// Tutorial //

How To Share Data between Docker Containers on Ubuntu 22.04

How To Share Data between Docker Containers on Ubuntu 22.04
Not using Ubuntu 22.04?Choose a different version or distribution.
Ubuntu 22.04

Introduction

Docker is a popular containerization tool used to provide software applications with a filesystem that contains everything they need to run. Using Docker containers ensures that the software will behave the same way regardless of where it is deployed because its run-time environment is consistent.

In general, Docker containers are ephemeral, running just as long as it takes for the command issued in the container to complete. Sometimes, however, applications need to share access to data or persist data after a container is deleted. Databases, user-generated content for a web site, and log files are just a few examples of data that is impractical or impossible to include in a Docker image but which applications need to access. Persistent access to data is provided with Docker Volumes.

Docker Volumes can be created and attached in the same command that creates a container, or they can be created independently of any containers and attached later. In this article, you’ll look at four different ways to share data between containers.

Prerequisites

To follow this article, you will need an Ubuntu 22.04 server with the following:

Note: Even though the Prerequisites give instructions for installing Docker on Ubuntu 22.04, the docker commands for Docker data volumes in this article should work on other operating systems as long as Docker is installed and the sudo user has been added to the docker group.

Step 1 — Creating an Independent Volume

Introduced in Docker’s 1.9 release, the docker volume create command allows you to create a volume without relating it to any particular container. You’ll use this command to add a volume named DataVolume1:

  1. docker volume create --name DataVolume1

The name is displayed, indicating that the command was successful:

Output
DataVolume1

To make use of the volume, you’ll create a new container from the Ubuntu image, using the --rm flag to automatically delete it when you exit. You’ll also use -v to mount the new volume. -v requires the name of the volume, a colon, then the absolute path to where the volume should appear inside the container. If the directories in the path don’t exist as part of the image, they’ll be created when the command runs. If they do exist, the mounted volume will hide the existing content:

  1. docker run -ti --rm -v DataVolume1:/datavolume1 ubuntu

While in the container, write some data to the volume:

  1. echo "Example1" > /datavolume1/Example1.txt

Because you used the --rm flag, your container will be automatically deleted when you exit. Your volume, however, will still be accessible.

  1. exit

You can verify that the volume is present on your system with docker volume inspect:

  1. docker volume inspect DataVolume1
Output
[ { "CreatedAt": "2018-07-11T16:57:54Z", "Driver": "local", "Labels": {}, "Mountpoint": "/var/lib/docker/volumes/DataVolume1/_data", "Name": "DataVolume1", "Options": {}, "Scope": "local" } ]

Note: You can even look at the data on the host at the path listed as the Mountpoint. You should avoid altering it, however, as it can cause data corruption if applications or containers are unaware of changes.

Next, start a new container and attach DataVolume1:

  1. docker run --rm -ti -v DataVolume1:/datavolume1 ubuntu

Verify the contents:

  1. cat /datavolume1/Example1.txt
Output
Example1

Exit the container:

  1. exit

In this example, you created a volume, attached it to a container, and verified its persistence.

Step 2 — Creating a Volume that Persists when the Container is Removed

In the next example, you’ll create a volume at the same time as the container, delete the container, then attach the volume to a new container.

You’ll use the docker run command to create a new container using the base Ubuntu image. -t will give us a terminal, and -i will allow us to interact with it. For clarity, you’ll use --name to identify the container.

The -v flag will allow us to create a new volume, which you’ll call DataVolume2. You’ll use a colon to separate this name from the path where the volume should be mounted in the container. Finally, you will specify the base Ubuntu image and rely on the default command in the Ubuntu base image’s Docker file, bash, to drop us into a shell:

  1. docker run -ti --name=Container2 -v DataVolume2:/datavolume2 ubuntu

Note: The -v flag is very flexible. It can bindmount or name a volume with just a slight adjustment in syntax. If the first argument begins with a / or ~/ you’re creating a bindmount. Remove that, and you’re naming the volume. For example:

  • -v /path:/path/in/container mounts the host directory, /path at the /path/in/container
  • -v path:/path/in/container creates a volume named path with no relationship to the host.

For more on bindmounting a directory from the host, see How To Share Data between a Docker Container and the Host

While in the container, you’ll write some data to the volume:

  1. echo "Example2" > /datavolume2/Example2.txt
  2. cat /datavolume2/Example2.txt
Output
Example2

Exit the container:

  1. exit

When you restart the container, the volume will mount automatically:

  1. docker start -ai Container2

Verify that the volume has indeed mounted and your data is still in place:

  1. cat /datavolume2/Example2.txt
Output
Example2

Finally, exit and clean up:

  1. exit

Docker won’t let us remove a volume if it’s referenced by a container. To see what happens, try:

  1. docker volume rm DataVolume2

The message tells us that the volume is still in use and supplies the long version of the container ID:

Output
Error response from daemon: unable to remove volume: remove DataVolume2: volume is in use - [d0d2233b668eddad4986313c7a4a1bc0d2edaf0c7e1c02a6a6256de27db17a63]

You can use the ID in the above error message to remove the container:

  1. docker rm d0d2233b668eddad4986313c7a4a1bc0d2edaf0c7e1c02a6a6256de27db17a63
Output
d0d2233b668eddad4986313c7a4a1bc0d2edaf0c7e1c02a6a6256de27db17a63

Removing the container won’t affect the volume. You can see it’s still present on the system by listing the volumes with docker volume ls:

  1. docker volume ls
Output
DRIVER VOLUME NAME local DataVolume2

And you can use docker volume rm to remove it:

  1. docker volume rm DataVolume2

In this example, you created an empty data volume at the same time that you created a container. In your next example, you’ll explore what happens when you create a volume with a container directory that already contains data.

