# docker-compose collisions

Here’s a description of collisions between groups of services described in similar docker-compose files, in different directories, when they are brought up on the same host with docker-compose up

I think of them as “collisions” because when using different docker-compose.yml files in different directories, I tend to think of them as different instances, even if they are of the same groups of services.

docker-compose actually identifies services using a combination of service name (declared in the file) and the project name, which defaults to the directory containing docker-compose.yml.

Consider a simple service described in a docker-compose.yml file, in service-instance-a/: (let this be the first instance that later scenarios refer to)

$cat service-instance-a/docker-compose.yml version: "3" services: nginx: image: nginx:stable-alpine$


Start that, and it should start as expected.

Now if you copy that entire directory cp -r service-instance-a/ service-instance-b/, and docker-compose up from service-instance-b/, the same service starts as expected, and both instances can be stopped independently. (Keep this instance running, it should not be affected by the scenarios below)

Now once the containing directory is the same, docker-compose starts to treat them as the same project.

Suppose you have

$cat same-instance-a/service-instance-a/docker-compose.yml version: "3" services: nginx: image: nginx:stable-alpine$


And now you cd same-instance-a/service-instance-a/ and do docker-compose up, you’ll see that it starts fine, but it’s actually a related instance to the first one (service-instance-a/docker-compose.yml). If you start both, send Ctrl-C on either one, and the other will go down as well.

If you try and fix that problem by changing the container name, that’s actually worse - docker-compose thinks you have changed a configuration of the previous instance, and promptly shuts down the first instance.

$cat different-container-name/service-instance-a/docker-compose.yml version: "3" services: nginx: image: nginx:stable-alpine container_name: different-nginx$


This also applies if you change any other configuration, like if you decided to try and fix the problem by trying to connect the second instance to another network - docker-compose also shuts down the first instance.

$cat different-network/service-instance-a/docker-compose.yml version: "3" services: nginx: image: nginx:stable-alpine networks: - foobar networks: foobar:$


Finally, if you try and rename the service, docker-compose still thinks it’s part of the same project!

$cat different-service-name/service-instance-a/docker-compose.yml version: "3" services: nginx-renamed: image: nginx:stable-alpine$


Now if you start this one, you get

\$ docker-compose up
WARNING: Found orphan containers (service-instance-a_nginx_1) for this project. If you removed or renamed this service in your compose file, you can run this command with the --remove-orphans flag to clean it up.
Creating service-instance-a_nginx-renamed_1 ... done
Attaching to service-instance-a_nginx-renamed_1


docker-compose thinks you renamed a container in the same project as the other running one, and recommends that you clean up the orphans. On the bright side, the other container is still up and running.

Here’s a repo with all the scenarios in case you want to try it out: https://github.com/ackerleytng/docker-compose-collisions

I ran into this issue while assuming that making a copy of docker-compose.yml in another directory with the same name would allow me to run two instances of the same service, allowing me to keep one service running while trying out another configuration - except I ended up bringing both services down :(