The Docker vs. Kubernetes Debate Is A Bit Misleading
Sean McGowanApril 12th, 20183 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
If you’re building a modern cloud infrastructure, you’ve probably stumbled across the great “Kubernetes vs. Docker” debate. They’re two of the biggest names in container solutions, and for good reason too: both platforms perform crucial roles in the virtualization of system architecture. But here’s the snag: the roles that Kubernetes and Docker play are completely different.
That’s the confusion behind Kubernetes vs. Docker—they’re not actually direct competitors. In fact, they can even integrate and operate with each other. So why the big debate?
For starters, “Kubernetes vs. Docker” itself is a bit of a misnomer—what people really mean is “Kubernetes vs. Docker Swarm”. But before we get into the semantics, let’s take a step back and pin down what these technologies actually are. Consider this a primer on Kubernetes & Docker, by an application development agency that interfaces with both of them every day.
Wait—What Are These For Again?
Both Kubernetes and Docker are container solutions. Containers are virtual, isolated user-spaces that appear as real computers to the programs they’re running.
In other words, they’re a comprehensive way of packaging software that comes with all sorts of useful advantages: they’re predictable, efficient, flexible, and require less overhead than other virtualization methods. Containers combine your application’s code, libraries, everything into a single immutable package.
Because of this, containers are extremely popular in virtual hosting environments and indispensable in the building and maintenance of modernized cloud infrastructures. So how do you build one?
The short answer: Docker. Docker is an open-source software that allows you to build and launch containers through the use of Docker Images. The Docker Image is essentially the container, the package that includes your application and its libraries. It allows for your application to remain consistent as its deployed across a variety of environments.
Besides the Docker Image, the container solution also offers a repository called DockerHub, a sort of GitHub for containers. DockerHub not only allows you to store all your containers but also enables you to easily distribute them.
Docker is by far the most popular container build solution, but it is missing one crucial function. Say you have multiple containers running, maybe even across different machines or environments. How do you coordinate the isolated containers to operate as one system? How will they communicate? Integrate? What if one fails?
This isn’t a far-fetched scenario—in fact, it’s necessary if you’re running microservices. And thankfully, there’s a clean, simple tool on the market that allows you to easily orchestrate and manage multiple containers at once.
Enter Kubernetes. Like Docker, it’s a popular, open-source container solution. But unlike Docker, you can’t actually build containers with Kubernetes—you can only manage them. Though ‘only’ may be selling Kubernetes a bit short. The software tool enables large groups of containers to operate harmoniously, and that’s not where it’s functionality ends.
Kubernetes assists with scaling by allowing operators to add or remove containers with ease. It keeps storage consistent for applications running multiple instances. Kubernetes can even distribute operational load between containers and act as a failsafe. If one container goes down, it can launch a new one on a different machine.
All of these features are crucial to those running cloud-based infrastructures, and Docker alone doesn’t offer them. But Docker does offer its own native container orchestration tool called Docker Swarm, and that’s where the real debate lies. Kubernetes and Docker can co-exist just fine, but when it comes to orchestration, the true question is Kubernates or Swarm.
Kubernetes vs. Swarm
Just like everything in custom software development services, there isn’t an easy answer. Selecting the right container orchestration tool means appraising your current infrastructure, and determining which one is the better fit. There’s no obvious winner between the two solutions—it all depends on your business needs.
If we’re talking pure popularity, Kubernetes is the clear victor. It’s the current leader in the orchestration wars, and it’s maintained its hold on the market by being configurable, supremely reliable, and boasting a large, supportive community. And if you’re using any of Google Cloud services, Kubernetes can integrate seamlessly.
If you’re already invested in Docker’s containers, Swarm offers a clear advantage. It comes fully integrated with Docker Engine, and uses the standard API and networking. That means no additional installation and a forgiving learning curve. You may not want to tie your entire workchain to a single company, but Docker & Docker Swarm are a reliable, flexible, and efficient way to do it.
Why not consult with the experts? As a top-ranked software development agency, Codal has experience with both container solutions—Kubernetes and Docker—and have architected countless cloud-based infrastructures to boot.
Drop us a line, and we’d be more than happy to guide you in selecting and executing the right tech stack for your platform, whatever that may be.