In this 2021 updated guide, we have covered the list of the 16 container orchestration tools and services used in production by many companies.
Containerization solutions like Docker, Podman, and Buildah provide great flexibility to containerize and ship application code. But to have complex application deployments and infrastructure automation you need a good container orchestration tool.
Proper plumbing has to be done for container orchestration in terms of deploying applications with complex architectures. With the right set of DevOps tools, you will be able to achieve faster application delivery cycles.
Your containerized applications should be able to scale up and down based on application resource requirements.
What you need is a good framework for efficiently managing and scheduling the containers to meet the business requirements.
Containers are meant to be short-lived, and when it comes to choosing a container orchestration tool or a managed service, the following are the key things to consider.
- High availability
- Ease of deployment & maintenance
- service discovery
- Security & Compliance
- Support (Community & Enterprise)
- Administrative overhead
Keeping the above in mind, lets have the look the best container orchestration tools.
List of Container Orchestration and Clustering Tools
This post will cover the list of the best container orchestration tools used in production by many organizations.
Kubernetes is an open-source, out-of-the-box container orchestration tool. It is built with an excellent
Kubernetes has become the de facto container orchestration tool for many organizations.
Survey Report: According to CNCF’s Cloud Native Landscape, there are more than 109 tools to manage containers, but 89% are using different forms of Kubernetes.
The kubernetes project is maintained by the cloud-native foundation with contributors all over the world. Contributors include big organizations to individual open source developers.
Here is the high level architecture of Kubernetes.
Kubernetes offers many functionalities that native docker tools don’t provide. Moreover, it is easy to get started with kubernetes.
Also, check out our guide on kubernetes design considerations.
Important Note: Kubernetes removed Docker container run-time after version v1.20. This doesn’t mean docker images won’t work in kubernetes. It’s just that the underlying container runtime moved from Docker to runtimes that use CRI
If you would like to get started, refer to the kubernetes cluster setup using kubeadm. You can stand up a kubernetes cluster in less time without complex configurations.
Openshift is built on top of kubernetes. There is a community as well as an enterprise version of Openshift.
Redhat maintains the Openshift project. Both open source (openshift origin) and enterprise version (openshift container platform).
Along with core Kubernetes features, it offers out-of-the-box components for container management and orchestration.
Here is the high level overview of Openshift.
Also, Openshift is now available as a managed service on AWS cloud.
The following official image from openshift give you an overall idea of all its features.
3. Hasicorp Nomad
Nomad is an orchestration platform from Hashicorp that supports containers. It shares a similar philosophy of kubernetes in managing applications on the scale.
However, Nomad supports container and non-container workloads.
Primary use-cases for Nomad are,
- Container Orchestration
- Non-containerized application orchestration.
- Automated service networking with Consul.
You can read about how Cloudflare uses Nomad for their dynamic task scheduling system
4. Docker Swarm
The Docker ecosystem consists of tools from development to production deployment frameworks. In that list, docker swarm fits into cluster management. A mix of docker-compose, swarm, overlay network, and an excellent service discovery tool such as etcd or consul can be used for managing a cluster of Docker containers.
Docker swarm is still maturing in terms of functionalities when compared to other open-source container cluster management tools. Considering the vast docker contributors, it won’t be long for the docker swarm to have all the best functionalities other tools possess. Docker has documented a good production plan for using the docker swarm in production.
Rancher is an opensource container orchestration tool. At the core, the rancher uses kubernetes as the container orchestrator.
Rancher offers the following fucntionalities.
- Centralized Cluster Provisioning that supports on-prem, cloud, and edge.
- Streamlined Kubernetes Operations by controlling cluster operations from a single console.
- Centralized Kubernetes Security through centralized user policies.
- Intuitive Workload Management using native kubernetes API or kubectl utility.
- Integrated Monitoring and Logging using Prometheus, Fluentd, and Grafana.
- Supports management for Amazon EKS clusters & Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)
- Global Application Catalog to make application installation and upgrade easier.
