Statically Compiled Go on Alibaba Cloud Container Service

The third prize of the Alibaba Cloud competition goes to David Banham. His winning entry is a succinct tutorial on statically compiling a Go program, and using Docker to containerize and distribute it.

Alibaba Cloud’s Container Service is a great example of how Docker and Kubernetes are revolutionising the cloud landscape. The curmudgeons will rail that it’s all still just some software running on someone else’s computer, but the transformative difference is that k8s and Docker provide what is effectively a platform-agnostic management API. If you build your DevOps pipelines against k8s you have the lowest possible switching friction between AWS, Google Cloud, Azure and Alibaba. The closer we can get to the dream of write once, run anywhere, the better!

Another tool I love for enhancing software portability is the Go language. Cross compilation in Go is as easy as falling off a log. I develop software on my Linux laptop and in the blink of an eye I can have binaries built for Windows, OSX, WASM, etc! Here’s the Makefile snippet I use to do it:

name = demo

PLATFORMS := linux/amd64 windows/amd64 linux/arm darwin/amd64

temp = $(subst /, ,$@)
os = $(word 1, $(temp))
arch = $(word 2, $(temp))

release:

make -l inner_release

inner_release: $(PLATFORMS)

$(PLATFORMS):
@-mkdir -p ../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)
@-rm ../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)/*
GOOS=$(os) GOARCH=$(arch) go build -o '../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)/$(name) .
@chmod +x ../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)/$(name)
@if [ $(os) = windows ]; then mv ../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)/$(name) ../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)/$(name).exe; fi
zip --junk-paths ../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)/$(name)$(os)-$(arch).zip ../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)/*
@if [ $(os) = windows ]; then cp ../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)/$(name).exe ../web/api/clients/$(os)-$(arch)/$(name); fi

Neat! That will get you a tidy little binary that will run on your target operating systems. Even that is overkill if you’re targeting a Docker host like Cloud Container Service. All you need to do there is just GOOS=linux GOARCH=amd64 go build and you’re done! Then, you just need to choose your favorite Linux distribution and build that into the Dockerfile.

What if we wanted to simplify our lives even further, though? What if we could do away with the Linux distribution entirely?

Go supports the compilation of statically linked binaries. That means we can write code that doesn’t rely on any external DLLs at all. Observe this magic Dockerfile:

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