Deploy on Kubernetes

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Docker Desktop includes a standalone Kubernetes server and client, as well as Docker CLI integration. The Kubernetes server runs locally within your Docker instance, is not configurable, and is a single-node cluster.

The Kubernetes server runs within a Docker container on your local system, and is only for local testing. When Kubernetes support is enabled, you can deploy your workloads, in parallel, on Kubernetes, Swarm, and as standalone containers. Enabling or disabling the Kubernetes server does not affect your other workloads.

See Docker Desktop for Mac > Getting started to enable Kubernetes and begin testing the deployment of your workloads on Kubernetes.

Use Docker commands

To ensure that the docker stack commands are available on your installation, try docker stack ls. If you see the message failed to find a Stack API version then the commands described on this page are not available. This can be confirmed with docker version which should contain the line StackAPI: Unknown.

If docker stack commands are working then you can deploy a stack on Kubernetes with docker stack deploy, the docker-compose.yml file, and the name of the stack.

docker stack deploy --compose-file /path/to/docker-compose.yml mystack
docker stack services mystack

You can see the service deployed with the kubectl get services command.

Specify a namespace

By default, the default namespace is used. You can specify a namespace with the --namespace flag.

docker stack deploy --namespace my-app --compose-file /path/to/docker-compose.yml mystack

Run kubectl get services -n my-app to see only the services deployed in the my-app namespace.

Override the default orchestrator

While testing Kubernetes, you may want to deploy some workloads in swarm mode. Use the DOCKER_STACK_ORCHESTRATOR variable to override the default orchestrator for a given terminal session or a single Docker command. This variable can be unset (the default, in which case Kubernetes is the orchestrator) or set to swarm or kubernetes. The following command overrides the orchestrator for a single deployment, by setting the variable at the start of the command itself.

DOCKER_STACK_ORCHESTRATOR=swarm docker stack deploy --compose-file /path/to/docker-compose.yml mystack

Alternatively, the --orchestrator flag may be set to swarm or kubernetes when deploying to override the default orchestrator for that deployment.

docker stack deploy --orchestrator swarm --compose-file /path/to/docker-compose.yml mystack


Deploying the same app in Kubernetes and swarm mode may lead to conflicts with ports and service names.

Use the kubectl command

The mac Kubernetes integration provides the Kubernetes CLI command at /usr/local/bin/kubectl. This location may not be in your shell’s PATH variable, so you may need to type the full path of the command or add it to the PATH. For more information about kubectl, see the official kubectl documentation. You can test the command by listing the available nodes:

kubectl get nodes

NAME                 STATUS    ROLES     AGE       VERSION
docker-desktop       Ready     master    3h        v1.8.2

Example app

Docker has created the following demo app that you can deploy to swarm mode or to Kubernetes using the docker stack deploy command.

version: "3.9"

    image: dockersamples/k8s-wordsmith-web
     - "80:80"

    image: dockersamples/k8s-wordsmith-api
      replicas: 5
      endpoint_mode: dnsrr
          memory: 50M
          memory: 50M

    image: dockersamples/k8s-wordsmith-db

If you already have a Kubernetes YAML file, you can deploy it using the kubectl command.

mac, edge, kubernetes, kubectl, orchestration