Using GitHub Actions to publish container images to Azure Container Registry

Brendan Thompson • 11 February 2022 • 7 min read


As containers continue to explode in popularity, we need to understand how to build the containers from their manifest and push them into a registry so that our users can consume them! GitHub Actions (GHA) is an excellent choice for this process, especially if you're already storing your code on GitHub. As these days I tend to be more focused on Azure we will be using the Azure Container Registry (ACR) for the post today.

The Dockerfile#

Now that we know what we're going to look at today let's kick on!

Below I have a very simple Dockerfile that will build a go binary with a version number that is passed into the process, and then output a scratch container with our go binary in it.

FROM golang:alpine AS builder

ARG version

RUN apk update && \
    apk add --no-cache git


COPY . .

RUN go mod download && \
    CGO_ENABLED=0 go build -ldflags="-X main.Version=${version}" -o departments-api

FROM scratch

COPY --from=builder /app/departments-api /

ENTRYPOINT [ "/departments-api" ]

Setting up Secrets#

Before we create our GH workflow, we will want to set up the secrets; this process is straightforward. Make sure you have your ACR credentials on hand for this part!

  1. Click on the Settings tab in your repository

  2. On the left-hand menu, click the Secrets menu item

  3. Click on Actions that sits under Secrets, and then click New Repository Secret

  4. Add in the name and then the value of your secret, and click Add Secret

    This step will need to be completed three times for the following secrets; ACR_ENDPOINT, ACR_USERNAME, and ACR_PASSWORD.

  5. Once the secrets are all in place you should see them back on the Actions secrets page

The workflow#

Before we can set up the workflow, we need to ensure that the right directories exist within our repository for GitHub to pick up the workflow files. The first cab off the rank is to create those directories with the below command:

mkdir -p .github/workflows

Now that our directories exist let's construct the workflow and put it in the workflows directory. I will go through the workflow file piece by piece and then show it all together at the end.

Now that we have seen all the components individually, I have composed that as a complete workflow file below. You might notice that there is only a single steps in the complete workflow file. I opted to prefix each step above with the steps key to ensure you could easily see what we were talking about; however, for the final file, there must only be one.

name: Docker

    tags: ["v*.*.*"]

  IMAGE_NAME: departments-api

    name: Build container image
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - name: Checkout repository
        uses: actions/checkout@v2
      - name: Get tag
        id: tag
        uses: dawidd6/action-get-tag@v1
      - name: Log into registry
        uses: docker/login-action@v1
          registry: ${{ secrets.ACR_ENDPOINT }}
          username: ${{ secrets.ACR_USERNAME }}
          password: ${{ secrets.ACR_PASSWORD }}
      - name: Build & Push
        uses: docker/build-push-action@v2
          push: true
          build-args: |
            version=${{ steps.tag.outputs.tag }}
          tags: ${{ secrets.ACR_ENDPOINT }}/${{ env.IMAGE_NAME }}:${{ steps.tag.outputs.tag }}

Running the build#

Now we have our Dockerfile, workflow file, and GitHub secrets in place, we can run the build! Let's go through this step by step.

  1. From the main page of the repository click on Releases on the right-hand side

  2. From the releases page we are next going to click on Draft new release

  3. Click on the Choose a tag drop down

  4. Enter the new git tag name from the drop-down and click on Create new tag. In this instance we are putting in v0.4.0 as our new git tag

  5. Now, we can put in a name for the GitHub release, which usually aligns to the git tag that we previously put in; the changelog should live in the release description. Finally, click on Publish release

  6. From the page of the release that you should now be on, we can click on Actions to go and view the status of our workflow run

  7. From the Actions page, we see that our workflow has run because we published a new version!

Closing out#

We have gone through today's post; creating our Dockerfile, setting up the secrets in GitHub, setting up the workflow and the pre-requisites for workflows, and finally running the build. I would say that the build and publish process with GitHub Actions is extremely clean and very easy to get up and running. GitHub Actions is a real game-changer for CI/CD, and it is truly exciting to see where it goes in the future!

Brendan Thompson

Principal Cloud Engineer


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