How to decide between a docker volume container and a docker volume?

Solution 1:

As of Docker 1.9, creating Named Volumes with the Volumes API (docker volume create --name mydata) are preferred over a Data Volume Container. As of February 2016, the Docker volumes documentation is woefully out-of-date. Folks at Docker themselves suggest that Data Volume Containers “are no longer considered a recommended pattern,” “named volumes should be able to replace data-only volumes in most (if not all) cases,” and “no reason I can see to use data-only containers.”

Solution 2:

I think #2 and #3 are pretty much the same thing, the main difference is that there is no stopped container with #3 (it is literally, just a named volume). For example, you can create a named volume and do similarly what you would do with #2 with -v instead.

Create a named volume:

$ docker volume create --name test

Mount and write some data to that volume from a container:

$ docker run -v test:/opt/test alpine touch /opt/test/hello

You can then mount that same test volume in another container and read the data:

$ docker run -v test:/opt/test alpine ls -al /opt/test     
total 8
drwxr-xr-x    2 root     root          4096 Jan 23 22:28 .
drwxr-xr-x    3 root     root          4096 Jan 23 22:29 ..
-rw-r--r--    1 root     root             0 Jan 23 22:28 hello

The advantage here is that the volume won't accidentally disappear if you remove the data-only container. You now manage it with the docker volume sub-command.

$ d volume ls
local               test

It also opens the possibilities for volume drivers down the road so you might be able to do shared volumes between hosts (ie. named volumes over NFS). Examples of this might be Flocker and Convoy. To your point specifically about moving or backing up data, Convoy has specific sub-commands for backing up data and allows for storage on NFS or EBS external to your host.

For this reason, I think the more new-school way (Docker 1.9+) is to use a named volume rather than a data-only container.