Select a storage driverEstimated reading time: 8 minutes
This page describes Docker’s storage driver feature. It lists the storage drivers that Docker supports and the basic commands associated with managing them. Finally, this page provides guidance on choosing a storage driver.
The material on this page is intended for readers who already have an understanding of the storage driver technology.
A pluggable storage driver architecture
Docker has a pluggable storage driver architecture. This gives you the flexibility to “plug in” the storage driver that is best for your environment and use-case. Each Docker storage driver is based on a Linux filesystem or volume manager. Further, each storage driver is free to implement the management of image layers and the container layer in its own unique way. This means some storage drivers perform better than others in different circumstances.
Once you decide which driver is best, you set this driver on the Docker daemon at start time. As a result, the Docker daemon can only run one storage driver, and all containers created by that daemon instance use the same storage driver. The table below shows the supported storage driver technologies and their driver names:
|Technology||Storage driver name|
To find out which storage driver is set on the daemon, you use the
docker info command:
$ docker info Containers: 0 Images: 0 Storage Driver: overlay Backing Filesystem: extfs Execution Driver: native-0.2 Logging Driver: json-file Kernel Version: 3.19.0-15-generic Operating System: Ubuntu 15.04 ... output truncated ...
info subcommand reveals that the Docker daemon is using the
storage driver with a
Backing Filesystem value of
means that the
overlay storage driver is operating on top of an existing
(ext) filesystem. The backing filesystem refers to the filesystem that was used
to create the Docker host’s local storage area under
Which storage driver you use, in part, depends on the backing filesystem you
plan to use for your Docker host’s local storage area. Some storage drivers can
operate on top of different backing filesystems. However, other storage
drivers require the backing filesystem to be the same as the storage driver.
For example, the
btrfs storage driver on a Btrfs backing filesystem. The
following table lists each storage driver and whether it must match the host’s
|Storage driver||Commonly used on||Disabled on|
Note “Disabled on” means some storage drivers can not run over certain backing filesystem.
You can set the storage driver by passing the
dockerd command line, or by setting the option on the
DOCKER_OPTS line in the
The following command shows how to start the Docker daemon with the
devicemapper storage driver using the
$ dockerd --storage-driver=devicemapper & $ docker info Containers: 0 Images: 0 Storage Driver: devicemapper Pool Name: docker-252:0-147544-pool Pool Blocksize: 65.54 kB Backing Filesystem: extfs Data file: /dev/loop0 Metadata file: /dev/loop1 Data Space Used: 1.821 GB Data Space Total: 107.4 GB Data Space Available: 3.174 GB Metadata Space Used: 1.479 MB Metadata Space Total: 2.147 GB Metadata Space Available: 2.146 GB Thin Pool Minimum Free Space: 10.74 GB Udev Sync Supported: true Deferred Removal Enabled: false Data loop file: /var/lib/docker/devicemapper/devicemapper/data Metadata loop file: /var/lib/docker/devicemapper/devicemapper/metadata Library Version: 1.02.90 (2014-09-01) Execution Driver: native-0.2 Logging Driver: json-file Kernel Version: 3.19.0-15-generic Operating System: Ubuntu 15.04 <output truncated>
Your choice of storage driver can affect the performance of your containerized applications. So it’s important to understand the different storage driver options available and select the right one for your application. Later, in this page you’ll find some advice for choosing an appropriate driver.
Shared storage systems and the storage driver
Many enterprises consume storage from shared storage systems such as SAN and NAS arrays. These often provide increased performance and availability, as well as advanced features such as thin provisioning, deduplication and compression.
The Docker storage driver and data volumes can both operate on top of storage provided by shared storage systems. This allows Docker to leverage the increased performance and availability these systems provide. However, Docker does not integrate with these underlying systems.
Remember that each Docker storage driver is based on a Linux filesystem or volume manager. Be sure to follow existing best practices for operating your storage driver (filesystem or volume manager) on top of your shared storage system. For example, if using the ZFS storage driver on top of XYZ shared storage system, be sure to follow best practices for operating ZFS filesystems on top of XYZ shared storage system.
Which storage driver should you choose?
Several factors influence the selection of a storage driver. However, these two facts must be kept in mind:
- No single driver is well suited to every use-case
- Storage drivers are improving and evolving all of the time
With these factors in mind, the following points, coupled with the table below, should provide some guidance.
For the most stable and hassle-free Docker experience, you should consider the following:
- Use the default storage driver for your distribution. When Docker installs, it chooses a default storage driver based on the configuration of your system. Stability is an important factor influencing which storage driver is used by default. Straying from this default may increase your chances of encountering bugs and nuances.
- Follow the configuration specified on the CS Engine compatibility matrix. The CS Engine is the commercially supported version of the Docker Engine. It’s code-base is identical to the open source Engine, but it has a limited set of supported configurations. These supported configurations use the most stable and mature storage drivers. Straying from these configurations may also increase your chances of encountering bugs and nuances.
Experience and expertise
Choose a storage driver that you and your team/organization have experience
with. For example, if you use RHEL or one of its downstream forks, you may
already have experience with LVM and Device Mapper. If so, you may wish to use
If you do not feel you have expertise with any of the storage drivers supported by Docker, and you want an easy-to-use stable Docker experience, you should consider using the default driver installed by your distribution’s Docker package.
Many people consider OverlayFS as the future of the Docker storage driver.
However, it is less mature, and potentially less stable than some of the more
mature drivers such as
devicemapper. For this reason, you should
use the OverlayFS driver with caution and expect to encounter more bugs and
nuances than if you were using a more mature driver.
The following diagram lists each storage driver and provides insight into some of their pros and cons. When selecting which storage driver to use, consider the guidance offered by the table below along with the points mentioned above.
Overlay vs Overlay2
OverlayFS has 2 storage drivers which both make use of the same OverlayFS
technology but with different implementations and incompatible on disk
storage. Since the storage is incompatible, switching between the two
will require re-creating all image content. The
overlay driver is the
original implementation and the only option in Docker 1.11 and before.
overlay driver has known limitations with inode exhaustion and
commit performance. The
overlay2 driver addresses this limitation, but
is only compatible with Linux kernel 4.0 and later. For users on a pre-4.0
kernel or with an existing
overlay graph, it is recommended to stay
overlay. For users with at least a 4.0 kernel and no existing or required
overlay graph data, then
overlay2 may be used.
overlay2graph data will not interfere with
overlaygraph data. However when switching to
overlay2, the user is responsible for removing
overlaygraph data to avoid storage duplication.