This content is part of the Essential Guide: An essential guide to software container usability and management

What are the best open source Docker management tools?

Open source options are making it easier containerize your applications. Learn about the top four approaches to Docker management.

You can take the official route to manage your containers using Docker's suite of container management tools. But if you're always on the lookout for an open source alternative for any task, you'll be interested to know that there are quite a few interesting open source Docker management tools out there. Let's take a look at them.


Panamax is a simple and beautiful experience of Docker for newbies who don't want to go through the steep learning curve when getting started with Docker management. You can deploy containerized apps using a visual console. You can create your first app with Panamax using the available templates and Docker repositories by just searching and selecting the ones you need. You can run Panamax on your laptop or any cloud infrastructure that supports CoreOS. However, Panamax warns that it's nowhere near v1.0, and you will experience some bugs. That being said, it's the easiest way to get started with open source Docker management tools if you're just learning the ropes.


While Panamax depends on CoreOS, Shipyard is compatible with the official Docker Remote API. Built on Docker Swarm, Shipyard lets you manage containers, images, nodes and private registries. It also enables role-based access control, which is essential when you need to run containers beyond your own laptop.


Portainer is a management UI for Docker. They have a nifty comparison page where they highlight Portainer's unique features like managing networks, volumes and container templates. Based on the Docker API, it is a robust solution with a great blend of features and simplicity, which makes it one of the best open source Docker management tools. They even have a demo of Portainer which shows how visual and easy-to-use this tool is.


Rancher is a capable solution that manages and orchestrates containers in production. It has a multicontainer setup where one functions as the manager and the other containers are the agents. It's integrated with tools like Puppet, Ansible and SaltStack and is easy to include in your development workflow. Rancher is the most capable of these solutions with a strong commercial offering, but that's for when you're playing in the big league. The open source version is enough to get a taste for what's possible with Rancher.

There you have it -- four capable and unique open source Docker management tools. Whether it's just getting started or running containers in production, open source options are making it easier to containerize your applications with no strings attached.

Next Steps

The benefits of working with Docker

Working with Java microservices in a Docker and DevOps world

Getting to know Docker containers

Dig Deeper on Container orchestration