Wait for Docker Container

Vinicius Negrisolo Vinicius Negrisolo Docker

You may have some docker 🐳 containers 📦 to start your app but there are some startup order to be followed. You are probably using a solution such as docker-compose and wonder why they don’t have this implemented yet? On this blog post I’ll present my solution for this problem, a very simple shell script for waiting a container.

The Problem

In case you are using a docker-compose tool and you have at least 2 containers to run, let’s say a database and your web app, you will want to start your database first and then start the web app. On Docker startup order documentation pages they talk about this problem and the solution is outside of docker code.

I have read this article and following the references I found this nice solution. I started with this one but very quickly I had to change it to adapt to my own goals.

The Solution

So after changing a little bit I got to a good point and I’d like to share this.

I’d like to run this script simple as:

./wait-for -t=5 pg_dev:5432 -t=10 api.dev:3000

In this case the script will wait for pg_dev:5432 for up to 5 seconds and in parallel it will wait for api.dev:3000 for up to 10 seconds.

I put some effort to make this very simple but with some nice features as:

  • multiple host:port tuples
  • separate timeouts per host:port tuples
  • parallel waiting
  • stdout logging

So here it is:


log() {
  echo "[wait-for] [`date +'%Y%m%d%H%M%S'`] $@"

usage() {
  echo "Usage: `basename "$0"` [--timeout=15] <HOST>:<PORT> [<HOST_2>:<PORT_2>]"

unknown_arg() {
  log "[ERROR] unknown argument: '$@'"
  exit 2

wait_for() {
  timeout=$1 && host=$2 && port=$3
  log "wait '$host':'$port' up to '$timeout'"
  for i in `seq $timeout` ; do
    if nc -z "$host" "$port" > /dev/null 2>&1 ; then
      log "wait finish '$host:$port' [`expr $(date +%s) - $START`] seconds"
      exit 0
    log "wait attempt '${host}:${port}' [$i]"
    sleep 1
  log "[ERROR] wait timeout of '$timeout' on '$host:$port'"
  exit 1

trap 'kill $(jobs -p) &>/dev/null' EXIT

START=$(date +%s)
for i in $@ ; do
  case $i in
    --timeout=*) timeout="${i#*=}" ;;
    -t=*) timeout="${i#*=}" ;;
    *:* )
      wait_for "$timeout" "${i%%:*}" "${i##*:}" &
      pids="$pids $!"
    *) unknown_arg "$i" ;;

for pid in $pids; do
  if ! wait $pid ; then

log "wait done with status=$status"
exit $status

This script depends on nc netcat to run and I tested on alpine linux and on macOS. You may have to change this command if you want to run on a different linux distribution. You may want to add this script file into for example /usr/local/bin.

I created this github wait-for repo to keep it as it may be very reused.

Usage example

Regarding how would you use it in a docker-compose.yml file I have this simple example:

# docker-compose.yml
version: "3"
    build: .
    command: >
      sh -c 'bin/wait-for pg_dev:5432 &&
             bundle exec rails server'
      - "3000:3000"
      - pg_dev

    image: postgres
      - "5432:5432"

I prefer to use the wait-for script on the begining of the command instruction as it becomes more intuitive, also you want want to run different commands that does not need to perform the wait-for action, such as run some static code analysis or a code lint. For similar reasons I avoid to use entrypoint for that.

It seems that a docker-compose.yml file is a perfect place to add configuration for execution time. All dependencies will be there in that file, so it’s easy to make references from each other and wait-for them when necessary.

I started the command: > value with the > mark because I’d like to set my configuration in multiple lines in this yaml file for better readability.

Finally I had to use sh -c '...' in order to run multiple shell commands - one per line.


I hope that docker includes a proper solution on their side as this seems to be a spread need in the community. Meanwhile this does not happen I am happy to keep this repo. The solution was simple and then easy to maintain.

If you have any ideas on how to make it better please get in touch.


Read also:

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Github commits dis-order Git

Have you ever noticed that sometimes Github lists your commits in a weird order? I’d say disordered. Was that a bug? Or was that a feature? Was that the developer fault? Should we blame git rebase? All these questions and a hacky trick as an alternative solution.