Running a Multi-container (Spring Boot and PostgreSQL) Application with Docker Compose

August 3, 2021

Container technology has streamlined how we build, test and deploy software from our local environment to on-premise data centers and the cloud.

With the benefit of building applications with container technology, manually starting and stopping each container becomes tedious as we build multi-container applications.

Docker Compose is a tool used in defining and running multi-container Docker applications. We use Docker Compose to replace the run commands that are repeatedly run on each container in a multi-container application.

Using Docker Compose, we can simplify the running of multi-container applications to as little as two commands; docker-compose up and docker-compose down.


In this tutorial, you’ll learn how Docker Compose makes it easier to configure and run multiple Docker containers in a local environment. For demo purposes, this tutorial will use a Spring Boot and PostgreSQL container.


  • Basic knowledge of Spring Boot, Git, and the terminal.
  • Basic understanding of Docker and Docker Compose installed - see guide here.
  • A Java IDE - In this tutorial, we will use IntelliJ Idea, but you can use any IDE of your choice.
  • Postman - Postman is an API client used by developers to create, test, document, and share APIs. Download it here

Setting up a Spring Boot project

To start, clone this Spring Boot project from Github. It’s a blog REST API you will use to Create and Retrieve blog posts in the PostgreSQL database you’re going to create.

If you are not familiar with how to clone a Github repository, click here for detailed instructions.

The blog API has just the following endpoints:

Endpoints Functionality
POST /posts Create a new post
GET /posts List all todos

After cloning, in the project directory, go to the file in the src/main/resources/ directory to configure the API data source.

BlogAPI project directory structure showing file

In the file add:


The above configuration tells Spring Boot that the data source will be PostgreSQL using PostgreSQL’s specific driver.

Typically, when setting up a Spring Boot project that connects to a data source, we use configurations similar to the one shown below in the project’s file:


The above configurations will give Spring Boot access to a PostgreSQL database. In this article, you will set up the above configurations with a docker-compose.yml file.

Next, we will dockerize the Spring Boot project.

Dockerize the Spring Boot project

To dockerize a Spring Boot project, you need to generate a JAR (Java ARchive) file, which packages the entire project into one file.

Navigate to the project dependency declaration (pom.xml) file. In the build profile of the file, add a finalName:


To generate the JAR file run:

$ mvn install -DskipTests

The addition of -DskipTests tells maven to skip testing the application state because the project is yet to connect to the specified data source. If you run just $ mvn install, there will be a build failure caused by the PostgreSQL driver.

You can find the JAR file in the target/ directory of the project.

Now create a Dockerfile in your project directory to build a Docker image that you will run as a container.

In the Dockerfile, add:

FROM openjdk:11
ADD target/blog-api-docker.jar blog-api-docker.jar
ENTRYPOINT ["java", "-jar","blog-api-docker.jar"]

The above Dockerfile tells Docker to build the specified JAR file in the target directory off openjdk:11 base image and EXPOSE port 8080. You can now build the Docker image.

In the project directory, run:

$ docker build -t blog-api-docker.jar .

You can run the Spring Boot project Docker image using docker run, which will start a Docker container from the image. But remember, we want to use Docker Compose to start up all the project services (containers).

To learn more about dockerizing Spring Boot projects, check this article out.

Now that you’ve dockerized the Spring Boot project, you will need to define a Docker Compose docker-compose.yml file. This file will have a configuration to create a PostgreSQL database in a Docker container and connect it to the container of the Spring Boot project to run as a multi-container application.

Define the Docker Compose yml file

In the project directory, create a docker-compose.yml file. Setup the docker-compose.yml file with the following definitions:

version: '3.1'
    image: 'blog-api-docker.jar'
      - "8080:8080"
        condition: service_healthy
      - SPRING_DATASOURCE_URL=jdbc:postgresql://PostgreSQL:5432/postgres

    image: postgres
      - "5432:5432"
      - POSTGRES_PASSWORD=password
      - POSTGRES_USER=postgres
      - POSTGRES_DB=postgres
      test: ["CMD-SHELL", "pg_isready -U postgres"]
      interval: 10s
      timeout: 5s
      retries: 5

The above configurations define the version of Docker Compose and the services in the multi-container application.

API service:

  • The image key has a value of the Docker image you created from the cloned Spring Boot project.
  • ports key tells Docker to expose the API’s container port 8080 to the host (your machine) port 8080.
  • The complete start-up of the API service depends_on the PostgreSQL service is healthy.
  • The list of environment configurations that you would see in the Spring Boot project file. These configurations connect and authenticate the API service with the PostgreSQL service.

PostgreSQL service:

  • The image on which your database container will run of postgres Docker image.
  • The service exposes port 5432 to your host machine, port 5432. The API service can connect to the database using SPRING_DATASOURCE_URL in its environment configuration.
  • Next is a list of environment configurations that authenticates the PostgreSQL database.
  • The final configuration healthcheck tests the database using the command "pg_isready -U postgres" on intervals to make sure the database service has started up fully and service_healthy as the API service depends_on the database has been up fully to complete its start-up.

Now, you can run your multi-container application with Docker Compose.

Run the multi-container application

To test all you have been putting together, open up the terminal, navigate to the Spring Boot project directory where you have the docker-compose.yml, and run:

$ docker-compose up -d

The above command starts up the Spring Boot project - API and PostgreSQL containers (services). The additional -d tells Docker to run in detached mode.

You can now test the API endpoints. Open up Postman and send a POST request to http://localhost:8080/posts endpoint using similar JSON data below:

  "title": "Test Post",
  "post": "This POST request creates a Post"

The above request creates a blog post with a unique ID:

POST request Test

To view the post you just created, send a GET request to the same endpoint. View all the blog posts you’ve created:

GET request Test

To stop all the services in the terminal, run:

$ docker-compose down

You can now start and stop all services using docker-compose up and docker-compose down, respectively.


In this tutorial, you’ve learned how to define a Docker Compose yml file, use it to run multi-container (Spring Boot and PostgreSQL) applications and tested the application.

You can use Docker Compose in all environments: production, testing, staging, development, and CI workflows to better your software development processes.

Happy coding!


Peer Review Contributions by: Willies Ogola

About the author

Divine Odazie

Consistency is key. That’s what Divine believes in and he says he benefits from that fact which is why he tries to be consistent in whatever he does in gaining permission-less leverage through accountability. Divine is currently a software engineer and technical writer who spends his days’ building software and writing about it.

Aside from the world of software he enjoys watching football (soccer), listening to good music, traveling and having fun in his own way.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to