A Getting started discussion with Docker Desktop vs. Rancher Desktop

I saw a post a few months ago about Rancher Desktop.  Until that time, I'd never ever heard of the thing.  From my uninitiated viewpoint, Rancher Desktop looks like Docker Desktop, except specific for Kubernetes. Thinking that's all it was, I stopped reading any more.  I'm already working hard to understand all the nuances of the Docker engine outside of the Desktop application.

But then I came upon an article by Matt Farina (t|g|l) entitled, "Docker Desktop vs Rancher Desktop | Code Engineered." Matt is good about saying that he's a member of the Rancher Desktop team, but the feature comparison chart still got me thinking.

Feature Comparison of Docker Desktop vs. Rancher Desktop

Now I'm thinking to myself, "Maybe you shouldn't be working so much with Docker Desktop as you get started."

Can someone help me navigate out of this analysis paralysis?

  • Just based on the feature comparison above, Rancher is the more versatile product. Why limit yourself from the get go?

  • Personally, since Kubernetes relies on the Docker engine, I'd rather understand the Docker engine before layering on the complexity of k8s.

    But that's just my opinion.  I'm here for everyon's input.

  • A big red flag about learning on docker desktop to me is just the "does your company pay for Docker Desktop licenses?"

    Even when I'm just noodling around with personal projects I don't like to sink time into tools that I won't be allowed to use at work because of license costs.  

    I will also suggest that when it comes to learning I think docker desktop is maybe a bit of a trap.  At the end of the day Docker is a CLI driven program, and the commands are pretty short and easy to remember so the training wheels of having a GUI over it aren't terribly useful.  Save yourself from all these rabbit holes and just run plain old docker in WSL2 for free without having to worry.  

    This video shows how for Windows users https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDk3pqFXgs8

    All the places I worked the last several years also had cloud environments where I was able to spin instances up really quickly to fuss around and learn.  Most of my training efforts cost us about 50 cents so it was pretty good value in terms of time/cost for us. 

  • There's not really a downside to using Rancher Desktop out of the gate. Just use the Moby (oss docker) option to get standard docker commands. The kubernetes portion is optional. I initially switched to it for better WSL+kubernetes integration, but now it's just a standard for our devs. Something not really mentioned was the inclusion of Traefik out of the box for the devs has been great to get them out of localhost:port hell. Also great for devs growing into kubernetes, with parts of the rancher kubernetes dashboard built in.

  • I run docker engine in my home lab with Portainer as my orchestrator. I have put in cycles in to trying to get rancher up and running with K8s, but I have not made it to the 3% smarter than the application. I find that Docker desk to is too cumbersome, and depending on the task I have problems with VM having correct permissions to my environment