Top 5 Exclusive Features of Docker For Mac That You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes


Docker for Mac 18.04.0 CE Edge Release went GA early last month. This was the first time Kubernetes version 1.9.6 & Docker Compose 1.21.0 was introduced under any Docker Desktop edition. ICYMI – Docker for Mac VM is entirely built with LinuxKit, hence this was the first release which enabled the RBD and CephFS kernel modules under LinuxKit VM. In case you’re new to RBD, the linux kernel RBD (rados block device) driver allows striping a linux block device over multiple distributed object store data objects. Usually the libceph module takes care of that.This release brought a number of fixes around upgrades from Docker for Mac 17.12, synchronisation between CLI `docker login` & GUI login, support for AUFS and much more.

Under this blog post, I will talk about top 5 exclusive and very useful features of Docker of Mac that you can’t afford to miss out.

#1: Docker for Mac support Docker Swarm, Swarm Mode & Kubernetes

Starting from Docker for Mac 17.12 CE Edge Release, Docker Inc introduced 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.

One of the most anticipated feature introduced with this release was the Kubernetes server running within a Docker container on your local system. 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.

You can use Docker for Mac to test single-node features of swarm mode introduced with Docker Engine 17.12, including initializing a swarm with a single node, creating services, and scaling services. Docker “Moby” on Hyperkit serves as the single swarm node. You can also use Docker Machine, which comes with Docker for Mac, to create and experiment a multi-node swarm.

While testing Kubernetes, you may want to deploy some workloads in swarm mode. You can use the DOCKER_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.


Check out my blog post:

2-minutes to Kubernetes Cluster on Docker for Mac 18.01 using Swarm CLI


#2:  You can use the same Docker Compose to build Swarm & Kubernetes Cluster

Yes, you read it correct. Starting from Docker for Mac 17.12, Docker introduced a new type called “Stack” under This object, that you can create with kubectl or more easily with docker stack deploy, contains the compose file.Behind the scene, a controller watches for stacks and create/update corresponding kubernetes objets (deployments, services, etc). The job of the controller is to reconcile the stacks (stored in the api-server or crd) with k8s native object.

The docker stack deploy manages to deploy to K8s. It convert docker-compose files to k8s manifests (something like kompose) before deployment. Let me showcase an example which shows how one can use the same YAML file to build Swarm Mode as well as K8s cluster.

Clone the Repository

$git clone

Change to the right location

$cd docker101/play-with-kubernetes/examples/stack-deploy-on-mac/

Example-1 : Demonstrating a Simple Web Application

Building the Web Application Stack

$docker stack deploy -c docker-stack1.yml myapp1

Verifying the Stack

$docker stack ls

Verifying using Kubectl

$kubectl get pods

Verifying if the web application is accessible

$curl localhost:8083

Cleaning up the Stack

$docker stack rm myapp`

Example:2 – Demonstrating ReplicaSet

Building the Web Application Stack

$docker stack deploy -c docker-stack2.yml myapp2

Verifying the Stack

$docker stack ls

Verifying using Kubectl

$kubectl get pods
Ajeets-MacBook-Air:testenviron ajeetraina$ kubectl get stacks
myapp2    22m
Ajeets-MacBook-Air:testenviron ajeetraina$ kubectl get pods
NAME                    READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
db1-d977d5f48-l6v9d     1/1       Running   0          22m
db1-d977d5f48-mpd25     1/1       Running   0          22m
web1-6886bb478f-s7mvz   1/1       Running   0          22m
web1-6886bb478f-wh824   1/1       Running   0          22m
Ajeets-MacBook-Air:testenviron ajeetraina$ kubectl get stacks myapp2 -o yaml
kind: Stack
  creationTimestamp: 2018-01-28T02:55:28Z
  name: myapp2
  namespace: default
  resourceVersion: "3186"
  selfLink: /apis/
  uid: b25bf776-03d6-11e8-8d4c-025000000001
    Configs: {}
    Networks: {}
    Secrets: {}
      WorkingDir: ""
    Volumes: {}
  message: Stack is started
  phase: Available

Verifying if the web application is accessible

$curl localhost:8083

Cleaning up the Stack

$docker stack rm myapp2

An Interesting Read:

5 Minutes to Bootstrap Kubernetes Cluster on GKE using Docker for Mac 18.03.0

#3:  Docker for Mac provides Multi-Architecture Support

Docker for Mac provides binfmt_misc multi architecture support. This means that now you can run containers for different Linux architectures, such as arm, mips, ppc64le, and even s390x.

#4:  Support for NFS Volume sharing under Swarm as well as Kubernetes

With Docker for Mac 18.03 release, NFS Volume sharing support for both Swarm & Kubernetes was introduced. To demonstrate this feature, follow the below steps:


  • Install Docker for Mac 18.03 and future version
  • Enable Kubernetes under Preference Pane UI

Cloning the Repository

git clone
cd docker101/for-mac/nfs

Execute the below script on your macOS system


 | Setup native NFS for Docker |

WARNING: This script will shut down running containers.

-n Do you wish to proceed? [y]:

== Stopping running docker containers...
== Resetting folder permissions...
== Setting up nfs...
== Restarting nfsd...
The nfsd service does not appear to be running.
Starting the nfsd service
== Restarting docker...

