Quick Start Guide

In this guide, we will create a simple Rancher install, which is a single host installation that runs everything on a single Linux machine.

Prepare a Linux host

Provision a Linux host with 64-bit Ubuntu 14.04, which must have a kernel of 3.10+. You can use your laptop, a virtual machine, or a physical server. Please make sure the Linux host has at least 1GB memory.

To install Docker on the server, follow the instructions from Docker.

Note: Currently, Docker for Windows and Docker for Mac are not supported.

Rancher Server Tags

The rancher/server:latest tag will be our stable release builds, which Rancher recommends for deployment in production. For each minor release tag, we will provide documentation for the specific version.

If you are interested in trying one of our latest development builds which will have been validated through our CI automation framework, please check our releases page to find the latest development release tag. These releases are not meant for deployment in production. All development builds will be appended with a *-pre{n} suffix to denote that it’s a development release.

Start Rancher Server

All you need is one command to launch Rancher server. After launching the container, we’ll tail the logs to see when the server is up and running.

$ sudo docker run -d --restart=always -p 8080:8080 rancher/server
# Tail the logs to show Rancher
$ sudo docker logs -f containerid

It will take a couple of minutes for Rancher server to start up. When the logs show .... Startup Succeeded, Listening on port..., Rancher UI is up and running.

Our UI is exposed on port 8080, so in order to view the UI, go to http://server_ip:8080. If you are running your browser on the same host running Rancher server, you will need to use the host’s real IP, like and not http://localhost:8080 or

Note: Rancher will not have access control configured and your UI and API will be available to anyone who has access to your IP. We recommend configuring access control.

Add Hosts

For simplicity, we will add the same host running the Rancher server as a host in Rancher. In real production deployments, we recommend having dedicated hosts running Rancher server(s).

To add a host, access the UI and click Infrastructure, which will immediately bring you to the Hosts page. Click on the Add Host. Rancher will prompt you to select an IP address. This IP address must be reachable from all the hosts that you will be adding. This is useful in installations where Rancher server will be exposed to the Internet through a NAT firewall or a load balancer. If your host has a private or local IP address like 192.168.*.*, Rancher will print a warning asking you to make sure hosts can indeed reach the IP.

For now you can ignore these warnings as we will only add the Rancher server host itself. Click Save. By default, you will be directed to the Custom option, which allows you to find the command that launches the rancher/agent container. There will also be options for cloud providers that use docker-machine to launch hosts. In the UI, Rancher will provide a custom command to use to add hosts, an example of which is shown below.

$ sudo docker run -d --privileged -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock rancher/agent:v0.7.9

Since we are adding a host that is also running Rancher server, we need to add the public IP that should be used for the host. Without this addition to the Rancher agent command, the IP will most likely be set incorrectly for the host. You can add this IP in Step 4, which will alter the command and add an environment variable, example shown below.

$ sudo docker run -e CATTLE_AGENT_IP= -d --privileged -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock rancher/agent:v0.7.9

Run this command in the host that is running Rancher server.

When you click Close on the Rancher UI, you will be directed back to the Infrastructure -> Hosts view. In a couple of minutes, the host will automatically appear.

Create a Container through UI

Navigate to the Stacks page, if there are still no services, you can click on the Add Service button in the welcome screen. If there are already services, you can click on Add Service in any existing stack or create a new stack to add services in. If you need to create a new stack, click on Add Stack, provide a name and description and click Create. Then, click on Add Service.

Provide the service with a name like “first-container”. You can just use our default settings and click Create. Rancher will start launching two containers on the host. One container is the first-container that we requested. The other container is a Network Agent, which is a system container created by Rancher to handle tasks such as cross-host networking, health checking, etc. The Network Agent container will not be visible on the Stacks page, but the container will be running on the host. You can view this container on the Infrastructure -> Hosts page and enabling the Show System checkbox or on the Infrastructure -> Containers page.

Regardless what IP address your host has, both the first-container and Network Agent will have IP addresses in the 10.42.*.* range. Rancher has created this managed overlay network so containers can communicate with each other even if they reside on different hosts.

If you click on the dropdown of the first-container, you will be able to perform management actions like stopping the container, viewing the logs, or accessing the container console.

Create a Container through Native Docker CLI

Rancher will display any containers on the host even if the container is created outside of the UI. Create a container in the host’s shell terminal.

$ docker run -d -it --name=second-container ubuntu:14.04.2

In the UI, you will see second-container pop up on your host! If you terminate the container by exiting the shell, the Rancher UI will immediately show the stopped state of the container.

