Community Blog How to Host Multiple Websites on a Single ECS Instance

How to Host Multiple Websites on a Single ECS Instance

In this article, we will learn how to host more than one website on an ECS instance with Docker Compose and a Reverse Proxy.

Alibaba Cloud ECS instance can potentially serve more than one website with Docker Compose and a Reverse Proxy, there are multiple solutions to handle different content in one single instance ECS:

  1. Subfolders ("example.com/web1", "example.com/web2", "example.com/web3")
  2. Port-based Virtual Hosting ("example.com:80", "example.com:8080", "example.com:8181")
  3. Subdomains ("web1.example.com", "web2.example.com", "web3.example.com")
  4. Name-based Virtual Hosting ("web1.com", "web2.com", "web3.com")

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The best (and more elegant) solution here is to use Name-based Virtual Hosting, as it helps you to use better naming for your sites. And nowadays, software such as Docker performs operating-system-level virtualization also known as containerization, where, from the running programs point of view, they look like real computers. The benefit of using this is the isolation that occurs between services running in different containers, as a website running in one container won’t have any connection (by default) with a website running in another container.

But containerization itself still doesn’t solve the problem of handling the HTTP Requests to give the proper website to the visitors of each site. That's why we need a Reverse Proxy, a service that can also run as a container and intercepts the requests to send them to the correct place, making it the main part for handling Virtual Hosting.

So we need a Name-based Virtual Host solution which will run on Docker, having a Reverse Proxy and at least 2 websites running on it.

Each container in a docker-compose.yml config file is called "service", and goes into the services array in a YAML format. The services in our file will be:

  1. proxy
  2. web1 (web1.com)
  3. web2 (web2.com)

For simplicity’s sake, I’m using the standard and unmodified official image of PHP 7.2 with Apache (php:7.2-apache) in both web services. "web1" and "web2" will show, therefore, the generic message from Apache telling you that "It works!". Something that you can just change by entering by command line into the container with docker exec -it web1 bash.

Then after you installed Docker on your ECS instance following the official documentation, you can create a file called "docker-compose.yml" with the contents being shown in the following section and run it like a normal Docker Compose project.


version: '3.6'

    image: neilpang/nginx-proxy
    network_mode: bridge
    container_name: proxy
    restart: on-failure
      - "80:80"
      - "443:443"
      - ENABLE_IPV6=true
      - ./certs:/etc/nginx/certs
      - /var/run/docker.sock:/tmp/docker.sock:ro
    image: php:7.2-apache
    network_mode: bridge
    container_name: web1
    restart: on-failure
      - VIRTUAL_HOST=web1.com
    image: php:7.2-apache
    network_mode: bridge
    container_name: web2
    restart: on-failure
      - VIRTUAL_HOST=web2.com

But if you don't have an ECS instance yet, then I recommend you to do it with Terraform, then please check the details here.

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