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Docker Swarm vs. Kubernetes: Comparison 2023

Presently, legions of organizations rely on containers for grouping all the key dependencies in a single package. Regarding container orchestration tools, two names are often heard; Docker Swarm and Kubernetes. Both are considered among the top container orchestration tools, but which is better? This article will compare (Docker Swarm vs. Kubernetes) both tools and will elaborate on the criteria to pick the most suitable tool for your organization.

Docker Swarm vs. Kubernetes

What is Docker Swarm?

Docker Swarm is an open-source container orchestration platform that helps manage Dockerized containers. Though it may sound similar to Docker, Swarm is renowned for its simplified usage and setup. A Docker Swarm cluster contains nodes, services, tasks, and load balancers. This platform allows apps to perform on several nodes that share a single container. In simpler terms, the Docker swarm is used to deploy, manage, and scale a cluster of nodes on Docker efficiently.

Advantages of Docker Swarm:

Knowing about Docker Swarm’s advantages will help you know more about the platform and make wise decisions.

  • Docker Swarm is lightweight and easy to use for new users.
  • The learning curve is smooth, making it a preferred choice for beginners.
  • It is easy to install and set up.
  • Supports all the major operating systems.
  • It uses the same command line interface as Docker Engine.
  • Being created by Docker, it is compatible with all the existing Docker products.
  • Suitable for small and less complicated systems.

Disadvantages of Docker Swarm:

There are several disadvantages of Docker Swarm that are mentioned below:

  • Not suitable for complex infrastructures.
  • Customization in Docker Swarm is limited.
  • Due to the tie-in with the Docker API, the functionality of this platform is limited.
  • Community is smaller as compared to other platforms.

What is Kubernetes?

Also called K8s or Kube, Kubernetes is an open-source platform for managing containers. Due to its features, including self-healing, load balancing, rollback, and configuration management, Kubernetes is one of the most popular container orchestration platforms. Kubernetes allows DevOps teams to deploy, manage, or schedule apps through clusters. A builder and worker nodes are further segregated into namespaces, pods, config maps, and many others, making it a complicated platform.

Advantages of Kubernetes:

Kubernetes is a feature-packed tool that comes with several benefits, including:

  • Suitable for complex systems or infrastructures.
  • Compatible with all major operating systems.
  • A vast community built with years of existence in the industry.
  • A perfect blend of features that can fulfill all the organization’s needs from the tool.
  • Support for a broad range of third-party tools and integrations.
  • Cloud Native Computing Foundation support.
  • Comes with a unified set of APIs.

Disadvantages of Kubernetes:

Kubernetes come with certain limitations you should know before making your final decision.

  • A complicated learning process makes it unsuitable for beginners to learn this tool.
  • Sometimes, it needs additional tools to accomplish tasks.
  • The installation process is complex and time-consuming.
  • Massive for small teams and individual developers.

Docker Swarm vs. Kubernetes : Comparison

Even though Docker Swarm and Kubernetes are both container orchestration platforms, there are still several ways in which they differ. The following table section is a detailed comparison between the two which will help you know more about them. 

FeatureDocker SwarmKubernetes
1.Installation.Before you can use any of the platforms, you need to install them. Docker Swarm is famous for its quick and easy setup on a system having Docker Engine. You only need to assign the IP address to hosts, assign a managed node, and open the protocols and ports within the hosts, and the setup will be done. Due to its easy installation, Docker Swarm is preferred by teams that lack high technical skills.On the other hand, installing Kubernetes is a significant task that needs pre-planning. Here, the team should install the Kubernetes Command Line Interface, Kubectl, which varies with the operating system on which it is installed. For instance, curl can be used to install K8s on Linux, whereas it can be installed on macOS and Windows through Homebrew and Gallery package manager, respectively.
2.Dashboards.Dashboards allow users to have a better user interface while using the platform. Docker Swarm does not come with a built-in dashboard. However, it does not say that it cannot have a GUI. This platform can be integrated with a third-party tool like Swarmpit or Dockstation for a GUI.
On the contrary, Kubernetes comes with built-in dashboards through Web UI. Not just controlling the clusters, this GUI can help Kubernetes users in deploying applications on a cluster, monitoring and managing clusters, and viewing error logs.
3.Deployment.Regarding the deployment factor, the Docker Swarm allows users to deploy applications through predefined Swarm files for the desired state of the App. To deploy an application, the user needs to copy the Docker Compose or YAML file at the root level. With this file, the user can make the most out of the several node machine capabilities through which they can run containers on several networks and machines.Deployment in Kubernetes requires describing a declarative update to the App state when the Kubernetes Pods and ReplicaSets are updating. Once describing the desired state of the pod, the controller will change the current state of the pod. With Kubernetes, the users can define different aspects of the application’s lifecycle. However, it requires a lot of skill and is highly complicated to perform.
4.Availability.Among all, one of the best features of Docker Swarm is its availability controls. Moreover, duplicating microservices is uncomplicated as well. Sometimes host failure can occur in Docker Swarm. In that case, this platform allows manager nodes to move a worker node to any other resource as desired.For app availability, Kubernetes provides two different topologies. The first is using an external etcd object for load balancing and handling the control plane nodes separately. The other option is to co-locate the etcd object with every available cluster node during a failover using a stacked control plane node. Apart from that, K8s come with self-healing and flaunt-tolerant capabilities as well.
5.Scaling.Even though both Docker Swarm and Kubernetes allow the user to scale up or down their infrastructure as per their requirements, the way of performing the task is different. In Docker Swarm, users must perform this task manually through Docker Compose YAML templates.On the other hand, Kubernetes comes with automated scaling, which can auto-scale the cluster and pod level depending on the current traffic. In theory, K8s seem to be better at scaling down. However, Docker Swarm’s scaling down process is faster as it does not have any complex framework that slowdowns the entire process.
6.Networking.Both Docker Swarm and Kubernetes follow different models for networking. Docker Swarm will create two different types of networks for a node in a cluster. One network will highlight an overlay of the network service, whereas the second network type will create a host-only bridge for each container.In the case of Kubernetes, the networking model is a bit simple where peer-to-peer pod communication takes place. All such pods communicate with each other, and it needs two controller managers, which will be used for exposed services and for providing IPs to pods.
7.Monitoring.Monitoring in Docker Swarm only offers Docker’s event and server log tools, which are basic. It is complicated in Swarm as the cross-node objects and services are in large volume. Considering that fact, the user needs to have third-party extensions like cAdvisor or Grafana for better monitoring features.Kubernetes comes with monitoring and logging functionality built-in. The monitoring functionalities of this tool can evaluate individual containers, pods, and services and observe the cluster’s behavior. Though the in-built features of this platform can fulfill all the major requirements, still if the users want highly detailed metrics, they can integrate additional tools fulfilling their needs.
8.Load Balancing.Load Balancing is an essential feature of handling unexpected loads efficiently. Docker Swarm comes with automatic load balancing, making it uncomplicated.On the contrary, Kubernetes does not come with any automatic load-balancing feature. However, third-party tools can be integrated with this platform that can enable automatic load balancing.
9. Security.Security can be a significant concern for some users using a container orchestration platform. Docker Swarm depends on network-level security through authenticated TLS, where security certificates are frequently rotated between nodes.In the case of Kubernetes, it offers enterprise-grade security controls like pod security policies, SSL, RBAC authorization, secrets management, and many others. Furthermore, commercial cloud-native security tools can further enhance the platform’s security.

