Kubernetes vs Docker: The ultimate guide to understanding the difference

posted in: Technology | 1
Docker and Kubernetes logos on top of each other

In software development and deployment, two big names constantly get thrown around: Kubernetes and Docker. It’s no wonder many people are confused about the difference between the two – especially given how often developers use them interchangeably. Are they the same, or should it be Kubernetes vs. Docker, meaning you can only use one over the other?

Let’s look at what Kubernetes is, what Docker is, and how the two differ.

By the end, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of which technology suits your needs.

Highlights:

  • Kubernetes helps DevOps engineers manage large-scale deployments of containers, making it easier to scale up or down as needed.
  • A container runtime is responsible for running containers. It also provides an API for interacting with them, meaning you can start, stop, and manage containers.
  • Docker is the most popular container runtime available today.

What is Kubernetes?

In a previous blog, we provided a simple explanation of Kubernetes (K8s) and containers.

A container is an autonomous environment that includes everything vital to run an application, including the code, dependencies, and configuration files. A container is more lightweight than a virtual machine.

Containers on one side and itheir components and virtual machines on the other with their components

Kubernetes is a container orchestration tool that Google initially developed. K8s helps DevOps engineers manage large-scale deployments of containers, making it easier to scale up or down as needed.

While Kubernetes works with any container runtime, Docker is the most common.

What is Docker?

Before we define Docker, we need to explain a container runtime. A container runtime is responsible for running containers. However, a container runtime doesn’t just launch and run containers. It also provides an API for interacting with them, meaning you can start, stop, and manage containers.

Docker is the most popular container runtime available today. It was one of the first container runtimes on the market (debuting in 2013) and has gained widespread adoption. Docker is easy to use and has a nice feature set that makes it appealing to developers and ops teams. Docker makes it easy to package and run applications in containers. It also includes a command-line tool that makes it easy to work with containers.

Kubernetes vs. Docker: The difference

Now that we’ve looked at Kubernetes and Docker, let’s compare them side-by-side to see which fits best for your needs.

The most significant difference between Kubernetes and Docker is that Kubernetes focuses on managing large-scale deployments of containers, while Docker is more focused on single-container applications.

Kubernetes:

Kubernetes is an excellent choice for managing large-scale deployments of containers. Scaling workloads up or down as needed is easy, and it can work with any container runtime, including Docker.

If you’re just getting started with containers, then Kubernetes might be more than you need. However, if you’re looking for a tool to help manage many containers, then Kubernetes is worth considering.

Docker:

Docker is an excellent choice for single-container applications. It’s easy to use and deploy in any environment.

Docker is probably the best place to start if you’re just starting with containers.  

Kubernetes and Docker Illustrated

Let’s compare Docker to a body care brand we’ll call La Baleine. As part of your daily routine at home, you use La Baleine’s Honeysuckle body wash and La Baleine’s Hibiscus facial scrub. You love that the products come with pumps so you can regulate how much to use, and you order directly from La Baleine when it’s time to refill.

What if you were the owner of a large and widely popular spa facility? You can choose whatever brand or brands to use for your clients, but you also go with La Baleine. However, you take it further. You have saunas that release La Baleine’s essential oils. You use their lotions for massage treatments. And, of course, you have their body and facial wash in the locker rooms. Your orders of La Baleine products arrive on a schedule every two weeks and you can adjust your order depending on how busy your spa is.

Kubernetes is that spa facility. Just like a spa can choose La Baleine as the supply vendor, Kubernetes container management can use Docker as the container runtime.

So, which is better – Kubernetes or Docker?

The answer depends on your needs. Docker is probably the best place to begin if you’re starting with containers. However, if you’re looking for a tool to help manage many containers, then Kubernetes is worth considering.

Concerning containers, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. So, find the best tool for your needs and go from there. No matter your chosen implementation, just get started and experiment to see what works best for you.

Did you enjoy learning about K8s and Docker?

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