SSH to test-test working properly
[20150414 204849] [NOTICE] Tagging test-test with role=testing target=dev
[20150414 204849] [NOTICE] Copying local /tmp/profile-11494-395 to test-test:/tmp/profile-11494-395
[20150414 204856] [INFO]   Waiting for VM to start...
[20150414 204928] [NOTICE] Port forwarding for test-test as follows: 8080->80/tcp 20514->514/udp 9090->9090/tcp
[20150414 204929] [NOTICE] Mounting shares as follows for test-test: /home/emmanuel->/home/emmanuel
[20150414 204929] [INFO] Getting info for guest test-test
[20150414 204929] [NOTICE] Waiting for test-test to shutdown...
[20150414 204934] [NOTICE] Bringing up machine test-test...
[20150414 204935] [INFO]   Waiting for VM to start...
[20150414 205007] [INFO] Attaching to test-test
[20150414 205012] [INFO] Docker setup properly on test-test
[20150414 205012] [NOTICE] Pulling images in test-test: gliderlabs/alpine
[20150414 205012] [INFO] Attaching to test-test
[20150414 205013] [INFO]   Pulling repository gliderlabs/alpine
[20150414 205015] [INFO]   a5b60fe97da5: Pulling image (latest) from gliderlabs/alpine
[20150414 205015] [INFO]   a5b60fe97da5: Pulling image (latest) from gliderlabs/alpine, endpoint:
[20150414 205016] [INFO]   a5b60fe97da5: Pulling dependent layers
[20150414 205016] [INFO]   511136ea3c5a: Download complete
[20150414 205016] [INFO]   a5b60fe97da5: Pulling metadata
[20150414 205017] [INFO]   a5b60fe97da5: Pulling fs layer
[20150414 205019] [INFO]   a5b60fe97da5: Download complete
[20150414 205019] [INFO]   a5b60fe97da5: Download complete
[20150414 205019] [INFO]   Status: Downloaded newer image for gliderlabs/alpine:latest

To check around, you could run the following command to check that the machine test-test has really been created:

docker-machine ls

You could also jump into the created machine using the following command:

docker-machine ssh test-test

At the prompt, you can perhaps get a list of the docker containers that have been started in the machine using the following command and verify that there are two running containers: one swarm master container and one swarm agent.

docker ps

You can also check which images have been downloaded using the following command. That should list at least 3 images: one for swarm, one for busybox (which is used to verify that docker runs properly at the end of the machine creation process) and finally one for Alpine Linux, which is downloaded as part of the test cluster definition file.

docker images

Finally, you can check that you can access your home directory at its usual place, as it is automatically mounted as part of the test cluster definition. A final note: jumping into the machine was not a necessary process, you would have been able to execute those commands directly from the host command prompt after having run $(docker-machine env test-test).

Once done, return to the host prompt and run the following to clean everything up:

./machinery -cluster test/test.yml destroy


Support for Swarm Mode is work in progress and not yet released yet, so is support for the creation of cluster-wide overlay networks that can be used for communication between Docker Stacks across the cluster. In order to handle the creation of both machines and networks the YAML format has been modified in the development version. The default is to keep a list of machines under the root of the YAML file. However, whenever a key called version is present, machinery will expect a list of machines under the key machines and a possible list of networks under the key networks.

Comparison to Other Tools

machinery is closely related to Vagrant, and it evens provides a similar set of commands. However, being built on top of docker-machine provides access to many more providers through all the existing Docker Machine drivers.


machinery is written in Tcl. It requires a recent version of Tcl (8.6 at least) and the yaml library to be able to parse YAML description files. As the yaml library is part of the standard tcllib, the easiest is usually to install the whole library using your package manager. For example, on ubuntu, running the following will suffice as Tcl is part of the core server and desktop installation.

apt-get install tcllib

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