Get started with Docker and Compose to define and run a multi-container application in Azure

With Compose, you use a simple text file to define an application consisting of multiple Docker containers. You then spin up your application in a single command that does everything to deploy your defined environment. As an example, this article shows you how to quickly set up a WordPress blog with a backend MariaDB SQL database on an Ubuntu VM. You can also use Compose to set up more complex applications.

Set up a Linux VM as a Docker host

You can use various Azure procedures and available images or Resource Manager templates in the Azure Marketplace to create a Linux VM and set it up as a Docker host. For example, see Using the Docker VM Extension to deploy your environment to quickly create an Ubuntu VM with the Azure Docker VM extension by using a quickstart template.

When you use the Docker VM extension, your VM is automatically set up as a Docker host and Compose is already installed.

Create Docker host with Azure CLI

Install the latest Azure CLI and log in to an Azure account using az login.

First, create a resource group for your Docker environment with az group create. The following example creates a resource group named myResourceGroup in the eastus location:

az group create --name myResourceGroup --location eastus

Next, deploy a VM with az group deployment create that includes the Azure Docker VM extension from this Azure Resource Manager template on GitHub. When prompted, provide your own unique values for newStorageAccountName, adminUsername, adminPassword, and dnsNameForPublicIP:

az group deployment create --resource-group myResourceGroup \

It takes a few minutes for the deployment to finish.

Verify that Compose is installed

To view details of your VM, including the DNS name, use az vm show:

az vm show \
    --resource-group myResourceGroup \
    --name myDockerVM \
    --show-details \
    --query [fqdns] \
    --output tsv

SSH to your new Docker host. Provide your own username and DNS name from the preceding steps:


To check that Compose is installed on the VM, run the following command:

docker-compose --version

You see output similar to docker-compose 1.6.2, build 4d72027.


If you used another method to create a Docker host and need to install Compose yourself, see the Compose documentation.

Create a docker-compose.yml configuration file

Next you create a docker-compose.yml file, which is just a text configuration file, to define the Docker containers to run on the VM. The file specifies the image to run on each container (or it could be a build from a Dockerfile), necessary environment variables and dependencies, ports, and the links between containers. For details on yml file syntax, see Compose file reference.

Create a docker-compose.yml file. Use your favorite text editor to add some data to the file. The following example creates the file with a prompt for sensible-editor to pick an editor that you wish to use:

sensible-editor docker-compose.yml

Paste the following example into your Docker Compose file. This configuration uses images from the DockerHub Registry to install WordPress (the open source blogging and content management system) and a linked backend MariaDB SQL database. Enter your own MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD as follows:

  image: wordpress
    - db:mysql
    - 80:80

  image: mariadb
    MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD: <your password>

Start the containers with Compose

In the same directory as your docker-compose.yml file, run the following command (depending on your environment, you might need to run docker-compose using sudo):

docker-compose up -d

This command starts the Docker containers specified in docker-compose.yml. It takes a minute or two for this step to complete. You see output similar to the following example:

Creating wordpress_db_1...
Creating wordpress_wordpress_1...


Be sure to use the -d option on start-up so that the containers run in the background continuously.

To verify that the containers are up, type docker-compose ps. You should see something like:

        Name                       Command               State         Ports
azureuser_db_1 mysqld      Up      3306/tcp
azureuser_wordpress_1 apach ...   Up>80/tcp

You can now connect to WordPress directly on the VM on port 80. Open a web browser and enter the DNS name of your VM (such as You should now see the WordPress start screen, where you can complete the installation and get started with the application.

WordPress start screen

Next steps

  • Go to the Docker VM extension user guide for more options to configure Docker and Compose in your Docker VM. For example, one option is to put the Compose yml file (converted to JSON) directly in the configuration of the Docker VM extension.
  • Check out the Compose command-line reference and user guide for more examples of building and deploying multi-container apps.
  • Use an Azure Resource Manager template, either your own or one contributed from the community, to deploy an Azure VM with Docker and an application set up with Compose. For example, the Deploy a WordPress blog with Docker template uses Docker and Compose to quickly deploy WordPress with a MySQL backend on an Ubuntu VM.
  • Try integrating Docker Compose with a Docker Swarm cluster. See Using Compose with Swarm for scenarios.