NGINX Agent in a Container Environment

Learn how to use the NGINX Agent in a containerized environment.

Container Support

The NGINX Agent is a companion daemon for NGINX Open Source or NGINX Plus instances and must run in the same container to work. The NGINX Agent repository includes Dockerfiles that can be used to build custom container images. Images are created with an NGINX Open Source or NGINX Plus instance and are available for various Operating Systems.

The NGINX Agent bundled with NGINX Open Source Dockerfiles is available for the following base images:

  • Alma Linux (8, 9)
  • Alpine (3.14, 3.15, 3.16, 3.17)
  • Amazon Linux (2)
  • Oracle Linux (7, 8, 9)
  • Rocky Linux (8, 9)
  • Ubuntu (18.04, 20.04, 22.04)

The NGINX Agent bundled with NGINX Plus Dockerfiles is available for the following base images:

  • Alpine Linux (3.13, 3.14, 3.15, 3.16)
  • Amazon Linux (2)
  • CentOS (7)
  • Debian (bullseye-slim, buster-slim)
  • Oracle Linux (7, 8)
  • RHEL (7, 8, 9)
  • SUSE (sles12sp5, sle15)
  • Ubuntu (18.04, 20.04, 22.04)

Clone the NGINX Agent Repository

Using your preferred method, clone the NGINX Agent repository into your development directory. See Cloning a GitHub Repository for additional help.

Use the following command to clone the repository using the HTTPS method.

git clone
cd agent

Prepare your Environment

To build container images using scripts available in the NGINX Agent repository, you will need to install several packages. The steps outlined in this document provide installation instructions for distributions that use the apt package manager (for example, for Debian, Ubuntu, etc.). For installations on other operating systems, please refer to the documentation within each prerequisite package. In some cases, it may help to update package source lists in your operating system before proceeding.

sudo apt update

Install make Package

Start by installing the make package, which will enable you to execute build targets within the Makefile included in the NGINX Agent source code repository.

sudo apt install make

Install a Container Engine

A container engine will enable you to build images and run containers. NGINX Agent supports the Docker and Podman container engines. You will need to install the container engine that you plan to use. Most examples in this document are provided using the Docker container engine, with the exception of example under the Rootless Containers section.

To install the Docker engine run the following command:

sudo apt install

To install the Podman engine run the following command:

sudo apt install podman

Build Container Images

Dockerfiles defining container images are located in the NGINX Agent Github repository. Note that docker build commands must be run from the repository’s root directory. The NGINX Agent repository provides Makefile targets simplifying the image-building process. On some Operating Systems, make commands must be executed with root privileges (running them with sudo).

Build Images with NGINX Agent and NGINX Open Source

Prior to building an NGINX Agent bundled with NGINX Open Source image, an NGINX Agent binary must be built or downloaded.

You can download an appropriate binary from NGINX Agent Releases on GitHub. Copy the binary to the [PATH_TO_NGINX_AGENT_SRC_ROOT]/build directory. If the directory doesn’t exist, you’ll need to create it. This is done automatically when choosing to build the binary from source.

The following command produces an Ubuntu base image. Setting the PACKAGE_NAME environment variable is not necessary if you built the binary from source. When using a downloaded binary, do not include the extension of the package file name in the environment variable definition. Example PACKAGE_NAME=nginx-agent-2.26.2.jammy_amd64.


To build the image using a different base image, replace the values for OS_RELEASE and OS_VERSION with the options from the following table:

almalinux 8, 9
alpine 3.14, 3.15, 3.16, 3.17
amazonlinux 2
oraclelinux 7, 8, 9
rockylinux 8, 9
ubuntu 18.04, 20.04, 22.04

For example, to build an image for RockyLinux 9, use the following command. Replace OS_VERSION=9 with the desired version tag. See Supported Tags for version options.


Optional: Rather than specifying PACKAGE_NAME or OS_RELEASE on the command line, you may set these environment variables directly by editing the Makefile.

Build Images with NGINX Agent and NGINX Plus

Building an NGINX Agent bundled with NGINX Plus image requires an NGINX Plus license. NGINX Plus licenses are provided as .crt and .key files and must be renamed to nginx-repo.crt and nginx-repo.key, respectively. Begin by creating the build directory under the NGINX Agent source root directory ([PATH_TO_NGINX_AGENT_SRC_ROOT]/build).