Rancher reacts to events that happen out of the band and just does the right thing to reconcile its view of the world with reality. You can read more about using Rancher with the native docker CLI.

If you look at the IP address of the second-container, you will notice that it is not in 10.42.*.* range. It instead has the usual IP address assigned by the Docker daemon. This is the expected behavior of creating a Docker container through the CLI.

What if we want to create a Docker container through CLI and still give it an IP address from Rancher’s overlay network? All we need to do is add a label in the command.

$ docker run -d -it --label io.rancher.container.network=true ubuntu:14.04.2

The label io.rancher.container.network enables us to pass a hint through the Docker command line so Rancher will set up the container to connect to the overlay network.

Create a Multi-Container Application

We have shown you how to create individual containers and connect them to a cross-host network. Most real-world applications, however, are made out of multiple services, with each service made up of multiple containers. A WordPress application, for example, could consist of the following services:

  1. A load balancer. The load balancer redirects Internet traffic to the WordPress application.
  2. A WordPress service consisting of two WordPress containers.
  3. A database service consisting of one MySQL container.

The load balancer targets the WordPress service, and the WordPress service links to the MySQL service.

In this section, we will walk through how to create and deploy the WordPress application in Rancher.

Navigate to the Stacks page, if there are still no services, you can click on the Add Service button in the welcome screen. If there are already services, you can click on Add Service in any existing stack or create a new stack to add services in. If you need to create a new stack, click on Add Stack, provide a name and description and click Create. Then, click on Add Service.

First, we’ll create a database service called database and use the mysql image. In the Command tab, add the environment variable MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=pass1. Click Create. You will be immediately brought to a stack page, which will contain all the services.

Next, click on Add Service again to add another service. We’ll add a WordPress service and link to the mysql service. Let’s use the name, mywordpress, and use the wordpress image. We’ll move the slider to have the scale of the service be 2 containers. In the Service Links, add the database service and provide the name mysql. Just like in Docker, Rancher will link the necessary environment variables in the WordPress image from the linked database when you select the name as mysql. Click Create.

Finally, we’ll create our load balancer. Click on the dropdown menu icon next to the Add Service button. Select Add Load Balancer. Provide a name like wordpresslb and select a source port and target port on the host that you’ll use to access the wordpress application. In this case, we’ll use 80 for both ports. The target service will be mywordpress service. Click Save.

Our multi-service application is now complete! On the Stacks page, you’ll be able to find the exposed port of the load balancer as a link. Click on that link and a new browser will open, which will display the wordpress application.

Create a Multi-Container Application using Rancher Compose

In this section, we will show you how to create and deploy the same WordPress application we created in the previous section using a command-line tool called Rancher Compose.

The Rancher Compose tool works just like the popular Docker Compose tool. It takes in the same docker-compose.yml file and deploys the application on Rancher. You can specify additional attributes in a rancher-compose.yml file which extends and overwrites the docker-compose.yml file.

In the previous section, we created a Wordpress application with a load balancer. If you had created it in Rancher, you can download the files directly from our UI by selecting Export Config from the stack’s dropdown menu. The docker-compose.yml and rancher-compose.yml files would look like this:

Example docker-compose.yml

  tty: true
  image: wordpress
  - database:mysql
  stdin_open: true
  - 80:80
  tty: true
  image: rancher/load-balancer-service
  - mywordpress:mywordpress
  stdin_open: true
  tty: true
  image: mysql
  stdin_open: true

Example rancher-compose.yml

  scale: 2
  scale: 1
    haproxy_config: {}
    port: 42
    interval: 2000
    unhealthy_threshold: 3
    healthy_threshold: 2
    response_timeout: 2000
  scale: 1

Download the Rancher Compose binary from the Rancher UI by clicking on Download CLI, which is located on the right side of the footer. We provide the ability to download binaries for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

In order for services to be launched in Rancher using Rancher Compose, you will need to set some variables in Rancher Compose. You will need to create an environment API Key in the Rancher UI. Click on API and click on Add API Key. Save the username (access key) and password (secret key). Set up the environment variables needed for Rancher Compose: RANCHER_URL, RANCHER_ACCESS_KEY, and RANCHER_SECRET_KEY.

# Set the url that Rancher is on
$ export RANCHER_URL=http://server_ip:8080/
# Set the access key, i.e. username
$ export RANCHER_ACCESS_KEY=<username_of_key>
# Set the secret key, i.e. password
$ export RANCHER_SECRET_KEY=<password_of_key>

Now, navigate to the directory where you saved docker-compose.yml and rancher-compose.yml and run the command.

$ rancher-compose -p NewWordpress up

In Rancher, a new stack will be created called NewWordPress with all of the services launched.