Docker Machine overview
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
You can use Docker Machine to:
- Install and run Docker on Mac or Windows
- Provision and manage multiple remote Docker hosts
- Provision Swarm clusters
What is Docker Machine?
Docker Machine is a tool that lets you install Docker Engine on virtual hosts,
and manage the hosts with
docker-machine commands. You can use Machine to
create Docker hosts on your local Mac or Windows box, on your company network,
in your data center, or on cloud providers like Azure, AWS, or DigitalOcean.
docker-machine commands, you can start, inspect, stop, and restart a
managed host, upgrade the Docker client and daemon, and configure a Docker
client to talk to your host.
Point the Machine CLI at a running, managed host, and you can run
commands directly on that host. For example, run
docker-machine env default to
point to a host called
default, follow on-screen instructions to complete
env setup, and run
docker run hello-world, and so forth.
Machine was the only way to run Docker on Mac or Windows previous to Docker v1.12. Starting with the beta program and Docker v1.12, Docker Desktop for Mac and Docker Desktop for Windows are available as native apps and the better choice for this use case on newer desktops and laptops. We encourage you to try out these new apps. The installers for Docker Desktop for Mac and Docker Desktop for Windows include Docker Machine, along with Docker Compose.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, see Get Started with Docker, which guides you through a brief end-to-end tutorial on Docker.
Why should I use it?
Docker Machine enables you to provision multiple remote Docker hosts on various flavors of Linux.
Additionally, Machine allows you to run Docker on older Mac or Windows systems, as described in the previous topic.
Docker Machine has these two broad use cases.
I have an older desktop system and want to run Docker on Mac or Windows
If you work primarily on an older Mac or Windows laptop or desktop that doesn’t meet the requirements for the new Docker Desktop for Mac and Docker Desktop for Windows apps, then you need Docker Machine to run Docker Engine locally.
I want to provision Docker hosts on remote systems
Docker Engine runs natively on Linux systems. If you have a Linux box as your
primary system, and want to run
docker commands, all you need to do is
download and install Docker Engine. However, if you want an efficient way to
provision multiple Docker hosts on a network, in the cloud or even locally,
you need Docker Machine.
Whether your primary system is Mac, Windows, or Linux, you can install Docker
Machine on it and use
docker-machine commands to provision and manage large
numbers of Docker hosts. It automatically creates hosts, installs Docker
Engine on them, then configures the
docker clients. Each managed host
(“machine”) is the combination of a Docker host and a configured client.
What’s the difference between Docker Engine and Docker Machine?
When people say “Docker” they typically mean Docker Engine, the
client-server application made up of the Docker daemon, a REST API that
specifies interfaces for interacting with the daemon, and a command line
interface (CLI) client that talks to the daemon (through the REST API wrapper).
Docker Engine accepts
docker commands from the CLI, such as
docker run <image>,
docker ps to list running containers,
docker image ls
to list images, and so on.
Docker Machine is a tool for provisioning and managing your Dockerized hosts
(hosts with Docker Engine on them). Typically, you install Docker Machine on
your local system. Docker Machine has its own command line client
docker-machine and the Docker Engine client,
docker. You can use Machine to
install Docker Engine on one or more virtual systems. These virtual systems can
be local (as when you use Machine to install and run Docker Engine in VirtualBox
on Mac or Windows) or remote (as when you use Machine to provision Dockerized
hosts on cloud providers). The Dockerized hosts themselves can be thought of,
and are sometimes referred to as, managed “machines”.
Where to go next
- Install Docker Machine
- Create and run a Docker host on your local system using VirtualBox
- Provision multiple Docker hosts on your cloud provider
- Getting started with swarm mode
- Understand Machine concepts
- Docker Machine driver reference
- Docker Machine subcommand reference
- Migrate from Boot2Docker to Docker Machine