SUCCESS! Now go run your containers 🐳

Bringing up Your Application

docker stack deploy -c docker-compose.yml myapp2
 docker stack ls
NAME                SERVICES
myapp2                1
[Captains-Bay]🚩 >  kubectl get po
web-0     1/1       Running   0          3m
[Captains-Bay]🚩 >  kubectl get svc
kubernetes   ClusterIP    <none>        443/TCP     1d
web          ClusterIP   None         <none>        55555/TCP   3m
[Captains-Bay]🚩 >  kubectl describe po web-0
Name:           web-0
Namespace:      default
Node:           docker-for-desktop/
Start Time:     Wed, 11 Apr 2018 23:00:18 +0530
Annotations:    <none>
Status:         Running
Controlled By:  StatefulSet/web
    Container ID:  docker://ec9ad2a3192bdeb0cc5028453310f40fd0ac3595021b070465c4e7725f626d63
    Image:         alpine:3.6
    Image ID:      docker-pullable://alpine@sha256:3d44fa76c2c83ed9296e4508b436ff583397cac0f4bad85c2b4ecc193ddb5106
    Port:          <none>
    State:          Running
      Started:      Wed, 11 Apr 2018 23:00:19 +0530
    Ready:          True
    Restart Count:  0
    Environment:    <none>
      #{CONTAINER_DIR} from nfsmount (rw)
      /var/run/secrets/ from default-token-n8trf (ro)
  Type           Status
  Initialized    True
  Ready          True
  PodScheduled   True
    Type:       PersistentVolumeClaim (a reference to a PersistentVolumeClaim in the same namespace)
    ClaimName:  nfsmount-web-0
    ReadOnly:   false
    Type:        Secret (a volume populated by a Secret)
    SecretName:  default-token-n8trf
    Optional:    false
QoS Class:       BestEffort
Node-Selectors:  <none>
Tolerations: for 300s
        for 300s
  Type    Reason                 Age   From                         Message
  ----    ------                 ----  ----                         -------
  Normal  Scheduled              5m    default-scheduler            Successfully assigned web-0 to docker-for-desktop
  Normal  SuccessfulMountVolume  5m    kubelet, docker-for-desktop  MountVolume.SetUp succeeded for volume "pvc-bbdc7903-3dad-11e8-a612-025000000001"
  Normal  SuccessfulMountVolume  5m    kubelet, docker-for-desktop  MountVolume.SetUp succeeded for volume "default-token-n8trf"
  Normal  Pulled                 5m    kubelet, docker-for-desktop  Container image "alpine:3.6" already present on machine
  Normal  Created                5m    kubelet, docker-for-desktop  Created container
  Normal  Started                5m    kubelet, docker-for-desktop  Started container



#5:  Docker for Mac support context switching from docker-for-desktop to Cloud instances in a matter of a Click

Starting from Docker for Mac 18.02 RC release, the context switching feature was introduced which helped developers and operators to switch from docker-for-desktop to any Cloud environment in just a matter of a “toggle”.


I have a detailed blog post published early this year which demonstrates this feature with crystal clear examples. Check it out.

Context Switching Made Easy under Kubernetes powered Docker for Mac 18.02.0

Other attractive features of Docker for Mac 18.04 includes –

  • Docker for Mac VM is entirely built with LinuxKit

How to enter into LinuxKit VM?

$screen ~/Library/Containers/com.docker.docker/Data/com.docker.driver.amd64-linux/tty
/ # cat /etc/issue

Welcome to LinuxKit

                        ##         .
                  ## ## ##        ==
               ## ## ## ## ##    ===
           /"""""""""""""""""\___/ ===
          {                       /  ===-
           \______ O           __/
             \    \         __/
/ # cat /etc/os-release
PRETTY_NAME="Docker for Mac"
/ #
linuxkit-025000000001:~# cat /etc/os-release
PRETTY_NAME="Docker for Mac"
linuxkit-025000000001:~# runc list
ID                 PID         STATUS      BUNDLE                                CREATED                          OWNER
000-metadata       0           stopped     /containers/onboot/000-metadata       2018-05-05T06:27:44.345735031Z   root
001-sysfs          0           stopped     /containers/onboot/001-sysfs          2018-05-05T06:27:44.768313965Z   root
002-binfmt         0           stopped     /containers/onboot/002-binfmt         2018-05-05T06:27:45.630283593Z   root
003-format         0           stopped     /containers/onboot/003-format         2018-05-05T06:27:46.341011253Z   root
004-extend         0           stopped     /containers/onboot/004-extend         2018-05-05T06:27:47.08889973Z    root
005-mount          0           stopped     /containers/onboot/005-mount          2018-05-05T06:27:55.334088074Z   root
006-swap           0           stopped     /containers/onboot/006-swap           2018-05-05T06:27:56.486815308Z   root
007-ip             0           stopped     /containers/onboot/007-ip             2018-05-05T06:28:03.894591249Z   root
008-move-logs      0           stopped     /containers/onboot/008-move-logs      2018-05-05T06:28:05.980232896Z   root
009-sysctl         0           stopped     /containers/onboot/009-sysctl         2018-05-05T06:28:06.15775421Z    root
010-mount-vpnkit   0           stopped     /containers/onboot/010-mount-vpnkit   2018-05-05T06:28:06.356833391Z   root
011-bridge         0           stopped     /containers/onboot/011-bridge         2018-05-05T06:28:06.551619273Z   root
linuxkit-025000000001:~# ctr tasks ls
  • Docker for Mac uses raw format VM disks for systems running APFS on SSD on High Sierra by default
  • DNS name should be used instead of docker.for.mac.localhost (still valid) for host resolution from containers.

Did you find this blog helpful?  Feel free to share your experience. Get in touch with me at twitter @ajeetsraina.

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