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Hatem Houssein
Hatem Houssein

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Docker stop all processes on Github Actions

Side note

Advancing in CI/CD can be challenging due to lack of intermediate tutorials/blogs regarding this part of development. It's easy to find simple "how to setup your workflow with minimum jobs" articles that don't really help in production-level projects. I wonder why.


I have Docker in one of the projects I am working on and wanted to integrate CI/CD. So I went with Github Actions v2 and started to check how to handle Docker and Docker-compose on Github Actions. There aren't many differences between Github Actions and other deployment workflow providers (e.g. CircleCI, Travis), but I would say the major difference is Actions.

In the Continuous Deployment step, I need to access the server and stop all running Docker processes. Of course, I cannot stop the docker process by container ID because it's dynamic and changes whenever the process is run.


Consider we have these Docker containers running

$ docker ps -a

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE                        COMMAND                CREATED              STATUS              PORTS               NAMES
4c01db0b339c        ubuntu:12.04                 bash                   17 seconds ago       Up 16 seconds       3300-3310/tcp       webapp
d7886598dbe2        crosbymichael/redis:latest   /redis-server --dir    33 minutes ago       Up 33 minutes       6379/tcp            redis,webapp/db


A static identifier is needed to stop the process, so I could call each image by its name and stop it.

docker stop ubuntu:12.04 crosbymichael/redis:latest
docker rm ubuntu:12.04 crosbymichael/redis:latest

That's fairly okay if you have a few containers running and you are sure other docker containers don't exist. But it's an assumption I'm not willing to take and also, it's buggy if I add a new container later on and forget to add it in the workflow script.

Common solution

Some of you might be screaming already with this holy grail command.

docker stop $(docker ps -a -q)
docker rm $(docker ps -a -q)

This basically stops/removes all existing container processes no matter what their identifiers are. Nice! Now push that to our Github remote and wait for Github Actions Runner to finish the workflow script, but then the Runner shows the red cross ❌ The build has failed with an error about docker stop requires a parameter.

Github Actions uses the $ to call variables (e.g. GITHUB_REPOSITORY), so it looks for variable called docker ps... but it's undefined since I didn't set it as an environment variable in the workflow. We could escape the Action's default $ with another $ so the command becomes

docker stop $$(docker ps -a -q)

However, this also didn't work, I looked it up a bit and didn't find a good explanation for it but was spending too much time on this. So I moved on, after all, stopping docker processes isn't the main task for the whole workflow.

Working solution

After prioritizing my tasks for the project, I decided to find a different solution and quickly overcome this problem. Only then, I stumbled upon this piece of bash script which I haven't seen before.

ids=$(docker ps -a -q)
for id in $ids
 echo "$id"
 docker stop $id && docker rm $id

First line assigns the outcome of docker ps ... to a variable called ids. Then we make a for loop to iterate through all the ids and for each id, we stop and remove the process with that id.

Github Actions Runner passed this without any errors so I was happy to have learnt a new trick and move on with my other tasks to finish up the workflow.

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