Top 13 Docker Alternatives to Look Out for in 2024 & Beyond

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Docker Alternatives

Docker has been revolutionary in containerization technology. However, in 2024, It is high time to look beyond Docker when creating containers. Multiple feature-rich docker alternatives in the market are set to revive the containerization technology in 2024.

We have curated a list of many docker alternatives to choose from for your DevSecOps projects. But before we delve into the various options for Docker technology, let us first study what the technology entails.

Containers are widely used by organizations and enterprises adopting the DevOps and DevSecOps methodology to develop and maintain stable applications. Docker is the preferred choice as it is one of the most feature-rich and widely adopted for millions of applications already using it. 

What is Docker?

Docker is a Linux-based open-source containerization technology that is employed for building, running, inspecting, and managing container images for developing applications. Its robust and holistic ecosystem provides an elaborate toolset for managing the containerization process. 

Docker’s Features and Benefits

Docker has fundamentally transformed the way applications are deployed and managed, offering a range of features and benefits that enhance development workflows and operational efficiency.

Features of Docker:

  • Containerization: Docker packages applications and dependencies into containers, ensuring they run consistently across different environments.
  • Platform Independence: Docker containers can run on any infrastructure that supports Docker, providing flexibility and eliminating compatibility issues.
  • Version Control: Docker allows versioning of container images, enabling easy rollbacks and ensuring reproducible deployments.
  • Modularity: Docker enables breaking down applications into smaller components for easier maintenance and updates.

Benefits of Docker:

  • Consistency: Docker ensures consistency between development, testing, and production environments, minimizing deployment issues.
  • Speed: Docker accelerates development cycles with quick container deployment and tear-down.
  • Isolation: Docker provides isolation between applications and dependencies, enhancing security and performance.
  • Portability: Docker containers are easily movable across different environments, simplifying deployment workflows.

Why We Should Consider Alternatives to Docker

There are many reasons why demand for alternatives to Docker has risen. The demerits of Docker technology are often the reason behind this. These demerits include:

  • Complex to understand: Whosoever works with Docker must be well-versed in the containerization process. It takes technical knowledge to create Docker files and manage and maintain them. 
  • Security risks: A misconfiguration of containers makes the application vulnerable to security threats and is often a liability to the users after that.
  • Performance: While Docker containers are highly efficient, they are not optimal for resource-intensive applications requiring high performance and low latency, as resources are shared with the host system.
  • It’s not ideal for rich GUI applications. Docker is built for isolated containers and is more often used by console-based applications but falls short in performance for GUIs.

More alternatives to Docker that counter these demerits have emerged in recent years; here is a list of tools and platforms that help combat the limitations of Docker while providing similar containerization features.

Best Docker Alternatives to Watch out for in 2024

  • Containerd
  • Podman
  • Buildah
  • Vagrant
  • LXD
  • Kubernetes
  • Rancher
  • OpenVZ
  • Virtual Box
  • Portainer
  • Runc
  • Kaniko 
  • minikube

1. Containerd

Containerd are a popular alternative to Docker and can be run on both Linux and Windows. As a container runtime, Containerd provides tools that manage the complete container lifecycle of its host system, including image transfer, storage, container execution, and supervision to low-level storage of network attachments and beyond. 

Features of Containerd:

  • Push and pull support for images
  • Network primitives for creation, modification, and deletion of interfaces
  • Multi-tenant supported with CAS storage for global images
  • OCI Runtime Spec support (aka runC)
  • Container runtime and lifecycle support
  • Management of network namespace containers to join existing namespaces

Why Choose Containerd over Docker?

Compared to Docker, Containerd is a simpler low-level Daemon program with all the essential features to build a container. It is less complex and more flexible in making basic containers. 

2. Podman

Next up on the list is Podman- a daemon-less, open-source, Linux Native tool that can be used to deploy, build, and even share containers. Podman uses Open Containers Initiative(OCI) Containers to achieve these tasks easily.

Just like other container engines and runtimes, Podman also runs on OCI containers and thus delivers similar containers that are almost indistinguishable from Docker containers.

