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Docker Swarm vs. Kubernetes - DevOps Guide
9 min read

Docker Swarm vs. Kubernetes - DevOps Guide


In the container world, Kubernetes is probably the most famous platform. However, It has some strong contenders, one of which is Docker Swarm. As indicated by its name, it is by none other than the Docker itself. You can say that Docker swarm is the orchestration tool for Docker by Docker. In this article, we will present a detailed comparison between both Docker swarm and Kubernetes.

By the end of this article, you will have strong knowledge to select the best container orchestrator tool for your needs.

Steps we'll cover in this article:

What is Docker Swarm?

Docker Swarm, at its core, is a container orchestration tool. It’s a product of Docker, a company that’s been a trailblazer in the containerization space. Docker Swarm allows you to manage multiple containers deployed across multiple host machines.

But why does this matter, you ask? In the world of microservices and scalable applications, Docker Swarm is akin to the conductor of an orchestra, ensuring each container (or instrument, if you will) performs its part in harmony with the others.

Key Features of Docker Swarm

Docker Swarm is not without its unique selling points. Here are some of its key features:

  1. User-friendly: Docker Swarm is renowned for its simplicity. It integrates seamlessly with the existing Docker API, making it a natural choice for teams already using Docker containers.
  2. Scalaing capabilities: Docker Swarm allows you to scale up or down with ease, making it a great choice for applications that need to handle varying loads.
  3. Load balancing: Docker Swarm has built-in load balancing to distribute tasks evenly across a Swarm.
  4. Rolling updates: This feature allows you to roll out updates incrementally, reducing the risk of a system-wide failure.


  • Simplicity: Docker Swarm’s ease of use is a significant advantage, especially for teams new to container orchestration.
  • Integration: If you’re already using Docker, Docker Swarm integrates beautifully, allowing you to leverage your existing knowledge and tools.
  • Speed: Docker Swarm is known for its speed. It can deploy containers faster than some of its competitors.


  • Limited Functionality: Compared to some other orchestration tools (like Kubernetes), Docker Swarm has fewer features. It’s a simpler tool, which can be a pro or a con depending on your needs.
  • Less Community Support: While Docker Swarm has a community, it’s not as large or active as Kubernetes’. This can make finding help and resources more challenging.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes, often shortened to K8s, is a platform that helps manage containers.

Key Features of Kubernetes

Kubernetes has some cool features that make it a top choice for managing containers:

  1. Scaling: Kubernetes can easily adjust the number of containers based on the need. It’s like having a team that can quickly grow or shrink.
  2. Load Balancing: Kubernetes can spread tasks evenly across all the containers. It ensures no single container is overworked.
  3. Health Checks: Kubernetes keeps an eye on all containers. If one is not working right, Kubernetes can replace it with a new one.
  4. Rolling Updates & Rollbacks: Kubernetes can update containers one by one. If something goes wrong, it can also undo the updates.


  • Feaur rich: Kubernetes has built-in features for auto scaling, load balancing, etc.
  • Popular: It is used by the vast majority of companies for their container load management. This means it’s easier to find help and resources online.
  • Flexible: Kubernetes can work with many different types of containers, not just Docker.


  • Learning curve: Kubernetes can be hard to learn. Setting up and maintaining is cluster requires strong expertise.
  • Resource intensive: Kubernetes can use a lot of computer resources. It’s not the best choice for small projects.

Docker Swarm vs Kubernetes: A Comparative Analysis

Installation and Set-up: Ease of Use in Docker Swarm vs Kubernetes

Docker Swarm: Installing Docker Swarm proves straightforward. If you're familiar with Docker commands, initiating a Swarm mode requires a few additional steps. It integrates with the existing Docker CLI, and you activate it with a simple docker swarm init. This ease makes it appealing for developers who need to quickly set up an orchestration environment.

Kubernetes: On the other side, setting up Kubernetes involves more steps. You must choose among various tools like kubeadm, Minikube, or Kubernetes Operations (kops). Despite detailed guides, the process is more involved, especially when configuring a production-ready cluster. Kubernetes demands more from the onset, but its setup scripts and community resources aim to streamline this complexity.

Scalability: How Docker Swarm and Kubernetes Handle Growth

Docker Swarm: Swarm handles scaling in an uncomplicated manner. You scale services with a simple command, docker service scale <service-id>=<number-of-replicas>. It's direct and works well within the confines of smaller, less complex deployments.