In the NGINX Agent source root, run the following command:

mkdir build
mkdir build/certs

Copy the license and key files into the [PATH_TO_NGINX_AGENT_SRC_ROOT]/build/certs directory.

cp [PATH_TO_LICENSE_CRT] build/certs/nginx-repo.crt
cp [PATH_TO_LICENSE_KEY] build/certs/nginx-repo.key

From the NGINX Agent source root directory, run the following command to build the image with an Ubuntu 22.04 LTS base

make image

To build the image using a different base image, substitute values for OS_RELEASE and OS_VERSION from the following table:

amazonlinux 2
ubuntu 18.04, 20.04, 22.04
debian bullseye-slim, buster-slim
centos 7
redhatenterprise 7, 8, 9
alpine 3.13, 3.14, 3.15, 3.16
oraclelinux 7, 8
suse sles12sp5, sle15

Rootless Containers

NGINX Agent images can be built and run as rootless containers, which run without root privileges to the host Operating System.

To build a Podman image with an Ubuntu 22.04 base, execute the following command from the NGINX Agent source root directory. Altering the OS_RELEASE and OS_VERSION variables with values from the table above will build images using other supported Operating Systems.

CONTAINER_CLITOOL=podman make image

Unprivileged Containers

Certain system architectures, like F5 Distributed Cloud and OpenShift, require that processes run in containers that don’t allow root privileges. Dockerfiles in the NGINX Agent repository can be modified to support such environments.

Modify Dockerfile to Support Unprivileged Use

To modify a Dockerfile to run NGINX and NGINX Agent in an unprivileged manner, paste the following RUN directly below the Dockerfile’s primary RUN statement.

RUN sed -i 's,listen       80,listen       8080,' /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf \
    && sed -i '/user  nginx;/d' /etc/nginx/nginx.conf \
    && sed -i 's,/var/run/,/tmp/,' /etc/nginx/nginx.conf \
    && sed -i "/^http {/a \    proxy_temp_path /tmp/proxy_temp;\n    client_body_temp_path /tmp/client_temp;\n    fastcgi_temp_path /tmp/fastcgi_temp;\n    uwsgi_temp_path /tmp/uwsgi_temp;\n    scgi_temp_path /tmp/scgi_temp;\n" /etc/nginx/nginx.conf \
    && chown -R nginx:nginx /var/cache/nginx \
    && chmod -R go+rw /var/cache/nginx \
    && chown -R nginx:nginx /etc/nginx \
    && chmod -R go+rw /etc/nginx \
    && chown -R nginx:nginx /var/log/nginx \
    && chmod -R go+rw /var/log/nginx \
    && chown -R nginx:nginx /var/run/nginx-agent \
    && chmod -R go+w /var/run/nginx-agent \
    && ln -sf /dev/stdout /var/log/nginx-agent/agent.log

This command alters the Dockerfile in the following ways:

  1. Changes the listen port from 80 to 8080.
  2. Removes the user nginx; directive from nginx.conf.
  3. Moves the file from /var/run to /tmp.
  4. Moves all nginx temporary directories from /var/run to /tmp.
  5. Changes ownership and read/write permissions for several directories that NGINX and NGINX Agent need to write to.
  6. Links the agent.log file to stdout, while allowing access.log and error.log to stay in /var/log/nginx to be read by NGINX Agent.

Standalone NGINX Unprivileged Dockerfiles

Standalone NGINX (Without NGINX Agent) unprivileged container images can be built using Dockerfiles available in this GitHub repository.

Configure NGINX Agent

Once you have successfully built the image, you need to run a container to configure NGINX Agent.

docker run -d --name nginx-agent-container <NAME-OF-PACKAGE>

Once your container is running, follow the steps in our Install and Configure guide.

Supported Environments

Images built with NGINX Agent Dockerfiles can run in the following container environments:

  • containerd
  • CRI-O

Container Metrics

To collect container-related metrics, NGINX Agent uses available cgroup files to calculate statistics like CPU and memory usage.

Supported cgroups

NGINX Agent supports both versions of cgroups.

Unsupported Metrics

The following system metrics are not supported in container environments. NGINX Agent returns no values for these metrics when run within a container.

  • system.cpu.idle
  • system.cpu.iowait
  • system.cpu.stolen
  • system.mem.buffered
  • system.load.1
  • system.load.5
  • system.load.15
  • system.disk.used
  • system.disk.in_use

Memory Metrics

If no memory limit is set when starting a container, the memory limit shown in metrics for the container will equal the total memory of the host system.

Swap Memory Metrics

If a warning message similar to the following is seen in the NGINX Agent logs, the swap memory limit for the container is greater than the swap memory for the host system:

Swap memory limit specified for the container, ... is greater than the host system swap memory ...

The metric for the container matches the total swap memory in the host system instead of the swap memory limit specified when starting the container.

If a warning message similar to the following example is seen in the NGINX Agent logs, the host system does not have cgroup swap limit capabilities enabled.

Unable to collect Swap metrics because the file ... was not found

When using Docker, follow these steps to enable swap memory metrics:

Check if cgroup swap limit capabilities are enabled:

$ docker info | grep swap
WARNING: No swap limit support

Enable cgroup swap limit capabilities by referring to this guide.