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

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.

5 critical takeaways from this article:

  • Docker is a containerization platform, while AWS AMI is an Amazon-specific machine image format.
  • Docker packages software in isolated containers, while AWS AMI deploys pre-configured software on EC2 instances.
  • Docker containers are faster and more lightweight than AWS AMI instances due to sharing the host OS.
  • AWS AMI offers greater isolation and consistency, making it suitable for heavy workloads and native AWS integrations.
  • Docker excels in portability and speed, while AWS AMI is ideal for Amazon-specific environments with stricter infrastructure needs.

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. Serverless Tools

Turbocharge your Docker-based workflows with IronWorker, the No.1 job processing solution for DevOps teams.

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.


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?

IronWorker uses Docker

If searching for comparisons like Docker vs. AWS AMI, you might benefit from a scalable solution like IronWorker. It serves as the "muscle" of the platform by isolating the code and dependencies of tasks so hard-working CTOs and developers like you can process these tasks on demand.

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About Korak Bhaduri

Korak Bhaduri, Director of Operations at, has been on a continuous journey exploring the nuances of serverless solutions. With varied experiences from startups to research and a foundation in management and engineering, Korak brings a thoughtful and balanced perspective to the blog.

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