Tag Archives: volumes

Podman volumes and SELinux

In my previous post on volumes with podman, I touched on SELinux but I think it’s worthy of its own post to work through some details.

If your host has SELinux enabled, then container processes are confined to the system_u:system_r:container_t:s0 domain. Volumes you pass to podman will need to have appropriate labels, otherwise the container won’t be able access the volume, no-matter what the filesystem permissions are.

When running rootless containers (as your non-root user), files in your homedir will probably have the context of unconfined_u:object_r:data_home_t:s0, however the context that is required for container volumes is system_u:object_r:container_file_t:s0.

Fortunately, container volumes which podman creates at runtime will have the appropriate context set automatically. However, for host-dir volumes podman will not change the context by default, you will need to tell it to.

Let’s spin up a busybox container without setting the SELinux context and note that the container is not able to access the host-dir volume.

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Volumes and rootless Podman

Containers generally run from an image and have no access to the host file system. This is fine for stand-alone ephemeral containers, but others require persistent data. While we can pass in environment variables to configure the app inside the container, sometimes a place to read and write more complex files is needed. When you update or replace such a container (perhaps with a new release) you want the new container to have access to the same data as the previous one.

The tricky thing with rootless containers is that you’re not root on the host and, as per my previous post, containers can run as any user id. If the container runs as root (uid 0) then that is fine as it actually maps to your non-root user on the host (e.g. 1000) and management of the data is therefore easy. However, containers running as other users (e.g. 123) will map to a uid on the host based on the subuid offset range (e.g. 100122) which will not match your non-root user and therefore data management is harder.

Providing persistent storage to a container is done by setting up a bind mounts using the --volume (or -v) option with podman. Note that volumes are not restricted to just one per container, simply repeat the -v option for as many volumes as required!

The volume option uses a colon separated format specifying the source on the host and then the destination directory where the volume is mounted to inside the container (e.g. src:/dest).

The source is generally one of two types; either a container volume (like a container image) or a regular host directory.

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