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Docker vs Rancher: What are the differences?

Docker and Rancher are used to manage container-based applications. While Docker is a containerization platform, Rancher is a container management platform that provides additional features and capabilities. Let's explore the key differences between the two:

  1. Containerization Platform: Docker is primarily a containerization platform that allows users to create, deploy, and run containers. It enables developers to package applications and their dependencies into portable and lightweight containers, ensuring consistency across different environments. In contrast, Rancher is a container management platform that offers a higher level of abstraction by providing a user-friendly interface and additional management features on top of Docker.

  2. Container Orchestration: Docker provides basic container orchestration capabilities through its Docker Swarm mode. Swarm enables users to create and manage a cluster of Docker nodes, allowing for container deployment, scaling, and load balancing. Rancher, on the other hand, integrates with Kubernetes and provides advanced container orchestration features, making it easier to manage and scale containerized applications in production environments.

  3. User Interface and Management: Docker provides a command-line interface (CLI) for managing containers, images, and other Docker components. While the CLI is powerful, it requires users to have a good understanding of Docker commands. Rancher, on the other hand, offers a graphical user interface (GUI) that simplifies container management tasks. The Rancher GUI provides a visual representation of clusters, nodes, and services, making it easier for users to monitor and manage their containerized applications. Rancher also offers additional management features like resource allocation, access control, and application catalog.

  4. Multi-Cluster Management: Docker primarily focuses on managing containers within a single Docker Swarm cluster. Although it is possible to set up multiple Swarm clusters, managing and coordinating multiple clusters can be challenging. Rancher, on the other hand, specializes in multi-cluster management. It allows users to manage and deploy containers across multiple clusters, providing a unified view and control over the entire container infrastructure. This is particularly useful in scenarios where applications span across multiple environments or regions.

  5. Extensibility and Integration: Docker has a vast ecosystem of tools, libraries, and third-party integrations that extend its capabilities. Users can leverage Docker Compose for defining multi-container applications, Docker Registry for managing container images, and Docker Hub for sharing and discovering container images. Rancher integrates with Docker and Kubernetes, enabling users to leverage the functionalities of these platforms. Rancher also provides a catalog of pre-configured application templates, making it easier to deploy popular applications with a few clicks.

In summary, Docker is a containerization platform that allows users to create and run containers, while Rancher is a container management platform that provides additional management features on top of Docker. Docker focuses on containerization and provides basic container orchestration, while Rancher offers advanced container orchestration capabilities through integration with Kubernetes. Rancher provides a user-friendly GUI, multi-cluster management, and additional management features, making it a suitable choice for complex containerized applications in production environments.

Decisions about Docker and Rancher
Florian Sager
IT DevOp at Agitos GmbH · | 3 upvotes · 429.2K 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 Rancher
  • 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
  • 103
    Easy to use
  • 79
    Open source and totally free
  • 63
    Multi-host docker-compose support
  • 58
    Load balancing and health check included
  • 58
  • 44
    Rolling upgrades, green/blue upgrades feature
  • 42
    Dns and service discovery out-of-the-box
  • 37
    Only requires docker
  • 34
    Multitenant and permission management
  • 29
    Easy to use and feature rich
  • 11
    Cross cloud compatible
  • 11
    Does everything needed for a docker infrastructure
  • 8
    Simple and powerful
  • 8
    Next-gen platform
  • 7
    Very Docker-friendly
  • 6
    Support Kubernetes and Swarm
  • 6
    Application catalogs with stack templates (wizards)
  • 6
    Supports Apache Mesos, Docker Swarm, and Kubernetes
  • 6
    Rolling and blue/green upgrades deployments
  • 6
    High Availability service: keeps your app up 24/7
  • 5
    Easy to use service catalog
  • 4
    Very intuitive UI
  • 4
    IaaS-vendor independent, supports hybrid/multi-cloud
  • 4
    Awesome support
  • 3
  • 2
    Requires less infrastructure requirements

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Cons of Docker
Cons of Rancher
  • 8
    New versions == broken features
  • 6
    Unreliable networking
  • 6
    Documentation not always in sync
  • 4
    Moves quickly
  • 3
    Not Secure
  • 10
    Hosting Rancher can be complicated

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