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A Deep Dive Into Docker – Part 2

No Docker and VMs are not the same. Anand Akela takes a look at both their similarities and differences.

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In Part One of this Docker primer I gave you an overview of Docker, how it came about, why it has grown so fast and where it is deployed. In the second section, I’ll delve deeper into technical aspects of Docker, such as the difference between Docker and virtual machines, the difference between Docker elements and parts, and the basics of how to get started.

Docker Vs. Virtual Machines

First, I will contrast Docker containers with virtual machines like VirtualBox or VMWare. With virtual machines the entire operating system is found inside the environment, running on top of the host through a hypervisor layer. In effect, there are two operating systems running at the same time.

In contrast, Docker has all of the services of the host operating system virtualized inside the container, including the file system. Although there is a single operating system, containers are self-contained and cannot see the files or processes of another container.

Differences Between Virtual Machines and Docker

  • Each virtual machines has its own operating system, whereas all Docker containers share the same host or kernel.
  • Virtual machines do not stop after a primary command; on the other hand, a Docker container stops after it completes the original command.
  • Due to the high CPU and memory usage, a typical computer can only run one or two virtual machines at a time. Docker containers are lightweight and can run alongside several other containers on an average laptop computer. Docker’s excellent resource efficiency is changing the way developers approach creating applications.
  • Virtual machines have their own operating system, so they might take several minutes to boot up. Docker containers do not need to load an operating system and take microseconds to start.
  • Virtual machines do not have effective diff, and they are not version controlled. You can run diff on Docker images and see the changes in the file systems; Docker also has a Docker Hub for checking images in and out, and private and public repositories are available.
  • A single virtual machine can be launched from a set of VMDK or VMX files while several Docker containers can be started from a one Docker image.
  • A virtual machine host operating system does not have to be the same as the guest operating system. Docker containers do not have their own independent operating system, so they must be exactly the same as the host (Linux Kernel.)
  • Virtual machines do not use snapshots often — they are expensive and mostly used for backup. Docker containers use an imaging system with new images layered on top, and containers can handle large snapshots.

Similarities Between Virtual Machines and Docker

  • For both Docker containers and virtual machines, processes in one cannot see the processes in another.
  • Docker containers are instances of the Docker image, whereas virtual machines are considered running instances of physical VMX and VMDK files.
  • Docker containers and virtual machines both have a root file system.
  • A single virtual machine has its own virtual network adapter and IP address; Docker containers can also have a virtual network adapter, IP address, and ports.

Virtual machines let you access multiple platforms, so users across an organization will have similar workstations. IT professionals have plenty of flexibility in building out new workstations and servers in response to expanding demand, which provides significant savings over investing in costly dedicated hardware.

Docker is excellent for coordinating and replicating deployment. Instead of using a single instance for a robust, full-bodied operating system, applications are broken down into smaller pieces that communicate with each other.

Installing Docker

Docker gives you a fast and efficient way to port apps on machines and systems. Using Linux containers (LXC) you can place apps in their own applications and operate them in a secure, self-contained environment. The important Docker parts are as follows:

  1. Docker daemon manages the containers.
  2. Docker CLI is used to communicate and command the daemon.
  3. Docker image index is either a private or public repository for Docker images.

Here are the major Docker elements:

  1. Docker containers bold everything including the application.
  2. Docker images are of containers or the operating system.
  3. Dockerfiles are scripts that build images automatically.

Applications using the Docker system employ these elements.

Linux Containers – LXC

Docker containers can be thought of as directories that can be archived or packed up and shared across a variety of platforms and machines. All dependencies and libraries are inside the container, except for the container itself, which is dependent on Linux Containers (LXC). Linux Containers let developers create applications and their dependent resources, which are boxed up in their own environment inside the container. The container takes advantage of Linux features such as profiles, cgroups, chroots and namespaces to manage the app and limit resources.

Docker Containers

Among other things, Docker containers provide isolation of processes, portability of applications, resource management, and security from outside attacks. At the same time, they cannot interfere with the processes of another container, do not work on other operating systems and cannot abuse the resources on the host system.

This flexibility allows containers to be launched quickly and easily. Gradual, layered changes lead to a lightweight container, and the simple file system means it is not difficult or expensive to roll back.

Docker Images

Docker containers begin with an image, which is the platform upon which applications and additional layers are built. Images are almost like disk images for a desktop machine, and they create a solid base to run all operations inside the container. Each image is not dependent on outside modifications and is highly resistant to outside tampering.

As developers create applications and tools and add them to the base image, they can create new image layers when the changes are committed. Developers use a union file system to keep everything together as a single item.


Docker images can be created automatically by reading a Dockerfile, which is a text document that contains all commands needed to build the image. Many instructions can be completed in succession, and the context includes files at a specific PATH on the local file system or a Git repository location; related subdirectories are included in the PATH. Likewise, the URL will include the submodules of the repository.

Getting Started

Here is a shortened example on how to get started using Docker on Ubuntu Linux — enter these Docker Engine CLI commands on a terminal window command line. If you are familiar with package managers, you can use apt and yum for installation.

  1. Log into Ubuntu with sudo.
  2. Make sure curl is installed: 
    $ which curl
  3. If not, install it but update the manager first: 
    $ sudo apt-get update
    $ sudo apt-get install curl
  4. Grab the latest Docker version: 
    $ curl -fsSL
  5. You’ll need to enter your sudo password. Docker and its dependencies should be downloaded by now.
  6. Check that Docker is installed correctly: 
    $ docker run hello-world

You should see “Hello from Docker” on the screen, which indicates Docker seems to be working correctly. Consult the Docker installation guide to get more details and find installation instructions for Mac and Windows.

Ubuntu Images

Docker is reasonably easy to work with once it is installed since the Docker daemon should be running already. Get a list of all docker commands by running sudo docker

Here is a reference list that lets you search for a docker image from a list of Ubuntu images. Keep in mind an image must be on the host machine where the containers will reside; you can pull an image or view all the images on the host using sudo docker images

Commit an image to ensure everything is the same where you last left — that way it is at the same point for when you are ready to use it again: sudo docker commit [container ID] [image name]

To create a container, start with an image and indicate a command to run. You’ll find complete instructions and commands with the official Linux installation guide.

Technical Differences

In this second part of my two-part series on Docker, I compared the technical differences between Docker and virtual machines, broke down the Docker components and reviewed the steps to get started on Linux. The process is straight forward — it just takes some practice implementing these steps to start launching containers with ease.

Begin with a small, controlled environment to ensure the Docker ecosystem will work properly for you; you’ll probably find, as I did, that the application delivery process is easy and seamless. In the end, the containers themselves are not the real advantage: the real game-changer is the opportunity to deliver applications in a much more efficient and controlled way. I believe you will enjoy how Docker allows you to migrate from dated monolithic architectures to fast, lightweight microservice faster than you thought possible.

Docker is changing app development at a rapid pace. It allows you to create and test apps quickly in any environment, provides access to big data analytics for the enterprise, helps knock down walls separating Dev and Ops, makes the app development process better and brings down the cost of infrastructure while improving efficiency.

The Performance Zone is brought to you in partnership with AppDynamics.  See Gartner’s latest research on the application performance monitoring landscape and how APM suites are becoming more and more critical to the business.

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Published at DZone with permission of Anand Akela, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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