Docker Images: Explained

Jun 14, 2023by, Maheswari C S


In recent years, containerization has become an increasingly popular approach to software development and deployment. Docker, a containerization platform, has played a significant role in this trend. At the core of Docker’s approach is the concept of a Docker image, which is essentially a pre-built package that contains all the software and configuration necessary to run an application. In this blog post, we will explore what Docker images are, how they are created, and how they are used.

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What are Docker images?

In Docker, an image is a read-only file that contains all the necessary files and software to run an application. This includes the application code, any dependencies or libraries needed, and the configuration files required to set up the environment. In a sense, a Docker image is like a snapshot of a running application, frozen in time. Docker images are created using a Dockerfile, which is essentially a set of instructions that tell Docker how to build the image. The Dockerfile specifies the base image to use, any additional software or packages that need to be installed, and any configuration or environment variables that need to be set. Once a Docker image is created, it can be stored in a registry, which is essentially a central repository for Docker images. Docker Hub is a popular registry that contains a vast library of pre-built images that can be used as the basis for new images.

How are Docker images created?

As mentioned, Docker images are created using a Dockerfile, which is essentially a script that contains a set of instructions for building the image. Here is an example Dockerfile for a simple Python application:

FROM python:3.9-alpine

COPY requirements.txt .
RUN pip install --no-cache-dir -r requirements.txt
COPY . .
CMD ["python", ""]

Let’s break down what’s happening here. The first line specifies the base image to use (in this case, Python 3.9 running on the Alpine Linux distribution). The next line sets the working directory for the image. The COPY command copies the requirements.txt file into the image, which contains a list of Python dependencies needed by the application. The RUN command installs these dependencies using pip. Finally, the COPY command copies the rest of the application code into the image, and the CMD command specifies the command to run when the container is started.

To build this image, you would run the following command in the same directory as the Dockerfile:

  docker build -t my-python-app  v   

This tells Docker to build an image with the tag my-python-app using the Dockerfile in the current directory. The -t’ option specifies the tag (or name) for the image and the.’ at the end specifies the build context (i.e., the directory containing the Dockerfile and any other files needed).

How are Docker images used?

Once a Docker image is created, it can be used to run containers. A container is an instance of an image that is running as a separate process on a host machine. Containers are isolated from each other and from the host machine, which makes them a secure and efficient way to run applications.

To run a container from a Docker image, you would use the docker run command, like this:

 docker run my-python-app v  

This tells Docker to run a new container from the my-python-app image. Docker will create a new container and start it, running the command specified in the Dockerfile (in this case, python

Docker images are also commonly used in orchestration tools like Docker Compose and Kubernetes. These tools allow you to define complex multi-container applications using a YAML file, which can be used to start and stop containers and manage their lifecycle. When you use these tools, you simply specify the Docker image to use for each container in the application.

Docker images are also highly portable, which makes them ideal for deployment in different environments. Because the image contains all the necessary software and configuration, it can be run on any host machine that supports Docker, regardless of the underlying operating system or hardware. One important thing to note about Docker images is that they are immutable. Once an image is created, it cannot be changed. If you need to make changes to the image, you need to create a new version of the image with the changes. This can be done by updating the Dockerfile and rebuilding the image, or by using a tool like Docker Compose to manage multiple versions of the image.


Docker images are a powerful and flexible way to package and deploy applications. They provide a consistent and reproducible environment for running applications, which makes it easier to manage dependencies and ensure consistent behavior across different environments.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Dexlock.

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