Welcome to Habitus

Habitus is a standalone build flow tool for Docker. It is a command line tool that builds Docker images based on their Dockerfile and a build.yml.


Download the latest version from our release page and choice the right platform. Habitus can run on Linux, Windows and Mac. Copy the the downloaded Habitus application into /usr/local/bin/habitus and check if it has the executable flags, if not run chmod a+x /usr/local/bin/habitus

Build files

Habitus uses a yml file as a descriptor for builds. Here is an example:

  version: 2016-03-14 # version of the build schema.
      name: builder
      dockerfile: Dockerfile.builder
          type: file
          value: _env(HOME)/.ssh/my_private_key
        - /go/src/github.com/cloud66/iron-mountain/iron-mountain
        - /go/src/github.com/cloud66/iron-mountain/config.json
        - /go/src/github.com/cloud66/iron-mountain/localhost.crt
        - /go/src/github.com/cloud66/iron-mountain/localhost.key
          - rm -rf /root/.ssh/
      name: ironmountain
      dockerfile: Dockerfile.deployment
        - builder
      name: uploader
      dockerfile: Dockerfile.uploader
        - ironmountain
      command: s3cmd --access_key=_env(ACCESS_KEY) --secret_key=_env(SECRET_KEY) put /app/iron-mountain s3://uploads.aws.com

Build files can be made up of multiple steps. Each step is independent of the other ones and downstream steps can use upstream ones as source (in FROM command).

In the example above, there are three steps: builder, deployment and uploader. All steps work out of the same working directory. dockerfile states which Dockerfile is used to build this step.

Here is a list of all step elements:


Artifacts are files to be copied outside of a build image in a step. This can be used when a step is build of a compiled language like Go or Java where the image requires build dependencies. The next step can then use the build step's artifacts in a runtime dependency only image.

Each artefact has two parts: source and destination. Source is the path from within the image and destination where the file will be copied to on the "build server". If destination is missing, the current folder will be used. Full path and file permissions of the source will be preserved during copy. So a file that comes from /app/build/result/abc of the image will go to ./app/build/result/abc of the build server if no destination is set.

Here is an example:

- /go/src/service/go-service


- /go/src/service/go-service:/tmp/go-service

Artifacts are copied from the container and can be used with ADD or COPY commands in downstream steps. Habitus copies artefact file permissions as well.

Here is an example that uses an artefact generated in step builder

    FROM ubuntu
    ADD ./iron-mountain /app/iron-mountain


Managing secrets during a Docker build is tricky. You have might need to clone a private git repository as part of your build process and will need to have your private SSH key in the image before that. But that's not a good idea. Here is why:

First of all, you will need to copy your private SSH key to your build context, moving it out of your home directory and leaving it exposed to accidental commits to your Git repo.

Secondly you will end up with the key in the image (unless you use the cleanup step with Habitus, see below). Which will be in the image forever.

Third issue is that you will end up sharing SSH keys even if you decided to take the risk and add SSH keys to the image but squash them later.

Habits can help you in this case by using secrets

Habitus has an internal web server. This webserver only serves to requests comming from inside of the building containers. Building containers can ask for "secrets" during build with a simple wget or curl. The secret is delivered to the build process which can be used and removed in the same layer leaving no trace in the image.

Here is an example:

    # Optional steps to take care of git and Github protocol and server fingerprint issues
    RUN git config --global url."git@github.com:".insteadOf "https://github.com/"
    RUN ssh-keyscan -H github.com >> ~/.ssh/known_hosts

    # using Secrets
    ARG host
    RUN wget -O ~/.ssh/id_rsa http://$host:8080/v1/secrets/file/id_rsa && chmod 0600 ~/.ssh/id_rsa && ssh -T git@github.com && rm ~/.ssh/id_rsa

This is a snippet from a sample Dockerfile that uses the secrets feature of Habitus.

First, we make sure all git requests to Github go through the git protocol rather than HTTP (this is optional)

Second, we are going to add Github's server fingerprint to our known_hosts file to avoid the "yes/no" prompt

Now we can use Habitus and pull our private SSH key as a secret. It will be stored in ~/.ssh/id_rsa and the next commands will use it (ssh -T git@github.com is a test that it worked) and the last step (very important) is removing it from the image with no traces and no need to use cleanup.

You notice that here we are using the Build Arguments in the Dockerfile with ARG. This allows us to pass in the Habitus IP address into the container without saving it into the image. You can pass in Build Arguments into Habitus with --build parameter:

$ habitus --build host=

Secret configuration

IMPORTANT: Secrets are supported in Habitus 0.4 onward and only with build.yml schema versions on or more recent than 2016-03-14.

