Interacting with a database, can be a regular task of a developer, and for that we would like to ensure that we are developing and testing in situations close to a real implementation; therefore, using the same database as in production can help detecting issues early.
However, setting up an entire database server for development, can be
cumbersome. Hopefully nowadays, modern operating systems like
great tools and features that we could take advantage of.
In particular, I would like to setup a simple database locally using docker, and storing the data in memory.
First, we get the image of
PostgresSQL according to the platform, for example:
docker pull fedora/postgresql
Then, I could create a
tmpfs, for the data and mount it
Now we could run the database container using this directory:
The first line indicates the name for the container we are running (if is not
specified, docker will put a default one); the second line is the important
one, since it is what makes the mapping of directories, meaning that will map
the directory for the
tmpfs on the host, mounted as
inside the container (the target). The later directory is the one
PostgreSQL uses by default for initializing and storing the data of the
Z at the end of the mapping is an internal detail for
flagging that directory in case
SELinux is enabled, so it will not fail due
to a permissions errors (because containers run as another user, and we are
mounting something that might be out of that scope) 3.
The rest of the three lines, are environment variables that docker will use for
the initialization of the database (they are optional, and defaults will be
used, in case they are not provided). Then follows the port mapping, which in
this case indicates to map the port
5432 inside the container to the same
one on the host. And finally, the name of the
docker image we will run.
Once this is running, it would look like we have an actual instance of
PostgreSQL up and running on our machine (actually we do, but it is inside
a container :-), so we can connect with any client (even a
For example, if we want to use the
psql client with the container, the
command would be:
If we have
PostgreSQL installed, we could simply start a new instance as
our user with the command (
postgres ...) and pass the
-D parameter with
the desired path where the database is going to store the data (which will be the
ramdisk). This would be another way of achieving the same.
Regardless the implementations, here are some potential applications:
Local development without requiring disk storage, and running faster at the same time.
Unit testing: unit tests should be fast, granted. Sometimes, it makes perfect sense to run the tests against an actual database (practicality beats purity), even if this makes them “integration/functional” tests. In this regard, having a lightweight database container running locally could achieve the goal without compromising performance.
Isolation: (this only applies for the container approach), running
dockercontainer, encapsulates the libraries, tools, packages, etc. in
docker, so the rest of the system does not have to maintain much other packages installed. Think of if as a sort of “virtual environment” for packages.
All in all, I think it’s an interesting approach, worth considering, at least to have alternatives when working in projects that require intense interaction with the database.