Bazel Blog

Building deterministic Docker images with Bazel

Docker images are great to automate your deployment environment. By composing base images, you can create an (almost) reproducible environment and, using an appropriate cloud service, easily deploy those image. However, V1 Docker build suffers several issues:

  1. Docker images are non-hermetic as they can run any command,
  2. Docker images are non-reproducible: each "layer" identifier is a random hex string (and not cryptographic hash of the layer content), and
  3. Docker image builds are not incremental since Docker assumes that RUN foo always does the same thing.

Googlers working on Google Container Registry developed a support for building reproducible Docker images using Skylark / Bazel that address these problems. We recently shipped it.

Of course, it does not support RUN command, but the rule also strips timestamps of the tar file and use a SHA sum that is function of the layer data as layer identifier. This ensure reproducibility and correct incrementality.

To use it, simply creates your images using the BUILD language:

load("/tools/build_defs/docker/docker", "docker_build")

   name = "foo",
   tars = [ "base.tar" ],

   name = "bar",
   base = ":foo",
   debs = [ "blah.deb" ],
   files = [ ":bazinga" ],
   volumes = [ "/asdf" ],

This will generate two docker images loadable with bazel run :foo and bazel run :bar. The foo target is roughly equivalent to the following Dockerfile:

FROM bazel/base

And the bar target is roughly equivalent to the following Dockerfile:

FROM bazel/foo
RUN dpkg -i blah.deb
ADD bazinga /

Using remote repositories, it is possible to fetch the various base image for the web and we are working on providing a docker_pull rule to interact more fluently with existing images.

You can learn more about this docker support here.