Docker vs. AWS AMI: What's the Difference?

Docker and AWS AMI are two terms you might come across in application development. What are the differences between them?

A simple explanation:

  • Docker is an open-source platform that develops and runs applications.
  • An Amazon Machine Image (AMI) is a supported Linux image provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS.)

In short, open-source platform vs. Linux image.

The differences run much deeper than this. Read on to learn the variations between Docker vs. AWS AMI.

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Table of Contents

  • What is Docker?
  • What is AWS AMI?
  • Docker vs. AWS AMI: Key Differences

What is Docker?

Docker is an open-source platform that lets you run, build, and deploy applications within containers. So far, so simple.

OK, so what is a container?

A Docker container is a standardized software unit that connects source code with frameworks, libraries, and the other dependencies that applications require. Containers allow app dependencies to behave the same way in various environments.

Software developers use Docker containers to build reliable applications, typically relying on platforms such as Kubernetes to manage these containers at scale across enormous clusters.

O/T: I have a joke about Kubernetes, but it's still in the pending stage! 

What is AWS AMI?

AWS AMI is a supported Amazon Linux image that provides the information required to launch an instance — a virtual server in the AWS cloud.

Developers must specify an AMI when launching an instance. (AWS infrastructure doesn't automate the process.) However, developers can launch multiple instances from the same AMI when they require several instance types with the same configuration.

AWS AMI is part of a larger ecosystem. Developers use Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC or Amazon EC2) to configure applications that run on an instance.

EC2 makes up part of AWS. Other AWS solutions include Fargate, IAM. VPC, Config, CloudFormation, Ubuntu on AWS, Lambda, ECR, Elastic Beanstalk, Amazon Route 53 DNS, Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS), LightSail for virtual machines, and various microservices.

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Docker vs. AWS AMI: Key Differences

  • Docker is an open-source platform. An AMI is an image.
  • Docker containers are lighter than AMIs. Developers can transport Docker containers between providers easily.
  • Developers choose an environment to run Docker containers. These environments include AWS, remote servers, and laptops. Developers must specify AMIs in AWS (They create an EC2 instance).

You might come across Docker and AMIs in the context of EC2. As mentioned above, developers who configure applications that run on an instance in EC2 must specify an AMI before launching an instance. However, developers can also use Docker to package applications and deploy these applications to EC2. Docker and AMIs don't affect each other in AWS EC2 but co-exist.

It makes more sense to compare Docker images with AMIs.

  • Docker image is a template that contains instructions for creating, deploying, and provisioning Docker containers.
  • AMIs are images containing instructions for launching an instance.

However, Docker images exist in the context of Docker, while AMIs exist in the context of AWS. Again, the comparison is difficult.

Conclusion

Docker (and Docker containers) and AMIs are two completely different beasts. Although both exist on EC2, there is no real comparison. In the simplest terms, Docker is an open-source tool for developing and running applications and APIs, while an AMI is a supported Linux image provided by AWS.

Docker vs. AWS AMI: What's the Difference?

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