Podman’s Command Line Interface, aka CLI, is also familiar to Docker container engines, making it easier to switch to Podman. Developers can also alias Docker to Podman with ease, thus enabling containers to be run even by a novice in container technology.

Features of Podman:

  • Supports rootless containers without running privileges.
  • The container platform can run in a computing environment and can be adjusted to different requirements and settings.
  • The Podman Top display command gives all information regarding the container’s running processes.  
  • Creates a Sytemind file and makes running containers as easy as writing a file

Why Choose Podman Over Docker?

While Docker runs a persistent, self-sufficient runtime that manages its objects or daemon called Dockerd, on the other hand, Podman does not rely on a daemon to work. It starts containers as child processes and interacts directly with the registry. 

3. Buildah

Yet another open-source, Linux-based tool is Buildah. Buildah helps build OCI-compatible containers that are compatible not only with Docker but also with Kubernetes. Buildah helps create images from scratch and build over existing base images.

It provides a more flexible and secure way to build container images that can be stored in a variety of runtime environments. Buildah, as a command-line tool, provides developers with the following features:

Features of Buildah:

  • Builds container images with or without Dockerfiles (a text document that contains all the commands a user could call on to assemble an image) 
  • Creates container images from scratch or an existing container image starting point.
  • This includes building tools within the image itself, reducing the size of built images, increasing security, and allowing for easier transport using fewer resources.
  • It is compatible with Dockerfiles, allowing for an easy transition from Docker.
  • Creates user-specific images so that images can be sorted by the user who created them.

Why Choose Buildah Over Docker?

  • Buildah is preferred for its advanced features and container-building abilities. With Docker, one can build basic containers and use simple dockerfiles which is not the case with Buildah.
  • Buildah builds cleaner Docker images than Docker and has better scripting way than Docker.

4. Vagrant

While Docker approaches the traditional environment deploying processes through containerization, Vagrant does so through Virtual Machine (VM) environments in a single workflow. It is an excellent docker alternative for building (VM) environments that are compatible with hypervisors and cloud VMs and provides an efficient configuration format. 

Features of Vagrant: 

  • Interoperability.
  • It can easily be integrated with other (CI) tools that help automate tests and build pipelines
  • It promotes a multi-machine environment compatible with multiple operating systems.
  • It facilitates the sharing of base images on its cloud.

Why Choose Vagrant Over Docker?

  • While Docker is limited to Linux systems, Vagrant can be run on multiple operating systems
  • Vagrant provides more security compared to Docker

5. LXD 

Another excellent docker alternative is LXD. As a powerful VM machine manager and container system. LXD supports Ubuntu images and distributes them across Linux systems. It is built on a powerful REST API and can scale from a single machine to an entire cluster.

This makes it suitable for both development and production. As containerizing environments go, LXD is lightweight and ensures speed in containerizing data. It employs Linux kernel features such as control groups and namespaces for visualization. 

Features of LXD: 

  • Flexible resource library (CPU, memory, network I/O, disk space, and some kernel resources)
  • LXD supports advanced snapshots and enables scheduling and automatic expiry
  • Allows easy multi-user setup and provides better security
  • Supports live migration and stateful snapshotting and hardware passthrough (GPU, USB, NIC, disks, and more)
  • Provides advanced networking support (OVN, SR-IOV, hardware acceleration support)

Why Choose LXD Over Docker?

  • LXD is faster than Docker when multiple processors are involved.
  • LXD is older than Docker and is more capable of handling larger resource lists.

6. Kubernetes

Most developers have heard about Kubernetes as a reliable alternative to Docker and prefer it for many reasons. Docker is a container runtime/ environment. On the other hand, Kubernetes is a platform that runs and manages containers from multiple container runtimes.

Docker is a versatile container system for modern application development. However, scalability can be an issue since Docker cannot accommodate many containers. This is where Kubernetes steps up and handles a large volume of containers originating in different container runtimes. 

Features of Kubernetes: 

  • Automatically scale containerized applications and their resources as per requirements.
  • Automate deployments and updates while rolling back to previous versions
  • It is a Declarative model that declares the desired state, and K8s works in the background to maintain that state and recover from any failures. 
  • Adds storage dynamically according to requirements.
  • Support DevSecOps and increase developers’ productivity. 