Kubernetes: Kubernetes approaches scalability with a more intricate system. It uses controllers like ReplicationControllers, Deployments, or ReplicaSets to manage pod scaling. This complexity grants fine-grained control and robustness, allowing Kubernetes to scale massively and efficiently.

High availability

Docker Swarm Swarm's high availability is built into its core. The platform automatically redistributes containers if a node fails, striving to maintain the desired state without manual intervention.

Kubernetes Kubernetes offers high availability at both the master and node levels. It uses a multi-master setup, which is more complex to configure but ensures that the system can withstand the failure of any single node or even multiple nodes.


Docker Swarm Swarm uses an overlay network for services to communicate across different nodes. This model is simple to understand and implement, providing out-of-the-box encryption for Swarm services.

Kubernetes Kubernetes networking is more flexible and configurable. It doesn’t natively dictate a single method for inter-container communication, instead allowing you to integrate with various network plugins and solutions. This flexibility, however, requires more setup and understanding.


Docker Swarm Swarm provides basic volume management. You can create named volumes or bind mount host directories to containers. However, it does not natively support advanced features like persistent storage across multiple hosts.

Kubernetes Kubernetes excels with its sophisticated storage options. It supports persistent volumes that are independent of pod lifecycle, dynamic volume provisioning, and storage classes, providing a more robust solution for stateful applications.

Community Support

Docker Swarm Swarm’s community is part of the larger Docker community. While there are resources and discussions available, they are less extensive when compared to Kubernetes. The focus within the Docker community may not always center on Swarm, as there are many Docker-native topics discussed.

Kubernetes The Kubernetes community is vast and active. It has a wealth of documentation, forums, special interest groups, and meetups. This extensive community support translates into a plethora of resources for troubleshooting, plugins, extensions, and best practices.

Comparison summary table

Below you can find a comparison table summarizing the features of Docker Swarm and Kubernetes.

FeatureDocker SwarmKubernetes
InstallationStraightforward; integrates with Docker CLI. Simple docker swarm init command to start.More steps involved; requires tools like kubeadm, Minikube, or kops.
ScalabilitySimple scaling with a single command. Good for smaller deployments.Complex but fine-grained control. Supports massive and efficient scaling.
High AvailabilityBuilt-in high availability with automatic redistribution of containers.High availability at master and node levels with a multi-master setup.
NetworkingOverlay network for inter-service communication. Simple and encrypted by default.Flexible and configurable with various network plugins and solutions. Requires more setup.
StorageBasic volume management, but lacks advanced features like persistent storage across hosts.Advanced storage options with persistent volumes, dynamic provisioning, and storage classes.
Community SupportPart of the larger Docker community, with fewer resources focused on Swarm.Vast and active community with extensive resources and discussions focused on Kubernetes.

When to use Docker Swarm

Docker Swarm shines in scenarios where simplicity and fast deployment are top priorities. For small to medium-sized projects, or for development teams taking their first steps into container orchestration, Swarm offers a gentle introduction. You might favor Docker Swarm when you have a handful of services to manage and you need to get them up and running quickly without a steep learning curve.

It's well-suited for applications that require rapid scaling and where intricate, custom orchestration rules are not necessary. If your team is already comfortable with Docker commands and you wish to avoid the complexity of Kubernetes, Swarm is a sensible choice.

Consider Swarm when your project fits these points:

  • Speed of deployment is critical.
  • The scale of operations is moderate, not extending to many thousands of nodes.
  • The existing team has experience with Docker and desires minimal additional learning.
  • The project does not demand complex orchestration features.

When to use Kubernetes

Kubernetes is designed to address the needs of applications with more complex orchestration requirements. It is the go-to for large-scale, production-grade deployments that need to manage multiple complex services with high availability and intricate networking. Kubernetes excels when you require a robust ecosystem with a vast array of plugins, community support, and enterprise features. It's built to manage stateful applications with sophisticated storage needs and to handle a substantial amount of workloads efficiently.

Kubernetes is ideal for scenarios like:

  • Large-scale deployments spread across hundreds or thousands of nodes.
  • Systems that require high availability, autoscaling, and self-healing features.
  • Projects that benefit from a rich ecosystem of tools and community support.
  • Environments where the complexity of services demands advanced orchestration and scheduling capabilities.


In this article, we went through the comparison of both Docker Swarm and Kubernetes. Kubernetes is the best choice if you have an enterprise application and high scalability needs with a skillful team of DevOps engineers. Docker Swarm is better for medium to large organizations looking for a simpler solution without the steep learning curve associated with mastering Kubernetes.

Eventually, it will be your business and technical needs that will derive the decision to choose the best container orchestrator for your application.