Home Labs come in different shapes and sizes. We could have a multi-node setup running Kubernetes and a couple of other servers running Proxmox with specialized virtual machines and containers, all interacting with each other over TLS; or it can be a simple raspberry pi running a single docker container like Plex or PiHole. But irrespective of the size of a home lab, the intention is - to make your home network cool and automate some parts of your life or improve experiences related to your everyday activities. With this intent in mind, a container management service can help debug issues and observe logs, manage running services by spinning them up or down, obtain command line access to running containers, and organize and monitor all the images/volumes/containers from an eagle-eyed view.
All of this can make our home lab life easy. So, it’s another quality of life improvement. IMO, the two best container management services that are the best and have the most engaging communities are Portainer and Yacht.
Both services offer installation via Docker and provide helpful information sets and container management toolsets. One can even end up running both together! The main differences are as follows →
- Portainer started as built for containers but slowly expanded its horizons to other technologies like remote host Docker container management, Docker Swarm management, and Kubernetes cluster management
- Yacht is purpose-built for containers
- Portainer is well established and has a business offering with advanced features
- Yacht is relatively new and has a limited but refined feature set
- Portainer also provides the ability to exec into customers directly from the web UI, even in the community version
- Yacht loads up instantly and provides an elegant dashboard with helpful metrics for all containers
My choice here is Portainer for three reasons - deploy using the latest Docker compose plugin, the ability to exec into containers directly from within the browser, and expand control to a Kubernetes cluster or Docker Swarm. But I’ve also sometimes run both just for namesake.
First, setup a local config directory as follows →
1 mkdir -p $HOME/portainer
Then launch the container as follows →
1 2 3 4 5 6 docker run -d \ -p 8000:8000 -p 9443:9443 \ --name portainer \ -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \ -v $HOME/portainer:/data \ portainer/portainer-ce:latest
Then access the service on port 9443 and set up a strong password. Portainer has the concept of environments. The machine that the Portainer container is deployed on becomes the local environment. The most common way of adding new environments is to deploy a Portainer image in the other machines, which will sync to the main server in the local environment. The Portainer Agent can be deployed as follows on the other machines →
1 2 3 4 5 6 docker run -d \ -p 9001:9001 \ --name portainer_agent \ -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \ -v /var/lib/docker/volumes:/var/lib/docker/volumes \ portainer/agent
After that, add the agent to the container UI deployed via the local environment.
Portainer can be used to deploy containers with Docker compose plugin via YAML files through a functionality called Stacks. This is very useful for deploying all your services together (covered in a separate blog).
Yacht is competitive with Portainer but has limited functionalities. To run the container, first, create a directory for config as follows →
1 mkdir -p $HOME/yacht
Then deploy the container as follows →
1 2 3 4 5 docker run --name yacht \ -d -p 8000:8000 \ -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \ -v $HOME/yacht:/config selfhostedpro/yacht
The port can be changed to 8001 on the host side if Portainer is needed to run simultaneously.
I recommend checking out both projects and ensuring they work for your use case. Then, have fun!