Docker Build architecture

Docker Build implements a client-server architecture, where:

  • Buildx is the client and the user interface for running and managing builds
  • BuildKit is the server, or builder, that handles the build execution.
Build high-level architecture

As of Docker Engine 23.0 and Docker Desktop 4.19, Buildx is the default build client.


Buildx is a CLI tool that provides a user interface for working with builds. Buildx is a drop-in replacement for the legacy build client used in earlier versions of Docker Engine and Docker Desktop. In newer versions of Docker Desktop and Docker Engine, you're using Buildx by default when you invoke the docker build command. In earlier versions, to build using Buildx you would use the docker buildx build command.

Buildx is more than just an updated build command. It also contains utilities for creating and managing builders.

Install Buildx

Docker Buildx is installed by default with Docker Desktop. Docker Engine version 23.0 and later requires that you install Buildx from a separate package. Buildx is included in the Docker Engine installation instructions, see Install Docker Engine.

You can also build the CLI plugin from source, or grab a binary from the GitHub repository and install it manually. See docker/buildx README for more information


"Builder" is a term used to describe an instance of a BuildKit backend.

A builder may run on the same system as the Buildx client, or it may run remotely, on a different system. You can run it as a single node, or as a cluster of nodes. Builder nodes may be containers, virtual machines, or physical machines.

For more information, see Builders.


BuildKit, or buildkitd, is the daemon process that executes the build workloads.

A build execution starts with the invocation of a docker build command. Buildx interprets your build command and sends a build request to the BuildKit backend. The build request includes:

  • The Dockerfile
  • Build arguments
  • Export options
  • Caching options

BuildKit resolves the build instruction and executes the build steps. For the duration of the build, Buildx monitors the build status and prints the progress to the terminal.

If the build requires resources from the client, such as local files or build secrets, BuildKit requests the resources that it needs from Buildx.

This is one way in which BuildKit is more efficient compared to the legacy builder it replaces. BuildKit only requests the resources that the build needs, when they're needed. The legacy builder, in comparison, always takes a copy of the local filesystem.

Examples of resources that BuildKit can request from Buildx include:

  • Local filesystem build contexts
  • Build secrets
  • SSH sockets
  • Registry authentication tokens

For more information about BuildKit, see BuildKit.

Example build sequence

The following diagram shows an example build sequence involving Buildx and BuildKit.

Buildx and BuildKit sequence diagram