Multiple Containers, Same Port, no Reverse Proxy

Disclaimer: In 2021, there is still a place for simple setups with just one machine serving all traffic. So, no Kubernetes and no cloud load balancers in this post. Just good old Docker and Podman.

Even when you have just one physical or virtual server, it's often a good idea to run multiple instances of your application on it. Luckily, when the application is containerized, it's actually relatively simple. With multiple application containers, you get horizontal scaling and a much-needed redundancy for a very little price. Thus, if there is a sudden need for handling more requests, you can adjust the number of containers accordingly. And if one of the containers dies, there are others to handle its traffic share, so your app isn't a SPOF anymore.

The tricky part here is how to expose such a multi-container application to the clients. Multiple containers mean multiple listening sockets. But most of the time, clients just want to have a single point of entry.

Benefits of exposing multiple Docker containers on the same port

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Exploring Go net/http Package - On How Not To Set Socket Options

Go standard library makes it super easy to start an HTTP server:

package main

import "net/http"

func main() {
    http.HandleFunc("/", func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
        w.Write([]byte("Hello there!\n"))
    })

    http.ListenAndServe(":8080", nil)
}

...or send an HTTP request:

package main

import "net/http"

func main() {
    resp, err := http.Get("http://example.com/")
    body, err := io.ReadAll(resp.Body)
}

In just ~10 lines of code, I can get a server up and running or fetch a real web page! In contrast, creating a basic HTTP server in C would take hundreds of lines, and anything beyond basics would require third-party libraries.

The Go snippets from above are so short because they rely on powerful high-level abstractions of the net and net/http packages. Go pragmatically chooses to optimize for frequently used scenarios, and its standard library hides many internal socket details behind these abstractions, making lots of default choices on the way. And that's very handy, but...

What if I need to fine-tune net/http sockets before initiating the communication? For instance, how can I set some socket options like SO_REUSEPORT or TCP_QUICKACK?

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Writing Web Server in Python: sockets

What is a web server?

Let's start by answering the question: What is a web server?

First off, it's a server (no pun intended). A server is a process [sic] serving clients. Surprisingly or not, a server has nothing to do with hardware. It's just a regular piece of software run by an operating system. Like most other programs around, a server gets some data on its input, transforms data in accordance with some business logic, and then produces some output data. In the case of a web server, the input and output happen over the network via Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). For a web server, the input consists of HTTP requests from its clients - web browsers, mobile applications, IoT devices, or even other web services. And the output consists of HTTP responses, oftentimes in form of HTML pages, but other formats are also supported.

Client talking to server over network

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