CoreOS brings some very exciting ideas to the world of Linux, such as the very nice auto-update features from ChromeOS; it’s also very minimalist, it comes with just a few packages installed (the only way to “install” new packages is to run them within a docker container).

Unfortunately this also means that when you’re first getting started, (and when you need the comfort of familiar tools the most!), you’ll not immediately be able to find any useful debugging tools. CoreOS’s solution to this is toolbox. Toolbox downloads the core-fedora-latest image which comes with a few more commands such as telnet, dig; it also allows you to install any additional tools you need with the yum package manager.

The main motivation I had for setting up a single-server CoreOS environment was to learn about the system, without immediately being overwhelmed by bringing fleet and etcd into the equation.

CoreOS is not designed to be used in a single server configuration, it’s far more at home in a cluster. It’s also far easier to configure if you’re application is essentially stateless (or has it’s state is delegated to another server).

The application I wanted to deploy was written in Ruby on Rails, and required persistent storage for image uploads, and well as requiring a MySQL database. This definitely doesn’t fit the description of what the OS was designed for, so please take this as an educational process, not a tutorial for your business-critical systems.

If you’ve not already got a server with CoreOS installed, please install it to disk using the instructions on the CoreOS site. Please note: this will completely wipe the target disk and replace its contents with a CoreOS installation!.

You’ll also want to make sure your dockerised application is in a docker registry somewhere, I’d recommend using Docker Hub - authentication is a total pain if you’re self-hosting a registry (Basic HTTP auth is the simplest option, but even that requires routing through another nginx container).

The most obvious place to start is to find out how we can do persistant data storage on a CoreOS instance. The MySQL container will require a docker volumes to be set up and attached at runtime. We’ll also need to find out if there are any parts of the system which aren’t completely wiped between upgrades.

I’ll be walking through the setup of the dockerised MySQL service in my next post.