Adding easy container management to Photon OS with Portainer

This is a follow-up to my post on setting up Photon OS on vSphere as a lightweight VM to run containers on. By the end of that post, I have the OS up and running with Docker Engine in place and enabled. This post will add simple, graphical container management to the host through Portainer.

You might ask, “Isn’t the point of containerized workloads, infrastructure as code, etc., that you can use the command line to manage your workloads?”. And you might be right. But right now, I’m not building dev environments; I’m bringing up relatively static components, prepackaged containers, that will deliver some sort of service in my network. And I won’t be deploying, destroying and redeploying these daily. And since my memory has always been terrible, and I have more than enough I need to remember from my actual work, I’d have to be looking up these things all the time. So sometimes, a friendly, intuitive GUI is just a better option. The nice thing here, of course, is that I can still do both, choosing whatever works best for me at any given time.

Portainer comes in two different flavours, the free Community Edition, and the commercial Business Edition. The Business Edition is available for free for fewer than 5 nodes; for now, I’m installing Community Edition, but I might look at the BE too eventually.

Because I want the host VM to be “disposable” so I can rebuild it and the contents for whatever reason, I needed somewhere to put the persistent data of the containers, including the Portainer management container. So I made an NFS share on my NAS called conda because it’s for container data, but I’m too lazy to type it out.

Since the minimal install of Photon OS that you get when deploying the OVA doesn’t include the nfs-utils package that I need to mount the share, the first step is to install that using tdnf:

tdnf install nfs-utils

With that done, I can make somewhere to mount the NFS share; mkdir/var/conda ought to do the trick. If my NAS has IP 198.51.0.10, this will accomplish what I want:

mount -t nfs 198.51.0.10:/conda /var/conda

Now we have somewhere persistent to store the configuration or user data of the containers, it’s time to deploy Portainer.

docker run -d -p 8000:8000 -p 9443:9443 --name portainer --restart=always -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock -v /var/conda/portainer_data:/data portainer/portainer-ce:latest

This will pull the latest community edition of Portainer, and store the config data in /portainer_data on my NAS share, mounted in /var/conda on the VM. Once done, it should be accessible on port 9443 on the IP I assigned to the Photon OS instance. Set a password, and you’re up and running:

The home screen of my fresh Portainer install

From here, you can deploy and manage both single containers, and you can do Docker Compose installs using what Portainer calls stacks. I’m not going to do an in-depth discussion on Portainer features, mainly since I just started using it, but their Youtube channel is an excellent source of info. Once I have stuff to discuss, I might do another post.

I’d like to highlight the Stacks feature, which is basically a UI for Docker Compose, where you can type your YAML right in their web editor, upload it as a file, or connect to a repository.

The Stacks feature of Portainer

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