Kubernetes vs Docker

Kubernetes vs Docker: What's The Difference?

Posted by Palak

1 Jun 23 8 Min read

Docker and Kubernetes are the most common names that one might hear in the field of container technology. Docker is a runtime and containerization platform that was first introduced in 2013 and brought about a microservices-based computing model. Kubernetes is a platform that manages and runs containers from multiple container runtimes and supports various container runtimes, including Docker.

Kubernetes and Docker are two popular technologies for container orchestration. One might use both to complement each other and extract greater benefits. But what's the difference between the two? In this article, we dive into the key differences between Kubernetes and Docker to make the best decision for one’s container needs. Read on to learn more.

What is Docker?

Docker is more than just containers- it is also a suite of tools developers use to run, share, orchestrate, and build containerized apps.

Below mentioned are the details of its four functions:

1. Docker as a tool to Build Container Images

A container image, the blueprint of a container, is created by Docker Build. This also includes everything required to run any application- binaries, the application code, dependencies, scripts, environmental variables, configuration, etc. Another tool that helps to run and define multi-container applications is Docker Compose. The function of these tools is to tightly integrate the code with repositories such as GitHub and continuously integrate and deliver pipeline tools such as Jenkins.

2. Sharing Image:

Docker provides a registry service, Docker Hub, which assists in sharing and finding container images with the rest of the team or the public. The functionality of Docker Hub is very similar to that of GitHub.

3. Running Containers:

The container runtime, Docker Engine, is unique for its ability to run in almost any environment which includes Linux and Windows servers, Mac and Windows servers, edge devices, and on the cloud. Docker Engine is created on the top container, the leading open-source container runtime. It was a Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project.

4. Built-in Container Orchestration:

A group of Docker Engines (mostly on different nodes) called a swarm is managed by Docker Engines. From here on, there is an overlap between Docker and Kubernetes.


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What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes, also known as K8s, is a renowned open-source platform for a group of networked resources that orchestrates container runtime systems. We can also use it with or without Docker.

In 2014, Google released Kubernetes as an open-source, which is currently the market leader. Kubernetes has further been deemed an orchestration tool complying with industry standards for distributed application deployment and containers. It was Google who originally developed Kubernetes since it needed a new way for running numerous containers a week at scale. Google has also noted that Kubernetes is designed to simplify the deployment and management of complicated distributed systems. This is achieved while simultaneously benefiting from container-enabled improved utilization.

To increase efficiency in resource usage and reduce network overhead, Kubernetes combines a set of containers in a group where it then manages it. One example of such a container set is the Redis cache, which is an app server, and a SQL database. On the other hand, Docker containers are just one process per container rather than a container set.

Its amazing offers on service discovery, automated rollouts and rollbacks, load balancing within a cluster, configuration management, and self-healing of the containers make Kubernetes beneficial for DevOps teams. Kubernetes, moreover, is an essential tool that helps to build powerful DevOps CI/CD pipelines.

It is also vital to keep many considerations in mind when managing or building Kubernetes clusters, as it is not an entire platform as a service (PaaS). This complexity that arises with working with Kubernetes is a big reason customers often opt for managed Kubernetes services from cloud vendors.


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Kubernetes vs Docker

Docker is a container runtime. By contrast, Kubernetes is a platform that runs and manages containers from multiple container runtimes. Container runtime, which includes Docker, CRI-O, containers, and every other implementation of Kubernetes CRI (Container Runtime Interface), is supported by Kubernetes.

Docker, by itself, is very beneficial for developing modern applications. Docker Swarm, a container orchestration tool, helps handle the production container workload development of only some containers. However, once the system has grown and more containers need to get networked with each other, Docker, by itself, might not be able to stand it. However, this drawback is addressed by Kubernetes as it can handle multiple containers bundled together.

When performing a Kubernetes and Docker comparison, it is better to compare Kubernetes to Docker Swarm. Docker Swarm, sometimes called Docker Swarm mode, just like Kubernetes, is a container orchestration tool. This implies that Docker Swarm enables the managing of numerous containers deployed across numerous hosts that run the Docker server. The Swarm mode must be configured and set up by a DevOps team because, otherwise, it is disabled. Docker Swarm is an excellent option for an organization that has just started with the usage of containers in production because it can cover 80% of all cases with just 20% of Kubernetes’ complexity.

