Docker for AWS persistent data volumes

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

What is Cloudstor?

Cloudstor is a modern volume plugin built by Docker. It comes pre-installed and pre-configured in Docker swarms deployed through Docker for AWS. Docker swarm mode tasks and regular Docker containers can use a volume created with Cloudstor to mount a persistent data volume. In Docker for AWS, Cloudstor has two backing options:

  • relocatable data volumes are backed by EBS.
  • shared data volumes are backed by EFS.

When you use the Docker CLI to create a swarm service along with the persistent volumes used by the service tasks, you can create three different types of persistent volumes:

  • Unique relocatable Cloudstor volumes mounted by each task in a swarm service.
  • Global shared Cloudstor volumes mounted by all tasks in a swarm service.
  • Unique shared Cloudstor volumes mounted by each task in a swarm service.

Examples of each type of volume are described below.

Relocatable Cloudstor volumes

Workloads running in a Docker service that require access to low latency/high IOPs persistent storage, such as a database engine, can use a relocatable Cloudstor volume backed by EBS. When you create the volume, you can specify the type of EBS volume appropriate for the workload (such as gp2, io1, st1, sc1). Each relocatable Cloudstor volume is backed by a single EBS volume.

If a swarm task using a relocatable Cloudstor volume gets rescheduled to another node within the same availability zone as the original node where the task was running, Cloudstor detaches the backing EBS volume from the original node and attaches it to the new target node automatically.

If the swarm task gets rescheduled to a node in a different availability zone, Cloudstor transfers the contents of the backing EBS volume to the destination availability zone using a snapshot, and cleans up the EBS volume in the original availability zone. To minimize the time necessary to create the snapshot to transfer data across availability zones, Cloudstor periodically takes snapshots of EBS volumes to ensure there is never a large number of writes that need to be transferred as part of the final snapshot when transferring the EBS volume across availability zones.

Typically the snapshot-based transfer process across availability zones takes between 2 and 5 minutes unless the work load is write-heavy. For extremely write-heavy workloads generating several GBs of fresh/new data every few minutes, the transfer may take longer than 5 minutes. The time required to snapshot and transfer increases sharply beyond 10 minutes if more than 20 GB of writes have been generated since the last snapshot interval. A swarm task is not started until the volume it mounts becomes available.

Sharing/mounting the same Cloudstor volume backed by EBS among multiple tasks is not a supported scenario and will lead to data loss. If you need a Cloudstor volume to share data between tasks, choose the appropriate EFS backed shared volume option. Using a relocatable Cloudstor volume backed by EBS is supported on all AWS regions that support EBS. The default backing option is relocatable if EFS support is not selected during setup/installation or if EFS is not supported in a region.

Shared Cloudstor volumes

When multiple swarm service tasks need to share data in a persistent storage volume, you can use a shared Cloudstor volume backed by EFS. Such a volume and its contents can be mounted by multiple swarm service tasks without the risk of data loss, since EFS makes the data available to all swarm nodes over NFS.

When swarm tasks using a shared Cloudstor volume get rescheduled from one node to another within the same or across different availability zones, the persistent data backed by EFS volumes is always available. shared Cloudstor volumes will only work in those AWS regions where EFS is supported. If EFS Support is selected during setup/installation, the default “backing” option for Cloudstor volumes is set to shared so that EFS is used by default.

shared Cloudstor volumes backed by EFS (or even EFS MaxIO) may not be ideal for workloads that require very low latency and high IOPSs. For performance details of EFS backed shared Cloudstor volumes, see the AWS performance guidelines.

Use Cloudstor

After initializing or joining a swarm on Docker for AWS, connect to any swarm manager using SSH. Verify that the CloudStor plugin is already installed and configured for the stack or resource group:

$ docker plugin ls

ID                  NAME                        DESCRIPTION                       ENABLED
f416c95c0dcc        cloudstor:aws               cloud storage plugin for Docker   true

The following examples show how to create swarm services that require data persistence using the --mount flag and specifying Cloudstor as the volume driver.

Share the same volume among tasks using EFS

In those regions where EFS is supported and EFS support is enabled during deployment of the Cloud Formation template, you can use shared Cloudstor volumes to share access to persistent data across all tasks in a swarm service running in multiple nodes, as in the following example:

$ docker service create \
  --replicas 5 \
  --name ping1 \
  --mount type=volume,volume-driver=cloudstor:aws,source=sharedvol1,destination=/shareddata \
  alpine ping

All replicas/tasks of the service ping1 share the same persistent volume sharedvol1 mounted at /shareddata path within the container. Docker takes care of interacting with the Cloudstor plugin to ensure that EFS is mounted on all nodes in the swarm where service tasks are scheduled. Your application needs to be designed to ensure that tasks do not write concurrently on the same file at the same time, to protect against data corruption.

