3 Docker Desktop Alternatives for 2023

Jan Schäfer

Even though container technology has been around for a long time, it's only since the launch of Docker in 2013 that it has become popular with a wide range of developers. There's a reason for that: Docker enables developers to automatically create containers from application source code, share libraries, and reuse existing containers. 

Recently, however, Docker has undergone some changes, including the use of Kubernetes clusters and licensing of the desktop variant. An increasing number of companies are therefore thinking about switching to a Docker Desktop alternative. We will show you which criteria you should consider for choosing a suitable alternative and which 3 providers will come into question in 2023.

The most Important in a Nutshell

  • When looking for a Docker Desktop alternative, organizations should consider compatibility, feature set, support, performance, security and cost.
  • 3 possible Docker Desktop alternatives in 2023 are Podman, Containerd and Colima.
  • With Konfuzio, enterprises make their container environments more efficient and secure. Try the AI software now for free!

How does Docker work?

Docker is a platform for containerizing applications. A container is a self-contained, executable unit that contains an application and its dependencies. Docker enables developers to package applications in containers that they can run on any system that supports Docker. 

To do this, the technology isolates applications from each other and their environment to ensure portability and consistency. In addition, Docker uses images as building blocks for containers. An image is a self-contained, executable software unit that contains all the information needed for the application. Docker stores these images in a central repository so it can easily download and run them on different environments. 

To create, launch, and manage containers, Docker provides a simple command-line interface. In practice, developers benefit from optimized resource usage and accelerated application deployment.

docker desktop alternative selection criteria

How do Enterprises find the best Docker Desktop Alternative?

Before you start looking for a Docker Desktop alternative, it is important to understand that not every provider is a full-fledged alternative to Docker. For example, there are some alternatives on the market that only serve as an equivalent for certain functions of Docker, such as registry management or orchestration.

So, before choosing a Docker Desktop alternative, you should carefully review the available features.

Basically, companies should pay attention to the following 6 criteria:

Compatibility

Enterprises should ensure that Docker Alternative is compatible with their existing infrastructure and technologies. So, for example, if you rely primarily on AWS services, the Docker alternative should work with AWS in an efficient way.

Functions

Companies should evaluate the features offered by the alternative and see if they meet their needs. For example, if you use microservices, you should check whether the Docker Desktop alternative has features such as service discovery and load balancing. Microservices are a modern software architecture in which an application is divided into smaller, independent services that can be developed, deployed and scaled independently.

Support

You should consider the level of support that the Docker alternative and its community offer. For example, if you have just started with containerization, you should prefer a Docker alternative with an active community and extensive documentation. Only then will you be able to learn quickly and use the Docker alternative efficiently and securely.

Power

Companies should evaluate the performance of the alternative in terms of resource consumption and scalability. For example, if you have a large application that consumes a lot of resources, you should choose a Docker alternative for Mac, Windows or Linux that uses resources efficiently and scales well.

Security

You should evaluate the security features of the Docker Hub alternative and see if they meet your requirements. For example, an organization in a highly regulated industry such as healthcare or finance should consider a Docker Desktop alternative with strong security features and compliance certifications.

Costs

Companies should consider the cost of using the alternative and compare it with other options. Take into account both direct and indirect costs. For example, you should not only consider the software purchase price or the monthly subscription price, but also the costs for employee training, support and efficient operation.

docker desktop alternatives

3 Docker Desktop Alternatives for 2023

Below we show 3 Docker Desktop alternatives. When evaluating and making your final choice, make sure that the alternative you choose meets your requirements. We have not included Kubernetes in our list. This is because: they are not a direct alternative to Docker, but an alternative to Docker Swarm - Docker's container orchestration tool.

Docker Desktop Alternative for Linux - Podman

Podman, also known as POD Manager, is an open source tool that enterprises use to develop, manage, and run containers in Linux systems. It was originally developed by Red Hat engineering teams in collaboration with the open source community.

Podman advantages

Companies thus benefit from Podman:

AdvantageExplanationExample
No central daemonPodman does not require a central daemon and has no background processes on your system, resulting in faster and more effective operations.An organization hosting web applications can run a large number of containers without overloading the system thanks to Podman, as there are no resource-intensive background processes running.
High securityPodman works without root permissions, which makes it more secure, especially for companies in highly regulated industries with stringent security requirements.In a financial organization, sensitive data can be securely processed in containers without the need for root access, reducing potential security risk and ensuring compliance.
Compatibility with OCIPodman is compatible with the Open Container Initiative (OCI) and integrates seamlessly with other OCI-compliant tools and technologies.An enterprise already using Kubernetes for orchestration will easily integrate Podman and seamlessly extend its existing container infrastructure.
Pod ManagementPodman enables the management of pods, which is especially useful for companies with microservices or similar architectures, as they can manage groups of containers together.An e-commerce company uses Podman to organize its various microservices into isolated pods, improving application scalability and maintainability.
Support for various Linux distributionsPodman can run on multiple Linux distributions, providing flexibility for organizations using different flavors of Linux in their infrastructure.A company with a heterogeneous IT landscape using different versions of Linux uses Podman consistently across all platforms to create a unified container environment.

