In 2020, Docker announced support for multi-architecture images, and later, Docker BuildKit officially supported multi-architecture images. This article introduces how to use Drone CI/CD with Docker BuildKit to compile multi-architecture images, and this feature is free and does not require a paid Docker Hub account. However, the Drone Docker Plugin provided by Drone CI/CD does not currently support multi-architecture images, so you need to write your own Drone Pipeline to achieve our goal. The official website has also proposed this proposal: ‘Support cross-arch Docker builds within Docker using QEMU’ to achieve this goal, using QEMU. The key point is to use Docker BuildKit to complete it under the environment where the Host supports Qemu.
QEMU (Quick Emulator) is an emulator that can simulate different CPU architectures such as x86, ARM, MIPS, PowerPC, and more. This allows running images of ARM architecture on an x86 host. QEMU also supports multi-architecture image compilation with Docker BuildKit. Therefore, we can use Docker BuildKit to compile multi-architecture images on an x86 host.
The primary purpose of QEMU is to provide virtualization between different environments. It can run multiple different virtual machines on a single host, with each virtual machine running different operating systems and applications. It can also be used as a tool for software development and testing since it can simulate different environments, allowing developers to test on different operating systems and hardware.
Another feature of QEMU is that it can run on various platforms, including Linux, Windows, and Mac OS. It provides a command-line interface and a graphical user interface, making it easy to use and set up.
How QEMU Works
The operation of QEMU can be summarized in three steps:
QEMU simulates virtual hardware such as the virtual Central Processing Unit (CPU), memory, network card, display card, etc. It creates a virtual machine by simulating these hardware components.
When the virtual machine runs, QEMU reads the code and translates it into native code that can be executed on the host. This process is called Dynamic Binary Translation or Just-in-time Compilation.
Interaction between Host and Virtual Machine
QEMU allows communication between the virtual machine and the host, including network communication and storage access. It also provides some features such as snapshot, replay, streaming transmission, etc., to manage and monitor virtual machines.
Overall, QEMU realizes virtualization by simulating virtual hardware, translating code, and interacting with the host. This makes it possible to run multiple different virtual machines on a single host, while providing a convenient way to develop and test.
GitHub Actions Support Qemu
If you are using GitHub Actions to build Docker images, Docker provides related Actions for quick use, such as docker/build-push-action. This Action can help you quickly build Docker images and support multi-architecture images without requiring a paid Docker Hub account.
As can be seen from the above code, you need to use docker/setup-qemu-action to set up Qemu, then use docker/setup-buildx-action to set up Docker Buildx, and finally use docker/build-push-action to build the image.
Use Drone CI/CD
If you are using Drone CI/CD to build Docker images, the Drone official website also provides related plugins that can be used quickly, such as plugins/docker. This plugin can help you quickly build Docker images, but the official website does not provide support for multi-architecture images, so we need to implement it ourselves. However, as can be seen from this comment, there is an open-source project called thegeeklab/drone-docker-buildx that can be used directly. This project is based on docker/buildx, so it can be used directly. The relevant usage documentation can be found here.
Please note that you must open privileged permission before using it, otherwise an error will occur.
Also, before running Docker build, you need to run this command on the host to install all the platforms you want to support (please run it on the Runner machine):
Please mark the project as Trusted in the Drone CI project setting page.
Then, you can use docker BuildKit to compile multi-architecture images in .drone.yml:
Usually, we can use the auto_tag parameter directly, so we don’t have to manually modify the version number every time, for example:
Upload to ECR
Please refer to the YAML example below and note that it uses the
The following is a reference image of the compilation process: