Deploying Docker containers on Azure

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes


The Docker Azure Integration enables developers to use native Docker commands to run applications in Azure Container Instances (ACI) when building cloud-native applications. The new experience provides a tight integration between Docker Desktop and Microsoft Azure allowing developers to quickly run applications using the Docker CLI or VS Code extension, to switch seamlessly from local development to cloud deployment.

In addition, the integration between Docker and Microsoft developer technologies allow developers to use the Docker CLI to:

  • Easily log into Azure
  • Set up an ACI context in one Docker command allowing you to switch from a local context to a cloud context and run applications quickly and easily
  • Simplify single container and multi-container application development using the Compose specification, allowing a developer to invoke fully Docker-compatible commands seamlessly for the first time natively within a cloud container service


Docker Azure Integration is currently a beta release. The commands and flags are subject to change in subsequent releases.


To deploy Docker containers on Azure, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. Download and install Docker Desktop Stable version or later, or Edge version or later.

    Alternatively, install the Docker Compose CLI for Linux.

  2. Ensure you have an Azure subscription. You can get started with an Azure free account.

Run Docker containers on ACI

Docker not only runs containers locally, but also enables developers to seamlessly deploy Docker containers on ACI using docker run or deploy multi-container applications defined in a Compose file using the docker compose up command.

The following sections contain instructions on how to deploy your Docker containers on ACI.

Log into Azure

Run the following commands to log into Azure:

docker login azure

This opens your web browser and prompts you to enter your Azure login credentials.

Alternatively, you can log in without interaction (typically in scripts or continuous integration scenarios), using an Azure Service Principal, with docker login azure --client-id xx --client-secret yy --tenant-id zz


Logging in through the Azure Service Provider obtains an access token valid for a short period (typically 1h), but it does not allow you to automatically and transparently refresh this token. You must manually re-login when the access token has expired when logging in with a Service Provider.

You can also use the --tenant-id option alone to specify a tenant, if you have several ones available in Azure.

Create an ACI context

After you have logged in, you need to create a Docker context associated with ACI to deploy containers in ACI. For example, let us create a new context called myacicontext:

docker context create aci myacicontext

This command automatically uses your Azure login credentials to identify your subscription IDs and resource groups. You can then interactively select the subscription and group that you would like to use. If you prefer, you can specify these options in the CLI using the following flags: --subscription-id, --resource-group, and --location.

If you don’t have any existing resource groups in your Azure account, the docker context create aci myacicontext command creates one for you. You don’t have to specify any additional options to do this.

After you have created an ACI context, you can list your Docker contexts by running the docker context ls command:

NAME                TYPE                DESCRIPTION                               DOCKER ENDPOINT                KUBERNETES ENDPOINT   ORCHESTRATOR
myacicontext        aci                 myResourceGroupGTA@eastus
default *           moby              Current DOCKER_HOST based configuration   unix:///var/run/docker.sock                          swarm


If you need to change the subscription and create a new context, you must execute the docker login azure command again.

Run a container

Now that you’ve logged in and created an ACI context, you can start using Docker commands to deploy containers on ACI.

There are two ways to use your new ACI context. You can use the --context flag with the Docker command to specify that you would like to run the command using your newly created ACI context.

docker --context myacicontext run -p 80:80 nginx

Or, you can change context using docker context use to select the ACI context to be your focus for running Docker commands. For example, we can use the docker context use command to deploy an ngnix container:

docker context use myacicontext
docker run -p 80:80 nginx

After you’ve switched to the myacicontext context, you can use docker ps to list your containers running on ACI.

To view logs from your container, run:

docker logs <CONTAINER_ID>

To execute a command in a running container, run:

docker exec -t <CONTAINER_ID> COMMAND

To stop and remove a container from ACI, run:

docker stop <CONTAINER_ID>
docker rm <CONTAINER_ID>


The stop command in ACI differs from the Moby stop command as a stopped container will not retain its state when it is started again on ACI.

Running Compose applications

You can also deploy and manage multi-container applications defined in Compose files to ACI using the docker compose command. To do this:

  1. Ensure you are using your ACI context. You can do this either by specifying the --context myacicontext flag or by setting the default context using the command docker context use myacicontext.

  2. Run docker compose up and docker compose down to start and then stop a full Compose application.

By default, docker compose up uses the docker-compose.yaml file in the current folder. You can specify the working directory using the --workdir flag or specify the Compose file directly using the --file flag.

You can also specify a name for the Compose application using the --project-name flag during deployment. If no name is specified, a name will be derived from the working directory.

You can view logs from containers that are part of the Compose application using the command docker logs <CONTAINER_ID>. To know the container ID, run docker ps.


The current Docker Azure integration does not allow fetching a combined log stream from all the containers that make up the Compose application.

Using Azure file share as volumes in ACI containers

You can deploy containers or Compose applications that use persistent data stored in volumes. Azure File Share can be used to support volumes for ACI containers.