You can define as many secrets for your build. Each secret has 3 attributes:

          type: file
          value: _env(HOME)/.ssh/my_private_key
Habitus IP address

Finding the correct IP address to server Habitus API (and secrets) on can be tricky. You don't want to bind it to since it will make Habitus and your secrets available to your entire local network (and possibly the internet if you're running a tunnel) during the build time.

On a Linux machine where Docker can run natively you can bind Habitus to However on a Mac (OSX) Docker runs inside of a VM (VirtualBox in most cases thorugh Boot2Docker). This means you need to find the VM address of your Mac and use that to bind Habitus to. By default, Boot2Docker (and Docker Machine) use which is what Habitus uses by default.

You can find your VM address by the following command:

$ ifconfig -a

What you are looking for is the inet address of a vboxnet like the following:

    vboxnet3: flags=8943 mtu 1500
    	ether 0a:00:27:00:00:03
    	inet netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast

On a Mac, if your VM IP address is different from you can configure Habitus using the --binding parameter:

$ habitus --binding

You can also change the Habitus API port from the default 8080 using the --port parameter.

Check here for an example using secrets


Cleanup is a step that runs after the build is finished for a step. At the moment, cleanup is limited to commands:

    - apt-get purge -y man  perl-modules vim-common vim-tiny libpython3.4-stdlib:amd64 python3.4-minimal xkb-data libx11-data eject python3 locales golang-go
    - apt-get clean autoclean
    - apt-get autoremove -y
    - rm -rf /var/lib/{apt,dpkg,cache,log}/

This runs the commands in the provided order on the image and then as a last step squashes the image to remove anything that's been removed. This is particularly useful when it comes to private information like ssh private keys that need to be on the image during the build (to pull git repos for example) but can't be published as part of the built image.

Image sequencing

Habitus allows dovetailing (sequencing) of images from different steps. This means a step can use the image built by the previous step as the source in its Dockerfile FROM command. This is done automatically if FROM command refers to an image name used by a previous step.

Habitus automatically parses the FROM image name and replaces it with the correct name when it is used in multi-tenanted setup. This enables multiple builds of the same build file to run in parallel with different session UIDs (see below).

Please note if you are using step A's result in step B's FROM statement, you need to make sure A is listed under depends_on attribute of B. Otherwise both A and B will be built in parallel.

Step dependencies

Steps can depend on each other. This can be specified by the depends_on attribute.

Steps can depend on one or more of the other steps. This will determine the build order for steps. Independent steps are built in parallel and according to the build order defined by dependencies.

Environment variables

Environment variables can be used in the build file with the _env(VAR) format:

      - /go/src/go-service/_env(SERVICE_NAME)

This will be replaced before the build file is fed into the build engine. By default Habitus inherits all environment variables of its parent process. This can be overridden by passing environment variables into Habitus explicitly through the env command parameter:

$ habitus -env SERVICE_NAME=abc -env RAILS_ENV=production

In the example above, you can pass in AWS S3 key and secret like this:


Running commands

Habitus allows you to run an arbitary command inside of a built container. This can be useful in many cases like uploading the build artifacts to webserver, resetting your exception handling service after each build or starting your release process.

command attribute is optional. If present, the image is built and a container is started based on it to run the command.

command runs after the build, cleanup and copying of the artifacts are done.

An example to upload a build artefact to S3 can be like this

    FROM cloud66/uploader
    ADD ./iron-mountain /app/iron-mountain

cloud66/uploader is a simple Docker image that has S3CMD installed on it.

The Dockerfile here is a simple one that starts from cloud66/uploader and adds one of the build artifacts to the image so it can be uploaded to S3.

Command line parameters

Habitus accepts the following command line parameters:

Development Environment for Habitus

Habitus requires running in privileged more (sudo) so it can run the squash method (keeping file permissions across images). It also requires the following environment variables: DOCKER_HOST and DOCKER_CERT_PATH. These are usually available when Docker is running on a machine, but might not be available in sudo mode. To fix this, you can pass them into the app with commandline params:

$ sudo habitus --host $DOCKER_HOST --certs $DOCKER_CERT_PATH


You would also need gnu tar to be available on the machine:


Instructions for OSX

Multi-tenancy for Habitus

Habitus supports multi-tenancy of builds by using a uid parameter.

All builds and images will be tagged with the uid for this unless a step name explicitly has a tag. In that case the tag is concatenated with the -uid.

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