Mounting an EBS volume to Docker on AWS Elastic Beanstal

Mounting an EBS volume to a Docker instance running on Amazon Elastic Beanstalk (EB) is surprisingly tricky. The good news is that it is possible.

I will describe how to automatically create and mount a new EBS volume (optionally based on a snapshot). If you would prefer to mount a specific, existing EBS volume, you should check out leg100's docker-ebs-attach (using AWS API to mount the volume) that you can use either in a multi-container setup or just include the relevant parts in your own Dockerfile.

The problem with EBS volumes is that, if I am correct, a volume can only be mounted to a single EC2 instance - and thus doesn't play well with EB's autoscaling. That is why EB supports only creating and mounting a fresh volume for each instance.

Why would you want to use an auto-created EBS volume? You can already use a docker VOLUME to mount a directory on the host system's ephemeral storage to make data persistent across docker restarts/redeploys. The only advantage of EBS is that it survives restarts of the EC2 instance but that is something that, I suppose, happens rarely. I suspect that in most cases EB actually creates a new EC2 instance and then destroys the old one. One possible benefit of an EBS volume is that you can take a snapshot of it and use that to launch future instances. I'm now inclined to believe that a better solution in most cases is to set up automatic backup to and restore from S3, f.ex. using duplicity with its S3 backend (as I do for my NAS).

Anyway, here is how I got EBS volume mounting working. There are 4 parts to the solution:

  1. Configure EB to create an EBS mount for your instances
  2. Add custom EB commands to format and mount the volume upon first use
  3. Restart the Docker daemon after the volume is mounted so that it will see it (see this discussion)
  4. Configure Docker to mount the (mounted) volume inside the container

1-3.: .ebextensions/01-ebs.config:

# .ebextensions/01-ebs.config
    command: mkfs -t ext3 /dev/sdh
    test: file -sL /dev/sdh | grep -v 'ext3 filesystem'
    # ^ prints '/dev/sdh: data' if not formatted
    ### Note: The volume may be renamed by the Kernel, e.g. sdh -> xvdh but
    #       /dev/ will then contain a symlink from the old to the new name
    command: |
      mkdir /media/ebs_volume
      mount /dev/sdh /media/ebs_volume
      service docker restart # We must restart Docker daemon or it wont' see the new mount
    test: sh -c "! grep -qs '/media/ebs_volume' /proc/mounts"
   # Tell EB to create a 100GB volume and mount it to /dev/sdh
   - namespace: aws:autoscaling:launchconfiguration
     option_name: BlockDeviceMappings
     value: /dev/sdh=:100

4.: and Dockerfile: mount the host's /media/ebs_volume as /var/easydeploy/share inside the container:

  "AWSEBDockerrunVersion": "1",
  "Volumes": [
      "HostDirectory": "/media/ebs_volume",
      "ContainerDirectory": "/var/easydeploy/share"

Dockerfile: Tell Docker to use a directory on the host system as /var/easydeploy/share - either a randomly generated one or the one given via the -m mount option to docker run:

VOLUME ["/var/easydeploy/share"]

Tags: DevOps

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