Parallel Installs


Parallel installs enable you to run multiple instances of the same snap on the same system. Each instance is completely isolated from all other instances, including its name, configuration, interface connections, data locations, services, applications and aliases.

This feature is currently considered experimental. In particular, snap install will fail if the same snap is already installed. See below for a workaround and Current limitations for more details. As a result, to experiment with parallel installs, an experimental feature-flag must first be enabled:

$ sudo snap set system experimental.parallel-instances=true

ⓘ Version 2.36 or later of snapd is required for parallel installs.

Installing multiple instances

The process of installing multiple instances of a snap is identical to installing a single instance except you must provide a unique identifier, called an instance key, for every additional snap instance you install:

$ sudo snap install hello-world hello-world_foo
hello-world 6.3 from Canonical✓ installed
hello-world_foo 6.3 from Canonical✓ installed

ⓘ Due to the current limitations in the store, multiple instances of a snap need to be installed from the same single command, as shown above.

When installing from snap file, the instance key is set by passing --name=<snap>_<instance> explicitly:

$ sudo snap install --name hello-world_foo hello-world_27.snap

Instance key naming

The instance key needs to be manually appended to the snap name, and takes the following format: <snap>_<instance-key>

For example, the following are valid instance names, for example:

  • hello-world
  • hello-world_foo
  • hello-world_0123456789

Only lowercase letters or digits are valid, and the instance name can be up to 10 characters long. After being set during the installation of a snap, an instance name cannot be changed.

ⓘ The instance key must match the following regular expression: ^[a-z0-9]{1,10}$.

Instance management

When working with instances, the vast majority of snap commands function just as they would with a single snap. To remove an instance, for example, use remove:

$ snap remove hello-world_foo
hello-world_foo removed


Interfaces work across multiple snap instances just as they do from any one snap to another. For example, xkcd-webserver includes a network plug, as will all of its instances, any of which can be connected to the system’s :network slot:

$ snap interfaces :network
Slot      Plug
:network  xkcd-webserver,xkcd-webserver_foo

$ sudo snap disconnect xkcd-webserver_foo:network

$ snap interfaces :network
Slot      Plug
:network  xkcd-webserver
-         xkcd-webserver_foo:network

$ sudo snap connect xkcd-webserver_foo:network


As with Interfaces, Services function the same with multiple instances of a snap as they do from any one snap to another.

However, with multiple instances, you’re more likely to run into port allocation issues, such as two web servers needing access to port 80. In such cases, only the service from one instance will be active.

$ snap services
Service                            Startup  Current
xkcd-webserver.xkcd-webserver      enabled  active
xkcd-webserver_foo.xkcd-webserver  enabled  inactive

You can see why xkcd-webserver_foo.xkcd-webserver is inactive by looking at its logs:

$ sudo snap logs xkcd-webserver_foo.xkcd-webserver
2018-10-03T12:31:59Z xkcd-webserver_foo.xkcd-webserver[1760]: OSError: [Errno 98] Address already in use

As with single snap service collisions, the solution is to stop the service on one instance and start the service on the other:

$ sudo snap stop xkcd-webserver.xkcd-webserver

$ sudo snap start xkcd-webserver_foo.xkcd-webserver

$ snap services
Service                            Startup  Current
xkcd-webserver.xkcd-webserver      enabled  inactive
xkcd-webserver_foo.xkcd-webserver  enabled  active

Application names and aliases

Snap application names for multiple instances are adjusted according to the following pattern:


When an application name matches the snap name, a short alias is created to match the
instance name.

For example, with hello-world and hello-world_foo installed, hello-world.env has an alias of hello-world_foo.env in the _foo instance:

$ hello-world.env  |grep SNAP_INSTANCE_NAME
$ hello-world_foo.env  |grep SNAP_INSTANCE_NAME

As with regular snaps, aliases can be added separately:

$ sudo snap alias hello-world_bar bar_env
  - hello-world_bar as bar_env

$ sudo snap alias hello-world_foo foo_env
  - hello-world_foo as foo_env

$ snap aliases
Command          Alias    Notes
hello-world_bar  bar_env  manual
hello-world_foo  foo_env  manual

Aliases from instances generate conflict errors, just as they would with distinct snaps:

$ sudo snap alias hello-world_foo bar_env
error: cannot perform the following tasks:
- Setup manual alias "bar_env" => "hello-world" for snap "hello-world_foo"
(cannot enable alias "bar_env" for "hello-world_foo", already enabled for "hello-world_bar")

Snap environment, data and namespace

When a snap application is run, its environment is populated with a number of SNAP* environment variables.

