Running RenkuLab Interactive Sessions on Your Own Machine

Each Renku project contains configuration files (Dockerfile, requirements.txt etc.) for building reproducible session images. We build these automatically when you push your project to the server and store them in the image registry connected to the Renku instance that you are using. The custom-built images are used whenever you launch an interactive session on RenkuLab.

You can of course also use these same images to run your code in the correct environment anywhere that Docker is available.


All of the instructions below assume that you have cloned your project locally and that you have Docker installed. On Linux systems, Docker requires root privileges - if you do not have root access to the host, you might consider rootless Docker.

Building your own image

If you are working on a project that has not yet been pushed to the server, or you just prefer to build the image locally, you can certainly do so with Docker. To build the image, run this command from the root directory of your project:

$ docker build -t <imageName>:<tag> .

The imageName and tag can be anything you want, but you might want to try to use something you will remember. To see which images you have in your local Docker registry, run

$ docker images

Using the images built on RenkuLab

The easiest way to spin up your runtime environment locally is by pulling the image that has already been built.

First, make sure that your project has been pushed and that the image build is complete. If you are not sure, the easiest way to check is to navigate to your project in RenkuLab and go to launch a new session - if the “Start environment” button is available, it means the image has been built already.

To pull the image, you need to construct the image name. This is typically the format to expect: registry.<renku-host>/<namespace>/<project>:<commit-sha-7>. Lets break down the meaning of these terms in brackets:

  • renku-host is the hostname of the RenkuLab instance

  • namespace is either the username or the group name of the project owner

  • project is the project name

  • commit-sha-7 is the first 7 characters of your commit’s SHA

Let’s take the project as an example:

  • renku-host:

  • namespace: rok.roskar

  • project: flights-tutorial

  • commit-sha-7 of the latest commit can be retrieved by running:

$ git rev-parse origin/HEAD | cut -c 1-7


So the full name of this image, including the tag would be

Alternatively, you can find all available images in GitLab’s Container Registry interface, e.g.,

Launching the interactive environment locally

Finally, we can launch an environment locally with the image that has been built for the chosen commit.


If your project is private or internal, then you need to first login to the targeted registry:

$ docker login

You will then be asked to enter your Username and Password:

From the project’s root directory, run

$ repoName=$(basename -s .git `git config --get remote.origin.url`)
$ docker run --rm -ti -v ${PWD}:/work/${repoName} \
  --workdir /work/${repoName} -p 8888:8888 \
  ${imageName} jupyter lab --ip=

Replace imageName here with whatever image you derived for your project and commit above (or if you built your own image, the image/tag combo you used). This command instructs docker to run the image from the remote registry and to override its default command with jupyter lab. It also sets the port (-p flag), mounts the current directory into the container (-v) and sets that as the working directory (--workdir). Once the image downloads and the container is created, you will see a series of log messages ending in something like:

To access the notebook, open this file in a browser:
Or copy and paste one of these URLs:

To access the running environment, copy the last of these links (starting with into your browser and you should drop straight into the jupyter lab session. The rest should feel rather familiar - your environment should be identical to what you are used to seeing in your RenkuLab sessions.

In the jupyterlab session, you can change the URL end-point from /lab to /rstudio for RStudio projects, or /vnc for VNC projects.