Magento Deployment with Docker Updated, Using Load Balancers for Scalability and Availability

Gray Calendar Icon Published: May 4, 2015
Gray Calendar Icon Updated: September 11, 2019

magento-logo2A little over a month ago I wrote about setting up a Magento cluster on Docker using Rancher. At the I identified some short comings of Rancher such as its lack of support fot load-balancing. Rancher released support for load balancing and docker machine with 0.16, and I would like to revisit our Magento deployment to cover the use of load balancers for scalability as well as availability. Furthermore, I would also like to cover how the docker machine integration makes it easier to launch Rancher compute nodes directly from the Rancher UI.

Amazon Setup

As before we will be running our cluster on top of AWS hence if you have not already done so follow the steps outlined in the Amazon Environment Setup section of the earlier tutorial to setup an ssh key pair and a security group. However, unlike earlier we will be using the Rancher UI to launch compute nodes and will require an Access Key ID and Secret Access Key. To create your key and secret click through to the IAM service and select Users from the menu on the left. Click the Create User button and specify rancher as the user name in the subsequent screen and click Create. You will be given the Access Key ID and Secret Access Key in the dialogue shown below, keep the information safe as there is no way to recover the secret and you will need this later.

iam-keyOnce you have created the IAM user you will also need to give it permissions to create Amazon Ec2 Instances. To do so select rancher from the user list and click Attach Policy in the Managed Policies section. Add the AmazonEC2FullAccess policy to the Rancher user so that we are able to create the required resources from the Rancher UI when creating compute nodes. Full access is a little more permissive tan required however, for the sake of brevity we are not creating custom policy.

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Rancher Setup

After setting up the AWS environment, follow the steps outlined in the Rancher Server Launch section of the earlier Magento tutorial to bring up your Rancher server and browse to http://RANCHER_SERVER_IP:8080/. *Be sure you are using a version of Rancher after 0.16.* Load the Hosts tab using the respective option in the left-side menu and click + Add Host to add rancher compute nodes. The first time you launch a compute node you will be prompted to confirm the IP address at which Rancher server is available to your compute nodes. Specify the Private IP address of the Amazon node on which Rancher server is running and hit save.


In the Add Host screen select the Amzon EC2 Icon and specify the required information in order to launch a compute node. The required information is shown below. Enter the access key and secret key that you created earlier for the rancher IAM user. We are using a t2.micro instance for our tutorial however you would probably use a larger instance for your nodes. Select the same VPC as your Rancher server instance and specify Rancher as the security group to match the security group that you created earlier in the Environment Setup section. The compute nodes must be launched in a different availability zone from the rancher server hence we select Zone c (Our Rancher Server was in Zone a) . This requirement is due to the fact that Docker Machine uses the Public IP of compute agents to ssh into them from the Server. However, a nodes public IP is not addressable from within its own subnet.


Repeat the steps above to launch five compute nodes; one for the MySQL database, two for the load-balanced Magento nodes and two for the load balancers themselves. I have labeled the nodes as DataNode, Magento1, Magento2, LB1 and LB2. When all nodes come up you should be able to see them in the Rancher Server UI as shown below.


Magento Container Setup

Now that we have our Rancher deployment launched we can setup our Magento containers. However before we launch our Magento containers we must first launch a MySQL container to serve as our database and Memcached containers for caching. Let’s launch our MySQL container first on one of the compute nodes. We do this by clicking the + Add Container on the DataNode host. In the pop up menu we need to specify a name for our container and mysql as the source image. Select Advanced Options > Command > Environment Vars + to add the four required variables: mysql root password, mysql user, mysql password, and mysql database. You may choose any values for these the root password and user password, however, the mysql user and database must be magento. After adding all of these environment variables, hit create to create the container. Note that mysql is official Docker mysql image and details of what is inside this container can be found on its dockerhub page.


Next we will create the Memcached containers on the two magento compute nodes, one on each of the Magento nodes. We again give the containers a name (memcached1 and memcached2) and specify their source images as memcached. The Memcached containers do not require any further configuration and therefore we can just click create to setup the containers. Details of the memcached official container we use can be found on its dockerhub page.

