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Docker vs k3s: What are the differences?


Docker and k3s are both containerization platforms that allow developers to build, deploy, and manage applications within containers. While they have some similarities, there are key differences between the two.

  1. Architecture: Docker is a full-fledged containerization platform that comprises a daemon, client, and container runtime. It is designed to be easily installed and run on various operating systems. On the other hand, k3s is a lightweight and certified Kubernetes distribution that is optimized for resource-constrained environments. It is specifically designed for edge computing, IoT, and other low-resource scenarios.

  2. Resource Footprint: Docker has a heavier resource footprint compared to k3s. Docker runs its own virtualization layer and requires a dedicated kernel. In contrast, k3s leverages the lightweight container orchestration capabilities of Kubernetes, making it more efficient and consuming fewer resources.

  3. Ease of Installation: Docker is relatively easy to install and setup, especially on individual machines or development environments. It provides a user-friendly interface and documentation. Conversely, k3s is designed for simplicity and ease of deployment in resource-constrained environments. It requires fewer system dependencies and can be installed with a single command.

  4. Management and Features: Docker provides a robust set of management tools and features that enable developers to build, test, and deploy applications seamlessly. It supports container networking, storage management, and image registry. Meanwhile, k3s extends the functionality of Kubernetes by providing a lightweight and simplified Kubernetes distribution, ensuring compatibility while optimizing resource usage.

  5. Community Support: Docker benefits from a large and active community, resulting in a vast ecosystem of plugins, tools, and resources. It has been widely adopted in the industry, and developers can find extensive documentation and community support. While k3s is a relatively newer project, it is gaining popularity and has an active community contributing to its development.

  6. Use Case Focus: Docker focuses on enabling developers to package and distribute applications as containers, regardless of the underlying infrastructure. It is useful for development teams working on various platforms. Conversely, k3s specifically targets resource-constrained environments, edge computing, and IoT use cases. It is designed to be lightweight and efficient, enabling Kubernetes to run on low-resource devices.

In Summary, Docker is a full-fledged containerization platform with a larger ecosystem and focus on enabling containerized application development, while k3s is a lightweight Kubernetes distribution optimized for resource-constrained environments such as edge computing and IoT.

Decisions about Docker and k3s
Florian Sager
IT DevOp at Agitos GmbH · | 3 upvotes · 419.4K 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 k3s
  • 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
  • 6
  • 4
  • 2
    Replication Controller
  • 2
    Scale Services
  • 2
    Open Source

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Cons of Docker
Cons of k3s
  • 8
    New versions == broken features
  • 6
    Unreliable networking
  • 6
    Documentation not always in sync
  • 4
    Moves quickly
  • 3
    Not Secure
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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 k3s?

    Certified Kubernetes distribution designed for production workloads in unattended, resource-constrained, remote locations or inside IoT appliances. Supports something as small as a Raspberry Pi or as large as an AWS a1.4xlarge 32GiB server.

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    Blog Posts

    Jul 9 2019 at 7:22PM

    Blue Medora

    DockerPostgreSQLNew Relic+8
    DockerAmazon EC2Scala+8
    What are some alternatives to Docker and k3s?
    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