Mesos is another cluster management tool that can manage container orchestration very efficiently. It was created by Twitter for its infrastructure and then got open sources. It is used by companies like eBay, Airbnb, etc. Mesos is not a dedicated tool for containers,
Mesos is not a dedicated tool for containers, instead, you can use it for VM or Physical machine clustering for running workloads (Big data, etc) other than containers. It has an efficient framework called Marathon for deploying and managing containers on a Mesos cluster.
You can actually run a Kubernetes cluster on a Mesos cluster. Check out this guide for the same
Managed Container Orchestration Tools
There are many cloud-based managed container orchestration tools that you can use to avoid complex cluster setups and administrative overhead.
Here is the list of 10 managed services where you just have to focus on your application rather than cluster administration.
6. Google Container Engine (GKE)
GKE is a managed, highly scalable container service on google cloud. At the backend, GKE uses kubernetes, and you can use all the kubernetes functionalities on GKE. You can deploy a GKE cluster with few clicks.
It comes with features like autopilot to reduce operations costs.
7. Google Cloud Run
Cloud Run is a managed service to run containers in a serverless way. You don’t have to create a cluster, just deploy the container on cloud run and google will take care of scaling and managing it.
8. AWS Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)
EKS is a managed Kubernetes cluster service from AWS similar to GKE
9. Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS)
ECS is a service offered by AWS for managing the cluster of containers. It is not based on kubernetes. ECS is an AWS managed proprietary container cluster management and scheduling service. The only thing you have to worry about is the vendor lock-in.
10. AWS Fargate
AWS farmgate is a similar serverless environment for running containers. Here you can choose the backend infrastructure to be EKS or ECS. You don’t have to worry about the backend scaling though. AWS will take care of managing and scaling .
11. Azure AKS Service
Azure Kubernetes Service is a managed highly available kubernetes service from Azure.
12. Azure Managed Openshift Service
Now public cloud providers are bringing openshift as service. Azure has a managed Openshift service in partnership with Redhat.
13. Azure Container Instances
Azure container instances is a managed serverless container deployment service like cloud run and Fargate.
14. Digital Ocean Kubernetes Service
15. Red Hat OpenShift Online
Openshift online is one of the PaaS offerings from Redhat. You can deploy applications on the cloud with openshift using this service. You don’t have to manage the cluster as it is a pure PaaS service.
Managed Vs Self Hosted Container
Choosing between managed and self-hosted container orchestration tools depends on the organization’s decision.
However, we try to put some generic advantages of managed vs. self-hosted solutions.
Following are the advantages of managed container orchestration tools.
|One-click provisioning||No control over the control plane.|
|Integration with native cloud platform services||You need to stick with the options provided by the cloud provider.|
|Less administrative overhead.|
|24/7 Technical support|
|Enterprise-grade security & Compliance|
Following are the advantages of self-hosted container orchestration tools.
|Full control over the platform and increased flexibility||Huge engineering effort on custom automation for cluster provisioning|
|Dedicated support team required for platform support|
|Custom scaling setup is required|
|Need subject matter experts in the team to take care of design, setup, upgrade and the maintenance of the cluster.|
My advise would be to go with the managed orchestration platform unless you are trying to build a pass solution where you cater your services to other customers.
With managed services, you can focus more of your engineering efforts on the application rather than spending time and effort on managing the platform.
Container Orchestration Tool FAQ’s
Let’s have a look at some of the commonly asked questions on container orchestration tools.
What is the difference between Kubernetes & Openshift?
Kubernetes is the open source container orchestration tool maintained by the cloud-native foundation. Whereas the Openshift container platform is built on top of the Kubernetes core and maintained by Redhat.
How to choose a container orchestration tool?
There is no single answer to this question. Choosing a container orchestration tool depends on various factors such as team size, budget, available SMEs and application compatibilities, and security compliance.
Choosing a container orchestration tool or a service totally depends on your needs and the complexity of your application.
There is no doubt that many organizations are using the above-mentioned tools and services for their production workloads.
With a plethora of tools from the cloud-native foundation, it is becoming easy to managed containerized applications.
If you look at our DevOps engineer guide, containers play an important role and have covered some containers’ great insights.