What's the best Linux distribution for Docker in your business? | TechTarget (2023)

To find the best Linux distro for Docker, compare options from Red Hat, Ubuntu, VMware and more to make a match and smoothly run containers in your enterprise.

When you want to use Docker in a Linux environment, it can be a challenge to choose a Linux distribution to host the open source platform. This is especially true because Docker can work on nearly every available Linux distribution. You can even deploy Docker containers from an Ubuntu desktop distribution. However, it's risky to deploy Docker containers from a desktop distribution because it usually doesn't have the hardened security of a server distribution. And with the added resource usage of the desktop, you'll have less CPU and RAM for the actual containers.

Let's explore some options to find the best Linux distribution for Docker for your enterprise.

Docker-specific systems

First, ask yourself if you will dedicate the server to Docker containers. If a distribution will only serve up Docker containers, examine the Linux variants created for the specific purpose of deploying containers.

It's often beneficial to run container-specific distributions. These distributions, due to their stripped-down nature, provide enhanced stability. Universal package managers that use a transactional upgrade/rollback process, such as Snappy and Atomic, make container-specific distros easy to upgrade. Also, various isolation mechanisms offer high security. The following distributions are container-specific:

  • CoreOS provides only the minimal functionality required to deploy containers.
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host removes all utilities and functionalities from RHEL that aren't necessary to run Docker containers and includes world-class support from Red Hat.
  • Ubuntu Core, a very minimal take on Ubuntu, is designed for efficiency and offers the smallest runtime footprint. It claims the best security profile available.
  • VMware Photon is a container-optimized cloud platform that includes developer tools, such as representational state transfer APIs, a command-line interface (CLI) and an HTML5 UI. Photon also offers on-demand access to Kubernetes clusters with high availability and automated scale-up/down.
  • RancherOS goes so far as to containerize system services that are configured using cloud-init. It also uses Docker for management.

General questions to find the best Linux distribution for Docker

What if you know your best Linux distribution for Docker will need to function as more than just a means to deploy containers? It's possible that Linux could serve up containers, as well as VMs and Samba file shares. If that's the case, you need to find a Linux distribution that will serve those purposes and do it well.

(Video) Linux Servers: Which Distro should you use?!

You'll want to cast off any desktop-specific distributions, which will narrow down your search. To further refine your focus, hone in on three crucial points of interest: ease of use, security and support.

It's often beneficial to run container-specific distributions. These distributions, due to their stripped-down nature, provide enhanced stability.

If your focus is ease of use, Ubuntu Server is the best Linux distribution for Docker. In less than 20 minutes, you can have a Linux server up and running that offers an incredibly shallow learning curve and does a great job working with Docker. However, the Ubuntu Server distribution is GUI-less, so if an all-CLI experience isn't for you, then it's not the right fit. You can purchase a support package for Ubuntu Server from the Ubuntu Advantage store. Since Docker is part of the standard repository for Ubuntu Server, installation is quick and easy. Ubuntu Server also works with Docker Enterprise Edition (EE). Docker EE simplifies provisioning and setup of Docker and offers Docker Certified, Image Management and Docker Datacenter, based on the purchased package.

If you work with a larger business or enterprise company, RHEL provides optimal support and security. As a more general Linux distribution for Docker, RHEL is a great option. The associated cost of RHEL is higher than that of Ubuntu Server, but it includes enterprise-grade support with the software purchase. RHEL also supports Docker EE for RHEL. The installation of Docker on RHEL is almost as easy as that of Ubuntu, but you will need to enable the Extras repository beforehand. However, you cannot install Docker EE from any standard repository.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) also works well with Docker EE and is the best fit for SUSE or openSUSE users. The benefits of Docker EE are the same on SLES as on either Ubuntu Server or RHEL, so this choice will come down to whether you are more familiar with the Red Hat system or the SUSE system. Like RHEL, the purchase of SLES includes enterprise-grade support. You cannot find Docker in the standard SLES repositories. To install, you must enable the Container Module 12 x86_64 repository. To install Docker EE, refer to the official Docker documentation.

Next Steps

What are popular Linux distros for servers?

Get Docker on Ubuntu 16.04

(Video) Best Linux Distro for Server, my favorite ones

Other options to consider besides Docker

Dig Deeper on Data center ops, monitoring and management


What's the best Linux distribution for Docker in your business? | TechTarget? ›

Any Linux OS can be used for docker but we prefer Boot2Docker or RancherOS. There are many reasons why you would want to choose one over the other.

What OS should I install Docker on? ›

The Docker platform runs natively on Linux (on x86-64, ARM and many other CPU architectures) and on Windows (x86-64). Docker Inc. builds products that let you build and run containers on Linux, Windows and macOS.

Which Ubuntu version is best for Docker? ›

Docker Engine is the standard way to run Docker on Ubuntu. It works with all supported versions and environments, from a local Ubuntu Desktop machine to your Ubuntu Server cloud host. Make sure you're running an Ubuntu release that's 18.04 or newer before you continue.