Podman disadvantages

As a Docker Desktop alternative for Linux, organizations should consider the following drawbacks of Podman:

DisadvantageExplanationExample
Bugs and teething problemsAlthough Podman has been in development for several years, the tool still has some weaknesses. There are still bugs that have not been fixed. This can lead to errors when dealing with containers.A concrete example of a bug is that it happens from time to time that certain environment variables in containers are not interpreted correctly, which can lead to faulty applications and data loss.
AutomationDepending on how you use the Docker alternative for Linux, it is possible that it will complicate automation. Since there is no network daemon that allows you to create and manage containers from a remote host, this makes automating tasks complicated. This is especially a disadvantage for organizations that manage a large number of containers on different hosts.Enterprises struggle to automate scaling of their applications because there is no built-in way to automatically deploy and manage containers across multiple hosts.
Compatibility with existing Docker setupsAlthough Podman is advertised as a 1:1 replacement for Docker, there are differences in the way the two tools work. This leads to compatibility problems when companies try to migrate from Docker to Podman.A concrete example of compatibility issues are Docker images that use specific Docker-specific functions that do not work smoothly with Podman, resulting in containerized applications not running as expected or even failing.

Docker Desktop Alternative for Windows/Linux - Containerd

Containerd is an open source container runtime. It is an industry standard for creating and running containers. Containerd was originally developed as part of Docker, but later spun off as a standalone project. It is suitable as a Docker alternative for Windows and Linux.

Advantages of Containerd

Companies benefit from using Containerd in the following ways:

AdvantageExplanationExample
Simplicity and easeContainerd makes it easy to run containers without unnecessary overhead, which is especially useful for simple web applications or microservices that require a lean runtime environment.A small e-commerce company uses Containerd to run its web application in containers, which provides a simple and resource-efficient solution.
StabilityIn a large e-learning platform with thousands of users and courses, Containerd ensures the stability of the various learning modules by protecting against unexpected failures and ensuring continuous availability.An e-learning platform uses containererd to keep its learning modules running stably and reliably, without any interruptions in the users' learning process.
Open governanceAn experienced DevOps engineer actively contributes to the evolution of Containerd by participating in the development of new features and making bug fixes, constantly improving the quality of the project.An experienced developer is part of the Containerd community and participates by regularly contributing to the code and discussion to contribute to the continuous improvement of the project.
Wide platform supportA company that develops data-intensive applications uses Containerd to run its applications on different platforms, such as Windows servers and Linux machines, without having to customize the code base.A data analytics company uses Containerd to run its compute-intensive applications on multiple operating systems and hardware platforms, improving scalability and flexibility.
Strong communityA young developer new to container technology asks questions and gets quick and helpful answers from more experienced members of the containererd community, deepening their understanding and helping them move forward faster.A young developer uses the Containerd forum to ask questions and benefit from the experience of community members to deepen his knowledge of container technology and learn faster.
Integration with KubernetesAn enterprise running a complex microservices architecture uses Containerd in conjunction with Kubernetes to run containers directly in the orchestration platform, enabling seamless deployment and scaling.A large e-commerce company uses Containerd along with Kubernetes to seamlessly orchestrate its microservices, enabling easy scalability as needed and ensuring a smooth user experience.

Disadvantages of Containerd

Enterprises should consider the following drawbacks of containererd when choosing the right Docker alternative for Windows or Linux: 

DisadvantageExplanationExample
ComplexityContainerd is complex especially for new users in the world of containers. It requires technical knowledge and experience to be used effectively.A developer without experience with containers might have difficulty creating complex container configurations in Containerd.
Missing user interfaceContainerd, unlike some other container tools, does not provide a graphical user interface. You must perform all interactions via the command line.A user without command line experience might have difficulty managing containers in Containerd.
Limited platform supportAlthough Containerd runs on various Linux distributions, its support for other operating systems is limited. This could be problematic for organizations that use a variety of operating systems in their infrastructure.A company that uses both Linux and Windows servers is struggling to deploy Containerd on its Windows servers.
Missing functionsCompared to more comprehensive container platforms, Containerd may lack some features. For example, there is no built-in orchestration or service discovery. Organizations that need these features will need to deploy additional tools.For an enterprise that requires highly automated workflows, it is difficult to use Containerd without built-in orchestration capabilities and therefore must use additional orchestration tools such as Kubernetes.

