The open source Kubernetes container orchestration platform is the foundation of cloud native deployments and is widely used by organizations of all sizes.
At the foundational level, Kubernetes is an open source project, originally started by Google and now developed as a multi-stakeholder effort under the auspices of the Linux Foundation’s Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Kubernetes enables organization to deploy, manage and scale application container workloads in an automated policy driven approach. It’s a model that also helps to enable both hybrid and multi-cloud computing, with organizations able to span Kubernetes workloads across on-premises and multiple public cloud environments as well.
Kubernetes can be run in a number of different way including via:
Cloud Provider Services: These are fully managed services, that are offered directly by public cloud providers (for more information check out Datamation’s spotlight on the Top Public Cloud Kubernetes Services)
Kubernetes Distributions and services: These are software bundles that enable a complete Kubernetes deployment that an organization can choose to deploy on-premises or in the cloud of their choice.
This Datamation top vendors roundup is focused on the non-public cloud-based Kubernetes vendors and services.
How to Choose a Kubernetes Management Solution
The first consideration for many will be whether a public cloud provider Kubernetes service is a better option than choosing a Kubernetes distribution. If an organization is planning a hybrid deployment that runs across different environments including both on-premises and public cloud, choosing a distribution might be a better option.
When looking at different services there are a few key considerations:
Operating system support. Kubernetes needs an operating system on which to run, so if the organization is running on-premises or even in their own cloud instance, it’s important to understand where the operating system components are coming from.
Use Case. Kubernetes can be used as a general purpose workload tool, but it can also be optimized for certain use cases, such as DevOps. Choose the right service for the given use case.
Other Virtualization Technology Usage. In many organizations other technologies, be it Linux, VMware virtual machine or otherwise are already in use. Choose a platform that integrates with existing investment to minimize future integration challenges.
Pricing. Cost is always an issue – though Kubernetes is an important investment – and understanding how much it will cost to operate is a primary concern for any organization.
Top Kubernetes Management Platforms
In this Datamation top companies list, we spotlight the top Kubernetes management solutions:
- Canonical Kubernetes (Ubuntu)
- Mirantis Docker Enterprise
- Red Hat
- SUSE Rancher
- VMware Tanzu
- Comparison Chart
Value proposition for potential buyers: Canonical Kubernetes is a set of offerings from Ubuntu Linux vendor Canonical that provide commercial support options for one of the most deployed implementations of Kubernetes. Ubuntu is the reference platform for Kubernetes on Amazon, Google and Microsoft Azure public clouds.
- Based on the upstream open source project, Canonical Kubernetes is highly portable and interoperable with all Kubernetes deployments and has support option for running across bare metal, public and private clouds as well as VMware deployments.
- Canonical supports and enables automated upgrades between Kubernetes versions.
- Of note, Canonical Kubernetes is one of the few that has full support the ARM architecture, alongside x86, POWER and IBM Z.
- For smaller single node deployment and desktop development, Canonical’s MicroK8S is a solid, simple easy to use option.
Value proposition for potential buyers: Mirantis acquired the Docker Enterprise Edition product from Docker Inc in 2019 and rebranded the technology as the Mirantis Kubernetes Engine. The technology is a great choice for developer focused organizations that are looking for Docker developed operations.
- A key differentiator for Mirantis is support for Docker Swarm alongside Kubernetes. Swarm provides an alternative approach to container orchestration that can be used to complement a Kubernetes workload deployment.
- Provides the Istio service mesh Calico networking as integrated components to help facilitate networking deployments.
- Supports Windows Server 2019 enabling a mix of both Windows and Linux nodes in a Mirantis Kubernetes cluster.
- Single node and development clusters can be easily launched with Mirantis’ Launchpad deployment tool.
Value proposition for potential buyers: Platform9 is well suited for organizations looking for a managed Kubernetes platform that enables users to rapidly deploy and manage on any type of infrastructure.
- Application deployment is enabled via the native Helm repository or using can create their own application templates.
- Managed Prometheus for cluster and app health.
- Managed Fluentd for log aggregation & app troubleshooting.
- Can enable users to spin up a cluster in less than five minutes.
Value proposition for potential buyers: Portainer provides a lightweight open source option for users looking for a simple visual tool to help simplify Kubernetes management.
- A key differentiation and advantage of Portainer is its focus on enabling Kubernetes control with natural language actions.
- Portainer can work as an overlay with any type of existing Kubernetes deployment including both self hosted and managed environments.
- The platform defines intelligent defaults for security to help reduce potential risks due to improper misconfigurations.
- Looking beyond just Kubernetes, Portainer can also be used to support Docker Swarm container clusters as well as Edge computing nodes.
- The Portainer Business Edition adds Identity and Access Management (IAM) as well as commercial support options to the open source Portainer project.
Value proposition for potential buyers: Red Hat’s OpenShift is a great option for general purpose Kubernetes workloads that can run in the public cloud or on-premises.
- Red Hat has a long been one of the leaders in the Kubernetes space with integrated development tools for containers as well as management tools for operations.
- Built-in logging and monitoring is a core part of the operations part of OpenShift helping organizations to run Kubernetes efficiently at scale.
- One of innovations introduced to Kubernetes by OpenShift is the Operators concept, which enables automation for application deployment and updates.
- A key differentiator for Red Hat is its security capabilities gained via the 2021 acquisition of Kubernetes security provider Stackrox.
Value proposition for potential buyers: SUSE completed its acquisition of Kubernetes management firm Rancher Labs in December 2020 bringing together multiple technologies that cane help organizations.
- Rancher provides full Kubernetes cluster operations including pool management, provisioning, monitoring and alerting functionality.
- Among the projects outside of Kubernetes that Rancher includes to help manage containers are the Open Policy Agency project for security and Istio for service mesh.
- A key differentiator for SUSE Rancher is the K3S distribution which provides a lightweight version of Kubernetes that can satisfy non-complex use cases with a less resource intensive footprint requirement.
- Another unique attribute of Rancher is its Longhorn project which provides cloud native distributed storage for Kubernetes.
Value proposition for potential buyers: For those organizations that have already invested in VMware technology for virtual machine based virtualization and are looking for an easy path to Kubernetes, VMware Tanzu is an obvious choice.
- VMware Tanzu’s unique differentiation is that it enables organizations to run Kubernetes inside of its vSphere virtualization platform.
- Tanzu Mission Control is a particularly strong capability which can enable an organization to effectively manage multiple Kubernetes deployments across on-premises and public cloud deployments.
- Application deployment is a primary use case for Kubernetes, which is enabled by the Tanzu Application service that provides a Kubernetes based runtime for node.js, Java and .net applications.
- Connecting Kubernetes microservices together is another way VMware Tanzu differentiates, with its service mesh technology based on the VMware NSX software defined networking technology.
|Canonical Kubernetes (Ubuntu)||
||Ubuntu is the reference platform for all major public cloud provider’s Kubernetes platforms.|
|Mirantis Kubernetes Engine (Docker Enterprise)||
||Support for both Docker Swarm as well as Kubernetes container clusters.|
||Fully managed service for both operations and performance.|
||Natural language control for complex functions.|
|Red Hat OpenShift||
||Operator model that enables cluster automation.|
||Longhorn cloud native storage engine for Kubernetes.|
||Direct integration with VMware vSphere virtualization.|