Docker Best Practices

Collection of some of our docker-specific best practices.


Inheritance is when you use FROM some-image:1.2.3 (vs FROM scratch) in a Dockerfile. We recommend to leverage lean base images (E.g. alpine or busybox).

Try to leverage the same base image in as many of your images as possible for faster docker pulls.

Multi-stage Builds

There are two ways to leverage multi-stage builds.

  1. Build-time Environments The most common application of multi-stage builds is for using a build-time environment for compiling apps, and then a minimal image (E.g. alpine or scratch) for distributing the resultant artifacts (e.g. statically-linked go binaries).
  2. Multiple-Inheritance We like to think of “multi-stage builds” as a mechanism for “multiple inheritance” as it relates to docker images. While not technically the same thing, using mult-stage images, it’s possible COPY --from=other-image to keep things very DRY.

Use Scratch Base Image

One often overlooked, ultimately lean base-image is the scratch image. This is an empty filesystem which allows one to copy/distribute the minimal set of artifacts. For languages that can compile statically linked binaries, using the scratch base image (e.g. FROM scratch) is the most secure way as there will be no other exploitable packages bundled in the image.

We use this pattern for our terraform-root-modules distribution of terraform reference architectures.