Breaking Down Kubernetes vs Docker Swarm

February 19, 2021

Kubernetes and Docker Swarm are both container orchestration tools that aid with the automation and management of microservices within clusters. They have the sole role of deploying the applications to scale; they also assist with the planning and coordinating of all the components in the system.

In this article, we’ll explore the fundamentals of Docker and Kubernetes and take a look at the similarities and differences between the two tools.

What is Kubernetes?

This containerization tool is an original product of Google, but the Cloud Computing Foundation (CNCF) does the management and updating. Kubernetes is a cloud-native and open-source tool that automatically runs actions such as deployment in the apps inside the containers it’s managing. It also scales hosts up and down that found within the cluster.

This tool is efficient because it has automated systems that scale, replicate, restart, and initiate placements to balance its workload.

What is Docker Swarm?

Docker Swarm is also an open-source container management orchestration tool. It is a native clustering engine made and managed by Docker. In this case, all the applications that operate on Docker assume the same orchestration when used in Docker Swarm.

Docker Swarm is instrumental as a single host and for people who need simple deployment methods but still have several cloud environments.

Similarities between Kubernetes and Docker Swarm

  • Both Kubernetes and Docker Swarm are open-source tools that work with microservices architecture. Microservice architecture refers to methods that develop software apps made of independent deployable and modular services. Each app then operates through a defined communication channel such as a container.
  • Both are used to increase work productivity by enhancing the microservices' workload within the clusters. Each uses clusters of hosts to improve the stability of the system.
  • They both also utilize containers as a unit of work,
  • They both operate in two distinct ways: in single or multi-tenant environments. Single-tenant environments refer to when a software plus the system’s structure only serves one client, each with its database. Multi-tenancy is when the system can support multiple clients simultaneously, and they share a database.

Kubernetes vs. Docker Swarm: The Differences

Now, as we look into the differences, we will notie the two have quite a list of them.

They are as follows:



You can install Kubernetes on nearly any platform, and the process is relatively straightforward. The only requirement is to have a basic understanding of the platform before installing it.

The installation requires a downloaded file from Kubectl where you can proceed differently depending on your operating system.

If you are on macOS, Kubectl is installed through curl, MacPorts, or Homebrew.

If you are on Linux, you can install Kubectl through native package management, curl, or other package management techniques such as snap applications.

For those on Windows, the installation of Kubectl is done through curl, Chocolatey package manager, Scoop command-line installer, or Powershell Gallery.

Docker Swarm

Taking a comparison between the two, this version of the architectural tool is relatively more straightforward. To get started on the installation, you must first have the Docker Engine up and running on your machine, regardless of the operating system.

Once you have this in place, running Docker Swarm becomes a walk in the park. However, before initializing Swarm, make sure that you have assigned worker nodes, which can be one or several, and a manager node among the hosts.

Worker nodes are the host to the pods and are part of the app workload managed by a control panel. You will also need to assign IP addresses and open protocols and ports between the hosts to become fully operational.

Graphical User Interface (GUI)


At first sight, Kubernetes offers users an easily accessible dashboard that has everything they need. The dashboard features items that allow you to deploy the containerized apps in a specific cluster, manage the resources, view the error logs, and information on the cluster resources.

For an introduction to Kubernetes, read this article here

Docker Swarm

Docker Swarm has a different GUI, which is not an out-of-the-box operational piece. But they do have several third-party tools that offer straightforward to complex graphical user interfaces for Docker Swarm. Examples of these platforms include Dockstation, Swarmpit, and Portainer.



Kubernetes uses a flat networking model that allows all pods to freely communicate with each other. This flat network is implemented as an overlay where it requires two Classless Inter-Domain Routers (CIDRs). These are sets of IP standards used in creating unique network identifiers and devices. One of those CIDRs is for the services, and the other roots from the pods acquiring IP addresses.

Docker Swarm

Docker Swarm is a node-joining cluster overlaid connectivity for methods and techniques that spread every host in the system. Swarm is a host-only bridge for containers, and the users have the choice of either encrypting their data traffic as they create an overlay network or using their own.



Kubernetes utilizes a one-in-all formula setup, that comprises a complex and sophisticated system. The cluster state uses an unified set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which slugs container deployment and scaling.

Docker Swarm

Swarm can deploy containers at a much faster rate when compared to Kubernetes. This then results in quicker reaction times that are up to scale and match the system’s demand for job requests.



Pods in Kubernetes are evenly spread out in all the nodes within a cluster. This is instrumental in offering an optimized availability capacity. Whenever there is a failure, a replication of pods is undertaken such that there is no downtime whatsoever, and the damaged or failed pods are eliminated.

Docker Swarm

Swarm also extends a replication procedure within the nodes making the pods highly available. The Docker Swarm manager is the driving force to ensure all pods in the system get all the resources at any time on request.

Load balancing


In Kubernetes, the load balancing is done when the pods are exposed within the service. When it comes to load balancing, admittance is utilized.

Docker Swarm

The nodes in this platform involve a domain name system element used to distribute requests towards a service. These services either operate automatically or as per the port specified by the user.


The two platforms have their strengths and weaknesses but still get the job done. They each offer their clients excellent service, although one may be well suited for one situation over another. Both Kubernetes and Docker Swarm have commendable features that make them efficient, productive, and usable.

Any user will relish having either of the two as part of the package in managing operations like deployment, cloud, and storage in the cluster. All in all, when it comes to selecting one, it is all up to you and the project requirements.

Happy coding.

Peer Review Contributions by: Lalithnarayan C

About the author

Eric Kahuha

Eric is a data scientist interested in using scientific methods, algorithms, and processes to extract insights from both structural and unstructured data. Enjoys converting raw data into meaningful information and contributing to data science topical issues.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to