Getting started with balenaEngine

Using balenaEngine (balena-engine) should feel very natural to docker users since it shares the same command structure.

Pulling images

balena-engine pull resin/rpi-raspbian:jessie

Running containers

balena-engine run -it --rm resin/rpi-raspbian:jessie /bin/bash

Container deltas

balenaEngine comes with support for container deltas, a way of computing a binary description of what changed between two images. A delta can be pushed to the standard docker registry, it has the same format as a docker image! Let's see how this works.

Deltas are computed for a target image against a base image. For a balenaEngine instance to be able pull the target using deltas it must have the base already. balenaEngine will make sure this is the case and bail out if it doesn't have the appropriate data to apply the delta.

Unlike layer based pulling, with container deltas if any part of any file of any layer is shared between the two images it will be referenced instead of being transferred. This amounts to huge bandwidth savings that range between 10-70x for most cases.

Using deltas

Creating a container delta

balena-engine image delta resin/raspberrypi3-node:6 resin/raspberrypi3-node:7

The image ID of the delta will be printed at the end of the command. You can now manipulate the delta image like a normal image. Of course, you won't be able to run it since it doesn't contain a complete filesystem. Let's push our delta to the registry! But first, let's give a name to our delta.

balena-engine tag <delta image id> resin/raspberrypi3-node:delta-6-7

Pushing with deltas

balena-engine push resin/raspberrypi3-node:delta-6-7

That's it! Deltas are like normal images as far as the registry is concerned.

Pulling with deltas

Now, let's delete the delta and target from the local daemon and try to pull using deltas.

balena-engine rmi -f resin/raspberrypi3-node:delta-6-7 resin/raspberrypi3-node:7

And now let's pull the delta.

balena-engine pull resin/raspberrypi3-node:delta-6-7

That's it! balenaEngine understands that the image it tries to download is a delta image and switches to delta application mode automatically.

After pulling is complete you should end up with an image with the same image id as resin/raspberrypi3-node:7. Let's verify that by also pulling resin/raspberrypi3-node:7. It should be a no-op.

balena-engine pull resin/raspberrypi3-node:7
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