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How to Connect Docker Containers with UNIX Socket

Anastasios Antoniadis

Learn how to connect Docker containers using UNIX sockets for efficient and secure inter-container communication on the same host. This guide covers creating a shared volume, configuring server and client containers, and verifying communication.

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Connecting Docker containers directly via UNIX sockets can efficiently facilitate communication between containers without the overhead of TCP/IP networking. This approach is particularly useful for microservices that run on the same Docker host and must communicate securely and quickly. This article will guide you through setting up UNIX socket communication between Docker containers.

Understanding UNIX Sockets

UNIX sockets, also known as IPC (Inter-Process Communication) sockets, provide a mechanism for efficiently exchanging data between processes on the same host. Unlike network sockets, UNIX sockets do not rely on an underlying network protocol, offering lower latency communication.

Step 1: Create a Shared Volume

The first step in enabling UNIX socket communication between Docker containers is to create a shared volume. This volume will store the UNIX socket file, allowing multiple containers to access and use it for communication.

You can create a Docker volume by executing the following command:

docker volume create unix-socket-volume

Step 2: Start the Server Container

The server container will be created and listen on the UNIX socket. To achieve this, you need to mount the shared volume to a known directory inside the container and start your server application configured to use a UNIX socket located within the mounted volume.

Here’s an example Docker command to start the server container:

docker run -d --name server-container -v unix-socket-volume:/app/sockets my-server-image

In this example, my-server-image is your server container’s image, and the server application inside the container is configured to create and listen on a UNIX socket at /app/sockets/my-socket.sock.

Step 3: Start the Client Container

Next, start the client container, ensuring it also mounts the shared volume to access the UNIX socket for communication with the server container.

Here’s an example Docker command to start the client container:

docker run -d --name client-container -v unix-socket-volume:/app/sockets my-client-image

In this example, my-client-image is your client container’s image, and the client application inside the container is configured to connect to the server using the UNIX socket at /app/sockets/my-socket.sock.

Step 4: Configure Applications for UNIX Socket Communication

Ensure both the server and client applications are configured to use the UNIX socket for communication. This typically involves specifying the socket file path (/app/sockets/my-socket.sock in our example) in their configuration.

Server-side example (Pseudocode):


Client-side example (Pseudocode):


Step 5: Verify Communication

With both containers running and configured to use the shared UNIX socket, you should now test their communication to ensure it works as expected. This could involve sending a message from the client to the server and receiving a response.

Benefits and Considerations

  • Performance: UNIX sockets can perform better than TCP/IP networking, especially for high-throughput or low-latency applications.
  • Security: Communication over UNIX sockets is limited to processes on the same host, providing a layer of security by default.
  • Portability: The approach depends on the Docker host’s filesystem and might not be suitable for all environments, especially in distributed systems spanning multiple hosts.


Connecting Docker containers via UNIX sockets is a powerful technique for enabling efficient and secure communication between containers on the same host. Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can set up a UNIX socket-based communication channel for your containerized applications, leveraging the performance and security benefits this method provides.

Anastasios Antoniadis
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