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Deploying Rundeck Through Docker

  1. What Is Rundeck?
  2. Deployment Steps
    1. System Requirements
    2. Create User Authentication File
    3. Create Docker Compose File
    4. Create Env File
    5. Start Containers
    6. Set Volume Permissions
    7. Optional - Configure Nginx Reverse Proxy
  3. Administration
    1. Encrypted User Passwords
  4. References

What Is Rundeck?

I would describe Rundeck (from PagerDuty) as simply a wrapper around Ansible, to provide a web interface for running Ansible scripts (playbooks).

The Rundeck docs describe Rundeck as: "Rundeck is runbook automation that gives you and your colleagues self-service access to the processes and tools they need to get their job done.".

It appears to have a business model similar to Gitlab, in that there is a free and opensource version (which I will provide tutorials for), and there is an enterprise version you can pay for.

Deployment Steps

System Requirements

The first thing you need to do is deploy a server with at least the following specs:

  • 2 vCPU
  • More than 4 GB RAM (4GB for the Rundeck JVM alone, then there is the database on top).
  • 20 GB disk

Official docs page for system requirements.

Create User Authentication File

Before we get started, we need to set our users up. For now, just create a file called user-logins.txt...

touch user-logins.txt
editor user-logins.txt

...with the following content (be sure to change setYourPasswordHere to something else that is alphanumeric.

# This file defines users passwords and roles for a HashUserRealm
# The format is
#  <username>: <password>[,<rolename> ...]
# Passwords may be clear text, obfuscated or checksummed.
# This sets the default user accounts for the Rundeck apps

Create Docker Compose File

Using PostgreSQL as a backend, because the default without having a database backend will make use of H2, an embedded database that is not considered safe for production because it is not resilient if Rundeck is not shutdown gracefully. - source

version: '3'

    image: rundeck/rundeck:${RUNDECK_VERSION:-4.17.6}
    container_name: rundeck
      RUNDECK_DATABASE_DRIVER: org.postgresql.Driver
      RUNDECK_DATABASE_URL: jdbc:postgresql://postgres/rundeck?autoReconnect=true&useSSL=false&allowPublicKeyRetrieval=true
      RUNDECK_GRAILS_URL: ${PUBLIC_URL:-http://localhost:4440}
      - postgres
    restart: always
      - "4440:4440"
      # Create a volume for managing the authentication via a file
      - ./user-logins.txt:/home/rundeck/server/config/

      # Create an area for node definitions using files.
      - ./node-definitions:/home/rundeck/node-definitions

    image: postgres:${POSTGRES_VERSION:-15-bullseye}
    container_name: postgres
    restart: always
      - POSTGRES_DB=rundeck
      - POSTGRES_USER=rundeck
      - POSTGRES_PASSWORD=Rundeck123
      - dbdata:/var/lib/postgresql/data


The documentation for common environment variable settings can be found here.

This example docker-compose.yml file has a fixed password of Rundeck123 for the database. This is only "safe" because the database is not exposed on the host, so be sure to not change the file to expose the database ports. If you do wish to expose the database, then be sure to have changed the database password.

Create Env File

It is a good idea to now create an environment file with the following contents, making sure to fill in the PUBLIC_URL as appropriate.


# Specify the URL that you connect to Rundeck on. 
# This should include http:// or https:// at the beginning.

# Specify the dockerhub rundeck tag to use.

# Specify the Postrges dockerhub tag to use.

This allows you to upgrade the PostgreSQL and rundeck versions as and when you want by specifying specific versions. This way you will only upgrade when you are ready and know what is going on.

We specified defaults in the docker-compose.yml file which has defaults, so this step may not be strictly necessary, but would be required if you wanted to use rundeck on anything other than http://localhost:4440

Start Containers

Run the following command to start the Docker containers using the Docker compose file:

docker-compose up -d

The -d runs the containers silently in the background. Feel free to remove it, but you will need to run the command inside a session (tmux/screen) if you do.

Set Volume Permissions

After running docker compose up for the first time, we need to run the following command so that the rundeck user within the rundeck container can write to the node-definitions we created in a volume:

sudo chown 1000:1000 node-definitions

This node-definitions folder/volume will be used in later tutorials for holding details about the nodes that Rundeck will manage.

Optional - Configure Nginx Reverse Proxy

It is an extremely good idea to implement a reverse proxy with SSL termination. This way you can ensure there is an encrypted connection to your infrastructure, but you only have to manage SSL certificates on your proxy, rather than having to set up something in Rundeck. The alternative would be to set up Traefik.

Assuming that you have set up an Nginx reverse proxy. The configuration below is what you would need:

server {
    listen 80;
    access_log  /var/log/nginx/access.log;
    return 302$request_uri;

server {
    listen 443 ssl;

    access_log  /var/log/nginx/access.log;
    error_log   /var/log/nginx/error.log;

    ssl_certificate      /etc/nginx/ssl/;
    ssl_certificate_key  /etc/nginx/ssl/;

    ssl_protocols        TLSv1.2 TLSv1.3;
    ssl_ciphers RC4:HIGH:!aNULL:!MD5;
    ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
    keepalive_timeout    60;
    ssl_session_cache    shared:SSL:10m;
    ssl_session_timeout  10m;

    location / {
        include         /etc/nginx/proxy.conf;

Be sure to change to whatever your FQDN for Rundeck is. Also change to whatever the internal IP is of your Rundeck server, and check the SSL certificate paths. I'll leave the SSL certificate generation to you. I have a lot of tutorials on using AcmePHP or Certbot to generate certificates from Let's Encrypt.


If you configured a reverse proxy as shown above, then you should now be able to access Rundeck on the domain you specified in the proxy. If not, then you will need to go to the IP address or domain of the server (which might just be localhost), and with port 4440. For example:

You will be shown a login screen. You can login with the admin user and the password you specified earlier when creating the user authentication file.

Once you have logged in successfully, you should see the dashboard like so:

That's it! You now have a fully deployed Rundeck server. I will cover how to use Rundeck in future tutorials.


Encrypted User Passwords

If you want to add another user, one simply needs to add another line for the user in the user logins file we created earlier. However, we probably want to use encrypted passwords. We can do this by running the following command:

docker exec -it rundeck java -jar /home/rundeck/rundeck.war --encryptpwd Jetty

This will prompt us to enter a username and "text to encrypt" (password). The following is an example of me creating a foo user with password bar:

We can then use any of those lines, as the password entry for the credentials file. E.g. in the screenshot below, we have used the BCRYPT option:

The docs recommend you use the BCRYPT option and none of the others.

Unfortunately, after each time you change the user credentials file, you need to restart Rundeck for the changes to take effect.

docker restart rundeck


Last updated: 24th April 2024
First published: 20th February 2023