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Bucketbench is a simple framework for running defined sequences of lifecycle container operations against three different container engines today: the full Docker engine, OCI's runc, and containerd.

Given a bucket is a physical type of container, the name is my attempt to get away from calling it "dockerbench," given it runs against other container engines as well. All attempts to come up with a more interesting name failed before initial release. Suggestions welcome!


This project came about via some performance comparison work happening in the OpenWhisk serverless project. Developers in that project had a python script for doing similar comparisons, but agreed we should extend it to a more general framework which could be easily be extended for other lifecycle operation sequences, as the python script was hardcoded to a specific set of operations.


Using bucketbench to drive container operations against a specific container runtime requires a configuration file written in a specific YAML format.

The current driver implementations each support a small set of lifecycle operations (defined as an interface in driver/driver.go), and any benchmark definition can mix and match any of those operations within reason. (Obviously operations must be ordered in a way supported by container lifecycle--for example, you can't do stop prior to run.)

Specific command usage for the bucketbench program is as follows:

The YAML file provided via the --benchmark flag will determine which
lifecycle container commands to run against which container runtimes, specifying
iterations and number of concurrent threads. Results will be displayed afterwards.

  bucketbench run [flags]

  -b, --benchmark string   YAML file with benchmark definition
  -h, --help               help for run
  -o, --overhead           Output daemon overhead
  -s, --skip-limit         Skip 'limit' benchmark run
  -t, --trace              Enable per-container tracing during benchmark runs

Global Flags:
      --log-level string   set the logging level (info,warn,err,debug) (default "warn")

A common invocation for running the "basic" example benchmark might look like:

$ sudo ./bucketbench --log-level=debug run -b examples/basic.yaml

Let's look at the input YAML file format and define the components. Here's the basic.yaml example:

name: Basic
image: alpine:latest
command: date
rootfs: /home/estesp/containers/alpine
detached: true
   type: Docker
   threads: 5
   iterations: 15
   type: Runc
   threads: 5
   iterations: 50
  - run
  - stop
  - remove

The initial section sets up a name and a few key pieces of information required for each engine to know what to run:

  • name: Give the benchmark a name. This will be used in output and logs.
  • image: Choose an image reference to be used by the image-based engine runtimes (containerd 1.0 and Docker). This can be any image reference accepted by the docker pull command. bucketbench will handle reconciling this reference to the format used by containerd 1.0 (e.g. alpine ->
  • command: [Optional] Specify an override for the image's default command that will be used for the image-based engine runtimes.
  • rootfs: For the runc and ctr (legacy containerd/0.2.x) drivers, you will need to provide an exploded rootfs and an OCI config.json since neither of those engines support image/registry interactions.
  • detached: Run the containers in detached/background mode.

The next two sections of the YAML provide 1) the configuration of which drivers to execute the benchmark against, and 2) which lifecycle commands to run against each engine.

Driver Configuration

Each driver has the following settings:

  • type: One of the four implemented drivers: Runc, Docker, Containerd, Ctr
  • clientpath: [Optional] Path to the binary for client executable based drivers. In the case of containerd 1.0 and the CRI driver, this will be the unique UNIX socket path of the gRPC server. For client binary-based drivers, the driver will default to the standard binary name found in the current $PATH
  • threads: Integer number of concurrent threads to run. The bucketbench method is to execute 1..n runs, where n is the number of threads and each run adds another concurrent thread. Run 1 only has one thread and Run N will have n concurrent threads.
  • iterations: Number of containers to create in each thread and execute the listed commands against.
  • logDriver: Docker and DockerCLI support log driver configuration to measure overhead between different implementations. Allowed values can be found here.
  • logOpts: Logger driver configuration, only used with logDriver option. See overhead-logdriver.yaml for examples.
  • streamStats: Allows to explore the overhead of stats queries for different drivers. Note that docker driver supports streaming natively while containerd supports direct API calls only, so you might want to send multiple queries to emulate streaming behavior (see statsIntervalSec)
  • statsIntervalSec: Defines an interval in seconds between stats queries to emulate streaming behaviour for containerd
  • cgroupPath: Path to a cgroup directory (for example: /system.slice/docker.service)

Command List

Finally, the YAML input needs to have a list of container lifecycle commands. The following commands are accepted as input:

  • run: (aliases: start) create and start a container.
  • pause: pause a running container
  • unpause: (aliases: resume) resume a paused container
  • stop: (aliases: kill) stop/kill the running container processes
  • remove: (aliases: erase,delete) remove/delete a container instance
  • metrics: (aliases: stats) query container daemon stats. Note: if streamStats = true, each metrics command will spawn separate goroutine and will stream metrics untill end of iteration.
  • wait: wait for container stop

Note that bucketbench is not handling any formal state validation on the list of commands. It is currently up to the user to provide a valid/sane ordered list of container lifecycle commands. The container runtimes will error out on incorrect command states (e.g. stop before run).