Using an existing Azure File Share with storage account name mystorageaccount and file share name myfileshare, you can specify a volume in your deployment run command as follows:

docker run -v mystorageaccount/myfileshare:/target/path myimage

The runtime container will see the file share content in /target/path.

In a Compose application, the volume specification must use the following syntax in the Compose file:

  image: nginx
    - mydata:/mount/testvolumes

    driver: azure_file
      share_name: myfileshare
      storage_account_name: mystorageaccount

When you deploy a single container or a Compose application, your Azure login automatically fetches the key to the Azure storage account.

Managing Azure volumes

To create a volume that you can use in containers or Compose applications when using your ACI Docker context, you can use the docker volume create command, and specify an Azure storage account name and the file share name:

$ docker --context aci volume create test-volume --storage-account mystorageaccount
[+] Running 2/2
 ⠿ mystorageaccount  Created                         26.2s
 ⠿ test-volume       Created                          0.9s

By default, if the storage account does not already exist, this command creates a new storage account using the Standard LRS as a default SKU, and the resource group and location associated with you Docker ACI context.

If you specify an existing storage account, the command creates a new file share in the exsting account:

$ docker --context aci volume create test-volume2 --storage-account mystorageaccount
[+] Running 2/2
 ⠿ mystorageaccount   Use existing                    0.7s
 ⠿ test-volume2       Created                         0.7s

Alternatively, you can create an Azure storage account or a file share using the Azure portal, or the az command line.

You can also list volumes that are available for use in containers or Compose applications:

$ docker --context aci volume ls
ID                                 DESCRIPTION
mystorageaccount/test-volume       Fileshare test-volume in mystorageaccount storage account
mystorageaccount/test-volume2      Fileshare test-volume2 in mystorageaccount storage account

To delete a volume and the corresponding Azure file share, use the volume rm command:

$ docker --context aci volume rm mystorageaccount/test-volume

This permanently deletes the Azure file share and all its data.

When deleting a volume in Azure, the command checks whether the specified file share is the only file share available in the storage account. If the storage account is created with the docker volume create command, docker volume rm also deletes the storage account when it does not have any file shares. If you are using a storage account created without the docker volume create command (through Azure portal or with the az command line for example), docker volume rm does not delete the storage account, even when it has zero remaining file shares.

Using ACI resource groups as namespaces

You can create several Docker contexts associated with ACI. Each context must be associated with a unique Azure resource group. This allows you to use Docker contexts as namespaces. You can switch between namespaces using docker context use <CONTEXT>.

When you run the docker ps command, it only lists containers in your current Docker context. There won’t be any contention in container names or Compose application names between two Docker contexts.

Install the Docker Compose CLI on Linux

The Docker Compose CLI adds support for running and managing containers on Azure Container Instances (ACI).


Docker Azure Integration is a beta release. The installation process, commands, and flags will change in future releases.


Install script

You can install the new CLI using the install script:

curl -L | sh

Manual install

You can download the Docker ACI Integration CLI from the latest release page.

You will then need to make it executable:

chmod +x docker-aci

To enable using the local Docker Engine and to use existing Docker contexts, you must have the existing Docker CLI as com.docker.cli somewhere in your PATH. You can do this by creating a symbolic link from the existing Docker CLI:

ln -s /path/to/existing/docker /directory/in/PATH/com.docker.cli


The PATH environment variable is a colon-separated list of directories with priority from left to right. You can view it using echo $PATH. You can find the path to the existing Docker CLI using which docker. You may need root permissions to make this link.

On a fresh install of Ubuntu 20.04 with Docker Engine already installed:

$ echo $PATH
$ which docker
$ sudo ln -s /usr/bin/docker /usr/local/bin/com.docker.cli

You can verify that this is working by checking that the new CLI works with the default context:

$ ./docker-aci --context default ps
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS              PORTS               NAMES
$ echo $?

To make this CLI with ACI integration your default Docker CLI, you must move it to a directory in your PATH with higher priority than the existing Docker CLI.

Again, on a fresh Ubuntu 20.04:

$ which docker
$ echo $PATH
$ sudo mv docker-aci /usr/local/bin/docker
$ which docker
$ docker version
 Azure integration  0.1.4

Supported commands

After you have installed the Docker ACI Integration CLI, run --help to see the current list of commands.


Docker Azure Integration is a beta release. The commands and flags will change in future releases.


To remove the Docker Azure Integration CLI, you need to remove the binary you downloaded and com.docker.cli from your PATH. If you installed using the script, this can be done as follows:

sudo rm /usr/local/bin/docker /usr/local/bin/com.docker.cli


Thank you for trying out the Docker Azure Integration beta release. Your feedback is very important to us. Let us know your feedback by creating an issue in the compose-cli GitHub repository.

Docker, Azure, Integration, ACI, context, Compose, cli, deploy, containers, cloud