What is the most secure Linux distro for containers? ›

1. Alpine Linux. Arguably the most used of them all, Alpine Linux is a lightweight, simple, and security-oriented Linux distribution, which is built around musl libc and busybox thus making it small and very resource efficient.

Which distribution should I use for Linux? ›

Best Linux distributions for a VPS – Ubuntu Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and Rocky Linux. Most user-friendly Linux distros – Linux Mint, Elementary OS, and Zorin OS. Most lightweight Linux distros – Lubuntu, Linux Lite, and antiX.

Does Docker run better on Windows or Linux? ›

From a technical standpoint, there is no real difference between using Docker on Windows and Linux. You can achieve the same things with Docker on both platforms.

What not to use Docker for? ›

Docker is great for developing web applications, but if your end-product is a desktop application, then we would suggest you not to use Docker. As it doesn't provide the environment for running the software with a graphical interface, you would need to perform additional workarounds.

Is Ubuntu good for Docker? ›

In situations where your Docker containers need the additional utilities and libraries included in Ubuntu, it makes sense to opt for Ubuntu over Alpine.

How big is Docker Debian vs Ubuntu? ›

Ubuntu 6.5 Million Downloads and 188 MB in size - The most downloaded OS image of the bunch. But it is also the fattest cat on the block as well. Debian 3.3 Million Downloads and 125 MB in size - Debian uses the Linux kernel and the basic tools are based on the GNU Project.

Should I use Python or Ubuntu for Docker base image? ›

If you want the absolute latest bugfix version of Python, or a wide variety of versions, the official Docker Python image is your best bet. If you want the absolute latest system packages, you'll want Ubuntu 22.04; RedHat 9 is somewhat more conservative, for example including Python 3.9 rather than 3.10.

Which Linux distro uses less RAM? ›

DistributionMinimum system requirementsDesktop / Window manager
Gentoo LinuxRAM: 32 MBNone by default, but you can install any
GoboLinuxRAM: 128 MB RAM 1000+ MB for full graphic CPU: x86_64Awesome
KnoppixRAM: 32 MB text 512 MB LXDE 1 GB recommended CPU: 486LXDE
Lightweight Portable SecurityiceWM
28 more rows

Which Linux distro has most packages? ›

  • Debian is the largest upstream Linux distribution with a bigger community and features stable, testing, and unstable branches, offering over 148 000 packages. ...
  • Debian has a more vehement stance on free software but still includes non-free software in its non-free repositories.

Which Linux distro takes the least space? ›

Smallest Linux Distros That Need Almost No Space
  • ArchBang. ArchBang. It is one of the best and good looking Linux distro that you can use on your old or low-end computer. ...
  • Damn Small Linux. Damn Small Linux. ...
  • Puppy Linux. Puppy Linux. ...
  • Elive. Elive. ...
  • Lubuntu. Lubuntu. ...
  • Tiny Core Linux. Tiny Core Linux. ...
  • Porteus. Porteus. ...
  • SliTaz. SliTaz.

What is the number 1 Linux distro? ›

1. Linux Mint. Linux Mint has established itself as one of the best distros for beginner Linux users, thanks to Cinnamon's simplicity (Linux Mint's desktop environment) and ease of use. It's an Ubuntu-based operating system that's good for day-to-day usage and gaming.

Which is best Linux distro in 2023? ›

10 Best Linux Distros for Gaming in 2023
  • Fedora.
  • Garuda Linux.
  • Pop!_OS.
  • Ubuntu.
  • Drauger OS.
  • Regata OS.
  • SteamOS (Holo ISO)
  • Manjaro.
May 11, 2023

Why Ubuntu is the best Linux distro? ›

Software engineers love Ubuntu because of its stability. When a Linux distro is used by many people as is the case with Ubuntu, it makes it easy to troubleshoot technical challenges you may encounter because you can effortlessly find resources on the internet.

What is replacing Docker? ›

Podman, a container engine developed by RedHat, is one of the most prominent Docker alternatives for building, running, and storing container images. Podman maintains compatibility with the OCI container image spec just like Docker, meaning Podman can run container images produced by Docker and vice versa.

Is Docker going away? ›

A while ago, Kubernetes announced that it was deprecating Docker. Actually, it was deprecating something called dockershim, and Docker alongside it. Roughly one year after the announcement, Docker was completely removed from Kubernetes. Now, Kubernetes is a container orchestrator.

Is Docker still relevant? ›

As a runtime for executing containers, Docker is not dead. And as a conceptual approach to deploying applications, Docker — the platform that made containers massively popular, even though it did not invent the technology or idea — remains as alive as ever.

