ltstudiooo - Fotolia

What container management tools can you use in virtual environments?

There are many tools that help with container orchestration, but it's important to review all the features before choosing a platform to make sure it meets your needs.

Containers offer enormous flexibility and speed in application deployments, but there are challenges with them. Adding hundreds or even thousands of virtualized entities to any local, remote or cloud environment carries significant management hurdles. Organizing, tracking and monitoring large numbers of virtual container instances demands careful attention to orchestration and automation.

Generally, organizations add a pool of available virtual or bare-metal servers -- called a cluster -- to container management tools. The tools then organize, provision, deploy and monitor containers on that pool of servers -- called scheduling. A more comprehensive container orchestration framework might also handle networking connections between containers across different servers and provide functionality such as load balancing, network name resolution for each container, container code updating and so on. There are several important container management tools to consider.


Kubernetes is perhaps the best-known open source container automation, scaling and management tool for containerized workloads. Kubernetes is supported by major cloud providers, like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, and allows the containers that constitute an application to be grouped into logical units -- called pods -- for simpler discovery and management.

Docker Compose and Swarm

Docker offers several container management tools, including Docker Compose (to define multicontainer applications) and Docker Swarm (to organize and manage containers across multiple host systems). Compose and Swarm are typically used together to implement a container orchestration platform for the business and are supported on public clouds, like Azure.

Test your knowledge of Docker components and services by taking this quiz. 

Apache Mesos

Apache Mesos is an open source orchestration and management platform that offers strong resource isolation, high scalability and availability, support for launching Docker and appc containers and versatile scheduling policies. Mesos runs on Linux, OS X and Windows and is cloud provider-agnostic.

Google Container Engine

Consider the services included with outside offerings. For example, Google Container Engine (GKE) provides a container cluster manager and orchestration system for running Docker containers through Kubernetes in GKE.


Deis builds on Kubernetes to provide an open source platform capable of managing applications in Docker containers. Deis has been adopted by Microsoft and will probably appear as a native Azure service in the future.

Amazon ECS

In addition, Amazon EC2 Container Service (Amazon ECS) is a scalable container management service that supports Docker containers and allows workloads to run on a managed cluster of Amazon EC2 instances.

Red Hat OpenShift

The Red Hat OpenShift container platform uses Kubernetes for automated container orchestration and management, with features including service discovery, policy-based scheduling, container health monitoring, automatic scaling and so on. OpenShift includes a container image registry and allows image updates and rollbacks that support build automation for DevOps.

Third-party tools

Finally, there are numerous third-party container management tools, like Apcera, that offer an enterprise-class container engine along with container workflow, orchestration, scheduling, storage and networking capabilities.

Next Steps

Navigate Docker's orchestration approach

Compare ECS to other orchestration tools

Learn about CoreOS container orchestration tools

Dig Deeper on Application virtualization