Now we are ready to create the magento containers, On the Magento1 host create a container named magento1 using the image usman/magento:multinode. You need to specify the MYSQL_HOST and MEMCACHED_HOST environment variables using the container IPs that are listed in the Rancher UI. Note that for Magento1 you should specify the IP of Memcached1. Similarly launch a second container called magento2 on the Magento2 host and specify the mysql host and memcached host environment variables. In a few moments both your magento hosts should be up and ready. Note that unlike before we did not have to link the mysql and memcached containers to our magento containers. This is because Rancher now gives all containers access to each other over a Virtual Private Network (VPN) without the need for exposing ports or linking containers. Furthermore we will not need to expose ports on the Magento containers as we will use the same VPN to allow the load balancers to communicate with our nodes.

Load balancer Setup

Now that your containers are up we can setup load balancers to split traffic onto the Magento containers. Select the Balancing tab in the left side menu then click Balancers and + Add Load Balancer. In the subsequent screen you can specify a name and description for your load balancer. Next you can select the hosts on which to run balancer containers run. in our case we can select both LB1 and LB2. We then need to select the two Magento containers as targets. In the Listening Ports section we need to specify that our Magento containers are listening for HTTP traffic on port 80 and that we want load balancers to also listen to http traffic on port 80.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.22.12 PM

Lastly, click on the Health Check tab and specify that the load balancers should send a GET request to the root URI every 2000 ms to check that the container is still healthy. If three consecutive health checks fail then the container will be marked as unhealthy and no further traffic will be routed to it until it can respond successfully to two consecutive health checks. In a few moments your load balancers will be ready and you can load Magento on the public IP of either load balancer host. You will need to look for the IP in the Amazon EC2 console as the Rancher UI only shows the private IP of the nodes. Once you load the Magento UI follow the steps outlined in the previous tutorial to setup your connection the MySQL and to setup a magento account.

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DNS Round-robin Setup using Amazon Route 53

Now that we have our load balancers up and running we can split traffic onto our two Magento contianers but we still must send our requests to one balancer or the other. To enable routing to both load balancers transparently we need to setup DNS round-robin. For this you may use any DNS provider of your choice but since we are using Amazon EC2 we will use Amazon’s Route 53 service. Use the Top menu to select the Route 53 service and select Hosted Zones from the left menu. If you don’t already have a registered domain and hosted zone you may have to create one. We are using the domain and hosted zone. In your hosted zone click the Create Record Set button and specify a subdomain such as in the form which loads to the right of the screen*. S*elect type A - IPv4 address and specify the public IP address of one of your load balancer hosts. In the Routing Policy section select Weighted, and enter 10 as the weight. Enter 1 as the Set ID and click Save Record Set. Repeat exactly the same process once more but use the public IP of the second load-balancer host. This pair of DNS entries is specifying that we want to route clients who ask for to the two specified IPs. Since the IPs records have the same weight the traffic will be split evenly between the two load balancers. We can now load up our Magento UI using instead of having to specify the IP.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.47.28

Wrapping up


Putting it all together we get a cluster setup as shown above. Using the DNS entries our web browsers are directed to one of the load balancers LB1, or LB2. By having two load balancers we have split traffic and hence reduced the load on each of our load balancer instances. The load balancers will then proxy traffic to either Magento1 or Magento2. This again allows us to spread the load to the separate containers running on their own hosts. We have setup only two Magento containers but your could setup as many as you need. Furthermore, the health check setup ensures that if one of the Magento containers fails the traffic will quickly be diverted to the remaining container without human intervention. Each of the Magento containers has a Memcached server running on its own host to provide fast access to frequently used data. However, both magento containers use the same MySQL container to ensure consistency between the two containers. By using Rancher’s docker machine support we were able to launch all hosts (other than Rancher Server) directly from the Rancher UI. In addition, due to Rancher’s VPN we did not have to expose ports on any of our containers nor did we have to link containers. This greatly simplifies the Magento container setup logic. With support for load balancers and machine (as well as docker compose coming soon), Rancher is becoming a much more viable option for running large scale user facing deployments.

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