Which is better Docker or VMware?

Docker and VMware are both powerful virtualization technologies that are widely used in IT infrastructure. This article compares Docker and VMware across various factors to help you decide which solution better fits your needs.

Which is better Docker or VMware?

Key Differences Between Docker and VMware

Docker and VMware have some fundamental differences:

  • Architecture: Docker uses container virtualization while VMware uses hypervisor virtualization. Containers share the host OS kernel and binaries while VMs run their own OS kernel.
  • Resource Usage: Containers have lower overhead and higher density than VMs. A server can run more containers than VMs.
  • Boot Time: Containers start almost instantly while VMs take minutes to boot.
  • Portability: Docker images are portable across any system running Docker engine while migrating VMs requires compatible hypervisors.

So in summary, Docker is more lightweight, portable and optimized for packaging applications while VMware provides complete OS virtualization.

When to Use Docker vs VMware

Docker is Better For:

  • Running microservices based distributed applications
  • Faster boot times for starting applications
  • Quickly migrating applications between on-prem and cloud
  • Achieving higher density and scalability on less hardware

VMware is Better For:

  • Legacy monolithic applications requiring compatible OS
  • Stronger isolation between applications
  • Simulating multiple operating systems
  • Reinforcing traditional security boundaries

Comparing Docker and VMware Features

Feature Docker VMware
Virtualization Approach Uses OS-level virtualization with containers Relies on hypervisor for hardware virtualization with VMs
Hardware Utilization Very high density with less resource overhead Lower density than containers due to higher overhead
Boot Time Containers start instantly as only apps need initialization VMs boot slowly as entire OS needs booting
Storage Leverages host’s storage subsystem Can use virtual disks with custom storage setup
Networking Overlays host’s network stack Creates virtual switches to isolate VM networks
Security Relies on host kernel security VM kernel provides strong process isolation
Portability Images run consistently across Docker hosts VMs require same hypervisor everywhere

Docker Pros and Cons

Docker Pros:

  • Agile application deployment and scaling
  • Achieve CI/CD with reproducible builds
  • Developer productivity with standard containers
  • Avoid dependency conflicts between apps
  • Lightweight with minimal resource usage
  • Fast boot times for starting containers
  • Leverage host OS for better performance
  • Container images are highly portable

Docker Cons:

  • Containers don’t isolate apps as strongly as VMs
  • No support for running various OS environments
  • Host dependent security vulnerabilities can affect containers
  • Orchestration can add complexity for managing many containers

VMware Pros and Cons

VMware Pros:

  • Strong isolation between VMs for security
  • Simulate multiple operating systems
  • Migrate VMs between compatible hypervisors
  • Leverage VM snapshots and backups
  • Flexible virtual networking capabilities
  • Support for GPU and hardware accelerators
  • Industry standard virtualization platform

VMware Cons:

  • Higher resource requirements than containers
  • Slow boot times due to full OS virtualization
  • Licensing costs can be high for enterprise capabilities
  • Limited portability between hypervisor environments
  • Storage and networking customization adds complexity

Use Cases For Docker and VMware

Docker Use Cases:

  • Modern cloud-native microservices applications
  • Accelerating software build and testing
  • Streamlining CI/CD pipelines with reproducible containers
  • Application modernization and cloud migration
  • Running stateless applications in production

VMware Use Cases:

  • Legacy monolithic enterprise applications
  • Simulating multiple operating system environments
  • Consolidating servers through virtualization
  • Infrastructure edge computing solutions
  • Graphical intensive 3D applications

So in summary, Docker excels at cloud-native and modern stateless applications while VMware suits legacy apps requiring fuller virtualization.

Key Takeaway

  • Docker delivers lightweight container virtualization while VMware offers full virtualization with hypervisor isolated VMs.
  • Docker has lower resource usage and faster boot times while VMware provides stronger security boundaries between VMs.
  • Docker is great for modern microservices and accelerating CI/CD while VMware suits legacy and enterprise apps.
  • There are good use cases for both technologies so evaluate your needs to pick the right solution.


Docker and VMware are both mature virtualization platforms serving complementary use cases.

Docker’s container-based approach is optimized for today’s cloud-native and microservices world where portability, agility and density matter. VMware brings the robustness and isolation required for legacy apps and stricter security domains.

Ideally IT infrastructure should leverage both containers and VMs to realize the benefits of each technology. Critical enterprise applications can run within VMs while newer cloud-native apps use containers.

So rather than viewing Docker and VMware as competitive solutions, it’s best to consider them as complementary technologies in your virtualization toolbox.


  1. What are the differences between Docker and VMware?
    The key differences are that Docker uses lightweight container virtualization that shares the host OS while VMware provides full virtualization with hypervisor isolated VMs running separate operating systems.

  2. Is Docker better than VMware?
    Docker is better optimized for modern cloud-native and microservices applications due to its portability and low resource usage. But VMware offers stronger isolation critical for legacy apps and stricter security domains.

  3. When should I use Docker vs VMware?
    Use Docker for accelerating CI/CD, microservices apps and stateless web apps. Prefer VMware for legacy monolithic apps, apps requiring specific OS environments and GPU intensive workloads.

  4. Can Docker replace VMware?
    Docker cannot completely replace VMware as it lacks hypervisor isolation required for securely running legacy and enterprise applications. But Docker can complement VMware by running newer cloud-native apps.

  5. Is Docker host dependent like VMware?
    Yes, Docker relies on the host OS kernel so containers share vulnerabilities with the underlying host. VMware VMs are isolated from the hypervisor host for greater security.

  6. Can you run Docker inside a VM?
    Yes, running Docker inside a VMware or other VM adds an extra layer of isolation. This approach combines the portability of containers with security of hardware virtualization.

  7. Is VMware heavier than Docker?
    Yes, VMware has higher resource overhead than Docker since VMs emulate hardware requiring a separate OS instance. Docker containers share the host OS for lightweight virtualization.

  8. Which provisioning is faster Docker or VMware?
    Docker container provisioning is almost instantaneous as only the application needs initialization. VMware VMs take minutes to start as the entire guest OS must boot.

  9. Is Docker more scalable than VMware?
    Yes, Docker’s container architecture makes it easier to scale to thousands of instances on the same hardware compared to VMware VMs.

  10. Can you convert VMware machine into a Docker container?
    No, it is not possible to directly convert a VMware VM into a Docker container. The OS and software would need repackaging to run inside a Docker container.

  11. How do Docker and Kubernetes compare to VMware?|
    Docker provides container virtualization while Kubernetes handles container orchestration. Together they provide a complete container infrastructure whereas VMware focuses on hypervisor virtualization with VMs.

  12. Does VMware support Docker containers?
    Yes, VMware supports Docker containers through various integrations. You can run the Docker engine inside VMs or use infrastructure like vSphere to manage Docker environments.

  13. Is Docker the future and VMware the past?
    No, both Docker and VMware will continue having important roles in future infrastructure. Docker suits next-gen apps using microservices while VMware secures legacy monolithic apps.

  14. Which companies use Docker or VMware?
    Leading tech giants like Netflix, Spotify, Uber and Twitter use Docker for their cloud-native apps while banks, healthcare firms and enterprises leverage VMware for mission critical apps.

  15. What skills are required for Docker and VMware?
    Docker requires familiarity with containers, Linux and scripting. VMware requires knowledge of servers, virtualization, networking and storage systems. Many admins learn both skillsets.

  16. Is Docker open source but VMware proprietary?
    Yes, Docker uses open source technologies while VMware is a commercial proprietary platform. But VMware also contributes to open source and supports Kubernetes integrations.

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