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Docker vs Docker Compose: What are the differences?


Docker and Docker Compose are powerful tools used in the field of containerization. While they both serve different purposes within the containerization ecosystem, they are often used together to optimize the management and deployment of applications. This Markdown code will provide a concise comparison of the key differences between Docker and Docker Compose.

  1. Orchestration Capabilities: Docker is primarily used for creating, packaging, and running individual containers. It focuses on containerization at the single-container level. On the other hand, Docker Compose is designed for multi-container applications and provides orchestration capabilities, allowing users to define and manage multiple containers as a single entity.

  2. Configuration Options: Docker uses Dockerfiles to define container configurations. These Dockerfiles comprise instructions that build, configure, and run containers. Docker Compose, on the other hand, uses a declarative YAML file that allows users to define and manage multi-container applications using a higher-level syntax. This approach simplifies the management of complex application configurations.

  3. Scalability: Docker allows users to scale containers independently. With Docker Compose, scaling multiple containers can be achieved, but it has limitations compared to more sophisticated orchestration tools like Docker Swarm or Kubernetes. Docker Swarm provides built-in scaling capabilities and handles service discovery and load balancing, making it suitable for scaling large-scale applications.

  4. Service Discovery: Docker has a built-in DNS service discovery mechanism, which allows containers to communicate with each other using container names. Docker Compose leverages this service discovery mechanism, but it also provides user-defined networks that facilitate container communication and make it easier to manage complex inter-container dependencies.

  5. Environment Variables: Docker allows users to define environment variables at the container level using the -e flag while running containers. Docker Compose extends this functionality by allowing users to define environment variables within the Compose file itself. These variables can be used to configure container-specific settings or to pass dynamic values to containers during runtime.

  6. Ease of Use and Portability: Docker Compose simplifies the deployment process by allowing users to define a complete application stack with a single command. This makes it easy to share and replicate application environments across different systems. Docker, on the other hand, provides more flexibility but requires users to manage containers individually, making it less portable.

In Summary, Docker is focused on containerization at the single-container level, while Docker Compose is designed for managing multi-container applications and provides orchestration capabilities. Docker Compose simplifies the process of defining and managing multi-container applications, making it more suitable for complex deployments.

Decisions about Docker and Docker Compose

GitHub is used for version control as it is a standard. GitHub is also chosen due to familiarity and additional features, such as projects, milestones, and issues.

Docker's Docker Compose is used to containerize the application, for making it easy to set up developer environments.

Google Analytics is used for tracking, especially due to the fact that it is integrated with Firebase as they are both Google products.

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Florian Sager
IT DevOp at Agitos GmbH · | 3 upvotes · 430.1K views

lxd/lxc and Docker aren't congruent so this comparison needs a more detailed look; but in short I can say: the lxd-integrated administration of storage including zfs with its snapshot capabilities as well as the system container (multi-process) approach of lxc vs. the limited single-process container approach of Docker is the main reason I chose lxd over Docker.

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Pros of Docker
Pros of Docker Compose
  • 823
    Rapid integration and build up
  • 691
  • 521
    Open source
  • 505
    Testa­bil­i­ty and re­pro­ducibil­i­ty
  • 460
  • 218
  • 185
  • 106
    Upgrading / down­grad­ing / ap­pli­ca­tion versions
  • 88
  • 85
    Private paas environments
  • 34
  • 26
    Limit resource usage
  • 17
    Game changer
  • 16
    I love the way docker has changed virtualization
  • 14
  • 12
  • 8
    Docker's Compose tools
  • 6
    Easy setup
  • 6
    Fast and Portable
  • 5
    Because its fun
  • 4
    Makes shipping to production very simple
  • 3
    Highly useful
  • 3
    It's dope
  • 2
    Very easy to setup integrate and build
  • 2
    HIgh Throughput
  • 2
    Package the environment with the application
  • 2
    Does a nice job hogging memory
  • 2
    Open source and highly configurable
  • 2
    Simplicity, isolation, resource effective
  • 2
    MacOS support FAKE
  • 2
    Its cool
  • 2
    Docker hub for the FTW
  • 2
  • 0
  • 123
    Multi-container descriptor
  • 110
    Fast development environment setup
  • 79
    Easy linking of containers
  • 68
    Simple yaml configuration
  • 60
    Easy setup
  • 16
    Yml or yaml format
  • 12
    Use Standard Docker API
  • 8
    Open source
  • 5
    Go from template to application in minutes
  • 5
    Can choose Discovery Backend
  • 4
  • 4
    Easy configuration
  • 4
    Kubernetes integration
  • 3
    Quick and easy

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Cons of Docker
Cons of Docker Compose
  • 8
    New versions == broken features
  • 6
    Unreliable networking
  • 6
    Documentation not always in sync
  • 4
    Moves quickly
  • 3
    Not Secure
  • 9
    Tied to single machine
  • 5
    Still very volatile, changing syntax often

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What is Docker?

The Docker Platform is the industry-leading container platform for continuous, high-velocity innovation, enabling organizations to seamlessly build and share any application — from legacy to what comes next — and securely run them anywhere

What is Docker Compose?

With Compose, you define a multi-container application in a single file, then spin your application up in a single command which does everything that needs to be done to get it running.

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Blog Posts

Jul 9 2019 at 7:22PM

Blue Medora

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What are some alternatives to Docker and Docker Compose?
LXC is a userspace interface for the Linux kernel containment features. Through a powerful API and simple tools, it lets Linux users easily create and manage system or application containers.
Rocket is a cli for running App Containers. The goal of rocket is to be composable, secure, and fast.
Kubernetes is an open source orchestration system for Docker containers. It handles scheduling onto nodes in a compute cluster and actively manages workloads to ensure that their state matches the users declared intentions.
Cloud Foundry
Cloud Foundry is an open platform as a service (PaaS) that provides a choice of clouds, developer frameworks, and application services. Cloud Foundry makes it faster and easier to build, test, deploy, and scale applications.
Vagrant provides the framework and configuration format to create and manage complete portable development environments. These development environments can live on your computer or in the cloud, and are portable between Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
See all alternatives