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Docker vs GraalVM: What are the differences?


In this article, we will explore the key differences between Docker and GraalVM. Both Docker and GraalVM are widely used in the software development industry, but they have distinct characteristics and purposes.

  1. Containerization Technology: Docker is primarily a containerization platform that allows you to package applications and all their dependencies into standardized units called containers. These containers can be easily deployed and run on any machine that has Docker installed. On the other hand, GraalVM is a high-performance runtime that provides support for multiple languages and allows you to compile applications into native executables or standalone binaries.

  2. Isolation Level: Docker provides a higher level of isolation by encapsulating an application and its dependencies in a container. This ensures that the application runs consistently across different environments. In contrast, GraalVM uses ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation to produce native executables that have very low overhead and are highly optimized, but they do not provide the same level of isolation as Docker containers.

  3. Compatibility: Docker containers are platform-agnostic and can run on any operating system or cloud platform that supports Docker. This makes it easy to deploy applications across different environments without worrying about compatibility issues. On the other hand, GraalVM supports multiple languages and can be used to compile applications for different platforms, but it may require additional configuration and adjustments to optimize performance on specific platforms.

  4. Resource Utilization: Docker containers are lightweight and share the host machine's operating system kernel, which results in better resource utilization and scalability. Additionally, Docker provides built-in tools for managing and monitoring containers, making it easier to manage resources efficiently. In contrast, GraalVM's native executables eliminate the need for an additional runtime, resulting in reduced resource usage and faster startup times for applications.

  5. Development Workflow: Docker simplifies the development workflow by providing a consistent environment for developers to build, test, and deploy applications. With Docker, developers can easily package their applications along with all the required dependencies into containers, ensuring consistent behavior across different development environments. GraalVM, on the other hand, offers the advantage of AOT compilation, which enables developers to create native executables that can be easily distributed and run without requiring the GraalVM runtime.

  6. Supported Languages: Docker is language-agnostic and supports running applications written in any programming language, as long as the language runtime is available within the container. In contrast, GraalVM provides support for multiple programming languages, including Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and R. GraalVM's polyglot capabilities allow developers to mix and match languages within the same application and leverage the high-performance optimizations provided by GraalVM.

In summary, Docker is primarily a containerization platform that offers isolated and consistent environments for running applications across different platforms, whereas GraalVM is a high-performance runtime that enables ahead-of-time compilation and provides support for multiple languages. Docker focuses on ease of deployment and scalability, while GraalVM emphasizes performance optimization and native executable generation.

Decisions about Docker and GraalVM
Florian Sager
IT DevOp at Agitos GmbH · | 3 upvotes · 421.9K 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 GraalVM
  • 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
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    Cons of Docker
    Cons of GraalVM
    • 8
      New versions == broken features
    • 6
      Unreliable networking
    • 6
      Documentation not always in sync
    • 4
      Moves quickly
    • 3
      Not Secure
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      - No public GitHub repository available -

      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 GraalVM?

      An ecosystem and shared runtime offering performance advantages not only to JVM-based languages such as Java, Scala, Groovy, and Kotlin, but also to programming languages as JavaScript, Ruby, Python, and R. Additionally, it enables the execution of native code on the JVM via LLVM front-end.

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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 GraalVM?
      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