Docker Desktop Alternative for macOS - Colima

Colima is a free alternative to Docker Desktop for macOS. It is based on Lima, a tool for creating Linux VMs on macOS with automatic file sharing and port forwarding.

Advantages of Colima

As a Docker alternative for Mac, Colima brings the following benefits to enterprises:

AdvantageExplanationExample
PowerColima provides outstanding performance for data-intensive applications on macOS. For example, a medical research institute can analyze and process large amounts of genetic data in containers thanks to Colima.A medical research institute performs genetic analyses faster and more efficiently thanks to Colima in containers.
Open sourceColima benefits from the ongoing support of an active developer community. Thanks to this openness, a team of developers can make special adjustments for their specific application.A software development team customizes Colima to the specific requirements of their application to achieve optimal results.
No royaltiesAn emerging startup with a limited budget can use Colima to build a scalable development infrastructure without the burden of expensive licensing costs.An artificial intelligence startup focuses its development resources on research and development without paying licensing fees.
Automated installation and startupA software company can integrate Colima into its Continuous Integration pipeline to work automatically and consistently across multiple development platforms.A software company seamlessly integrates Colima into its CI/CD pipeline to ensure that every code change works correctly in a container environment.
Full test coverage with DDEVAn e-commerce company can use DDEV to ensure its web-based application runs smoothly in Colima containers, even with heavy loads during a sales event.An e-commerce company uses DDEV testing to ensure its website remains stable and responsive in Colima containers, even during a sudden surge in website traffic.

Colima disadvantages

As a Docker Desktop alternative on Mac, Colima comes with these drawbacks:

DisadvantageExplanationExample
Young projectColima is a young project and therefore might not yet offer all features that are available in established container solutions. This could lead to essential features for certain applications not being implemented yet.An established container management tool already offers a built-in security feature that is not yet available in Colima.
Docker CLI dependencyUsers who uninstall Docker Desktop for Mac and switch to Colima will need to install and configure the Docker command line interface (CLI) separately, adding additional overhead and complicating seamless integration.A developer prefers to integrate Docker CLI throughout the system without having to perform separate installation steps.
Missing GUIColima does not have a graphical user interface and therefore requires all actions to be performed from the command line, which is a limitation for users who prefer a user-friendly visual interface.An administrator wants to manage containers simply by drag-and-drop in a GUI, which is not possible with Colima.
Compatibility with basic imagesChoosing specific base images like Ubuntu for the Colima VM can lead to better compatibility, but requires additional customization to ensure all features work smoothly, making setup more complex.A team decides to use an Ubuntu base image because it needs special libraries that are incompatible with Alpine and has to perform additional configuration steps.
docker desktop alternative with AI

Make Docker Desktop Alternative more efficient and secure with AI

Whether Docker or alternatives to Docker: In conjunction with artificial intelligence (AI), companies are able to make processes in containers more efficient and secure. Among other things, AI supports you in this way:

Automated container orchestration

AI automates the deployment and scaling of Docker containers. For example, an e-commerce retailer uses AI to automatically launch and manage additional Docker containers. This makes it easy to manage the increase in user load during peak periods like Black Friday.

Safety monitoring

AI detects unusual behavior or security breaches in Docker containers in real time. For example, a financial institution uses AI to uncover patterns in the network traffic of its Docker containers that indicate a possible data breach.

Predictive maintenance

AI reveals potential problems in Docker containers before they occur. For example, a telecommunications company uses AI to recognize patterns in the system data of its Docker containers that indicate a future network problem.

Optimization of the use of resources

AI optimizes the use of CPU, memory and network resources in Docker containers. For example, a cloud service provider uses AI to learn which resources an application running in a Docker container needs. It then allocates them efficiently.

Automated testing and quality assurance

With AI, companies run automated tests on applications in Docker containers to ensure their quality. So, for example, a software development company uses AI to develop tests that proactively detect common errors in its Docker containers.

Konfuzio as a powerful AI for your Container Environments

Konfuzio is powerful AI software that lets you automate and optimize processes in your container environments. The result: your applications run more efficiently and with fewer errors. To make this possible, Konfuzio has an advanced AI that includes Machine Learning and Deep Learning. This makes the provider the expert for end-to-end automation - for applications as well as for all other business processes.

Try Konfuzio now for free!

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