The following environmental variables are potentially affected when installing multiple instances of a snap:

  • SNAP_NAME: the name of the snap, eg. hello-world
  • SNAP_INSTANCE_NAME: the name of the instance, eg. hello-world_foo
  • SNAP_INSTANCE_KEY: instance key, eg, foo for hello-world_foo
  • SNAP: location of files for the snap
  • SNAP_DATA: data for this particular snap revision
  • SNAP_COMMON: data shared between revisions of the same snap
  • SNAP_USER_DATA: user data for this particular snap revision
  • SNAP_USER_COMMON: user data shared between revisions of the same snap
  • HOME: user’s home, equivalent to SNAP_USER_DATA
  • XDG_RUNTIME_DIR: user’s XDG runtime directory

For example, if hello-world and its instance, hello-world_foo, are installed, the following name variables would be set:

snap hello-world hello-world_foo
SNAP_NAME hello-world hello-world
SNAP_INSTANCE_NAME hello-world hello-world_foo

The data and mount points of parallel installed snaps are kept separate on the host filesystem. Assuming the snap mount directory is /snap, the following locations are used:

snap hello-world hello-world_foo
mount point /snap/hello-world/27 /snap/hello-world_foo/27
system data /var/snap/hello-world/ /var/snap/hello-world_foo/
user data $HOME/snap/hello-world/ $HOME/snap/hello-world_foo/

Within the mount namespace of a snap, adjustments are made to map instance-specific locations to the snap locations. Taking hello-world as an example, system data locations are set to the following:

snap hello-world hello-world_foo
SNAP /snap/hello-world/27 /snap/hello-world/27
SNAP_DATA /var/snap/hello-world/27 /var/snap/hello-world/27
SNAP_COMMON /var/snap/hello-world/common /var/snap/hello-world/common

However, due to security concerns, user data locations are not similarly adjusted:

snap hello-world hello-world_foo
SNAP_USER_DATA /home//snap/hello-world/27 /home//snap/hello-world_foo/27
SNAP_USER_COMMON /home//snap/hello-world/common /home//snap/hello-world_foo/common
HOME /home//snap/hello-world/27 /home//snap/hello-world_foo/27
XDG_RUNTIME_DIR /run/user//snap.hello-world /run/user//snap.hello-world_foo

Current limitations

There are a few limitations with parallel installs that will be addressed in subsequent snapd releases.

Store installation

The store does not yet fully support installing a snap with an instance key when another instance of the same snap is already present in the system. The following error is displayed:

$ sudo snap install hello-world_foo
error: cannot install "hello-world_foo": cannot refresh, install, or download: The Snap is present
       more than once in the request.

Until the store gains full support for parallel installs, there are two workarounds:

  1. Install multiple snaps in one command:

    $ sudo snap install hello-world hello-world_foo`
  2. Download a snap and install it manually from the file:

    $ snap download hello-world
      Fetching snap "hello-world"
      Fetching assertions for "hello-world"
      Install the snap with:
      snap ack hello-world_27.assert
      snap install hello-world_27.snap
     $ sudo snap install --name hello-world_foo hello-world_27.snap
       hello-world_foo 6.3 from Canonical✓ installed
     $ sudo snap install --name hello-world_bar hello-world_27.snap
       hello-world_bar 6.3 from Canonical✓ installed

User data and runtime locations

As described in Snap environment, data and namespace, the user data locations are kept separate across multiple instances. Applications that hard code paths to either user data directories or the XDG runtime directory may not function correctly as the AppArmor profile has been updated to allow accessing instance specific paths only.

Applications need to use SNAP_USER_DATA, SNAP_USER_COMMON or fallback to using HOME.

Applications built using most popular frameworks, such as Gtk/glib or Qt, and that are already capable of observing both HOME and XDG_RUNTIME_DIR, should continue to work.

Well known names, locations, addresses

Snaps may provide APIs consumed by other snaps or the host system at some well known locations or addresses, such as DBus service names, /dev/shm objects or semaphores, abstract socket addresses. While the default AppArmor template has been updated to allow only instance specific access, connecting interfaces may allow a wider access capabilities that can lead to conflicts between instances of the same snap.


When snapd installs a snap with services, the services are automatically started. Services trying to bind to the same port may fail or function incorrectly. Such snaps should deliver means for configuration of the service via configure hooks.

A demo snap provides an example of reconfiguration via configure hooks.

DBus names

Services exporting the API on DBus under a well known name may conflict with other instances of the same snap. Those may require fixes from application or snap developers.


The default AppArmor profile allows instance specific access only. Applications hardcoding paths can break. Note that some interfaces such as mir allow a wider access to /dev/shm. Such snap would need to be updated to made instance aware.

Socket activation

Snaps using socket activation will collide with each other when parallel installed. The socket unit file may need manual adjustment.

Parallel snap installs

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Bummer. Thanks for spotting.