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The Difference Between Docker and Kubernetes
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Alan Leal
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Note: Now, before we go any further in this discussion, it’s absolutely important that you have a grasp of containerization and container orchestration systems. If you don’t, you can catch up on some of our earlier blogs on these topics (here).

‘Docker vs Kubernetes’ is Misleading

We need to start with the fact that the comparison, ‘Docker vs. Kubernetes’ is actually a little bit misleading. Docker isn’t a competitor to Kubernetes per se; rather, Docker is the container upon which Kubernetes runs on.

You’re actually comparing Kubernetes to Docker Swarm, which is just Docker’s proprietary container orchestration platform.

Why Do We Need Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, etc?

To efficiently run a containerized environment, you need an orchestration system. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck having to manually spin-up virtual machines (VM) to adjust to demand for your application. When you must scale across a large number of users, manual management (i.e., logging into each VM and managing one-by-one) isn’t feasible.

However, with a container orchestration system, you can automate the management process through self-healing, auto-recovery, and other capabilities.

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What’s the Difference Between Docker and Kubernetes?

The easiest difference to spot between the two is that Swarm is a proprietary suite owned by Docker. On the other hand, Kubernetes — while created by Google — is an open-source suite co-supported by multiple vendors, including Google’s competitors, Amazon and Microsoft.

In general, Kubernetes is a better platform. In fact, Docker itself has moved away from Docker Swarm for its own container orchestration needs. But for reference, they differ in the following:


One might argue that Docker Swarm is simpler to setup compared to Kubernetes. That might be accurate in some cases, but you can vastly cut the learning curve of Kubernetes by using one of several existing Kubernetes deployments, such as Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).


Unlike Docker Swarm, Kubernetes offers auto-scaling, which basically lets you handle increased traffic to your website and demand for your application.

Load Balancing

Both Docker Swarm and Kubernetes offer load balancing (i.e., allocating resources across VMs) so that your application can handle increased workloads.


Both Swarm and Kubernetes allow you to share data volumes, but they differ in how. Swarm will allow it between containers and nodes. Kubernetes allows it between containers and in the pod.

Docker vs Kubernetes, Which One Do I Pick?

The market has clearly chosen Kubernetes.

Yes, Kubernetes in of itself is more difficult to configure, but you don’t have to manage it alone. In fact, each of the leading managed cloud services providers — Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — offer pre-built Kubernetes configurations which you can run atop of their respective services.

In other words, you can readily bypass the Kubernetes learning curve.

In addition, because Kubernetes is the industry standard, it benefits more in terms of developer availability. You’ll have an easier time finding skilled Kubernetes experts than Swarm and other container orchestration platforms. This fact will cut your development time and costs.

In our experience, the companies that prefer Docker Swarm will do so because they aren’t — or intend to — use a managed cloud service provider. They didn’t prioritize portability (i.e., ability to move their application between different cloud hosts) and, frankly, excluded Kubernetes.

But these are niche scenarios. In fact, even in terms of niche platforms, Swarm isn’t the leading competitor to Kubernetes. Rather, Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) is Kubernetes’ main competitor.

Otherwise, Kubernetes’ wide-scale adoption and proven effectiveness in managing containers, maintaining high availability and uptime, and other benefits should matter in your decision.

Need More Help on Containers & Container Orchestration?

Next Steps

If a steep learning curve is preventing you from exploring all of your container orchestration options (especially Kubernetes), then consider working with an outside partner.

An experienced software development agency will cut the learning curve — as well as its cost and time — by bringing the expertise, tools, and capacity you need to the table from day one.

At Techolution, we equip businesses looking to adopt containerized environments with the skills and support they need to cut their time to market and costs. Contact us today to get started on your containerization project.

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