Step 3 — Creating a Volume from an Existing Directory with Data

Generally, creating a volume independently with docker volume create and creating one while creating a container are equivalent, with one exception. If you create a volume at the same time that you create a container and you provide the path to a directory that contains data in the base image, that data will be copied into the volume.

As an example, you’ll create a container and add the data volume at /var, a directory which contains data in the base image:

  1. docker run -ti --rm -v DataVolume3:/var ubuntu

All the content from the base image’s /var directory is copied into the volume, and you can mount that volume in a new container.

Exit the current container:

  1. exit

This time, rather than relying on the base image’s default bash command, you’ll issue your own ls command, which will show the contents of the volume without entering the shell:

  1. docker run --rm -v DataVolume3:/datavolume3 ubuntu ls datavolume3

The directory datavolume3 now has a copy of the contents of the base image’s /var directory:

Output
backups cache lib local lock log mail opt run spool tmp

It’s unlikely that you would want to mount /var/ in this way, but this can be helpful if you’ve crafted your own image and want an easy way to preserve data. In your next example, you’ll demonstrate how a volume can be shared between multiple containers.

Step 4 — Sharing Data Between Multiple Docker Containers

So far, you’ve attached a volume to one container at a time. Often, you’ll want multiple containers to attach to the same data volume. This is relatively straightforward to accomplish, but there’s one critical caveat: at this time, Docker doesn’t handle file locking. If you need multiple containers writing to the volume, the applications running in those containers must be designed to write to shared data stores in order to prevent data corruption.

Create Container4 and DataVolume4

Use docker run to create a new container named Container4 with a data volume attached:

  1. docker run -ti --name=Container4 -v DataVolume4:/datavolume4 ubuntu

Next you’ll create a file and add some text:

  1. echo "This file is shared between containers" > /datavolume4/Example4.txt

Then, you’ll exit the container:

  1. exit

This returns us to the host command prompt, where you’ll make a new container that mounts the data volume from Container4.

Create Container5 and Mount Volumes from Container4

You’re going to create Container5, and mount the volumes from Container4:

  1. docker run -ti --name=Container5 --volumes-from Container4 ubuntu

Check the data persistence:

  1. cat /datavolume4/Example4.txt
Output
This file is shared between containers

Now, append some text from Container5:

  1. echo "Both containers can write to DataVolume4" >> /datavolume4/Example4.txt

Finally, you’ll exit the container:

  1. exit

Next, you’ll check that your data is still present to Container4.

View Changes Made in Container5

Now, check for the changes that were written to the data volume by Container5 by restarting Container4:

  1. docker start -ai Container4

Check for the changes:

  1. cat /datavolume4/Example4.txt
Output
This file is shared between containers Both containers can write to DataVolume4

Now that you’ve verified that both containers were able to read and write from the data volume, you’ll exit the container:

  1. exit

Again, Docker doesn’t handle any file locking, so applications must account for the file locking themselves. It is possible to mount a Docker volume as read-only to ensure that data corruption won’t happen by accident when a container requires read-only access by adding :ro. You’ll now take a look at how this works.

Start Container 6 and Mount the Volume Read-Only

Once a volume has been mounted in a container, rather than unmounting it like you would with a typical Linux file system, you can instead create a new container mounted the way you want and, if needed, remove the previous container. To make the volume read-only, you append :ro to the end of the container name:

  1. docker run -ti --name=Container6 --volumes-from Container4:ro ubuntu

You’ll check the read-only status by trying to remove your example file:

  1. rm /datavolume4/Example4.txt
Output
rm: cannot remove '/datavolume4/Example4.txt': Read-only file system

Finally, you’ll exit the container and clean up your test containers and volumes:

  1. exit

Now that you’re done, clean up your containers and volume:

  1. docker rm Container4 Container5 Container6
  2. docker volume rm DataVolume4

In this example, you’ve shown how to share data between two containers using a data volume and how to mount a data volume as read-only.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, you created a data volume which allowed data to persist through the deletion of a container. You shared data volumes between containers, with the caveat that applications will need to be designed to handle file locking to prevent data corruption. Finally, you showed how to mount a shared volume in read-only mode. If you’re interested in learning about sharing data between containers and the host system, see How To Share Data between the Docker Container and the Host.


Want to learn more? Join the DigitalOcean Community!

Join our DigitalOcean community of over a million developers for free! Get help and share knowledge in our Questions & Answers section, find tutorials and tools that will help you grow as a developer and scale your project or business, and subscribe to topics of interest.

Sign up
About the authors
Default avatar
Developer and author at DigitalOcean.

Default avatar
Tony Tran

author

Developer and author at DigitalOcean.

Still looking for an answer?

Was this helpful?
Leave a comment

This textbox defaults to using Markdown to format your answer.

You can type !ref in this text area to quickly search our full set of tutorials, documentation & marketplace offerings and insert the link!