Why Choose Kubernetes Over Docker?

  • Kubernetes is often referred to as an orchestrator for the Docker containers, meaning that the platform helps manage and automate the deployment, scaling, and operation of Docker containers. 
  • Kubernetes helps execute, create, and deploy complex containers, which Docker may not be able to do.

7. Rancher

Next on our list of Docker alternatives is Rancher. Rancher is a complete software development stack for teams adopting containers. It addresses the operational challenges of maintaining Docker and Kubernetes clusters.

Rancher provides a DevOps services company with a chance to integrate tools for running containerized workloads. 

Features of Rancher:

  • Rancher supports cross-host networking, meaning that it creates a private software-defined network for each environment, allowing secure communication.
  • Rancher provides container load balancing, thus distributing container load to the processor. 
  • Rancher’s distributed DNS-based service discovery function allows containers to register automatically over the network.
  • The Rancher then monitors host resources and manages container deployment straight from the Docker Machine.

Why Choose Rancher Over Docker?

  • Docker provides basic containerization management and creation. Rancher, on the other hand, provides more advanced features. It can replace Docker Desktop and is also an extension of Kubernetes. 
  • Docker is no longer free, whereas Rancher is open-source and can be accessed free of cost.

8. OpenVZ

OpenVZ is an open-source, container-based virtualization for Linux. It easily isolates multiple Linux containers securely on a sole physical server. This increases server utilization and ensures that applications do not conflict. OpenVZ is a reliable alternative for Docker, given its myriad of features.

Features of OpenVZ:

  • OpenVZ enables lightweight OS-level virtualization, which leads to fast startup time of containers and lower TCO
  • Quickly allocates resources through its self-service portal.
  • Provides reliable snapshots and backups of images for improving business continuity

Why Choose OpenVZ Over Docker?

  • OpenVZ is more efficient with memory and CPU usage than Docker.
  • The software supports the sharing of multiple containers using the same kernel, which saves memory. On the contrary, docker containers are completely isolated from each other and do not share any resources.

9. Virtual Box

Oracle VM VirtualBox is a full virtualization solution that runs VMs ( Virtual Machines) that simulate a complete operating system, enabling multiple operating systems to be run with the same physical host.

It is one of the most popular open-source, cross-platform virtualization software and allows developers to run multiple OS on a single device.

One of the major reasons that Virtual Box is popular is the reduced operational costs it carries. Given its flexibility to run on multiple systems, including Windows, Linux, MacOS X, and most x86 systems, it allows multiple OS on the same computer at the same time. This greatly reduces operational costs and reduces a great amount of time for the developers. 

Features of Virtual Box:

  • Portability is one of the major features of the software. Virtual Box runs on a large number of 64-bit hosts.
  • It does not require the processor features that are built into the current hardware, such as Intel VT-x or AMD-V. It can conveniently run on older-generation hardware, which might lack access to the latest hardware.
  • Virtual Box’s Guest Additions software packages can be installed within the guest systems and thus improve performance and provide additional integration and communication options.
  • Great hardware support further makes Virtual Box a preferred choice as an alternative to Docker. Its supported hardware includes- Guest Multiprocessing( SMP), ACPI support, Built-in iSCSI support, and more.

Why Choose Virtual Box Over Docker?

  • Docker containers set limits to the usage of resources they allow, which is not the case with Virtual Box.
  • When it comes to application segregation and isolated environments, Virtual Box tends to provide more security than Docker by identifying a single point of failure.

10. Portainer

Another excellent container system choice over Docker is Portainer. Portainer is an open-source service that provides a visual web representation for containers and applications using them.

It is a container management tool for many containerization software such as Docker, Kubernetes, Azure Container Instances, or ACI, among others.

Portainer allows developers to deploy and manage Docker containers easily without having to write code, as is typically required with a CLI. It also provides a GUI to visualize and manage various containerized applications. Here are its other key characteristics which can be leveraged by developers for building containers.

