Choosing a spawner

Three basic types of spawners are available for dockerspawner:

  • DockerSpawner: useful if you would like to spawn single user notebook servers on the fly. It will take an authenticated user and spawn a notebook server in a Docker container for the user.

  • SwarmSpawner: same behavior as DockerSpawner, but launches single user notebook servers as Docker Swarm mode services instead of as individual containers. This allows for running JupyerHub in a swarm so that notebook containers can be run on any of multiple servers.

  • SystemUserSpawner: useful if you would like to spawn single user notebook servers that correspond to the system’s users.

In most cases, we recommend using DockerSpawner. Use cases where you may wish to use SystemUserSpawner are:

  • You are using docker just for environment management, but are running on a system where the users already have accounts and files they should be able to access from within the container. For example, you wish to use the system users and user home directories that already exist on a system.

  • You are using an external service, such as nbgrader, that relies on distinct unix user ownership and permissions.


If neither of those cases applies, DockerSpawner is probably the right choice.


Tell JupyterHub to use DockerSpawner by adding the following line to your

c.JupyterHub.spawner_class = 'dockerspawner.DockerSpawner'

There is a complete example in examples/oauth for using GitHub OAuth to authenticate users, and spawn containers with docker.


Tell JupyterHub to use SwarmSpawner by adding the following line to your

c.JupyterHub.spawner_class = 'dockerspawner.SwarmSpawner'

You need to make sure that the JupyterHub process is launched on a Swarm manager node, since its node needs to have permission to launch new Swarm services. It also needs to have the docker socket mounted (like DockerSpawner) to communicate out of its own container with the host’s docker server. You can accomplish this in your docker-compose.yml with the following settings:

  image: jupyterhub/jupyterhub
  # This is necessary to prevent the singleton hub from using its service number as its hostname
  hostname: jupyterhub
  # Permit communication with the host's docker server
    - "/var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock"
  # Ensure Hub and Notebook servers are on the same network
    - jupyterhub_network
    DOCKER_NETWORK_NAME: jupyterhub_network
  # Ensure that we execute on a Swarm manager
    replicas: 1
        - node.role == manager

You’ll also need to ensure that the JupyterHub service and the launched single-user services all run on the same Swarm overlay network. You can create one easily using:

$ docker network create --driver overlay jupyterhub_network

Then use this network in your like the following example:

network_name = os.environ['DOCKER_NETWORK_NAME']
c.SwarmSpawner.network_name = network_name
c.SwarmSpawner.extra_host_config = {'network_mode': network_name}

Unless otherwise noted, SwarmSpawner supports the same configuration options as DockerSpawner.


If you want to spawn notebook servers for users that correspond to system users, you can use the SystemUserSpawner instead. Add the following to your

c.JupyterHub.spawner_class = 'dockerspawner.SystemUserSpawner'

The SystemUserSpawner will also need to know where the user home directories are on the host. By default, it expects them to be in /home/<username>, but if you want to change this, you’ll need to further modify the For example, the following will look for a user’s home directory on the host system at /volumes/user/<username>:

c.SystemUserSpawner.host_homedir_format_string = '/volumes/user/{username}'

For a full example of how SystemUserSpawner is used, see the compmodels-jupyterhub repository (this additionally runs the JupyterHub server within a docker container, and authenticates users using GitHub OAuth).

Using Docker Swarm (not swarm mode!)


This is the older Docker Swarm, which makes a swarm look like a single docker instance. For the newer Docker Swarm Mode, see SwarmSpawner. This used to be supported by cassinyio, but this repository has been deprecated.

Both DockerSpawner and SystemUserSpawner are compatible with Docker Swarm when multiple system nodes will be used in a cluster for JupyterHub. Simply add to your file as the host_ip:

c.DockerSpawner.host_ip = ""

This will configure DockerSpawner and SystemUserSpawner to get the container IP address and port number using the docker port command.