Dockerize Your Next.js App: Simplify Deployment and Scaling of Your Web Applications

If you are a web developer, you probably have encountered the challenges of deploying and scaling your web applications. Modern web applications can require a lot of dependencies, configuration, and resources, making it difficult to ensure consistency and portability across different environments. This is where Docker comes in.

What is Docker?

Docker is a containerization technology that allows you to package, distribute, and run applications and their dependencies in a lightweight and isolated environment known as containers. With Docker, you can create containers that are consistent and portable across different environments, from development to production to scaling.

One of the main benefits of Docker is that it eliminates the "works on my machine" problem that often occurs when you deploy a web application. By containerizing your application, you can ensure that it runs the same way on any platform, without worrying about variations in the underlying hardware, operating system, or configuration.

What is Next.js?

Next.js is a popular open-source framework for building web applications with React. It allows you to build server-side rendered (SSR) and statically generated pages with ease, while providing many features such as automatic code splitting, dynamic imports, and client-side routing.

Using Next.js can significantly speed up your development process and provide a better user experience, especially for content-heavy websites with many pages. However, deploying and scaling a Next.js application can be challenging, especially when you need to deploy it to different environments with different configurations and dependencies.

Why Dockerize Next.js?

Dockerizing your Next.js application can simplify the deployment and scaling process significantly. By containerizing your application, you can package it with all the necessary dependencies and configurations, ensuring that it runs consistently across different environments.

In addition, Docker allows you to scale your application both horizontally and vertically, depending on your needs. You can spin up multiple instances of your application in a matter of seconds, without worrying about conflicts or incompatibilities. This can save you a lot of time and effort, especially when you need to handle high traffic or sudden spikes in demand.

How to Dockerize a Next.js App?

In this tutorial, we'll show you how to Dockerize a Next.js application step-by-step. We'll assume that you have a basic understanding of Docker and Next.js. If you need a refresher, you can check out the official Docker documentation and Next.js documentation.

Step 1: Create a Dockerfile

The first step to Dockerize a Next.js application is to create a Dockerfile that defines the container image. The Dockerfile specifies the instructions needed to build your application and its dependencies and package it in a container.

Here's a sample Dockerfile for a Next.js application:

FROM node:14.17.6-alpine3.14


COPY package*.json ./

RUN npm install --production

COPY . .


CMD ["npm", "run", "start"]

Let's break down the Dockerfile:

  • The first line specifies the base image to use, which is the official Node.js 14.17.6 image for Alpine 3.14. You can choose a different Node.js version or operating system if needed, depending on your application requirements.
  • The WORKDIR command sets the working directory inside the container to /app, where we will copy our application files.
  • The COPY command copies the package.json and package-lock.json files to the container, which contain the dependencies needed to build our application. We only copy the files first to optimize layer caching and avoid unnecessary rebuilds. You can add a .dockerignore file to exclude files that should not be copied to the container.
  • The RUN command runs npm install to install the production dependencies of our application. This step can take a while, especially if you have many dependencies. You can optimize this step by using npm ci instead of npm install, which can skip certain checks.
  • The second COPY command copies the rest of the application files to the container. This includes the Next.js pages, components, styles, and public files. You can adjust this path if your application has a different structure or if you need to exclude certain files or folders.
  • The EXPOSE command exposes port 3000, which is the default port used by Next.js for development and production.
  • The CMD command runs npm run start, which starts the Next.js server. You can customize this command if you need to run different scripts or pass environment variables.

Save the Dockerfile to the root of your Next.js application directory, along with your other application files.

Step 2: Build the Docker Image

The next step is to build the Docker image from the Dockerfile. This involves running the docker build command and providing the relevant options and arguments.

Here's an example command to build the Docker image:

docker build -t my-nextjs-app .

Let's break down the command:

  • The docker build command is used to build an image from a Dockerfile.
  • The -t option specifies the name and tag of the image, which is my-nextjs-app in this case. You can choose any name and tag that you prefer.
  • The . (dot) at the end specifies the build context, which is the path to the build context. This can be a URL or a local directory. In our case, we use the current directory, which is where the Dockerfile is located.

After running the command, Docker will start building the image, according to the instructions specified in the Dockerfile. You should see various messages indicating the progress and status of the build, including the installation of Node.js dependencies and the copying of files to the container.

Once the build is complete, you should see a message like this:

Successfully built a12b3c4d56e7

This message confirms that Docker has built the image and assigned it a unique ID (a12b3c4d56e7 in this case).

Step 3: Run the Docker Container

The final step is to run the Docker container from the image that we just built. This involves running the docker run command with the relevant options and arguments.

Here's an example command to run the Docker container:

docker run -p 3000:3000 my-nextjs-app

Let's break down the command:

  • The docker run command is used to run a container from an image.
  • The -p option specifies the port mapping, which maps port 3000 of the host to port 3000 of the container.
  • The my-nextjs-app argument specifies the name and tag of the image to use, which is the same as the one we used in the build step.

After running the command, Docker will start the container and the Next.js server inside it. You should see a message like this:

ready - started server on localhost:3000

This message confirms that the server is running and listening on port 3000. You can now access your Next.js application by opening your web browser and navigating to http://localhost:3000. You should see your application running as expected.

Optimizing Docker Layers

When building a Docker image, it's important to optimize the Docker layers to minimize the build time and size of the image. Docker builds each instruction in the Dockerfile as a separate layer, which can be cached and reused for subsequent builds that use the same instructions.

To optimize the layers, you can follow some best practices, such as:

  • Combine multiple RUN commands into a single one, to reduce the number of layers created.
  • Use the --no-cache flag when building the image, to force Docker to rebuild all layers.
  • Use .dockerignore to exclude unnecessary files from being copied to the container.

Integrating Docker with Development and CI/CD Pipelines

Using Docker can simplify the development and CI/CD process, as it ensures consistency and portability across different environments. You can integrate Docker with your development and CI/CD pipelines to automate and streamline the building, testing, and deployment of your Next.js application.

Here are some tips for integrating Docker with your workflow:

  • Use docker-compose to define and run multi-container applications, such as a Next.js application with a database or API.
  • Use Docker Hub or a private registry to store and share your Docker images with your team or the public.
  • Use Docker BuildKit to optimize the build process and reduce the Dockerfile size.
  • Use Dockerfile linting tools, such as hadolint, to ensure that your Dockerfile follows best practices and standards.
  • Use Docker Compose for local development to easily spin up your application and run tests against it.


In summary, Dockerizing your Next.js application can simplify the deployment and scaling process significantly, while ensuring consistency and portability across different environments. By creating a Dockerfile, building a Docker image, and running a Docker container, you can package your application and its dependencies into a lightweight and isolated environment. You can also optimize the Docker layers, integrate Docker with your workflow, and leverage its powerful features, such as scaling and load balancing.