Docker Vs VMware: A Comparative Analysis

In this article, we will compare two well-known software platforms: Docker and VMware. We'll look at the key differences between these two technologies, their unique features, and their applications in the real world. Whether you are in a corporate network or managing applications on your company desktop machine, knowing the difference between Docker and VMware can help you make better decisions about your application environment management.

Overview Comparison Table

Primary UseContainers for application-level virtualizationFull machine virtualization with hypervisors.
Resource UtilizationShares resources with the host operating system for efficiency.Requires dedicated resources, may lead to poor performance.
SetupEasier to set up and use.Complex installation and hardware-assisted virtualization is required for optimal performance.
PortabilityHigh due to standardization of Docker images.Limited as it requires an entire operating system backup and VM images.
ScalabilityCan easily scale up to handle increased loads.Difficult to scale automatically, may require manual intervention.
PerformanceGives near-native performance, as it deploys lightweight containers.Can suffer from performance issues due to VM overhead.

The primary difference between Docker and VMware lies in their use cases and resource utilization; Docker is used for application-level virtualization using containers and shares resources with the host for efficiency, while VMware is used for full machine virtualization with hypervisors requiring dedicated resources which may impact performance.

What is Docker

Docker is a software platform designed to simplify the creation, deployment, and running of applications by using containers. A Docker container is a lightweight, stand-alone, executable package that includes everything you need to run code, including the runtime environment, system tools, libraries, and settings. Containers solve the problem of inconsistencies in environments, from testing to production, by creating consistent environments that work the same no matter where they are run.

Examples of Docker

  1. Containerizing complex applications: Complex applications with many services can be divided into multiple Docker containers. This approach makes it easier to manage, scale, and deploy these applications.

  2. Microservices architecture: Docker is perfect for microservices because it can isolate each service into its own container. This structure provides high scalability and fault isolation.

  3. Simplified Software Delivery: Docker images, available on Docker Hub, can be downloaded and run on any server capable of running Docker. This simplifies the deployment process and ensures consistent execution of containers regardless of the environment.

Thus, Docker is an ideal solution for developers seeking a streamlined container management tool that offers efficient resource utilization and high portability. It enables an agile development process and optimizes build-test-deploy cycles for complex or scalable applications.

What is VMware

VMware is a leader in virtualization technology. It provides software that creates and manages virtual machines (VMs) - complete, isolated duplicates of a physical server's hardware. This allows multiple operating systems to share a single server's resources without interfering with each other. It's like having several separate computers running on one piece of physical hardware. VMware is typically used to run multiple operating systems on a single corporate server, or for testing programs in various operating systems without rebooting the computer.

Examples of VMware

  1. Server Consolidation: With VMware, multiple physical servers can be transformed into virtual machines running on a single host. This not only saves on hardware costs, but also makes maintenance and management easier.

  2. Legacy Applications Support: Older, legacy applications which require outdated operating systems can be run on a VM running that operating system. This allows the company to maintain support for these applications without having to keep outdated hardware in service.

  3. Software Testing and Development: Developers often use VMware to create isolated testing environments. These allow for software testing without risking damage to the live production environment.

Thus, VMware is crucial for organizations looking to maximize their resource utilization, maintain legacy applications, and provide efficient, risk-free environments for software development and testing. Its ability to provide a high level of isolation and control while still delivering optimal performance makes it a powerful tool in any developer or system administrator's arsenal.

Evaluating Pros and Cons: Docker and VMware

Choosing between Docker and VMware depends on your needs and project requirements. To help you decide, we'll evaluate the pros and cons of both these tools.

Covering the Benefits: Pros of Docker and VMware


  • Efficient use of resources: Docker shares system resources between containers, which makes it lightweight and efficient.
  • Speed: Docker containers are quickly launched and stopped in a matter of seconds.
  • Versatility: Docker can run on any machine that has Docker installed, which makes it very portable.
  • Scalability: With Docker, you can run many instances of an application without consuming too much of the system's resources.


  • Isolation: Each VM on a VMware server is isolated from others. Even if one VM fails, it won't affect the others.
  • Legacy Support: VMware can support older applications designed for different operating systems.
  • Hardware Compatibility: VMware has robust compatibility with various hardware and operating systems.

Assessing the Drawbacks: Cons of Docker and VMware


  • Limited isolation: Docker containers share resources with other containers, which might pose security risks if not managed properly.
  • Compatibility Issues: Docker runs natively on Linux systems, and running it on other platforms might require additional software or steps.


  • Resource-intensive: Each virtual machine in VMware needs its own set of resources, like CPU and memory, to operate correctly, making it resource-heavy.
  • Higher Setup Complexity: Setting up VMware is relatively complex, especially for beginners. It also requires decent hardware to run efficiently.

While both Docker and VMware have their pros and cons, their suitability really depends on your specific requirements.

When to use Docker

Docker shines in scenarios where you want to create consistent environments from development to production or rapidly deploy and scale applications. It is especially useful when aiming for high portability and promoting a DevOps culture.

Examples of when to use Docker

1. Microservices: If you're following a microservice architecture for your application, Docker is an excellent choice. Each service can be hosted in a separate Docker container, providing easy management, isolation, and ability to scale as individual services.

