Podman vs. Docker: What’s the Difference and Which One Is Better?

docker alternatives

Podman vs. Docker: What’s the Difference and Which One Is Better?

Key Points

  • Podman is a daemon-less, rootless container engine developed by Red Hat, offering improved security and compatibility with Kubernetes.
  • Docker, developed by Docker Inc., is a widely adopted container platform with a vast ecosystem and user-friendly design.
  • Podman’s rootless approach reduces the potential for privilege escalation attacks and is more accessible to non-root users.
  • Docker’s client-server architecture requires root access, which can pose security challenges.
  • Podman interacts directly with the image registry, storage, and containers, while Docker requires a daemon for these interactions.

In containerization, the Podman vs. Docker discussion has taken center stage. These two open-source projects provide robust solutions for developers and IT professionals needing reliable container platforms. Yet, unraveling the contrasts between Podman and Docker can help pinpoint the tool that best fits your needs.

Delving into the core principles that drive these technologies, their functional attributes, and their role in the market, the distinction between Podman and Docker becomes more apparent. Join this exploration into Podman vs. Docker as these container technologies’ key features and differences are unveiled, offering a foundation for informed decision-making. Let’s turn the spotlight on these platforms to see which can provide the ideal container solution for you.

Podman vs. Docker: Side-By-Side Comparison

OverviewPodman, short for Pod Manager, is a Linux native tool that provides containerization services.Docker is an open-source platform that automates the deployment, scaling, and management of applications.
Primary UseIdeally used in environments where the daemon-less operation is required.Docker is a go-to for developers looking to build, ship, and run distributed applications.
DeveloperPodman is developed by Red Hat.Docker Inc. is the developer behind Docker.
Technologies InfluencedInfluences include Kubernetes and CRI-O, two key components in cloud-native environments.Docker influences technologies like Kubernetes, Swarm, and OpenShift for container orchestration.
Security AspectPodman has an edge here, it doesn’t require a daemon and runs as a non-root user.Docker runs as a root user by default, which can raise security concerns.
Container InteractionPodman interacts directly with the image registry, storage, and containers.Docker requires a daemon for these interactions.
Command Line InterfacePodman offers a Docker-compatible command-line interface.Docker has its own unique command-line interface.
ScalabilityPodman is highly scalable, working well with Kubernetes.Docker is also scalable, but the dependency on the daemon could be a limiting factor.
CLI and UI ExperienceLimited UI, but rich CLI commands similar to Docker’s.Mature UI with Kitematic, extensive CLI commands.

Podman vs. Docker: What’s the Difference?

In container orchestration, two prominent players — Podman and Docker — offer unique solutions. The following discussion sheds light on their primary differences in architecture, root privileges, and security aspects.

Podman vs. Docker
Docker’s model has enabled the integration of various plugins and tools, spawning an entire ecosystem.

©Sharaf Maksumov/Shutterstock.com


Pod Manager is designed as a lightweight, fully-featured container engine, often perceived as an alternative to Docker. It presents a daemon-less architecture, meaning that it doesn’t rely on a central server but runs containers and pods directly as child processes. This daemon-less approach minimizes system overhead, enhancing overall operational efficiency. As a result, Podman earns the reputation of a leaner container engine, especially favored in situations where system resources are at a premium.

The Docker daemon, a background server process, manages Docker objects such as images, containers, networks, and volumes. On the other hand, Docker operates on a client-server architecture where the Docker client communicates with the Docker daemon to execute commands. While this architecture promotes robustness and flexibility, it does introduce additional complexity, requiring more system resources for operation. Despite this, Docker’s model is appreciated for its extensibility, enabling the integration of various plugins and tools, thereby nurturing a vast ecosystem around it.

Root Privileges

Podman takes a stand with its “rootless” approach regarding root privileges. By design, Podman doesn’t need root privileges to run containers. Instead, it leverages user namespaces to isolate containers without requiring elevated permissions. This method has a profound implication on security, reducing the potential for privilege escalation attacks. It also makes Podman more accessible to non-root users, improving productivity in multi-user environments.

Contrastingly, Docker usually requires root access to run containers, which can pose security challenges. Although Docker provides ways to enable non-root access, it generally implies security trade-offs. Docker’s root requirement ties back to its client-server architecture: the Docker daemon, operating at the root level, demands specific permissions to function effectively. Despite this, Docker’s approach is widely adopted in various settings, mainly due to its established presence and compatibility with numerous existing workflows and tools.


In security, Podman’s daemon-less, rootless operation naturally lends itself to improved security. As no persistent daemon could be exploited, Podman reduces the attack surface. Moreover, by avoiding the need for root privileges, Podman mitigates risks associated with running containers at elevated permissions, notably minimizing the potential for system-wide compromises.

In contrast, Docker’s security model is primarily based on process isolation, implemented through Linux namespaces and control groups. Although Docker’s approach provides a fair degree of container isolation, the daemon’s root privileges have often been a subject of concern. If an attacker successfully compromises the Docker daemon, they can gain root access to the host system. However, Docker has continually improved its security features, introducing capabilities like user namespaces and seccomp profiles to mitigate potential risks.

Image Building

Diving right into the image-building aspect, Docker reigns supreme with its legacy. Docker uses a daemon-based architecture, a background service running on the host system responsible for building, running, and managing containers. This design has stood the test of time, contributing to Docker’s popularity in containerization. Users have applauded Docker’s image-building capabilities, attributing its seamless execution to its mature and well-documented framework.

