Docker Swarm vs Kubernetes vs Rancher

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Docker Swarm

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Docker Swarm vs Kubernetes vs Rancher: What are the differences?


Docker Swarm, Kubernetes, and Rancher are all container orchestration tools that help manage and deploy containers efficiently. While they share some similar features, they also have distinct differences that make them suitable for different use cases.

  1. Architecture and Design: Docker Swarm is a simple and lightweight orchestrator that integrates well with the Docker ecosystem. It follows a decentralized design where managers and workers communicate directly. Kubernetes, on the other hand, follows a more complex master-worker architecture, making it highly scalable and suitable for large-scale deployments. Rancher, an orchestration platform, supports both Docker Swarm and Kubernetes, providing a unified interface and additional management features.

  2. Ease of Use and Deployment: Docker Swarm is known for its simplicity, as it is built directly into Docker and requires minimal configuration to set up and start. Kubernetes, although more complex to install and manage, offers advanced features, such as automatic scaling and service discovery. Rancher aims to simplify container management by providing a user-friendly interface, which makes it more accessible and easier to deploy both Docker Swarm and Kubernetes environments.

  3. Scalability: Kubernetes is widely recognized for its exceptional scalability. It can efficiently handle massive clusters with thousands of nodes and supports auto-scaling based on predefined policies. Docker Swarm, while also capable of scaling, may face limitations in terms of scalability as it relies on manager nodes for orchestration. Rancher, by supporting both orchestrators, offers the flexibility to choose the one that best fits your scalability needs.

  4. Community and Ecosystem: Kubernetes has a thriving open-source community and a vast ecosystem of tools and resources. It benefits from extensive contributions and support from major tech companies, making it the go-to choice for many enterprises. Docker Swarm has a less vibrant community compared to Kubernetes but leverages Docker's ecosystem. Rancher, being an orchestration platform, supports and integrates with both Kubernetes and Swarm, allowing users to take advantage of the broader community and ecosystem.

  5. Resource Consumption: Docker Swarm is considered to be more lightweight compared to Kubernetes in terms of resource consumption. It has a smaller footprint and requires fewer resources, making it suitable for smaller deployments or environments with limited resources. Kubernetes, while resource-intensive, offers advanced features such as load balancing and automatic scaling, making it well-suited for larger-scale enterprise deployments. Rancher manages the resources of both orchestrators efficiently, allowing users to optimize resource allocation based on their specific requirements.

  6. Customizability and Extensibility: Kubernetes provides a highly extensible framework with a rich set of APIs that allows users to customize and extend its functionalities. It supports the development of custom controllers and operators, enabling users to build their own features and integrations. Docker Swarm, while not as customizable as Kubernetes, works seamlessly within the Docker ecosystem and benefits from its extensibility. Rancher, being a comprehensive orchestration platform, provides additional customization options and extends the features of both Kubernetes and Docker Swarm.

In summary, Docker Swarm is a simple and lightweight orchestrator, Kubernetes is a powerful and highly scalable solution with a vast ecosystem, and Rancher acts as an orchestration platform supporting both Swarm and Kubernetes, providing ease of use and management features while offering customization options for both orchestrators.

Advice on Docker Swarm, Kubernetes, and Rancher

Hello, we have a bunch of local hosts (Linux and Windows) where Docker containers are running with bamboo agents on them. Currently, each container is installed as a system service. Each host is set up manually. I want to improve the system by adding some sort of orchestration software that should install, update and check for consistency in my docker containers. I don't need any clouds, all hosts are local. I'd prefer simple solutions. What orchestration system should I choose?

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Replies (1)
Mortie Torabi
Docker SwarmDocker Swarm

If you just want the basic orchestration between a set of defined hosts, go with Docker Swarm. If you want more advanced orchestration + flexibility in terms of resource management and load balancing go with Kubernetes. In both cases, you can make it even more complex while making the whole architecture more understandable and replicable by using Terraform.

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Decisions about Docker Swarm, Kubernetes, and Rancher
Michael Roberts

We develop rapidly with docker-compose orchestrated services, however, for production - we utilise the very best ideas that Kubernetes has to offer: SCALE! We can scale when needed, setting a maximum and minimum level of nodes for each application layer - scaling only when the load balancer needs it. This allowed us to reduce our devops costs by 40% whilst also maintaining an SLA of 99.87%.