2. Simplified Configuration: If your application needs complex configurations or dependencies, Docker allows you to specify all these requirements in a Dockerfile. It ensures that your application will behave the same way irrespective of the host environment.

3. Continous Integration/Delivery: Docker enables continuous integration and delivery applications. Developers can create containers containing new pieces of coding and updates to existing coding, which can then be added to the main codebase without disruption.

4. Rapid Application Deployment: If you want to rapidly deploy your application across multiple hosts, Docker is your friend. Since Docker containers share the host OS kernel, they start up in seconds, compared to minutes with VMs.

In short, choose Docker when scalability, consistency across development and production environments, rapid deployment, and high resource efficiency are among your top priorities.

When to Use VMware

VMware is the best choice when you need complete isolation, robust compatibility with various operating systems, and need to manage virtualized infrastructure at scale. It is particularly useful for running older applications that need specific operating systems or for applications that require full-system isolation.

Examples of when to use VMware

1. Legacy Support: If you have legacy applications that are hard to containerize or are still critical for your organization, VMware can be useful. As VMware emulates the entire operating system, you can run older applications without any compatibility issues.

2. Isolated Environments: If your applications or services require a full operating system and a high level of isolation, VMware would be a wise choice. Each virtual machine is fully isolated and has its own set of dedicated resources.

3. Multi-OS Requirement: VMware is great when you have a need to run applications on multiple operating systems on the same physical server. You can have different operating systems running in different VMs on the same server, fulfilling your diverse OS requirements.

4. Server Consolidation: If you have multiple physical servers performing small tasks, you can consolidate those servers into several isolated VMs running on a single, powerful machine. This saves on hardware, power, cooling, and management resources.

In brief, use VMware if your priorities are full system virtualization, better legacy support, and high isolation. This tool is beneficial for larger enterprises that run a complex mix of applications on various operating systems.

A Dual Approach: Combining Docker and VMware Together

Some might ask whether Docker and VMware have to be mutually exclusive or if they can be used together. The good news is that they can indeed complement each other very well in certain scenarios.

Running Docker in a Virtual Machine: Is it Possible?

Absolutely! You can run Docker inside a VM provided by VMware. This brings together the best aspects of both technologies - the near-native performance and efficiency of Docker, with the resource isolation and broad operating system support that VMware provides.

Use-Cases and Benefits of Docker and VMware Combination

While Docker provides an efficient way to package and distribute applications, VMware offers a more powerful environment to run those applications.

1. Security: By running Docker containers within a VMware VM, you can add an extra layer of isolation and security to your application environment.

2. Legacy Support and Modern Architecture: You can run legacy applications that need specific operating systems in VMs, while running applications designed for microservice architecture in Docker.

3. Resource Allocation and Scheduling: VMware can manage and allocate resources at the hardware level, allowing you to control resource distribution across multiple Docker hosts running inside VMs.

Using Docker and VMware together can be the best of both worlds in specific scenarios. However, always ensure that your strategy aligns with your business requirements and technical capabilities. In the end, it's all about choosing the right tool for the job at the right time.

Key Takeaways

Choosing between Docker and VMware, or deciding to use them together, boils down to your project needs and requirements. Below are the key points to remember:

  • Docker is efficient, lightweight, and ideal for creating consistent environments from development to deployment, handling microservices, and rapid application deployment with no OS constraints.

  • VMware is excellent for providing full system virtualization, facilitating a high level of isolation, robust compatibility with various operating systems, and for dealing with legacy applications.

  • Docker and VMware can also be used together to leverage the benefits of both. You can run Docker containers inside a VMware VM to get isolation at both the hardware (VMware VM) and application (Docker container) levels.

Understand the strengths and limitations of each system, and let the needs of your project guide you towards the right solution. Both tools are powerful and versatile in their own right, and learning when and how to use them can make you a proficient developer or a system administrator.

Docker Vs VMware Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some commonly asked questions about Docker and VMware:

Is Docker Just Hype Or An Improvement Over VMware?

Docker is not just hype. It's a powerful tool that has revolutionized how developers create, deploy, and run applications. Docker and VMware serve different purposes. Docker shines at packaging and distributing applications, while VMware is excellent for full-system virtualization. Docker, with its containerization, is not necessarily an improvement over VMware; rather, it's another tool serving different needs in the software deployment and management landscape.

Is Docker Faster Than VMware?

In general, Docker containers are more lightweight and start faster than VMware virtual machines. This is because Docker containers share the host OS's kernel and use fewer resources than VMs which require a full operating system for each instance. However, the 'speed' might not be the deciding factor in every case. Complex applications requiring full system isolation might better suit VMware VMs, while lightweight, scalable ones will benefit from Docker's low overhead and fast startup times.

Can You Run Docker in a Virtual Machine?

Yes, you can run Docker inside a virtual machine provided by VMware. This combo can provide an extra layer of isolation and leverage the benefits of both Docker and VMware effectively. VMs run complete operating systems which can run any software, including Docker, while Docker can package an application and its dependencies into a standardized unit for software development. The two can work in tandem to offer you more options for deploying and managing your software applications.