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Kubernetes and Docker: a match made in heaven?

Anyone interested in the possibilities of cloud-native and container technology is probably already vaguely familiar with the terms Kubernetes and Docker. They both relate to containers, a technology that is especially popular amongst organizations that like to work agile, get the best out of cloud computing, and use the DevOps approach to develop and manage applications.

But you might be wondering how Kubernetes and Docker compare to each other. Is it Kubernetes versus Docker or can the two work together? And what can you expect when you use Docker in conjunction with Kubernetes? Read all about it in this article!

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is an open source orchestration platform created by Google. The platform specializes in large-scale, automated management and scaling of applications that are housed in containers (lighter, more compact versions of virtual machines, or VMs).

Amongst other things, Kubernetes allows you to: 

  • Scale the number of containers based on current needs. This gives you the opportunity to save costs during quiet times, but also to scale up quickly when you need a lot of extra bandwidth and computing power.
  • Manage different versions of containers.
  • Divide and balance workloads by automatically spreading containers across your entire cluster for increased uptime. In addition, you can specifically assign pods to a few nodes that have the appropriate hardware.
  • Automatically check whether your containers are still working properly. If not, Kubernetes replaces malfunctioning containers or creates new ones.

What is Docker?

Docker is an open source software platform that allows you to build and implement applications quickly and relatively easily. The system packages the software in standardized units called Docker containers. These contain all the necessary elements that an application needs to run properly, such as the code, libraries, software, and runtime. The containers do not house a full copy of the operating system (OS), but use portions of the host device's OS, making them a lot lighter than VMs.

Docker has several in-house tools that make building, sharing, and orchestrating containerized applications easy. For example, with Docker Build you can create so-called container images. Such an image serves as the blueprint for a container and contains all the elements needed to properly run an application.

Docker Compose is a handy tool that allows you to create and run multi-container applications. The Build and Compose tools integrate well with code repositories such as GitHub and CI/CD tools like Jenkins, Bamboo and GitLab. With Docker Engine you can run containers in almost any IT environment: Mac, Windows, Linux, cloud platforms and edge environments. Docker Swarm allows you to manage a cluster (a swarm in Docker terminology) that consists of multiple Docker Engines, usually spread over several nodes.

Docker versus Kubernetes: the major differences

So, while Docker and Kubernetes are both container orchestration tools, they do differ in a number of ways. Docker is easier to install, set up, and use. It is a good choice for organizations that want to make a start with container technology. Docker Swarm covers many practical needs with approximately 20% of the complexity of Kubernetes.

While Kubernetes is more complex than Docker, it offers way more functionality and configuration options. Prime examples are features such as automatic scaling, automatic load balancing, and more extensive frameworks in the field of management, monitoring and security. Another difference is that Kubernetes runs across a cluster, while Docker runs on a single point. Kubernetes also has a larger market share and user community than Docker Swarm. The former is still seen as the standard of excellence in the world of container orchestration.

Why you can use Docker and Kubernetes together

The great thing about Docker and Kubernetes is that both platforms complement and support each other very well. In this case, 'either-or' becomes 'and-and'. The reason? Both technologies have a different scope and focus. While the great strength of Docker mainly lies in the developmental field (building containers, distributing with CI/CD pipelines, DockerHub for registering container images), Kubernetes offers a high degree of operational excellence. The platform allows you to use Docker containers while simultaneously dealing with complex issues in the field of scaling, monitoring and network management.

Kubernetes is the trusted platform for orchestrating large applications in a complex environment. An IT landscape with hundreds of interconnected microservices and databases is a prime example of such an architecture.

What are the benefits of combining Docker and Kubernetes?

Because they are perfectly integrated and complementary, we can safely say that Docker and Kubernetes form a match made in heaven. But what does the cross-pollination between the two technologies actually yield in terms of business benefits? Most importantly, you get the best of both worlds: the convenience of an easy-to-use, containerized application development environment coupled with the ability to scale workloads and reduce the operational overheads associated with scaling applications. Combining Docker and Kubernetes also ensures a robust infrastructure and high availability of your applications.

Docker is an efficient tool for packaging and distributing containerized applications. But it's challenging to run and manage scalable containers using only Docker, especially when a system grows quickly and the number of connected containers in a network rapidly increases. This is where Kubernetes lends a helping hand. The platform helps you automate discovery, load balancing, resource allocation, isolation, and vertically and horizontally scaling pods.

How SUE helps

Do you want to reap the benefits of Kubernetes and Docker and make the most of container technology? Are you looking to lighten your load in terms of management and design? Then SUE is the right partner for you.

We have plenty of knowledge of and experience with both platforms. Our SUE Cloud Native Adoption Platform (SCNAP) allows us to set up a ready-to-use, fully working Kubernetes environment within half an hour. The platform also seamlessly integrates Docker and other popular open source technologies. Moreover, our specialists are constantly busy improving the platform.

Would you like to know more about the SCNAP and our services? Then please feel free to contact us. You can call us at +31 345 656 666, send an email to or fill out the contact form on our website.

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