Docker Container Port Mapping

Devops2 min readDecember 6, 2020

In Docker, anytime that someone makes a request to a given port on your local network, it takes that request automatically and forwards it to a port inside the container. This is only about incoming requests. The docker container can by-default make requests on its own behalf to the outside world. An example for this is when you install a dependency. So there is no limitation for outgoing requests.

Docker Port Mapping

The port forwarding is not defined inside the Dockerfile as it's strictly a run time constraint. In other words, it’s something that we only change when we run a container or start a container.

Docker Port Mapping

The docker run command initially creates a writeable container layer over the specified image, and then starts it using the specified command. We use --publish or -p flag to make a port available to services outside of Docker, or to Docker containers which are not connected to the container’s network. So this command will publish a container’s port 8080 to the host with port 4000. In the other words, considering 4000:8080, the left one is the port in host network which is your machine and the right one is the port in internal container network. If you change the port inside the container, you need to make sure that your actual application is listening to that port number.

Similarly, you can map a port inside a docker compose file. Taking hello project as an example in a compose file:

# localhost:4000 from host network - your machine
# hello:8080 from guest - internal docker network
      - 4000:8080/tcp

A dash in YML file represents an array. So we can technically map many different ports inside of a single docker compose file too for a single service or a single container.

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