Automated Swarm Provisioning on GCP

Using `docker-machine`, we can provision a multi-node docker-swarm cluster on gpc within few seconds. This article covers spinning up a stateless docker swarm with manager, worker and storage nodes and deploying a cloudfront. Just by executing one shell script. So we can spin up new clusters daily instead of updating existing ones.

docker-machine is marked obsolete in docker documentation but it’s still in maintenance. terraform scripts might be a better way for more customized configurations. But when it comes to stateless (atomic) clustering, docker-machine is the fastest and most reliable script to go; without persistence needed.

Automated Tasks:

  • Login to you gcloud account / Set a google service token for automated deployment
  • Block access to cluster. Allow exclusively your IP
  • Spin up a manager node and extract join-token
  • Spin up multiple workers in parallel using join-token
  • Deploy rudl-cloudfront and rudl-principal
  • Start stack defined in git repository
  • Unblock ports in firewall
  • (Todo: Switch DNS Records to the new cluster)


  • Linux, MacOS, Windows WSL
  • Google Cloud Platform Account
  • Tested with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

Infracamp provides the the docker image infracamp/kickstart-flavor-sdi with everyting installed to log in to gcloud, spin up machines with docker-machine.

If you want to learn how to deploy a rudl cluster, see documentation here.

Manual install gcloud and docker-machine

First of all we install google-cloud-sdk and docker-machine and some additional packages.

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get -y install lsb-release gnupg2

# Create environment variable for correct distribution
export CLOUD_SDK_REPO="cloud-sdk-$(lsb_release -c -s)"

# Add the Cloud SDK distribution URI as a package source
echo "deb $CLOUD_SDK_REPO main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google-cloud-sdk.list

# Import the Google Cloud Platform public key
curl | sudo apt-key add -

# Update the package list and install the Cloud SDK
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get -y install google-cloud-sdk

# Install docker-machine
base= &&
  curl -L $base/docker-machine-$(uname -s)-$(uname -m) >/tmp/docker-machine &&
  sudo mv /tmp/docker-machine /usr/local/bin/docker-machine &&
  chmod +x /usr/local/bin/docker-machine

Log in to gcloud

Use your default browser to log in as google user:

gcloud auth application-default login

Copy the url displayed and open it in your browser

Provision a docker swarm cluster

This script will spin up one docker swarm master and 10 workers:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -e


docker-machine rm -f $MANAGER_NAME || true
docker-machin create $MANAGER_NAME \
    -d google \
    --google-machine-image $CONF_GOOGLE_IMAGE \
    --google-machine-type n1-standard-1 \
    --google-zone $GOOGLE_ZONE \
    --google-disk-size "50" \
    --google-tags swarm-cluster \
    --google-project $GOOGLE_PROJECT

MGR_ENV=$(docker-machine env $MANAGER_NAME)
eval $MGR_ENV
docker swarm init
MGR_WORKER_JOIN_CALL=$(docker swarm join-token worker | grep "docker swarm join")

function startWorker() {
    local INDEX=$1

    echo "Creating worker: $CUR_WORKER_NAME...";
    docker-machine rm -f  $CUR_WORKER_NAME || true
    docker-machine create $CUR_WORKER_NAME \
        -d google \
        --google-machine-image $CONF_GOOGLE_IMAGE \
        --google-machine-type n1-standard-1 \
        --google-zone $GOOGLE_ZONE \
        --google-disk-size "50" \
        --google-tags swarm-cluster \
        --google-project $GOOGLE_PROJECT

    eval $(docker-machine env $CUR_WORKER_NAME)

for i in {1..5}
    startWorker $i &

echo "Docker swarm ready..."
echo "$MGR_ENV"

Control the docker swarm cluster

The docker command will connect to this cluster, if the environmet is set correctly:


eval $(docker-machine env jupp-manager)

will set the appropriate environment variables.

After that you will be able to run docker commands remotely: List the nodes.

docker node ls

Start rudl-cloudfront / rudl-principal

This is an example how to deploy rudl_principal and rudl_cloudfront manually. See the rudl integration guild if you want to automate this.

#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -e -o pipefail

echo "Please unlock the principal secret:"
cat secrets/rudl_principal_secret.enc | base64 -d | ccrypt -d | docker secret create rudl_principal_secret -

echo "Creating new rudl_cf_secret..."
pwgen 64 -s -1 | docker secret create rudl_cf_secret -

echo "Adding ssh key.."
cat secrets/rudl_principal_ssh_key | docker secret create rudl_principal_ssh_key -

docker stack deploy rudl -c rudl-startup.yml


It’s really easy to script automated docker swarm cluster deployments on google cloud platform.

Instead of updating nodes, you can spin up a new cluster. Deploy the services and switch over DNS names without the risk of downtime due to updates.