Docker Swarm can also integrate seamlessly with Docker Compose or Docker CLI, which are just names of some Docker tool suites, and provide a familiar user experience with a flat learning curve. Since Docker Swarm is just another Docker tool, it can run anywhere Docker runs and is considered to be easier to troubleshoot compared to Kubernetes.

The orchestration platform Kubernetes, however, is the choice of 88% of organizations. Developed by Google, Kubernetes is now not only widely supported by every public cloud vendor but also available in many distributions. Google Kubernetes platform, Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service, and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes service all offer self-managed Kubernetes services. Other such popular distributions include Rancher/SUSE, Red Hat OpenShift, IBM Cloud Kubernetes Services, VMWare, Tanzu, etc.

The primary selling points of Kubernetes come with its infinite configurability, scalability, and rich technological ecosystem, which also includes multiple open-source frameworks for management, monitoring, and security. Further, Kubernetes can also automatically manage load balancing, service discovery, isolation, resource allocation, and scaling of pods horizontally or vertically.

Let’s understand the key differences between Kubernetes and Docker briefly:


Complex installation

Easier installation

More complex with a steep learning curve, but more powerful

Lightweight and easier to learn but limited functionality

Supports auto-scaling

Manual scaling

Built-in monitoring

Needs third-party tools for monitoring

Manual setup of the load balancer

Auto load balancer

Need for a separate CLI tool

Integrated with Docker CLI


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Docker or Kubernetes: Which One to Choose?

Now the question arises how do we choose between the two container orchestration platforms: Docker or Kubernetes?

When trying to build and run our infrastructure, it is typically less complex to set up and configure Docker compared to Kubernetes. Moreover, Docker Swarm provides us with the same benefit as Kubernetes- scaling services automatically to a desirable state, balancing the load across containers of the same cluster, ensuring access control and security across the services, and deploying applications through declarative YAML files. Therefore, Docker Swarm will be a great option if we just plan to run only a few workloads, don’t bother about managing our infrastructure, and don’t require any particular feature that Kubernetes provides.

By contrast, Kubernetes might be difficult to set up initially, but it offers a greater number of features and more flexibility. Kubernetes also holds greater support from an open-source community that is more active. Other benefits of Kubernetes include the following:

  • Supports many deployment strategies
  • Manages network ingress
  • Gives observability out of the box into the containers
  • Simpler to get started
  • Easier to take advantage of cloud-native features such as auto-scaling

Therefore, it makes more sense to opt for Kubernetes when many workloads need to be run and also there is a requirement for cloud-native interoperability. Kubernetes is also a better option when there are multiple teams in an organization due to the necessity for more isolation of services.


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Docker and Kubernetes: Better Together

Even though it is possible to use Docker with or without Kubernetes, they can function very well when combined.

Docker’s strength lies in development- which includes building, configuring, and distributing containers with the help of DockerHub as an image registry and CI/CD pipelines. It allows us to use existing Docker containers while also tackling the complexities of networking, deployment, monitoring, and scaling. By contrast, Kubernetes outperforms Docker when it comes to operations.

Even though Docker Swarm is a substitute in this domain, Kubernetes is undoubtedly the supreme option for orchestrating large distributed applications with multiple connected microservices such as secrets, databases, and other external dependencies.

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Experience the advantages of containerization with Docker and the power of orchestration with Kubernetes. Empower your development teams, improve efficiency, and unlock the full potential of your applications.

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A Page Out of the Lab Book

How do Docker and Kubernetes work together?

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Docker and Kubernetes can be used together to create a powerful containerization and orchestration solution. Docker is used to build and package applications into containers, which can then be deployed on Kubernetes clusters. Kubernetes provides the tools for managing and scaling these containers, ensuring high availability and efficient resource utilization.

Which one should I use, Docker or Kubernetes?

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The choice between Docker and Kubernetes depends on your specific needs. If you want to containerize your applications and simplify the development and deployment process, Docker is a great choice. However, if you have a complex application architecture with multiple containers that need to be managed and scaled efficiently, Kubernetes provides advanced orchestration capabilities and is a better fit.

Can Docker replace Kubernetes?

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Docker and Kubernetes serve different purposes, so it's not a matter of one replacing the other. Docker provides containerization capabilities, while Kubernetes offers container orchestration. However, Docker can be used as the underlying container runtime for Kubernetes, making them work together seamlessly. In many cases, organizations use Docker to build containers and Kubernetes to manage and orchestrate those containers at scale.