Native Docker Linux vs Hypervisor Docker for Mac and Windows

Before I start delving further into Docker tutorials, I feel that I should go over the differences between Docker running natively on Linux versus running Docker on virtual machines on Mac and Windows.

Docker for Linux (Native)

Natively, Docker runs on Linux, taking advantage of direct access of the host Linux kernel. You can prove this by running the following:

$ uname -a
Linux myhost 4.4.0-127-generic #153-Ubuntu SMP Sat May 19 10:58:46 UTC 2018 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
$ docker run --rm --entrypoint="uname" alpine -a
Linux 1a00a2571242 4.4.0-127-generic #153-Ubuntu SMP Sat May 19 10:58:46 UTC 2018 x86_64 Linux

The second line is just a weird quirk of the entrypoint option (read more here). But it still shows us that the kernel that your application thinks its running on is actually the kernel of the host machine.

Let’s also take a look at the network stack.

$ docker run --detach --rm --name test dockercloud/hello-world
$ docker inspect test
        "Id": "27ef4ca7a0dd68ed54e37bb828e978c004a28185760b20197b7aa04a96aaa2f3",
        "NetworkSettings": {
            "Bridge": "",
            "SandboxID": "adf503ce45806a338588cfdac016688007cfd95d603c8aba44c28d37e95baa46",
            "Ports": {
                "80/tcp": null
            "SandboxKey": "/var/run/docker/netns/adf503ce4580",
            "Gateway": "",
            "IPAddress": "",
            "MacAddress": "02:42:ac:11:00:02",
            "Networks": {
                "bridge": {
                    "Gateway": "",
                    "IPAddress": "",
                    "MacAddress": "02:42:ac:11:00:02",
                    "DriverOpts": null
$ ip addr
20: vetha777d55@if19: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc noqueue master docker0 state UP group default 
link/ether f2:b3:ec:e8:43:4a brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff link-netnsid 0
inet6 fe80::f0b3:ecff:fee8:434a/64 scope link 
valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

I stripped out a lot of extraneous information but kept in the important bits. When you look at your network interfaces, you’ll see your normal loopback and ethernet, but you’ll also notice a veth device that wasn’t there before. This device has the same MAC address as the one assigned to the Docker container, as well as the same IP address. You can actually ping this IP address or reach the open port ( in your web browser without having to do any port forwarding.

Docker for Mac

When running Docker on macOS, if we try to look up the kernel, we get the following:

>> uname -a
Darwin myhost 17.6.0 Darwin Kernel Version 17.6.0: Tue May  8 15:22:16 PDT 2018; root:xnu-4570.61.1~1/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64
>> docker run --rm --entrypoint="uname" alpine -a
Linux 30c60b56067d 4.9.87-linuxkit-aufs #1 SMP Wed Mar 14 15:12:16 UTC 2018 x86_64 Linux

Well, that’s not what we were looking for. You can clearly see that the kernel isn’t the same. What’s actually happening is that Docker for Mac is spinning up a virtual machine. It uses the built-in macOS Hypervisor framework, allowing an application to run virtualized processes with a rather lightweight overhead. The hypervisor runs, as you can see, LinuxKit, which was created by the folks at Docker to build lightweight Linux distribution to run the Docker engine. As such, you can set, via the notification indicator menu preferences, set the VM settings, allocating the appropriate number of cores and amount of memory.

What this means is that with Docker for Mac, you do not have access to the network stack, nor do you have native file mounts. If you mount a local host directory to your container, you can expect your application to run about four times slower than if you baked the contents of that directory into the image or used a named volume.

The advantage that Docker for Mac has over the older Docker Toolbox method is that instead of having to pass commands via a TCP connection to a port on the VirtualBox instance, information is passed along a much speedier and more reliable Unix socket. See Docker’s official documentation on Docker for Mac for more details:

Docker for Windows

Docker for Windows operates much the same way as Docker for Mac. It utilizes Hyper-V to spin up a hardware virtualization layer and run LinuxKit. It has similar limitations to the Docker for Mac installation. Additionally, you will also have to enable file sharing in the Docker for Windows settings for the drives you want. You will also need to make sure your firewall will allow connections from the Docker virtual machine to the host Windows system. See the following links for more detail:

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