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Docker Community Edition or Docker Enterprise Edition - Everything You Need to Know

by BoxBoat | Friday, Dec 7, 2018 | Docker


In March 2017, Docker released Docker Enterprise Edition (EE), merging their previous enterprise offering of Docker Datacenter and renaming their free offering to Docker Community Edition (CE).

Docker Inc. positions CE for development and Docker EE for business-critical deployments. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the differences between Docker CE and Docker EE, so you can identify the best option for your project as it stands today, and the best option for your project as it matures.

Docker CE vs EE: An Overview

Docker CE is a free and open source containerization platform. It is a rebranded version of the Docker open source solution that has been freely available since the launch of Docker in 2013.

CE can run on Windows 10 and Mac, on Azure and AWS, as well as CentOS, Debian, Fedora, and Ubuntu. CE can be downloaded directly from the Docker Store.

Docker EE, on the other hand, is a premium version of CE. Docker EE is an integrated, fully supported, and certified container platform that runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), Oracle Linux, Ubuntu, Windows Server 2016, as well as Azure and AWS.

Docker CE vs EE: How They’re the Same

First things first, it’s important to note that Docker CE is not a ‘watered down’ version of Docker EE. Both CE and EE have the same core features and functions:

Both editions are updated quarterly (although Docker CE users can expect “Edge” updates, discussed further herein), and both are available on a wide range of popular operating systems and cloud infrastructures, giving enterprises the freedom to run containerized applications on their favorite infrastructure—without lock-in.

Related: What is Kubernetes

Docker CE vs EE: How They’re Different

While both editions offer the same core features, Docker EE comes with additional features that can help enterprises launch, manage, and secure their containers more efficiently.

Here’s a summary of what companies can do when using Docker Enterprise Edition:

  • Gain access to certified Docker images and plugins
  • View your container clusters in a single pane view
  • Access controls for cluster and image management
  • Receive official same-day support from Docker
  • Run vulnerability scans on your Docker images
  • Run Docker EE engine with FIPS 140-2 certification
  • Advanced image and container management, LDAP/AD user integration, and role-based access control (formerly available only through Docker Datacenter, which is now part of the Docker EE plan)
  • Continuous vulnerability monitoring and Docker Security Scanning (formerly available only through Docker Datacenter, which is now part of the Docker EE plan)

Understanding Docker’s Versioning Format

As you research Docker CE and Docker EE, you may wonder about the platform’s versioning format. On the release of both CE and EE, Docker decided to change the way they versioned their product. Before March 2017, the latest version of Docker that was available at the time was v1.13. After the rollout of CE and EE, the new version was referred to as 17.03.

From the outside, it seemed as if Docker had skipped past 16 versions, but in actuality, Docker had changed their versioning scheme to YY.MM (year and month), similar to the scheme used by Canonical for Ubuntu..

How Often Are Docker CE and Docker EE Updated?

Docker CE comes with two release channels: “edge” and “stable”.

The edge channel releases a new version every month, and you gain the advantage of getting new features with each release. As for the stable channel, a new release becomes available every quarter.

If you decide to go for the stable option, you will have to wait longer to get the new features; however, on the plus side, the stable channel is much easier to maintain since you only need to install an update every quarter, as previously mentioned. The edge channel is suitable for those who want access to the latest features quicker.

In terms of support for both channels, the edge channel only releases bug fixes and security patches during the version’s current month. The stable channel releases patches for security issues and bug fixes for 4 months after the initial release, giving users a one-month window to upgrade to the latest release while still receiving fixes.

With Docker EE, a new version is released every quarter, and each release is supported for a full calendar year. Both bug fixes and security patches are backported to all supported versions.

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Source: Docker

Docker CE vs EE: Pricing

Docker CE is free to use and download. The overall experience of CE can be enhanced through a range of free and paid add-ons from Docker Cloud at your own discretion.

Docker EE is a premium version that is available through three pricing tiers:

  • Basic: With Basic Docker EE, you get the Docker platform for certified infrastructure, along with support from Docker Inc. You also gain access to certified Docker Containers and Docker Plugins from Docker Store.
  • Standard: Comes with the same features as the Basic tier but with added advanced image and container management (single pane view), LDAP/AD user integration, and role-based access control (Docker Datacenter).
  • Advanced: Comes with added Docker Security Scanning and continuous vulnerability monitoring.

The general pricing for each tier is usually based on cost per node per year:

  • Basic: $1,500 per node, per year with Business Critical support
  • Standard: $3,000 per node, per year for Business Critical support
  • Advanced: $3,500 per node, per year for Business Critical support

Docker EE is also available as a one-month free trial. To activate your Docker EE free trial subscription, log into The Docker Store and navigate to the Docker EE page.

Should You Use Docker CE or Docker EE?

Deciding between Docker CE and Docker EE? For most, it boils down to these key questions:

  • Will you need same-day Docker support?
  • Does your organization's security policies compel you to use certified Docker images and plugins?
  • Would you like a single pane view to assist you in running, managing, and securing a wide range of containers in Linux and Windows?
  • How do you plan to visualize and manage your container environment? Do you require the ‘Standard’ and ‘Advanced’ Docker EE solutions which include this functionality?
  • Do you require enhanced security protocols?

If you answered “Yes” to any or all of the above, then Docker EE is best suited for your project.

Related: Getting Started with Rancher

On the other hand, if the cost of Docker EE is an issue, Docker CE gives you a bare-bones set of functionalities and components to run your containers in a cost-effective manner. With that being said, without the Docker EE benefits and features listed above you’ll struggle to scale your project. Thus, it’s best to view your adoption of Docker CE as a transitional step towards a Docker EE, which offers a more complete solution to your containerization needs.

Another big consideration when selecting Docker CE is whether you’re prepared to invest in an open-sourced community model of software. Like any open source software, Docker CE will require you to manage and maintain the platform. This requires more education and on-going training — not to mention an investment in creating your DevOps team. At the very least, you’ll need to lean on a consulting group to help you overcome your containerization growing pains.

Docker CE: A Stepping Stone on Your Journey Towards Enterprise-grade Containerization

Both Docker CE and EE have appropriate use cases, and while you may want guidance when it comes to simply choosing your Docker edition, it’s important to realize that the road to running containers in production doesn’t end there when you choose between the two.

On the contrary, with Docker CE’s limited features and support options — paired with the fact that you’ll need to manage and maintain the software yourself — it’s fair to say that Docker CE is simply a stepping stone to Docker EE, which has all the functionalities required to scale applications with a far more predictable total cost of ownership.

At Boxboat, we work with a range of enterprise clients using both Docker CE and Docker EE to containerize and orchestrate their applications to help them deploy software faster—and while Docker is a foundational piece of the puzzle, it’s just one layer of the required tech stack.

So, whichever Docker edition you decide to use, be sure you hit the road to containerization, microservices, and DevOps with an experienced navigator.