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Docker vs Portainer: What are the differences?

Docker and Portainer are popular tools for containerization and container management. Docker is an open-source platform that allows developers to build and distribute applications as lightweight containers. Portainer, on the other hand, is a user-friendly management interface for Docker containers. Let's explore their key differences:

  1. Core Functionality: Docker is an open-source platform that enables developers to create, deploy, and manage containers. It provides a complete containerization solution, including container runtime, image management, networking, and orchestration capabilities. Docker allows users to build and package applications along with their dependencies into lightweight and portable containers. Portainer, on the other hand, is a web-based management interface for Docker. It provides a graphical user interface (GUI) to simplify the management of Docker containers, images, networks, and volumes. Portainer focuses on enhancing the usability and accessibility of Docker's core functionalities.

  2. User Interface and Management: Docker primarily relies on a command-line interface (CLI) for managing containers and interacting with the Docker daemon. It requires users to run commands and execute various Docker commands to perform actions such as container creation, deployment, and monitoring. Portainer, on the other hand, offers a user-friendly web-based interface that abstracts the complexity of Docker CLI commands. It provides an intuitive GUI with point-and-click operations, making it easier for users to manage Docker containers and perform tasks like container deployment, scaling, and monitoring without requiring extensive knowledge of Docker commands.

  3. Additional Features and Extensions: Docker provides resources like Docker Compose for creating multi-container applications, Docker Swarm for managing containers, and Docker Registry for storing and sharing container images. Additionally, Kubernetes and other well-known orchestration software are easily integrated with Docker. Portainer makes Docker management simpler, it also offers other features like user management and access control, container templates, and container statistics. Users can manage numerous Docker hosts from a single Portainer instance thanks to its multi-node management functionality.

  4. Deployment and Scalability: Docker is designed to be highly scalable and can be deployed across various environments, including on-premises servers, virtual machines, and cloud platforms. It provides flexibility in deploying containers as standalone entities or as part of larger microservices architectures. Docker supports horizontal scaling by allowing users to create and manage multiple instances of containers to handle increased workloads. Portainer, as a management interface for Docker, does not have inherent scalability features but can be deployed in a distributed manner to manage multiple Docker environments. Multiple instances of Portainer can be set up and connected to manage different Docker hosts.

  5. Community and Support: Docker has a large and active community of developers and contributors, providing extensive documentation, forums, and resources for learning and troubleshooting. It benefits from a robust ecosystem with a wide range of third-party tools and integrations. Portainer also has a supportive community and provides user support through its forums and documentation. However, as Portainer is a tool built on top of Docker, it leverages Docker's community and resources for container-related functionalities.

In summary, Docker enables users to create, deploy, and manage containers, while Portainer is a user-friendly management interface that simplifies Docker container management through a web-based GUI. Docker offers extensive features for container deployment, orchestration, and scaling, while Portainer focuses on enhancing the user experience and providing a simplified interface for managing Docker containers.

Decisions about Docker and Portainer
Florian Sager
IT DevOp at Agitos GmbH · | 3 upvotes · 424.6K 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 Portainer
  • 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
  • 35
  • 26
    Great UI
  • 19
  • 12
    Easy to setup, gives a practical interface for Docker
  • 11
    Because it just works, super simple yet powerful
  • 11
    Fully featured
  • 9
    A must for Docker DevOps
  • 7
    Free and opensource
  • 5
  • 5
    It's simple, fast and the support is great
  • 4
    Template Support

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Cons of Docker
Cons of Portainer
  • 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 Portainer?

    It is a universal container management tool. It works with Kubernetes, Docker, Docker Swarm and Azure ACI. It allows you to manage containers without needing to know platform-specific code.

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    What companies use Portainer?
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    What tools integrate with Portainer?

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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 Portainer?
    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