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Version: 1.4.x

Bazel rules for OCI containers

This is a "barebones" alternative to rules_docker based on the Open Containers Initiative:

A lot of companies have already done a successful migration from rules_docker. Please let us know about yours on our adoption discussion!

Need help? This ruleset has support provided by


We started from first principles and avoided some pitfalls we learned in maintaining that repo:

  • Use a toolchain consisting of off-the-shelf, pre-built layer and container manipulation tools.
  • Don't write language-specific rules, as we cannot be experts on all languages, nor can users deal with the versioning issues that come with dependencies we would be forced to take on the rules for those languages.
  • Don't be docker-specific, now that it has a commercial license and other container runtimes exist (podman for example).
  • Use our toolchain hermetically: don't assume there is a docker pre-installed on the machine.
  • Keep a tight complexity budget for the project so we are able to commit to effective maintenance.


See the install instructions on the release notes:

To use a commit rather than a release, you can point at any SHA of the repo.

With bzlmod, you can use archive_override or git_override. For WORKSPACE, you modify the http_archive call; for example to use commit abc123 with a WORKSPACE file:

  1. Replace url = "" with a GitHub-provided source archive like url = ""
  2. Replace strip_prefix = "rules_oci-0.1.0" with strip_prefix = "rules_oci-abc123"
  3. Update the sha256. The easiest way to do this is to comment out the line, then Bazel will print a message with the correct value.

Note that GitHub source archives don't have a strong guarantee on the sha256 stability, see


rules_oci does not contain language-specific rules, but we do have limited documentation on how to accomplish typical tasks, and how to migrate from the language-specific rules in rules_docker.

[!NOTE] Your language not listed above? Please contribute engineering resources or financially through our Sponsor link!

There are some generic examples of usage in the examples folder. Note that these examples rely on the setup code in the /WORKSPACE file in the root of this repo.

Choosing between zot or crane as the local registry

rules_oci supports two different registry implementation for the temporary storage within actions spawned by bazel.

  1. By default we recommend using zot as it stores blobs on disk, however it doesn't support Docker-format images.
  2. crane is a better alternative as it supports both OCI and Docker formats which is required to make images with Docker media types work. However, it might not support everything that zot does.

Public API Docs

Build Base images

  • Alpine: we recommend to install apk packages using Chainguard's apko.
  • Debian: The apt-get utility installs .deb files, which are already archives that may be used directly as image layers. See /examples/deb in this repository. This solution is incomplete since apt does some other tasks which you may need. See for details.
  • RHEL/CentOS/Amazon Linux: we don't have any support for this yet. Please consider donating to the project!

Construct image layers

  • oci_image Build an OCI compatible container image.
  • oci_image_index Build a multi-architecture OCI compatible container image.
  • oci_tarball Creates tarball from oci_image that can be loaded by runtimes.

Pull and Push

  • oci_pull Pull image layers using Bazel's downloader. Falls back to using curl in some cases.
  • oci_push Push an oci_image or oci_image_index to a remote registry.


  • We recommend container_structure_test to run tests against an oci_image target (with driver="docker") or an oci_tarball target (with driver="tar").


Signing images is a developer preview, not part of public API yet.

  • cosign_sign: Sign an oci_image using cosign binary at a remote registry.
  • cosign_attest Add an attachment to an oci_image at a remote registry using cosign.