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1. Introduction

Docker is a popular deployment tool that enables us to package and run apps. Due to the high adoption, there has been a need to extend functionality based on different requirements. Thus to achieve this, third parties make use of docker plugins.

For example, if we want data to persist data across different hosts, we use a volumes plugin. Another commonly used plugin is Docker buildx. It extends the building ability of images by using the BuildKit builder. Hence, with the plugin, we can build images for different platforms and architectures. Furthermore, it supports parallel multi-stage makes with custom contexts.

In this tutorial, we’ll look at an introduction to Docker buildx.

2. Installing buildx

First and foremost, for buildx to run, we need to have Docker installed. Docker buildx support is available from Docker engine 19.00 onwards.

Let’s first start by checking our Docker version:

$ docker --version
Docker version 19.03.8, build afacb8b

Next, we enable the Docker experimental feature by setting the environment variable:


To ensure our setting remains after the session, We add the variable to $HOME/.bashrc for Bash. With that in place, we should now have access to buildx:

$ docker buildx

Usage:  docker buildx COMMAND

Build with BuildKit

Management Commands:
  imagetools  Commands to work on images in registry

  bake        Build from a file
  build       Start a build
  create      Create a new builder instance
  inspect     Inspect current builder instance
  ls          List builder instances
  rm          Remove a builder instance
  stop        Stop builder instance
  use         Set the current builder instance
  version     Show buildx version information

Run 'docker buildx COMMAND --help' for more information on a command.

This shows common commands and the syntax for each command.

3. Building with buildx

buildx performs all the Docker build capabilities. Therefore, we can run all comfortably and execute them. For instance, specifying the target platform, build caching, and output configs. Over and beyond that, buildx provides extra features.

Firstly the ability to build images for multiple platforms simultaneously. Secondly, multi-stage builds within a single dockerfile for smaller images. Finally, the ability to customize inputs, arguments, or variables during the build process.

Let’s dive into an example by creating an instance:

$ docker buildx create --name ourbuilder

This creates a build instance called ourbuilder.

Next, we’ll set it as the active directory:

$ docker buildx use ourbuilder

Next, let’s create a dockerfile to run a simple node application:

# Base image
FROM node:14-alpine

# Set working directory

# Copy application files
COPY . .

# Install dependencies
RUN npm install --production

# Expose the port

# Start the application
CMD ["node", "app.js"]

Here we are using node.js base image and setting the working directory to /app. Then we copy app files into the container. Then we install all dependencies, expose port 3000 and start the app:

$ docker buildx build --platform linux/amd64,linux/arm64 -t ourapp:latest .
time="2023-06-01T07:13:20+03:00" level=warning msg="No output specified for docker-container driver.
  Build result will only remain in the build cache. To push result image into registry use --push or to load image into docker use --load"
#1 [internal] booting buildkit
#1 pulling image moby/buildkit:buildx-stable-1
#1 pulling image moby/buildkit:buildx-stable-1 73.2s done
#1 creating container buildx_buildkit_ourbuilder0
#1 creating container buildx_buildkit_ourbuilder0 2.1s done
#1 DONE 75.4s

#3 [internal] load .dockerignore
#3 transferring context: 0.0s
#3 transferring context: 2B 0.1s done
#3 DONE 0.3s

#2 [internal] load build definition from Dockerfile
#2 transferring dockerfile: 294B 0.0s done
#2 DONE 0.4s

#4 [linux/amd64 internal] load metadata for
#4 DONE 4.7s
.... truncated ..... 

We specify the target platforms using the –platform flag. We’re targeting the x86 (Linux/amd64) and ARM (Linux/arm64) architectures in this case. We also provide the tag -t ourapp:latest to tag the built image with the name ourapp and the latest tag. The . specifies the build context, which is the current directory.

Docker buildx auto handles the multi-platform build and generates separate images for each targeted architecture.

4. Conclusion

In this tutorial, we have explored Docker buildx, a tool that extends the building and managing abilities of Docker images. It simplifies the process by supporting parallelized builds, custom-build contexts, and multi-stage builds.

Course – LS – All

Get started with Spring 5 and Spring Boot 2, through the Learn Spring course:

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