Running PHPUnit in Isolated Environments with Ubuntu, Docker, Gitlab & Gitlab CI

I’m currently working on a new project that houses a framework for multi-tenant applications based on Laravel. The source code is stored in a hosted Gitlab instance via – which is run by Gitlab themselves. There’s a set of unit tests that I wanted to run via continuous integration to run the tests with each commit and fast.

Throughout this post, the Docker daemon is running at tcp:// instead of via a socket. This is because I use the API for other things over HTTP.

The local development environment is handled by Vagrant, using a custom box based upon Ubuntu that includes Composer, MariaDB and a few other components. This works very well, one simple Vagrantfile can be dropped in to new projects and immediately get running with a LAMP style stack:

Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
    config.vm.provider :virtualbox do |v| = "mult"
        v.customize ["modifyvm", :id, "--memory", 2048] = "ssx/lamp" :private_network, ip: ""
        config.ssh.forward_agent = true
config.vm.synced_folder "./", "/vagrant", type: "nfs"


This box works quite well, but to Vagrant up and run tests using this with every commit would be quite slow. Enter Docker. I converted the image that was used in the Vagrant environment to a Docker one and now tests can be ran within seconds instead of minutes.

Gitlab CI has a Docker mode of operation. I couldn’t quite seem to get that up and running well. You can find the instructions for installing a Gitlab CI runner on this page.

I went via the shell route and writing the Docker commands manually to boot up in container and then run our script and tests, in the repo I have which must be set to +x to execute:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

Restart the services within the container

service mysql restart
service nginx restart
service php5-fpm restart

Move into the directory

cd /vagrant

Run our migrations

php artisan migrate
php artisan db:seed

Execute our test suite


Next, the .gitlab-ci.yml file needs to be created to run the build and then tests:

  - test

stage: test
- composer install
- cp .env.example .env
- php artisan key:generate
- docker run -d -t -v pwd:/vagrant hellossx/lamp:1.0.4 >
- docker exec cat /vagrant/
- docker

This does mean that if tests fail, the container will never get cleaned up. You can add a cronjob to clean up these orphaned containers, with something like this script:


Set our docker host

export DOCKER_HOST="tcp://"

Clean up old images that failed tests

for i in $(docker ps -a | grep "hour ago" | cut -f1 -d" "); do docker stop $i && docker rm $i; done

This will remove the containers after an hour and leave the previous ones around for a short while incase you want to attach and investigate anything.