You can verify that the same volume is shared among all the tasks by logging into one of the task containers, writing a file under /shareddata/, and logging into another task container to verify that the file is available there as well.

The only option available for EFS is perfmode. You can set perfmode to maxio for high IO throughput:

$ docker service create \
  --replicas 5 \
  --name ping3 \
  --mount type=volume,volume-driver=cloudstor:aws,source={{.Service.Name}}-{{.Task.Slot}}-vol5,destination=/mydata,volume-opt=perfmode=maxio \
  alpine ping

You can also create shared Cloudstor volumes using the docker volume create CLI:

$ docker volume create -d "cloudstor:aws" --opt backing=shared mysharedvol1

Use a unique volume per task using EBS

If EBS is available and enabled, you can use a templatized notation with the docker service create CLI to create and mount a unique relocatable Cloudstor volume backed by a specified type of EBS for each task in a swarm service. New EBS volumes typically take a few minutes to be created. Besides backing=relocatable, the following volume options are available:

Option Description
size Required parameter that indicates the size of the EBS volumes to create in GB.
ebstype Optional parameter that indicates the type of the EBS volumes to create (gp2, io1, st1, sc1}. The default ebstype is Standard/Magnetic. For further details about EBS volume types, see the EBS volume type documentation.
iops Required if ebstype specified is io1 i.e. provisioned IOPs. Needs to be in the appropriate range as required by EBS.

Example usage:

$ docker service create \
  --replicas 5 \
  --name ping3 \
  --mount type=volume,volume-driver=cloudstor:aws,source={{.Service.Name}}-{{.Task.Slot}}-vol,destination=/mydata,volume-opt=backing=relocatable,volume-opt=size=25,volume-opt=ebstype=gp2 \
  alpine ping

The above example creates and mounts a distinct Cloudstor volume backed by 25 GB EBS volumes of type gp2 for each task of the ping3 service. Each task mounts its own volume at /mydata/ and all files under that mountpoint are unique to the task mounting the volume.

It is highly recommended that you use the .Task.Slot template to ensure that task N always gets access to volume N, no matter which node it is executing on/scheduled to. The total number of EBS volumes in the swarm should be kept below 12 * (minimum number of nodes that are expected to be present at any time) to ensure that EC2 can properly attach EBS volumes to a node when another node fails. Use EBS volumes only for those workloads where low latency and high IOPs is absolutely necessary.

You can also create EBS backed volumes using the docker volume create CLI:

$ docker volume create \
  -d "cloudstor:aws" \
  --opt ebstype=io1 \
  --opt size=25 \
  --opt iops=1000 \
  --opt backing=relocatable \

Sharing the same relocatable Cloudstor volume across multiple tasks of a service or across multiple independent containers is not supported when backing=relocatable is specified. Attempting to do so will result in IO errors.

Use a unique volume per task using EFS

If EFS is available and enabled, you can use templatized notation to create and mount a unique EFS-backed volume into each task of a service. This is useful if you already have too many EBS volumes or want to reduce the amount of time it takes to transfer volume data across availability zones.

$ docker service create \
  --replicas 5 \
  --name ping2 \
  --mount type=volume,volume-driver=cloudstor:aws,source={{.Service.Name}}-{{.Task.Slot}}-vol,destination=/mydata \
  alpine ping

Here, each task has mounts its own volume at /mydata/ and the files under that mountpoint are unique to that task.

When a task with only shared EFS volumes mounted is rescheduled on a different node, Docker interacts with the Cloudstor plugin to create and mount the volume corresponding to the task on the node where the task is rescheduled. Since data on EFS is available to all swarm nodes and can be quickly mounted and accessed, the rescheduling process for tasks using EFS-backed volumes typically takes a few seconds, as compared to several minutes when using EBS.

It is highly recommended that you use the .Task.Slot template to ensure that task N always gets access to volume N no matter which node it is executing on/scheduled to.

List or remove volumes created by Cloudstor

You can use docker volume ls on any node to enumerate all volumes created by Cloudstor across the swarm.

You can use docker volume rm [volume name] to remove a Cloudstor volume from any node. If you remove a volume from one node, make sure it is not being used by another active node, since those tasks/containers in another node will lose access to their data.

Before deleting a Docker4AWS stack through CloudFormation, you should remove all relocatable Cloudstor volumes using docker volume rm from within the stack. EBS volumes corresponding to relocatable Cloudstor volumes are not automatically deleted as part of the CloudFormation stack deletion. To list any relocatable Cloudstor volumes and delete them after removing the Docker4AWS stack where the volumes were created, go to the AWS portal or CLI and set a filter with tag key set to StackID and the tag value set to the md5 hash of the CloudFormation Stack ID (typical format: arn:aws:cloudformation:us-west-2:ID:stack/swarmname/GUID).

aws persistent data volumes