What is the best base image for Docker? ›

The following are some of the most useful Docker images:
  • Ubuntu. This is one of the most downloaded Docker images in the industry. ...
  • Alpine. For those who want something smaller, the Alpine Linux Docker image is the way to go. ...
  • Nginx. Nginx is the current hot web and proxy server. ...
  • MySQL. ...
  • Redis. ...
  • Elastic Stack. ...
  • WordPress.
Jan 19, 2022

Should I run Docker as user or root? ›

The Docker daemon always runs as the root user. If you don't want to preface the docker command with sudo , create a Unix group called docker and add users to it. When the Docker daemon starts, it creates a Unix socket accessible by members of the docker group.

What is the minimum Ubuntu for Docker? ›

To install Docker Engine, you need the 64-bit version of one of these Ubuntu versions: Ubuntu Lunar 23.04. Ubuntu Kinetic 22.10. Ubuntu Jammy 22.04 (LTS)

What OS is compatible with Docker desktop? ›

System requirements
  • Windows 11 64-bit: Home or Pro version 21H2 or higher, or Enterprise or Education version 21H2 or higher.
  • Windows 10 64-bit: Home or Pro 21H1 (build 19043) or higher, or Enterprise or Education 20H2 (build 19042) or higher.
  • Enable the WSL 2 feature on Windows.

Why is Docker in Docker not recommended? ›

In short: Docker in Docker (dind) doesn't handle concurrency well. The reason why you shouldn't use dind for CI is because Docker was designed to have exclusive access to the directory it uses for storage (normally /var/lib/docker ). Dind doesn't respect this as all child processes use this directory concurrently.

What is the best way to install Docker on Mac? ›

How to Install Docker Desktop on macOS
  1. Download the latest version of Docker Desktop from Docker's site.
  2. Open the downloaded file and drag the Docker. ...
  3. Open the Docker app from the Applications folder.
  4. Type in your Mac's password when prompted.
  5. After this, Docker will configure itself automatically.
Jan 15, 2023

Is Docker image OS dependent? ›

The factor which powers the container technology is the Linux kernel. Here, the Docker container engine is entirely dependant on the container features of the Linux kernel, and that's the reason why Docker containers cannot run on Windows and Mac operating systems.

What is the Linux equivalent of Docker Desktop? ›

LXD is a containerization technology that provide an alternative to Docker Desktop for Linux users. LXD is more similar to traditional virtualization technologies like VMs, where you can run complete OS distributions with their own init systems, users, and processes.

Can I use Docker Desktop in my company? ›

Images on Docker Hub can be used for commercial use, as long as Docker Desktop is properly licensed. Paid subscriptions are needed for commercial use of Docker Desktop at organizations with more than $10 million annual revenue OR more than 250 employees.

How much RAM does Docker Desktop need? ›

Docker Desktop for Windows requires Windows 10 (Professional, Business, Educational, and Home versions), 64-bit processing, 4GB system RAM, Windows Hyper-V and Container features, and BIOS-level hardware virtualization.

Is Docker becoming obsolete? ›

The post quickly allayed fears with a TL;DR: "Docker as an underlying runtime is being deprecated in favor of runtimes that use the Container Runtime Interface (CRI) created for Kubernetes. Docker-produced images will continue to work in your cluster with all runtimes, as they always have."

Is Docker on the decline? ›

Docker: It's not dead yet, but there's a tendency to walk away, security report finds. Sysdig just handed in its Container Security and Usage Report for 2021, and the latest edition shows that even though security measures tend to be better integrated than in previous years, there is still a lot to be done.

Is Docker faster on Mac? ›

Docker Desktop 4.6 for Mac introduces a number of changes that speed up file syncing between the macOS host and Docker VM. According to Docker, the new version may reduce the time taken by file syncing by up to 98%.

Why is Docker for Mac so slow? ›

However, if you've ever encountered this on a macOS environment (Docker Desktop), you've probably noticed this to be quite slow at times. The main reason is how file synchronisation is implemented in Docker for Mac. Combined with PHP projects which use a lot of I/O, this can cause quite a performance hit.

Why Docker can run on macOS? ›

Docker runs differently on macOS than Linux. Docker uses the Linux kernel to manage resources between containers, so your Docker applications run on the Linux operating systems. But macOS doesn't have a Linux kernel, so Docker has to run in a Linux virtual machine.

Does Docker run as root or user? ›

The Docker daemon always runs as the root user. If you don't want to preface the docker command with sudo , create a Unix group called docker and add users to it. When the Docker daemon starts, it creates a Unix socket accessible by members of the docker group.

Can Docker image run on any OS? ›

Docker image containers can also run natively on Linux and Windows. However, Windows images can run only on Windows hosts and Linux images can run on Linux hosts and Windows hosts (using a Hyper-V Linux VM, so far), where host means a server or a VM.

Can a Linux Docker image run on Windows? ›

Docker has been able to run Linux containers on Windows desktop since it was first released in 2016 (before Hyper-V isolation or Linux containers on Windows were available) using a LinuxKit based virtual machine running on Hyper-V.


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