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Simon Reymann
Senior Fullstack Developer at QUANTUSflow Software GmbH · | 30 upvotes · 9.3M views

Our whole DevOps stack consists of the following tools:

  • GitHub (incl. GitHub Pages/Markdown for Documentation, GettingStarted and HowTo's) for collaborative review and code management tool
  • Respectively Git as revision control system
  • SourceTree as Git GUI
  • Visual Studio Code as IDE
  • CircleCI for continuous integration (automatize development process)
  • Prettier / TSLint / ESLint as code linter
  • SonarQube as quality gate
  • Docker as container management (incl. Docker Compose for multi-container application management)
  • VirtualBox for operating system simulation tests
  • Kubernetes as cluster management for docker containers
  • Heroku for deploying in test environments
  • nginx as web server (preferably used as facade server in production environment)
  • SSLMate (using OpenSSL) for certificate management
  • Amazon EC2 (incl. Amazon S3) for deploying in stage (production-like) and production environments
  • PostgreSQL as preferred database system
  • Redis as preferred in-memory database/store (great for caching)

The main reason we have chosen Kubernetes over Docker Swarm is related to the following artifacts:

  • Key features: Easy and flexible installation, Clear dashboard, Great scaling operations, Monitoring is an integral part, Great load balancing concepts, Monitors the condition and ensures compensation in the event of failure.
  • Applications: An application can be deployed using a combination of pods, deployments, and services (or micro-services).
  • Functionality: Kubernetes as a complex installation and setup process, but it not as limited as Docker Swarm.
  • Monitoring: It supports multiple versions of logging and monitoring when the services are deployed within the cluster (Elasticsearch/Kibana (ELK), Heapster/Grafana, Sysdig cloud integration).
  • Scalability: All-in-one framework for distributed systems.
  • Other Benefits: Kubernetes is backed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), huge community among container orchestration tools, it is an open source and modular tool that works with any OS.
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Pros of Docker Swarm
Pros of Kubernetes
Pros of Rancher
  • 55
    Docker friendly
  • 46
    Easy to setup
  • 40
    Standard Docker API
  • 38
    Easy to use
  • 23
  • 22
  • 13
    Clustering made easy
  • 12
    Simple usage
  • 11
    Integral part of docker
  • 6
    Cross Platform
  • 5
    Labels and annotations
  • 5
  • 3
    Easy Networking
  • 3
    Shallow learning curve
  • 164
    Leading docker container management solution
  • 128
    Simple and powerful
  • 106
    Open source
  • 76
    Backed by google
  • 58
    The right abstractions
  • 25
    Scale services
  • 20
    Replication controller
  • 11
    Permission managment
  • 9
    Supports autoscaling
  • 8
  • 8
  • 6
  • 5
    No cloud platform lock-in
  • 5
    Promotes modern/good infrascture practice
  • 5
    Open, powerful, stable
  • 5
  • 4
  • 4
    Quick cloud setup
  • 3
    Cloud Agnostic
  • 3
    Captain of Container Ship
  • 3
    A self healing environment with rich metadata
  • 3
    Runs on azure
  • 3
    Backed by Red Hat
  • 3
    Custom and extensibility
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2
    Everything of CaaS
  • 2
  • 2
    Easy setup
  • 2
  • 103
    Easy to use
  • 79
    Open source and totally free
  • 63
    Multi-host docker-compose support
  • 58
    Load balancing and health check included
  • 58
  • 44
    Rolling upgrades, green/blue upgrades feature
  • 42
    Dns and service discovery out-of-the-box
  • 37
    Only requires docker
  • 34
    Multitenant and permission management
  • 29
    Easy to use and feature rich
  • 11
    Cross cloud compatible
  • 11
    Does everything needed for a docker infrastructure
  • 8
    Simple and powerful
  • 8
    Next-gen platform
  • 7
    Very Docker-friendly
  • 6
    Support Kubernetes and Swarm
  • 6
    Application catalogs with stack templates (wizards)
  • 6
    Supports Apache Mesos, Docker Swarm, and Kubernetes
  • 6
    Rolling and blue/green upgrades deployments
  • 6
    High Availability service: keeps your app up 24/7
  • 5
    Easy to use service catalog
  • 4
    Very intuitive UI
  • 4
    IaaS-vendor independent, supports hybrid/multi-cloud
  • 4
    Awesome support
  • 3
  • 2
    Requires less infrastructure requirements

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Cons of Docker Swarm
Cons of Kubernetes
Cons of Rancher
  • 9
    Low adoption
  • 16
    Steep learning curve
  • 15
    Poor workflow for development
  • 8
    Orchestrates only infrastructure
  • 4
    High resource requirements for on-prem clusters
  • 2
    Too heavy for simple systems
  • 1
    Additional vendor lock-in (Docker)
  • 1
    More moving parts to secure
  • 1
    Additional Technology Overhead
  • 10
    Hosting Rancher can be complicated

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