Packaging Redis for Windows Containers

While I was porting the Docker Voting App to Windows Containers I hit a stumbling block - there was no official image for Redis on Windows. I've ported several images to Windows so set about creating a new Dockerfile. Here's how I did it.

Before we begin make sure you are running up updated edition of Windows 10 pro/enterprise or Windows 2016 Server with Docker installed.

Are you familiar with redis?

Redis is an in-memory database that persists on disk. The data model is key-value, but many different kind of values are supported: Strings, Lists, Sets, Sorted Sets, Hashes.

Pick a Base image

There are two options for base images: Windows Server Core or Windows Nano Server. Nano server is being pitched as Microsoft's brand-new re-designed operating system - fully 64-bit with a stripped down PowerShell.

Nano also has no support for MSI files - the Microsoft Installer format.

FROM microsoft/windowsservercore  

Nano Server makes downloading and expanding a file a lengthy and complicated process (around 15-20 lines) where as the traditional PowerShell has various Commandlets such as Invoke-Webrequest to make the complicated simple.

While we are at it - let's set the default shell from cmd to powershell:

SHELL ["powershell"]  

MSI or not to MSI?

Many Windows users are used to MSI files - they tend to include everything to configure a package and provide a way of removing it cleanly after at a later date. It is the de facto installation format and nearly all software is distributed this way.

I started off by creating a new Dockerfile - downloading the Redis MSI package and then running in the installation. Because the installation has to be run in silent we miss the fact that Redis also configures a system service overriding any custom configuration.

After an hour or so of struggling to find out why my custom config was being ignored I found out about the Windows service. The upshot was that I downloaded and expanded a zip file instead. Luckily one was available officially.


The MSOpenTech project provides a binary for Windows. There is a link to this project from if you want to check it out. On Linux the binary can be built easily and/or installed from a distribution's package manager such as apt-get.

RUN $ErrorActionPreference = 'Stop'; \  
    wget -OutFile ; \
    Expand-Archive -dest 'C:\\Program Files\\Redis\\' ; \
    Remove-Item -Force

Here I optimise things by going multi-line with the ; \ separator. I download the file, expand the archive then delete the original archive.

Now we set the PATH variable so that we can launch the redis executables without having to specify the whole path:

RUN setx PATH '%PATH%;C:\\Program Files\\Redis\\'  
WORKDIR 'C:\\Program Files\\Redis\\'  

Turning off Protected Mode

For ease of use I needed to turn off the protected mode setting that secures the application but makes things hard during development.

So where is sed on Windows?

Just like before I try to use a single layer to reduce the push/download/extract time. This is as close to sed as I could get:

Get-Content | Where { $_ -notmatch 'bind' } | Set-Content redis.openport.conf  

The above deletes all lines in the file which doesn't match a bind to localhost. The net effect is that all devices will be bound - i.e. the Docker 172.x adapter.

# Change to unprotected mode and open the daemon to listen on all interfaces.
RUN Get-Content | Where { $_ -notmatch 'bind' } | Set-Content redis.openport.conf ; \  
  Get-Content redis.openport.conf | Where { $_ -notmatch 'protected-mode yes' } | Set-Content redis.unprotected.conf ; \
  Add-Content redis.unprotected.conf 'protected-mode no' ; \
  Add-Content redis.unprotected.conf 'bind' ; \
  Get-Content redis.unprotected.conf

Expose the TCP port

This instruction matches the Docker for Linux experience and is one of the easiest lines to add.

EXPOSE 6379  

Finding a CMD

So here I start the redis-server executable specifying the port and config file. This process goes into the background so I've created a sleep-loop to keep the container running.

CMD .\\redis-server.exe .\\redis.unprotected.conf --port 6379 ; \  
    Write-Host Redis Started... ; \
    while ($true) { Start-Sleep -Seconds 3600 }

Trying it out

The new redis image containers the redis-server and redis-cli executables this means we can use the same image as the server and client. You can also use a Linux client or application library.

The final Dockerfile is available here:

As a server

$ docker run --name redis-server -d -p 6379:6379 alexellisio/redis-windows:3.2

As a CLI

On Windows 10 you will need to find the IP address of the redis-server container. On Windows Server port 6379 will be mapped to your host.

$ docker inspect redis-server
IP address:

$ docker run --name redis-cli -ti alexellisio/redis-windows:3.2 .\\redis-cli.exe -h

There may be additional tweaks and changes needed to make this production-ready. There may even be some inspiration we could draw from the officially maintained Linux image.

Do you have any other tips or tricks for packaging software in Windows Containers? I've submitted a PR to the Docker project and subject to feedback the Redis will be officially available for Windows soon.

See also:

Follow up by checking out my Windows-Containers and .NET series:

Alex Ellis

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