Portainer vs Rancher | What are the Differences?

Portainer allows you to manage Dockers via the web while Rancher was built to manage Kubernetes everywhere it runs. Let’s compare the two famous Container GUIs.

Portainer vs Rancher | What are the differences?
Portainer vs Rancher | What are the differences?

Overview

People who are working containers for the first time, soon realize that managing Docker from command line interface (CLI) is not the most intuitive way. If a user can perform certain tasks only using by CLI but modern GUI software also can help in managing a large number of containers and simplify devops operations. This blog post will cover the two most popular container GUI frameworks: Portainer vs Rancher.

Portainer and Rancher both share a lot of similarities in that both software are self-hosted container management control tools that help DevOps teams to get started with Kubernetes. However besides these similarties, there are a number of clear differences. Rancher released a default UI to manage Swarm like Portainer from version 1.5. Starting from release 2.x Rancher focused more to kubernetes with its clustering tool but now it’s no longer support Docker Swarm.

Portainer and Rancher can be categorized as Container management tools. For the sake of simplicity this article only explains the fundamentals difference between Portainer and Rancher technologies. Let’s get familiar with the most popular open source Portainer vs Rancher container management tools.

  • What Is Portainer?
  • What Is Rancher?
  • Portainer vs Rancher: Which Should You Adopt?
  • Conclusion

1. What Is Portainer?

Portainer is the most popular container management platform. Devops engineers describe portainer as a simple management UI for Docker. Portainer is an open source lightweight contianer management UI and it allows you to easily manage your docker environments. It has never been so easy to manage docker but portainer is available on Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems. Portainer alternatives are Azure Container Registry, Rancher and Docker Swarm. It was founded 2017 in New Zealand and portainer web GUI default port is 9000.

Portainer is a powerful, open source management toolset that allows you to easily build, manage and maintain Docker production environments. It was developed to help customers adopt Docker container technology and accelerate time-to-value. Portainer integrates with docker swarm and kubernetes based cluster management. Portainer is an open source tool with 20.1K GitHub stars and 1.8K GitHub forks. Opens source containerization platform Portainer source code repository is available at Github. Some of the features offered by Portainer for containerized applications are:

  • Containers Easy Deployment & Management
  • Monitor the Performance and Behaviour
  • IT Governance and Security
  • Set up and Configure Environments
  • Docker Cluster Management

2. What Is Rancher?

Rancher is an open source container management platform for Kubernetes. It includes full distributions of Kubernetes, Apache Mesos and Docker Swarm that makes it simple to operate container clusters on any cloud or infrastructure platform. Rancher is described as an open source management platform for running container service and creating clusters. It can easily deploy new clusters from scratch or even can import existing Kubernetes clusters. Rancher was built to run and manage multiple kubernetes based cluster management everywhere. Rancher web GUI works on default port 80/443.

Rancher is a complete software stack for teams working on containers and hosting rancher can be complicated. It successfully eases the operational and security challenges of managing multiple kubernetes clusters while providing development and operations teams with integrated tools for running containerized software. When you deploy containers to your production or development cluster environments, you will need quick access to logging to analyze container errors. So, a good solution is to deploy Rancher in your DevOps clusters on or off the cloud. Rancher is an open source tool with 18.1K GitHub stars and 2.4K GitHub forks. Rancher source code repository is available at Github. Rancher provides the following key features:

  • Kubernetes Management and Deployment
  • User Management and Collaboration
  • Container Orchestration and Scheduling
  • Application Catalog
  • Role Based Access Control
  • Docker APIs and Tools

3. Portainer vs Rancher: Which Should You Adopt?

Both products Portainer and Rancher are fantastic answer to the need of simplifying container high level management. Portainer aims to simplify Docker management, you can see it as a Docker CLI moved to a web page. Rancher focuses on services for enterprises: team working management, backup and disaster recovery tools, a more complete cluster management.

Rancher namespaces implementation a great feature. This is a very useful feature for large IT companies to manage complex context where multiple teams could be involved in many parallel projects. This feature has recently added by Portainer with Role Based Access Control. Be aware that Rancher tool installation uses default web ports 80 and 443. If you need to expose a web application on the same host then you will need to check and edit host ports in installation docker run command. Another Rancher note is that you will probably need to map persistence to save your data once container stops working. Rancher has also a fantastic and very light OS called RancherOS which should be based on BusyBox. If you want to use this OS, you are however free to select your GUI.

An example of Portainer over RancherOS installed on Raspberry Pi is available here. Finally, my personal consideration is that Portainer and Rancher are both valid tools to manage your container environments. Portainer fully matches needs for small environments, expecially when it is based on poor hardware. It works perfectly with Raspberry Pi and could be the best choice if you want to manage a home environment, small labs or a small company. It is also going to focus on large enterprises with low cost extensions to add new features and also can be used on Rancher as alternative container orchestrator.

Rancher directly focuses on needs for medium to big environments with complex architectures. Rancher could be the best choice if you want to open the world of containers for a company and use kubernetes best of class orchestration tool.

Conclusion:

What’s the best choice Portainer vs Rancher, then? The answer is the obvious one: both. The above mentioned Portainer vs Rancher are most popular free and best open source tools for developers. They allow to think about services and systems in a completely new and digital way that infrastructure needs the most. The bottom line is that both tools provide a well-integrated platform to more effectively automate container management, scaling and deployment of systems containers.

What open source container management technology do you prefer?. Do you have any questions about difference between Portainer and Rancher?, Please get in touch.

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