Docker is a containerization platform which means it is a Linux box that needs less power than a full-blown Linux machine. You usually don't work "on" it, but you let your software run in it. In this article we will see how to get started with it for writing Perl code.

You can use it on top of Linux, Mac OSX, or Microsoft Windows.

Install Docker

The first things is that you need to download and install Docker.

Launch the Docker Daemon

Then you need to launch the Docker Daemon. This can be done by clicking on the Docker icon that was installed. (I admit, I only tried this on Mac. There I had an icon for Docker. Alternatively, running open -a Docker also launched the daemon.)

Command line

The rest of the commands will be given on the command line. A terminal window in Linux or OSX, the Command Prompt in Windows.


There is a nice tutorial to get started with Docker. You can read that now, or you can go on with this article and read the tutorial later:

In this article I don't assume that you have read it.

Empty Ubuntu image

We start by creating an empty Ubuntu image.

Create a new directory. In that directory create a file called Dockerfile with the following content:

FROM ubuntu:16.10

This means the foundation of our little toy will be version 16.10 of Ubuntu.

Then cd into that directory. Remember, we use the Terminal on Linux and OSX and the cmd on Windows for this.

Then run the following command: (note, there is a space and a dot at the end)

docker build -t mydocker .

The first time we run this, it will download the Ubuntu image and save it on the local disk, so the subsequent runs won't have to download it.

After some output the last line should look like this:

Successfully built ab8e4d47cc70

though the code at the end will be different for you.

Congratulations. You've just built your first Docker image!

Note, the word "mydocker" is just the name I gave to it. You can use any name there, just remember it as we will use the name in the following commands!

Now let's launch it.

$ docker run mydocker

Here we used the same name "mydocker" as we used to build the image.

Seemingly nothing happens. You get the prompt back. In reality, docker created a container from the image and did what we told it to do: nothing. Then it got shut down.

Command to the empty Ubuntu Docker image

We can run commands on this image. Type

docker run mydocker ls -l /

you will see something like this:

total 64
drwxr-xr-x   1 root root 4096 Mar  1 15:23 bin
drwxr-xr-x   2 root root 4096 Oct  8 10:11 boot
drwxr-xr-x   5 root root  340 Mar  1 19:07 dev
drwxr-xr-x   1 root root 4096 Mar  1 19:07 etc
drwxr-xr-x   2 root root 4096 Oct  8 10:11 home
drwxr-xr-x   1 root root 4096 Mar  1 15:23 lib
drwxr-xr-x   2 root root 4096 Feb 24 08:27 lib64
drwxr-xr-x   2 root root 4096 Feb 24 08:26 media
drwxr-xr-x   2 root root 4096 Feb 24 08:26 mnt
drwxr-xr-x   2 root root 4096 Feb 24 08:26 opt
dr-xr-xr-x 119 root root    0 Mar  1 19:07 proc
drwx------   2 root root 4096 Feb 24 08:27 root
drwxr-xr-x   1 root root 4096 Feb 27 19:42 run
drwxr-xr-x   1 root root 4096 Mar  1 15:23 sbin
drwxr-xr-x   2 root root 4096 Feb 24 08:26 srv
dr-xr-xr-x  12 root root    0 Mar  1 19:07 sys
drwxrwxrwt   1 root root 4096 Mar  1 15:24 tmp
drwxr-xr-x   1 root root 4096 Feb 27 19:42 usr
drwxr-xr-x   1 root root 4096 Feb 27 19:42 var

If you know Linux or the command line of OSX, you already know that we executed the ls -l / command which means list the content of the root (/) directory. You can also see that the directory names are very familiar. So yes, we have a small Linux system there, that we can use to execute commands on it and it will shut down immediately after the command finished running.

Perl on the Docker image of Ubuntu ?

docker run mydocker perl -v

The output will hopefully be familiar to you:

This is perl 5, version 22, subversion 2 (v5.22.2) built for x86_64-linux-gnu-thread-multi
(with 67 registered patches, see perl -V for more detail)

Copyright 1987-2015, Larry Wall

Perl may be copied only under the terms of either the Artistic License or the
GNU General Public License, which may be found in the Perl 5 source kit.

Complete documentation for Perl, including FAQ lists, should be found on
this system using "man perl" or "perldoc perl".  If you have access to the
Internet, point your browser at, the Perl Home Page.

That is. This Ubuntu image has Perl version 5.22.2 on it.

That's great so we have an image with perl on it! What else can we do with it?

Perl on the command line

A slightly more complex command in Perl, but still a one-liner.

docker run mydocker perl -E 'say "hello from perl at " . localtime()'

hello from perl at Wed Mar  1 19:15:47 2017

That's lovely, but if we distribute this Docker image, the user will have to type in the command. Can we bake that command into our Docker images?

Sure we can.

Docker image with CMD

Let's change the Dockerfile to have the following content:

FROM ubuntu:16.10
CMD perl -E 'say "hello from perl at " . localtime()'

The CMD instruction will be executed when the container is launched.

Once we saved the file we need to rebuild our Docker image using the following command:

docker build -t mydocker .

and wait for the success at the end:

Successfully built dab2aef20fb7

This time the build will be much faster as we already have the Ubuntu image cached locally.

Then we can run our new Docker image:

docker run mydocker

and voila:

hello from perl at Wed Mar  1 19:21:29 2017

Embedding a full Perl script in Docker image

The next step is to embed a full Perl script in the image. So let's write a really simple script.

Create a file called in the same directory where we have the Dockerfile and put the following code in the Perl file:

use 5.010;
use strict;
use warnings;

say 'Hello World from Perl script';

Change the Dockerfile to have the following content:

FROM ubuntu:16.10
COPY /opt/
CMD  perl /opt/

This will

  1. Create an image based on Ubuntu 16.10.
  2. It will copy the file to the /opt directory of the Docker image.
  3. The CMD instruction tells Docker to run the script when we launch the container

We need to rebuild the image by running

docker build -t mydocker .

wait for the "success" and then run it using:

docker run mydocker

It will print "Hello World from Perl script" and then exit as expected.

OK. so we know how are we going to distribute our Perl script once it is done, but how can we develop it? Certainly we would go crazy if after every change in the Perl script we would need to build the image before we can run the script.

That would be almost like writing in a semi-compiled language such as Java or C#.

Running perl script on the host filesystem

No, we can use our Docker image to run scripts that are only on the host filesystem. For this we need to tell Docker to mount (share for people used to the Windows terminology) one of the directories of the host filesystem to one of the directories of the Docker image.

We can do that when we launch the image using the -v HOST_PATH:GUEST_PATH option.

Before that however, we'd better remove that "" from our image. So

change the Dockerfile to have the following:

FROM ubuntu:16.10
#COPY /opt/
#CMD  perl /opt/

Rebuild the image:

docker build -t mydocker .

Once it was build you can run the command that looks like this:

docker run -v /Users/gabor/work/mydocker:/opt/  mydocker perl /opt/

Here you will have to replace "/Users/gabor/work/mydocker" by the path to your current directory on the host operating system.

This command will launch the Docker image called "mydocker" we have just created, and tell it to run perl /opt/

You can edit the and run it again without rebuilding the image.

The result should reflect your changes.

Enjoy Docker, and let me know what else would you like to know about Docker and Perl in order to make the most out of it?