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Docker vs LXC vs rkt: What are the differences?

Key Differences between Docker, LXC, and rkt


In the world of containerization, Docker, LXC (Linux Containers), and rkt (pronounced "rocket") are three popular tools that help developers create and manage lightweight, isolated environments. Although they serve similar purposes, there are significant differences between them in terms of architecture, features, and community support. This article aims to highlight the key distinctions among Docker, LXC, and rkt.

  1. Containerization Engine: Docker is a containerization platform that uses a client-server architecture, with the Docker daemon acting as the server and the Docker CLI serving as the client. On the other hand, LXC is a userspace interface for the Linux kernel containment features and operates directly on the Linux kernel. rkt, developed by CoreOS, follows an application container model and focuses on security and simplicity, using pod-based architecture for managing containers.

  2. Image Format: Docker uses a layered image format based on the Docker Image Specification. It builds images using Dockerfiles and stores them in a Docker registry. LXC, being more barebones, does not have a dedicated image format but relies on operating system templates or snapshots. rkt, similar to Docker, supports images but uses an industry-standard App Container Image (ACI) format, which is compatible with other container runtimes.

  3. Orchestration and Compatibility: Docker has extensive support for orchestration through Docker Swarm, enabling clustering, scaling, and load balancing of containers across multiple nodes. It also has strong integration with other containerization tools such as Kubernetes. LXC, being a fundamental component of LXD (Linux Container Hypervisor), provides more advanced cluster management and device pass-through capabilities. rkt, by design, does not include native orchestration features but instead aims to be compatible with existing orchestration solutions like Kubernetes and Mesos.

  4. Security and Isolation: Docker primarily relies on namespaces and control groups provided by the Linux kernel to ensure container isolation. It introduces an additional layer of security through the use of Docker Engine, which manages container execution. LXC, being more low-level, provides stronger isolation as it leverages kernel cgroups and namespaces directly. rkt, with its focus on security, utilizes a simpler and reduced trusted computing base, reducing potential attack vectors. It also supports features like seccomp and native sandboxing, enhancing container security.

  5. Community and Ecosystem: Docker has gained significant community traction and has an extensive ecosystem with a vast collection of pre-built images and tools contributed by the community. It enjoys wide adoption and has become a standard in the containerization landscape. While LXC has a smaller but dedicated community, it benefits from being a part of the larger Linux ecosystem. rkt, although not as mature as Docker, has an active community and complements the CoreOS ecosystem, providing features like automatic updates and easy deployments.

  6. Runtime Performance and Resource Efficiency: Docker, with its layered image approach and shared container OS, provides lightweight and efficient runtime performance. It employs copy-on-write techniques to optimize resource utilization. LXC, being more lightweight than Docker, has lower overhead and better performance for host-level operations. rkt, designed with simplicity and minimalism in mind, offers comparable performance to Docker but with less resource overhead due to its modular design.

In summary, Docker is a highly popular container platform with a strong emphasis on container management and orchestration. LXC, being a Linux kernel-level solution, provides better isolation and control but with a lower-level interface. rkt focuses on simplicity, security, and compatibility with other container platforms, making it a suitable choice for specific use cases.

Decisions about Docker, LXC, and rkt
Florian Sager
IT DevOp at Agitos GmbH · | 3 upvotes · 426.2K 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 LXC
Pros of rkt
  • 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
  • 5
    Easy to use
  • 4
  • 3
    Simple and powerful
  • 3
    Good security
  • 2
  • 1
  • 1
  • 5
  • 3
    Robust container portability
  • 2
    Composable containers

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Cons of Docker
Cons of LXC
Cons of rkt
  • 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 LXC?

      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.

      What is rkt?

      Rocket is a cli for running App Containers. The goal of rocket is to be composable, secure, and fast.

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      Blog Posts

      Jul 9 2019 at 7:22PM

      Blue Medora

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      What are some alternatives to Docker, LXC, and rkt?
      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.
      Red Hat OpenShift
      OpenShift is Red Hat's Cloud Computing Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering. OpenShift is an application platform in the cloud where application developers and teams can build, test, deploy, and run their applications.
      VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2.
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