The popularity of container technology and the growth of its surrounding ecosystem has resulted in a multifold adoption of Kubernetes (K8s). Kubernetes technology can help automate the deployment of new containers while ensuring the reliability of the applications hosted on them. Such rapid adoption has practically flooded the technology market with several enterprise-grade and production-ready options for fully managed Kubernetes platforms. On a broad level, we can categorize these vendors into three categories:
- The leaders: World’s leading cloud service providers, especially AWS, Azure, and Google.
- The challengers: Software giants that have created their own standards and benchmarks, including IBM, Oracle, Rancher (SUSE Linux).
- The disruptors: The niche players, including DigitalOcean, Platform9, Weaveworks, and others.
This article covers some of the popular managed Kubernetes services in the market that can help your organization in quickly ramping up your cloud-native container projects.
1. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)
GKE is arguably the most refined Kubernetes service out there. This is no surprise considering Kubernetes was born at Google. It allows users to deploy, manage, and run containerized applications on Google-managed infrastructure.
GKE Clusters comprises multiple machines, including compute engine instances, and they are powered by the Kubernetes open-source cluster management system. GKE Clusters operate within Google’s public cloud services and provide the same benefits: automatic management and scaling, rolling updates, and more.
Users can run Kubernetes commands to manage and operate container-based applications and perform tasks like setting policies and monitoring the health of the workloads. Users can access Google’s command-line interface “gcloud” or the Google Cloud Platform console to interact with their GKE clusters. It can be used for creating container clusters and container pods, services or load balancers, resizing application controllers, and debugging the clusters.
Despite it being ahead of the competition, Google Cloud Platform’s support may lag behind its competitors. For organizations that need a lot of handholding, one of the other options may work better.
2. Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)
Being the leading cloud provider, AWS has the most widely used managed Kubernetes service. AWS Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) is a fully managed service for running Kubernetes containers in the AWS cloud environment. It offers an easy way to build, operate, manage, and secure Kubernetes applications. It also helps in automating several key tasks, like node provisioning, updating, and patching. As with Amazon ECS, the Amazon EKS users can choose to run their containers either on EC2 instances or with AWS Fargate. With EKS, users need not worry about activities related to availability and scalability of their Kubernetes containers’ control nodes, as this is taken care of by the EKS.
Amazon EKS provides native integration with the core AWS services like identity and access management (IAM), auto-scaling groups, and CloudWatch for security and monitoring related tasks. It can also integrate with AWS App Mesh, allowing users to enjoy service mesh features, traffic controls, and security features. Amazon EKS distros -— which includes binaries and containers of open-source Kubernetes — can be used to create secure clusters on demand. AWS Outposts and AWS Wavelength can help host and operate Kubernetes clusters on-premises and on the edge nodes.
3. Microsoft Azure AKS
Microsoft takes the second spot among cloud vendors, and its Kubernetes service is on par with the two listed above. Microsoft’s deep experience working with enterprises gives it a unique advantage over other cloud vendors. Most enterprise organizations rely on Microsoft products like Microsoft Office 365, Windows, and SharePoint. For these organizations, modernization is the key focus today. All Microsoft had to do is provide a clear path for these organizations to upgrade and modernize without the pain of changing vendors. Microsoft has been able to do just that with its Azure platform and AKS as well. With a wide partner network, a newfound love for open source, and a deep understanding of how to sell to enterprises, Microsoft is a force to reckon with in the cloud. Its managed Kubernetes service is no different and is one of the top options available today.
4. IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service
IBM plays in the area of hybrid cloud management. While they do offer a managed Kubernetes service, in the form of OpenShift, their broader focus is to be the management layer for multicloud. Their $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat brought IBM up on par with the top three cloud vendors. Red Hat is one of the top contributors to the Kubernetes project and has a strong lineage with open source right from their Linux days.
IBM has also been part of developing and creating key open-source projects like Istio, Knative, and TensorFlow. They have partnered with Google closely on these projects. Additionally, IBM Cloud allows users to integrate with a variety of IBM Watson APIs for the development of cognitive solutions.
IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service is a hosted Kubernetes cluster provided by IBM. It was formerly known as IBM BlueMix Container Service. It is used for creating a Kubernetes cluster with containerized apps that run on the IBM Cloud. Using IBM’s intuitive user experience and built-in security, users can deploy, monitor, and manage container-based apps across zones and regions. It also offers advanced capabilities such as self-healing, auto-scheduling, horizontal scaling, and more.
5. Oracle Container Engine for Kubernetes
Oracle has been hard at work reinventing themselves for a modern Kubernetes-focused world. Their answer is Oracle Container Engine for Kubernetes (OKE).
OKE is a fully managed service for containerized applications. OKE can be used to create Kubernetes clusters using the browser-based Console and REST APIs. Users can interact with these clusters using Kubernetes Dashboard, Kubernetes command-line utility (kubectl), and Kubernetes API.
It can be used to build, deploy and manage applications running on the Oracle cloud. OKE uses the Kubernetes containers for automated deployment and management of these containerized applications. Users just need to specify the resources needed for their application, and OKE provisions them in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).
All services in the OKE can be integrated with Identity and Access Management (IAM) for authentication and authorization. OKE cluster can also be integrated with Wercker, the Docker-based continuous delivery platform, which fastens up the process of building and deploying new applications and microservices.
6. DigitalOcean Kubernetes
DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS) is a managed Kubernetes service deployed on the DigitalOcean cloud. DOKS allows the creation of scalable Kubernetes clusters and provides full access to Kubernetes APIs while managing the control plane-related activities in the background. DOKS provides streamlined operations with monitoring, cluster scheduling, and automated application deployment.
DOKS allows users to access and interact with the cluster via “kubectl” and “doctl” command utilities using Kubernetes APIs. DOKS-based clusters can natively integrate with DigitalOcean Load Balancers and block storage volumes, allowing the development of stable and high-performance applications. DigitalOcean CSI plugin helps users block storage volumes, enabling persistent storage of data in DigitalOcean Kubernetes clusters. For cluster and overlay networking configurations, it provides support for Cilium. To further scale the cluster, new instances of the application services can be added using Kubernetes Horizontal Pod Autoscaler. It also provides support for additional tools like Helm, Istio, and metrics-server.
Bonus mention: Weave Kubernetes Platform
A caveat on Weave: It is different from the others mentioned here because it is a management layer for Kubernetes. It helps manage Kubernetes implementations on the other platforms mentioned above, or on-premises.
Weave Kubernetes Platform (WKP) is a production-ready agile platform for running container-based applications. It is based on GitOps — a mechanism for providing continuous deployment for cloud-native applications. GitOps is used as a standard approach for various aspects of the development and management of cloud-native applications. GitOps can operate across multiple cloud environments, enabling centralized control across public cloud and on-premises deployments of Kubernetes.
WKP supports a wide range of add-ons out-of-the-box, including Grafana, Ingress (NGINX or ELB), Prometheus, Sealed Secrets, Flux/Helm, Team Workspaces, and Scope. The Kubernetes cluster can integrate with other public systems like Amazon EKS and Google GKE via the container network interface or CNI (a proposed standard for network configuration for Linux containers) and add-on.
For many, managed Kubernetes services makes a big difference
Opting for a managed Kubernetes services provider can help you avoid many infrastructure-related roadblocks, like architecting the Kubernetes clusters, planning for their horizontal and vertical scaling, handling deployments, and many more. Selecting the right Kubernetes managed services provider can help you swiftly move across the way toward a successful production deployment of your applications while keeping the costs low. It is recommended to do good research about the pros and cons of each of the options before making an investment.
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