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Docker – Managing Ports

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Pre-requisites: Docker 

Docker is a set of platform-as-a-service products that use OS-level virtualization to deliver software in packages called containers. These containers may need to talk to each other or to services outside docker, for this we not only need to run the image but also expose the container’s port and make it accessible by other services or containers which are on a different network.

Note: If you need to run docker as the root user, please remember to prepend sudo to the commands. 

Let us now see how we manage ports in Docker.

Pulling Image From Docker Hub:

Docker Hub is a hosted repository service provided by Docker for finding and sharing container images. You can host your own images on Docker Hub, but we will use the official Nginx repository to pull images of Nginx which is an open-source reverse proxy server. An official image on docker has an official image tag.

Docker Official Image


This repository has all the information regarding the Nginx image and how we can use it. On the top right corner, we see a docker pull command specifying how to pull the image to our computer.

Docker Pull Command


Step 1. Use the command to pull the Nginx image.

$ docker pull nginx


Ngnix Image


Running A Container From The Pulled Image:

When we run a container using the docker run command, it does not publish any of its ports to the outside world. To expose our container port to services outside of Docker, or to containers that are not in the same network as our container, use the –publish or -p flag. 

A typical example of –publish flag:

$ docker run -p 8080:80 --name webhost -d nginx

Let us break this command to understand better:

  1. Docker run Nginx:  will start the container from the Nginx image.
  2. -p 8080:80:  will map TCP port 80 in the container to port 8080 on the Docker host.
  3. –name webhost:  will name our container webhost, if not specified docker will give it a random name.
  4. -d:  flag will run docker in a detached mode that is,  in the background.
Port Mapping


How To Know Which Port Is Exposed?

The one question which still remains is, how will we know which port in the container should we map our computers port to? Usually, this detail is provided on the image repository or using the inspect command.

  • Go to the Nginx repository on the docker hub and try to locate the expose port section:
Image Repository


  • Using the docker inspect command:
$ docker inspect nginx

This will list all configurations of the Nginx image, from where we can locate the ExposedPort property.

Docker Inspect Nginx


Step 2:  This data can be filtered out using the –format flag:

$ docker inspect --format="{{.ContainerConfig.ExposedPorts}}" nginx
Docker Inspect format Nginx


Step 3:  Now that we know for sure that Nginx runs on TCP port 80 inside the container’s virtual network. We can use the docker run command.

$ docker run -p 8080:80 --name webhost -d nginx
Docker run Image


 Step 4: Verify if Nginx is running on port 8080:

Welcome to Nginx


Ping Nginx in localhost


Creating And Exposing Local Containers:

Well, this was easy, let us create a local docker image for a react app and publish its port:

Step1: For this, I am using a simple react application. Let us initialize the react application first:

$ npx create-react-app gfg


If you don’t have NodeJs installed you can clone a react app project from GitHub.

Step 2:  Create A Dockerfile file in the root directory of the project. Create a Dockerfile named file in your project’s root directory and paste this:

# pull official base image
FROM node:13.12.0-alpine

# set working directory

# add `/app/node_modules/.bin` to $PATH
ENV PATH /app/node_modules/.bin:$PATH

# install app dependencies
COPY package.json ./
COPY package-lock.json ./
RUN npm install --silent
RUN npm install react-scripts@3.4.1 -g --silent

# add app
COPY . ./

# can be skipped

# start app
CMD ["npm", "start"]

Step 3. Build An Image.

$ docker build -t basic-react-app .
Docker build image


Step 4. Run the Image:.$ docker inspect –format=”{{.ContainerConfig.ExposedPorts}}” basic-react-app

$ docker run -p 3000:3000 -d  basic-react-app

This step will need a little explanation. Ours react app runs on port 3000 inside the container -p 3000:3000 maps this port to the host port.


Step 5. Verify in your browser



This was all about managing ports in Docker.

Last Updated : 30 Mar, 2023
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