Beyond the giant cloud vendors: 5 upstart Kubernetes platforms

Kubernetes has become a widely adopted container orchestration platform that made it easy for organizations to adopt microservices with ease. Kubernetes was the creation of Google and since then has become a part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which is a testament to the great potential this platform holds. Kubernetes is an open-source platform that helps automate deployment and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes also provides high availability for your applications and helps you scale easily. With Kubernetes, you can roll out progressive updates to your applications while self-healing ensures that your application doesn’t run into failure. All these features make Kubernetes the leading container orchestration platform in the market. Beyond orchestration, it is now the new standard for enterprise-grade cloud computing. However, even with all its many advantages, Kubernetes can become a little complicated.

The challenge with Kubernetes adoption

For creating and maintaining Kubernetes, operators need a certain level of domain experience. The process of setting up clusters, deploying them and then monitoring them can be slow and frustrating. Having an in-house Kubernetes platform can become costly in the long run. IT teams get burdened because Kubernetes requires a lot of manual configuration. In-house Kubernetes platforms are quite prone to errors that can go undetected for a long time. Once, these issues do get found, reworks can be messy which can lead to delays in delivery. Teams also have to constantly monitor their workloads for high availability. This is where third-party Kubernetes platforms come into the picture.

Managed Kubernetes platforms are the answer

Kubernetes has an ever-growing open source community of dedicated developers. In the past couple of years, an ecosystem of tools meant to ease Kubernetes adoption has emerged. Third-party platforms are the result of the constant innovation around Kubernetes. These platforms help organizations get to work immediately without having to get down to the nitty-gritty of Kubernetes. Managed Kubernetes platforms provide features and modules that don’t come with Kubernetes which adds to what Kubernetes can do for your workloads. These platforms take over the manual configuration and provide a seamless experience. With Kubernetes platforms, you can get fully managed clusters so that users can focus on deployment. Features like real-time monitoring, automated updates, and regular health checks ensure your cluster’s high availability. An ideal platform can also detect issues and try to fix them on its own and send alerts to the teams if necessary.

Let’s take a look at some of these platforms and what they have to offer.


Platform9 is a Kubernetes-as-a-service (KaaS) offering that integrates with numerous infrastructure types — the cloud or on-premises. This platform lets organizations focus on their applications rather than tedious tasks like manual updates and monitoring. Platform9 is compatible with bare-metal servers and private and public cloud. With Platform9, you can create a fully managed cluster in a matter of minutes. You can also connect your existing clusters to this platform and it will automatically discover the underlying infrastructure and start managing it no time. Platform9 promises five-minute deployments so you can go live quickly. Platform9 is especially good for Day 2 operations. It helps tackle the complexity of constantly managing and maintaining clusters for high availability. You can plug you various environments to this platform and it’ll help you visualize them remotely over a unified web-based interface. Platform9 performs updates to your different environments without any downtime. It also regularly applies security patches across all your instances. Platform9 is self-healing and tries to resolve any errors on its own before sending an alert if manual intervention is required. Platform9 contains prepackaged dashboards to display health metrics of your various clusters.


Red Hat’s OpenShift is another platform that successfully helps organizations alleviate the administrative burden of working on Kubernetes. Red Hat was a contributor to the Kubernetes project in its early stages. Openshift has Origin Community Distribution (OKD) at its core, which is built on upstream Kubernetes. OKD adds features like better web console, more efficient command-line interface, multi-tenancy, and CI/CD support by adding Jenkins to the mix. OKD comes packed with tools like Istio service mesh and Elasticsearch. You can visualize your clusters on Prometheus and Grafana dashboards. Other than automated installation, updates, and lifecycle management for clusters, OpenShift also offers a Source-to-image (S2I) framework. This feature automatically assembles container images to deploy source code. This helps developers focus on running their code rather than worrying about container images. OpenShift is available in different flavors based on your workloads:

  • OpenShift Online: This is a fully managed public cloud-based platform for faster deployments.
  • OpenShift Dedicated: This offering provides fully managed private cloud clusters hosted on AWS.
  • OpenShift Container Platform: This offering provides a Kubernetes platform for your architecture whether its hybrid or multi-cloud.


Rancher has its own container orchestration platform, but it provides an open-source Kubernetes distribution. Like other platforms in this list, Rancher also provides management of multiple Kubernetes clusters through a single interface. It provides a container-based installer called Rancher Kubernetes Engine (RKE). Bring completely container-based makes it easier to modify and scale clusters when needed. Rancher is platform agnostic as it can manage clusters hosted on Amazon EKS, Google Kubernetes Engine, and Azure Kubernetes Service among several other platforms no matter what the location of infrastructure is. Rancher can also import clusters built using other Kubernetes management platforms. Rancher helps upgrade all the different environments without having to worry about customizations. Rancher also provides a compact version of its Kubernetes platform called K3S. This offering takes care of operations and security for low profile deployments. K3S is void of rarely used plugins and unnecessary features.


This platform provides fully managed Kubernetes using standard Kubernetes KPIs. GiantSwarm takes care of your workloads hosted over AWS and on-premise. GiantSwarm promises a 24×7 business-critical management to ensure high availability. It also allows you to roll out incremental updates to your application several times a day. GiantSwarm also provides proactive troubleshooting to avoid any downtime. Security patches are applied as soon as a vulnerability is discovered to ensure your workloads remain safe. With GiantSwarm, organizations can build automated infrastructure integrated with tooling of their choice. GiantSwarm is independent and prevents vendor lock-in.

Pivotal Container Service (PKS)

container security kubernetes

PKS is an upstream Kubernetes project with a prime focus on high availability. PKS relies on BOSH which is a project that helps unify deployment and management of distributed cloud applications. BOSH manages and monitors your Kubernetes process and at the same time takes care of monitoring nodes, failure safety, security, and scalability across hundreds of VMs. PKE also provides a private registry called Harbor that supports container images and Helm charts. Harbor also provides scans for vulnerabilities across containers and identity management for Docker images. PKE also provides a marketplace to get certain integrations. PKE is made for day-2 operations with its automated health checks. PKE also ensures your container’s security by isolating clusters using network segmentation. Pivotal provides two different offerings of its services based on different use-cases:

  • Essential PKS: This offering allows you to deploy and manage your clusters. It provides expert support on how to create, deploy, and manage clusters.
  • Enterprise PKS: This offering provides automated deployment and management of clusters. This version comes with tools like BOSH for deployment and monitoring, NSX for network segmentation, and Harbour among other important tools.

The Kubernetes ecosystem is growing rapidly. This is what’s helping Kubernetes consistently grow and has made it an undisputed leader in the container orchestration market. Therefore, organizations must adopt these Kubernetes platforms to hone the power of Kubernetes to avoid tail-spinning into chaos.

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