Which Container System Ought to You Use: Kubernetes or Docker?

When considering building an app or software, your first problem may be incompatibility with different computing environments and operating systems. One way to protect your future app from this problem is to use containers.

When choosing a containerization system, however, two options always stand out from the others: Docker and Kubernetes. Which one should you work with? Can you use both

What are containers and why should you use them?

Containers are an advanced type of system virtualization. You are successful where most virtual machines (VM) fall short in software development. A container emulates a computer system or operating system and can thus run together with other containers with different systems and native apps without conflicts or disruptions.

In software development, the biggest hurdle for programmers is making sure that your app can run reliably in a wide variety of computing environments and operating systems. Containers ensure that incompatibility is never a problem.

By deploying your app along with an appropriate virtual environment in which only the hardware resources you need are accessed, you can completely avoid system incompatibility issues. Also, because container virtualization involves the operating system and not the hardware, you avoid hoarding physical resources by a single app or VM.

Fortunately, container technology is widespread. You don't have to start from scratch to build your containers and develop their internal system in addition to building your app. You can use one or more of the many container systems available online to find out what best fits your app and your plans for it.

What is docker

Docker is an open source container tool that works similarly to virtual machines. You can use the Docker platform to run your app through the entire container app lifecycle. You can use it to create, manage, and deploy virtual apps in various computing environments.

Your Docker container apps would rely on container Linux kernels of the system they are running on, which keeps the app lightweight without sacrificing efficiency.

As a software developer, Docker can help you focus on writing code without worrying about the compatibility of the end product with different operating systems and environments. Additionally, Docker can save you a lot of time by allowing you to import programs and Docker images and files from DockerHub, much like you would import code from online libraries.

How the Docker architecture works

The main advantage of Docker is the virtualization of the operating system, not the hardware. This is done efficiently by using a client-server architecture. The Docker client with which you interact with Docker as a user communicates on your behalf with the Docker daemon, the container manager. When they are separate entities, the Docker client and daemon can either run on the same system or run remotely.

If you want to manage containers on a larger scale, you can use the native clustering solution Docker Swarm with Docker. Docker Swarm turns a group of Docker engines and containers into a single Docker engine that makes it easier to manage, monitor, and deploy.

To manage a Docker cluster, use Swarm's own API to create discovery tokens, list additional nodes and containers, and run engines.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is a container orchestration tool that enables you to manage, deploy, and run various containers across multiple nodes in your network. It's also a monitoring and logging system that allows you to keep track of all of the containers you use to run your app and their performance.

In addition to monitoring, Kubernetes does most of the container management for you, connecting them to servers and ensuring that each container cluster has adequate access to hardware resources.

Unlike Docker, Kubernetes doesn't create containers, it just manages them. It has to work with a separate container system. If you don't already have a container building system for your app, you won't be able to use Kubernetes. However, you can integrate Kubernetes into your operations at an early stage by connecting it to a container system such as Docker.

How the Kubernetes architecture works

The Kubernetes architecture was designed to be flexible and efficient. Instead of several nodes working independently of one another, the Kubernetes clusters use a master worker node system when it comes to tasks, permissions and the distribution of components.

In a sense, the main node is Kubernetes itself. It's the working brain of the cluster that manages the API, deployment plans, and working nodes.

The working nodes are your application. Each worker node contains a kubelete that communicates with the API server in the master node, a kube proxy that enables communication between your app's microservices, pods that transport containers, and a container engine like Docker.

Because the containers in each pod often share context, resources, and goals, you can easily scale pods by replicating and deploying them as demand increases or decreases. This subdivided architecture enables Kubernetes to be highly scalable without having to forego a stable infrastructure.

Kubernetes vs. Docker: Which Should You Choose?

Docker and Kubernetes are nearly identical in many ways, but they also have advantages and disadvantages depending on the features available and the architecture. To choose the right container system for your project, you need to understand the core differences between Docker and Kubernetes beyond a surface-level definition.


The main goal of Docker is to create and manage lightweight containers. Kubernetes can only manage containers and requires the use of a third-party container builder.


Docker clusters are much more difficult and time consuming to build compared to Kubernetes. However, they are stronger and much more stable than Kubernetes clusters.


Kubernetes is designed to automatically scale containers. While you can use Docker Swarm to manage and orchestrate your containers, the process isn't automated and can be time consuming. However, the scalability options in Docker can weaken the cluster strength, as opposed to scaling in Kubernetes.

Logging and monitoring

With Docker, you'll need to integrate a third-party tool to monitor your app. Kubernetes, on the other hand, has integrated monitoring and logging systems.

Public cloud compatibility

Docker is only compatible with Azure, while Kubernetes users can choose between Google, AWS, and Azure Cloud.

Between Docker and Kubernetes

There is no clear winner in the comparison between Docker and Kubernetes. Every container system has strengths and weaknesses that can be critical or complementary depending on your requirements.

Whatever your decision, make sure it can grow with your app by either offering built-in tools or allowing third-party integration.

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About the author

Anina Ot
(26 articles published)

Anina is a freelance technology and internet security writer at MakeUseOf. She started writing in cybersecurity 3 years ago in hopes of making it more accessible to the average person. Want to learn new things and a huge astronomy nerd.

By Anina Ot

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