Docker is an open-source project that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers, by providing an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating-system-level virtualization on Linux. Docker uses the resource isolation features of the Linux kernel such as cgroups and kernel namespaces, and a union-capable filesystem such as aufs and others to allow independent "containers" to run within a single Linux instance, avoiding the overhead of starting and maintaining virtual machines.

The Linux kernel's support for namespaces mostly isolates an application's view of the operating environment, including process trees, network, user IDs and mounted file systems, while the kernel's cgroups provide resource limiting, including the CPU, memory, block I/O and network. Since version 0.9, Docker includes the libcontainer library as its own way to directly use virtualization facilities provided by the Linux kernel, in addition to using abstracted virtualization interfaces via libvirt, LXC (Linux Containers) and systemd-nspawn.

As actions are done to a Docker base image, union filesystem layers are created and documented, such that each layer fully describes how to recreate an action. This strategy enables Docker's lightweight images, as only layer updates need to be propagated (compared to full VMs, for example).

According to industry analyst firm 451 Research, "Docker is a tool that can package an application and its dependencies in a virtual container that can run on any Linux server. This helps enable flexibility and portability on where the application can run, whether on premises, public cloud, private cloud, bare metal, etc."


Compute Systems Invocation Version(s)
Red Hat Linux (64-bit) % /util/bin/ 1.9.1 (default)



  1. Bina Ramamurthy, instructor.