Why Choose Docker Swarm as your Container Orchestration Tool?

Docker Swarm is developed by Docker, and it builds on Docker with several instances of the Docker Engine. With instances of Docker engine, it needs minimal additional setup after installing Docker on the system. Due to this, Docker Swarm can be installed and be ready to run in a concise duration. Considering that fact, Docker is the right container orchestration platform for all those users who want easy installation and setup without compromising the primary features.

Why Choose Kubernetes as your Container Orchestration tool?

Kubernetes provides the utmost flexibility while managing containers as a container orchestration platform. You can modify the platform in any way you like, and it will allow you to do whatever you want to do. However, with great flexibility comes a great learning curve. Undeniably, the user needs to learn about this platform to become comfortable and make the most out of it. 

Being the most popular and open-source container orchestration platform, it has a herculean community that can help you provide information, find solutions to common issues, and the necessary support. 

Though the installation is a bit complicated, a skilled professional can fulfill this task quickly. Conclusively, Kubernetes is for all those users who are open to learning and want the utmost flexibility and all the major features a container orchestration tool can offer.

Which One is the Better Option?

The best option depends on the organization’s needs when compared to other IT tools and platforms.

Docker Swarm is easy to set up, can be integrated with Docker tools, and works effectively with small workloads. On the other hand, Kubernetes is a bit complicated, but it is currently used by legions of organizations and is proven effective for complex infrastructures. If your team wants an easy-to-install and use platform, Docker Swarm is a perfect choice. On the other hand, if the infrastructure is complex and the team is skilled in handling a complex tool, they should surely go with Kubernetes. 

Container orchestration is a pivotal yet complicated action. If done incorrectly, it can cause catastrophic damage to the containers and the application. ThinkSys Inc. is a pioneer in providing container orchestration services to numerous organizations all around the globe with primary clients in the USA and Europe.

Global Containerization Services Offered By ThinkSys

ThinkSys Inc. has a skilled talent pool having years of experience in working with containers and on different platforms. Below are the container services offered by ThinkSys:

Frequently Asked Questions

Kubernetes has most of the container orchestration platform’s market share, due to which many may believe that Docker Swarm is no longer used. However, many organizations like Anthem, Wells Fargo, and UnitedHealth Group still use Docker Swarm as their platform for container orchestration.

Undeniably, the learning curve of Kubernetes is steep, especially for a beginner. If you plan to learn Kubernetes, then you do not need to learn Docker Swarm. It might be challenging initially, but it will provide an excellent outcome afterwards.

Docker is a containerization platform that allows users to package their applications into containers. Kubernetes can indeed be used without Docker and will achieve the expected outcome. However, using Docker will enhance its features, and professionals recommend using K8s with Docker.

  1. Docker Best Practices 2022.
  2. Understanding Docker Components.
  3. Understanding Multi-Tenancy in Kubernetes.
  4. Understanding the Kubernetes Architecture.
  5. All You Need to Know About Containers.
  6. Detailed Guide on DevOps Implementation.
  7. Google has a New Cloud Platform – What Does it Mean for Application Development?
  8. Serverless Computing Options With AWS, Azure, Google Cloud.

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