Control Docker containers from within container

This is a short note on how to make a container access and control another container on the same host. The trick is to have the “controller” container map the host’s docker.sock into the container.

On the host, query the uid and gid of the user which is executing containers:

$ id fredrik
uid=1026(fredrik) gid=100(users) groups=100(users),10(wheel)

The Dockerfile:

FROM centos:7

RUN yum update -y && yum install -y \
                     libtool-ltdl && \
    yum clean all

# use the uid, gid previously queried
RUN useradd -u 1026 -g 100 fredrik

# tail -f /dev/null will cause the container to just keep running without exiting
ENTRYPOINT chown -R fredrik:users /var/run/docker.sock && \
           tail -f /dev/null

Build the image, run the container:

$ su fredrik

$ docker build . -t container-controller:1.0

$ docker run --detach --restart="always" \
--name="controller" \
--hostname controller \
-v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
-v /usr/bin/docker:/usr/bin/docker \

From within the now running container “controller”, you can execute e.g. docker exec commands, which will control another container running on the same host but normally would not be accessible by the controller container. The example below will show all the running containers on the host, but from within the “controller” container:

$ su fredrik

# run 'docker ps' inside the controller container,
# which actually does not have docker installed,
# and instead runs 'docker ps' on the host!
$ docker exec controller docker ps

You can now perform any docker command on the host’s containers but from within the running container!

For more goodies on docker.sock, see here:


Please note that this could be a security issue when in production! Don’t use this unless you know what you are doing.