After the benchmark runs are complete, bucketbench currently provides basic output to show the overall rate (iterations of the operations/second) for each of the thread counts:

             Iter/Thd     1 thrd  2 thrds  3 thrds  4 thrds  5 thrds  6 thrds  7 thrds  8 thrds  9 thrds 10 thrds
Limit            1000    1171.24  1957.17  2101.13  2067.83  1827.92  1637.32  1257.57  1582.36  1306.08  1699.56
Basic:Docker       15       1.40     2.21     2.81
Basic:Runc         50       8.38    15.85    23.00

If you add overhead flag, bucketbench will measure container daemon cpu and memory consumption. The output will look like:

    Bench / driver / threads       Min       Max       Avg       Min       Max       Avg     Mem %     CPU x
  OverheadBench:Containerd:1     40 MB     42 MB     41 MB    0.00 %    6.00 %    0.32 %
  OverheadBench:Containerd:2     44 MB     46 MB     44 MB    0.00 %   10.00 %    0.57 %
  OverheadBench:Containerd:3     46 MB     46 MB     46 MB    0.00 %   14.00 %    0.73 %
  OverheadBench:Containerd:4     46 MB     47 MB     46 MB    0.00 %   20.00 %    0.94 %

      OverheadBench:Docker:1     64 MB     66 MB     64 MB    0.00 %   10.00 %    0.58 %   +56.10%    +1.84x
      OverheadBench:Docker:2     69 MB     73 MB     70 MB    0.00 %   20.00 %    1.29 %   +59.09%    +2.26x
      OverheadBench:Docker:3     73 MB     73 MB     73 MB    0.00 %   32.00 %    1.97 %   +58.70%    +2.70x
      OverheadBench:Docker:4     73 MB     73 MB     73 MB    0.00 %   27.99 %    2.67 %   +58.70%    +2.85x

More detailed information is collected during the runs and a future PR to bucketbench will provide the raw performance data in a consumable format for end users.

To run bucketbench against Runc, Containerd, or the legacy Ctr driver you must use sudo because of the requirements that those tools have for root access. This tool does not manage the two daemon-based engines (containerd and dockerd), and will fail if they are not up and running when the benchmark runs begin.

The tool will start a significant number of containers against these daemons, but attempts to fully cleanup after running each iteration.

Development Notes

The bucketbench tool is most likely only valuable on amd64/linux, as containerd and runc are delivered today as binaries for those platforms. It will most likely build for other platforms, and if run against a tool like Docker for Mac, would probably work against the Docker engine, but not against containerd or runc.

All the necessary dependencies are vendored into the bucketbench source tree. Building bucketbench only requires that you have a valid Golang build/runtime environment. Any recent release of Go will work, but it is currently building with Go 1.9.x and 1.10. A simple Makefile is available to simplify building bucketbench as a dynamic or static binary. make binary will build the bucketbench binary and make install will place it in your $PATH. You should also be able to simply go install

bucketbench offers cgroups as more precise way of measuring resource usage. However some additional setup is required before running tests. bucketbench uses existing environment, so a control group should be created for each container runtime and daemons should be added to a corresponding cgroup (if systemd is used, cgroups are already created). For each container runtime a path to cgroup should be passed via cgroupPath field.

Caveats and limitations

  • Overhead benchmark implementation only covers Docker and Containerd
  • Stats streaming are only supported by Docker, DockerCLI and Containerd drivers
  • Cgroups are Linux only
  • The benchmark uses process name matching to find relevant processes; you must keep the expected process names (dockerd, docker-containerd, and docker-containerd-shim for Docker and containerd and containerd-shim for containerd) and not run additional processes with the same names.


  • Decide what to do with the -trace flag, which was only useful with a private build of runc which generated Go pprof traces. Possibly submit trace support to upstream runc.


Go-based framework for running benchmarks against Docker, containerd, runc, or any CRI-compliant runtime





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