OpenShift, Kubernetes and Docker: A Quick Comparison

Is Kubernetes, OpenShift or Docker best for your organization? Here are a few considerations

In 2019, we saw the massive explosion of containerization and microservices in enterprise application delivery. Containers have become a mainstream focus of many CXOs of organizations that want to stay ahead in digital innovation and bring agility in new service launches. According to Portworx’s container adoption report 89.7% of survey respondent companies are running containers into production, and that is huge.

OpenShift Kubernetes DockerStill, there are few hindrances CXOs or technology managers are facing regarding container solutions in terms of management, scaling, agile deployment and sustenance.

There are basically three choices for containerization: Docker, Kubernetes and OpenShift.


Docker is container technology and a company-offered container image runtime. It is supported by its ecosystem to manage and run Docker container images with its dependencies. Docker Enterprise Engine does this job. It was recently acquired by Mirantis.

The container concept came into focus when Docker crept into data centers of many private or public clouds. Later, Docker Swarm was launched to handle orchestration and as schedulers for Docker images. It was offered as a commercial product in the form of a Docker Enterprise Engine. But Docker EE was not able to provide efficient scaling and external load balancing for images it was orchestrating.


Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration solution hosted by Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and backed by Google, AWS, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Cisco Systems and Red Hat.

Where Docker EE is limited, Kubernetes provides the ability to run containers on various machines, auto-scale containers, distribute load between containers, manage storage required by containers, provide resiliency of containers in case of failure and more. Features offered by Kubernetes are complementary to Docker.

Kubernetes helps simplify container runtime by managing Docker-based applications that are placed on an underlying assures system that maintains several replicas of running applications. Kubernetes has enabled developers to accelerate the development of cloud-native applications and created an ecosystem of services that are self-driven and reusable. Due to this, we can see a number of Kubernetes-as-a-service platforms offered by vendors of different scale.


We know Kubernetes is a community project. If you implement Kubernetes yourself within your infrastructure and some error arises, you must turn to the community for a solution. Red Hat offers OpenShift platform as a service that is mainly powered by Kubernetes and includes Docker to manage the variety of workloads. OpenShift is a solution by Red Hat built upon Kubernetes and Docker projects. For any glitches or support in implementation, Red Hat OpenShift offers a paid support.

Comparing Docker, OpenShift and Kubernetes

To help decision-makers to choose container management platforms, let’s put up more points that will showcase differences and relation between Docker, OpenShift and Kubernetes.

Workload Types

Docker offers Docker EE for container management and orchestration. Docker EE is suitable mostly for orchestrating Docker images as it is tightly integrated with Docker API for intercommunication. But Kubernetes handles Docker images as well as independent containers and provides a wide set of features equal to all workloads. OpenShift support all workload types be it docker images as it enclosed with Kubernetes.

Upgrades and Patches

At first, upgrades and patches are released by Kubernetes and Docker. OpenShift makes changes to its repository slightly after the release of Kubernetes, Docker and other open source platforms.

CI/CD Operations

For CI/CD in Kubernetes and Docker, external extensions or tools such as Jenkins are supported and need to be installed separately. OpenShift has a pre-integrated Jenkins framework so that it is easy to set up CI/CD.

Multi-cloud Enablement

Kubernetes and Docker are supported by public clouds including Google Cloud, EKA on AWS and AKS on Azure. OpenShift has available as a dedicated, online platform and on Azure. Kubernetes often is considered a priority choice for multi-cloud deployment.

Deployment and Management

Deployment and management of containers using Kubernetes can be complex when compared to Docker EE and OpenShift, as they are known for easy setup and simplified the user interface.


Docker, Kubernetes and OpenShift are independent container technologies that are related to each other in many ways and complement each other. Kubernetes can deploy Docker images and orchestrate. Similarly, OpenShift seamlessly manages the Kubernetes cluster. With Kubernetes, one can manage hundreds of containers.

Kubernetes allows auto-scaling, load balancing and storage management features to containers. Plus, Kubernetes has extremely powerful community support. OpenShift powered with Kubernetes takes Kubernetes further and enables more simplicity in the management of workloads along with different types of tools.

Sagar Nangare

Sagar Nangare

Sagar Nangare is technology blogger, focusing on data center technologies (Networking, Telecom, Cloud, Storage) and emerging domains like Edge Computing, IoT, Machine Learning, AI). He is currently serving Calsoft Inc. as Digital Strategist. He is based in Pune.

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