However, Podman presents an intriguing alternative to Docker’s image-building process. Podman, designed as a daemon-less container engine, avoids the single point of failure issue that may arise with Docker’s daemon-based system. The absence of a daemon in Podman means each command runs in its process, providing isolation and reliability only sometimes achievable with Docker’s approach.

External Support

Next, let’s delve into the external support for Podman and Docker. With its widespread use and long-standing presence, Docker enjoys extensive external support. From public repositories like Docker Hub to private enterprise-based registries, Docker’s support ecosystem is vast and well-established. This support extends to orchestration tools like Kubernetes and Docker Swarm, cementing Docker’s compatibility and interoperability with various platforms.

Conversely, Podman does not lag too far behind. Red Hat, the enterprise behind Podman, offers substantial support. Being fully compatible with the Open Container Initiative (OCI) standards, Podman can use the same registries as Docker for pulling and pushing images. Interestingly, Kubernetes, one of the dominant container orchestration tools, is moving towards CRI-O — a lightweight container runtime for Kubernetes, where Podman has a critical role. Therefore, the trajectory of external support for Podman is on a promising path.

docker alternatives
Podman is highly scalable and works well with Kubernetes.


Independent vs. Modular

Lastly, let’s examine the functional approach of Podman vs. Docker. Docker functions as an independent and monolithic platform. Docker’s functions and services are interlinked, providing a unified user experience. Docker’s design, though robust and comprehensive, comes with its complexities. Users must often contend with the entire Docker stack even when they need just one service, potentially leading to overkill for more uncomplicated use cases.

On the other hand, Podman takes a more modular approach, operating as part of a suite of tools that include Buildah and Skopeo. This approach allows users to choose the tool best suited to their needs. For instance, if a user only needs to build a container image, they could use Buildah without the overhead of running a container engine. This approach offers Podman a more streamlined and customized experience, especially in smaller or specialized environments.

Podman vs. Docker: 8 Must-Know Facts

  • Podman and Docker share roots in Linux container technology but differ significantly in their architecture. Podman operates as a daemon-less container engine, enhancing security. On the other hand, Docker adopts a client-server architecture, making it versatile in various environments.
  • Docker’s API compatibility allows integration with various DevOps tools, giving it an edge in the toolchain. In contrast, Podman’s command-line interface mirrors Docker’s, easing the transition for developers switching between the two.
  • Docker enjoys widespread community support, bolstered by extensive documentation. Conversely, Podman is relatively new, with a growing but smaller community.
  • Docker’s tendency to run as root presents potential security risks. Podman eliminates this concern by enabling rootless operation, making it safer.
  • Docker’s inbuilt orchestration tool, Docker Swarm, facilitates multi-container deployment. Podman, lacking an inbuilt orchestration tool, relies on Kubernetes, showcasing its adaptability.
  • The “Podman vs. Docker” discussion often zeroes in on resource usage. Podman wins here, consuming fewer system resources than Docker, making it a lightweight alternative.
  • Docker’s installation is straightforward across different platforms. Podman, while easy to install on Linux, faces challenges on other platforms, showcasing Docker’s cross-platform strength.
  • Lastly, Docker’s image distribution relies on a central registry. Podman, however, supports multiple registries, enhancing its flexibility in image sourcing and distribution.

Podman vs. Docker: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

Choosing between Podman and Docker boils down to your specific use case. Docker shines with its extensive ecosystem and user-friendly design, making it the go-to choice for beginners. Yet, Podman is considered safer because it operates without a daemon and supports rootless containers, enhancing security.

While Docker has remained the industry’s titan, Podman has quickly garnered attention. Remember, there isn’t a clear “better” choice in the Podman vs. Docker debate. Your needs and environment dictate the winner. Review your goals, security requirements, and ease-of-use preferences. Then, armed with this insight, make your choice in the Podman vs. Docker decision.

Podman vs. Docker: What’s the Difference and Which One Is Better? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are the main differences between Podman and Docker?

Podman and Docker primarily differ in their architecture: Docker uses a daemon for container management, while Podman is daemonless. Podman’s rootless mode also adds a layer of security that Docker lacks.

Is Podman more secure than Docker?

Yes, Podman is considered more secure than Docker because it supports rootless mode, meaning it doesn’t need root privileges to run containers, minimizing potential security risks.

Can Podman and Docker work together, or are they exclusive?

Yes, they can work together. Podman is designed to be fully compatible with the Docker CLI, enabling you to use Podman as a drop-in replacement for Docker.

Is there a difference in performance between Podman and Docker?

The performance of Podman and Docker is broadly similar, but Podman can be slightly faster in starting and stopping containers due to its daemon-less architecture.

Does Podman have a graphical user interface like Docker?

No, unlike Docker, Podman does not come with a built-in GUI. However, you can use third-party tools like Cockpit for a graphical interface.

Are all Docker images compatible with Podman?

Yes, Podman is designed to be Docker CLI compatible, which means all Docker images and Dockerfiles should run on Podman without needing any modifications.

Which is better, Podman or Docker?

It depends on your specific use case. Docker is widely adopted, has a built-in GUI, and has extensive community support. Podman offers better security, is daemon less, and adheres to OCI standards more closely.

To top