Features of Portainer:

  • Deploys containerized applications with an intuitive interface and step-by-step manuals.
  • Seamlessly manage multiple containers across multiple software, including Docker, Docker Swarm, Kubernetes, and Azure ACI.
  •  Developers can ensure and enhance the security of containers by assigning user roles and permissions to container environments.
  • It also allows developers to conveniently scale up services directly from the Portainer User interface as per demand.

Why Choose Portainer Over Docker?

  • It is easier to manage Docker instances from a central location. One can easily manage docker containers hosted on remote systems from a single interface and even update them.
  • For people who are new to containerization, a graphic layout of all containers and their details is quite helpful. Portainer visually represents all containers, images, and networks. 

11. RunC

RunC is a lightweight, portable container runtime. Inbuilt with all of the plumbing code of Docker, RunC is designed for security and does not depend on the entire Docker ecosystem but rather just its runtime. 

Features of RunC:

  • Provides full support for Linux namespaces and native support for all security features available in Linux.
  • Enables live migration through CRIU teams at Parallels
  • Supports complex hardware features such as DPDK, sr-iov, tpm, secure enclave, etc.

Why Choose Runc Over Docker

  • RunC is an industry-level tool for running containers for Docker, Containers, and CRI-O.
  • Runc’s simplicity and efficiency greatly affect and ensure the overall ease of use of containerization tools.

12. Kaniko 

Kaniko has also made it to the list of top alternatives to Docker for a few obvious reasons. The tool was introduced to counter the need for root access to containers every single time. Kaniko allows users to build container images from Dockerfiles without requiring root access. It further facilitates building images from a Dockerfile and putting them out in the registry.

Features of Kaniko: 

  • Kaniko doesn’t depend on a Docker daemon, which protects it from security threats and decreases overhead in due time.
  • Kaniko also gives better security as it builds images without root privileges. 
  • Kaniko integrates with Kubernetes pod, which further provides a lot of the latest features when it comes to building Container images.

Why Choose Kaniko Over Docker

  • Compared to Docker, Kaniko has a more distributed and efficient approach to building container images. Even in terms of performance, cache utilization, and security, Kaniko delivers better performance than Docker.
  • Another notable difference between Kaniko and Docker is their build environment. In Docker, the environment is tightly wrapped with the host machine, which limits image movement and manipulation. Kaniko, on the other hand, provides a more isolated and reproducible build environment, which gives developers more feasibility when working with Container images.

13. Minikube

Last but not least, MiniKube also provides VM-creating alternatives to Docker. It allows images and VMs to be built on local machines and deploys a simple cluster with just one node. This ensures that Minikube is lightweight and can be easily used. The environment can run on Linux, macOS, and Windows systems. 

Features of Minikube:

  • It is compatible with the latest Kubernetes version along with most of its versions.  
  • Cross-platform compatible (Linux, macOS, Windows)
  • It is versatile and can be deployed as a VM, a container, or bare metal.
  • Supports many container runtimes such as(CRI-O, Containerd, Docker) and more
  • Has a direct API endpoint that loads up images pretty quickly

Why Choose MiniKube Over Docker

Kubernetes in Docker Desktop does not provide any of the features that minikube, k3d, or kind provide. Docker has limitations when it comes to cross-platform application activities and more. 

Bonus Read: DevOps vs DevSecOps

Docker Alternatives: Final Words

Docker is one of the earliest container runtimes; however, there are many alternatives with better features available on the market. While it is one of the most popular containerization technologies used by millions of developers, Kubernetes are slowly taking over, and there is constant demand for skilled tech talent for the Kubernetes environments and various other containerization tools.

Although many companies promise reliable development via containerization technology, only a few can deliver. OpenXcell is one such company that has proven its mettle when it comes to software development and DevOps Containerization Services.

It has a rich portfolio of software projects that have been successfully launched in the market and have garnered a lot of praise. The company has a rich roster of clients is further evidence of the quality solutions they provide.

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author
Samragyi Chamoli
AUTHOR

Zealous, enthusiastic, and consistent, Samragyi is an ardent reader and an experienced writer. She loves animals and adventure.

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