Kubernetes Alternatives 2021: Top 8 Container Orchestration Tools

Before containers, businesses had to contend with variability in system environments due to dependencies and compatibility issues. With containers, they were able to build, deploy, and run applications by packaging them together with the dependencies required for them to run. In simpler terms, containers enable portability, scalability, and easier deployment of applications. According to Gartner, there will be more than 75% of companies running containerized applications in 2022, a sharp contrast to the 2020 figure that stands at less than 30%.

Kubernetes is one of the most popular container orchestration tools to manage multiple containers or microservices at scale. Apart from its tremendous amount of functionalities, Kubernetes is widely used across many companies globally.

This article provides you with alternatives to Kubernetes and the features that make them stand out.

What Is Container Orchestration?

As organizations move away from monolithic application development, component-based applications are becoming the norm. These applications reside in multiple containers. A single application may span multiple container clusters depending on its complexity. While it might be okay to package and manage a few containers, it becomes more challenging to manage and scale as the number of containers grows.

To efficiently package, manage, and run applications in containers, you will need container orchestration tools. Container orchestration tools are management systems that facilitate the automation of containerized workloads. These workloads may include processes such as:

  • Load balancing
  • Scheduling
  • Networking
  • Provisioning
  • Configuration management
  • Tracking container health
  • Scaling containers up or down depending on workload

Kubernetes: A Container Orchestration Solution

Kubernetes is a container orchestration tool that allows you to build, package, scale, schedule, and manage application services across multiple containers. Originally developed by Google, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation adopted it as an official project in 2015. It is one of the most popular software among DevOps professionals because Docker provides it as a Platform as a Service (PaaS).

Kubernetes makes it easy to deploy and scale containerized applications by eliminating many manual processes. With Kubernetes, you can cluster Linux containers running on virtual or physical machines, and manage them easily. Since clusters can be on public, private, or hybrid clouds. Kubernetes is a great platform to host cloud-native applications that require rapid scalability.

Key features of Kubernetes

  • Provides load balancing for containers
  • Automatic releases and rollbacks
  • Track the health of services and self-heal
  • Serves as a Platform as a Service
  • Automated scaling and control
  • Storage system orchestration
  • Secret management
  • Configuration management

Top 8 Alternatives to Kubernetes

There are several similar tools to Kubernetes, here is a list of 8 top solutions you can consider for container orchestration.

Docker Swarm

Docker is an open-source platform for building, managing, deploying containerized applications. Swarm is a native feature in Docker with a group of virtual or physical machines that lets you schedule, cluster, and run Docker applications. It is a Docker alternative for Kubernetes that provides high portability, agility, and high availability.

Swarm balances and manages host workloads. By doing so, it can efficiently scale applications by adding or removing worker processes as necessary to manage a cluster’s desired configuration.

Key Features of Swarm

  • Provides manager nodes distribute tasks among the most suitable hosts to achieve load balancing
  • High service availability through redundancies
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Does not require additional plugins
  • Enhances collaboration and decentralized access

Rancher

Rancher is an open-source container orchestration platform. With it, you can manage production containers across different platforms, including on-premises and the public cloud. As a Platform as a Service, it simplifies container management by allowing access to a set of available open source technologies, rather than having to build platforms from scratch.

Key Features of Rancher

  • Cross-host networks
  • Load balancing capabilities for containerized applications
  • Manages multiple cloud environments
  • Resource management with multi-tenancy
  • Security is built-in
  • Built-in logging and monitoring features through Fluentd and Prometheus

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

Azure Kubernetes Service is a container orchestration platform that offers secure serverless Kubernetes. AKS helps to manage Kubernetes clusters and makes deploying containerized applications so much easier. In addition to that, it provides automatic configuration of all Kubernetes nodes and master.

You can create AKS clusters programmatically or through the Azure portal. Azure also comes with advanced networking capabilities, Azure Active Directory integration, and monitoring with Azure Monitor. AKS also stores all logs in a workspace that contains the Azure Log analytics.

Key Features of Azure Kubernetes Service

  • Built-in support for other Kubernetes tools in Visual Studio Code such as Azure Monitor and Azure DevOps
  • Automatic scaling and event triggers with KEDA
  • The Azure Policy helps to keep multiple clusters compliant
  • Simple migration process
  • Runs IoT solutions with scalable resources

OpenShift

OpenShift is another container orchestration alternative for Kubernetes. It is a PaaS developed by Red Hat as a hybrid, enterprise-scale platform with extended Kubernetes capabilities for container orchestration. With a Linux OS, OpenShift helps you securely automate and scale the entire lifecycle of containerized applications. That means you can virtualize every host and manage all of your workloads easily, facilitate continuous integration, and automate the process of releasing new software.

With a holistic distributed platform, OpenShift provides much more functionality than Kubernetes. It supports standardized containers with Docker’s Red Hat API. And other functions include container orchestration, container scheduling, container networking, and an easy deployment process.

Key Features of OpenShift

  • Integrated Jenkins pipeline helps to accelerate production by streamlining workflows
  • Provides a Self-Service Container Orchestration capable of integrating various development and deployment tools
  • Integrates with a wide variety of networking solutions along with SDN support
  • Built-in Container Runtime (CoreOS) and Standard Docker Runtimes and CRI-O
  • Integrated Operator Hub provides administrators direct access to Kubernetes Operators, third-party services, and cloud providers like AWS.
  • Open-source
  • Vendor-neutral platform
  • Exceptional security features and container image management

Nomad

Nomad is a container orchestration platform that makes it easy to manage containerized and non-containerized applications in the cloud and on-prem at scale. It is an orchestration solution from Hashicorp. As a result, it comes built-in with integrations from other Hashicorp tools such as Vault, Consul, and Terraform.

Key Features of Nomad

  • Simple user interface
  • Simplified node management
  • Manages a variety of workloads such as containerized, legacy, microservice, and batch applications
  • Easy installation
  • Clients and servers share a single binary
  • Easy way to manage multiple clouds
  • Built-in integrations with Consul, Terraform, and Vault
  • Well-written and largely customizable scripts

Helios

Helios is a Kubernetes alternative for container orchestration. It is a platform by Spotify that helps to orchestrate and distribute Docker containers across multiple distributed servers. The pragmatic nature of Helios and its CI/CD pipelines functionality makes it a popular choice for developers.

On top of that, Helios integrates with virtually all DevOps workflows, making container management straightforward regardless of the operating system, cloud service, or network topology. It also provides cluster history via event logs for restarts, version changes, and deployments. Developers can swiftly identify security vulnerabilities through the HTTP API Client or CLI.

Key Features of Helios

  • Integrates easily with the DevOps philosophy
  • Compatible with any network and platform regardless of the vendor
  • Runs instances on single or multiple nodes
  • Not dependent on Apache Mesos to work
  • Requires JVM and Zookeeper

Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS)

ECS is Amazon’s alternative for Kubernetes. It helps to manage and run container clusters present on Elastic Container (EC2) instances. It is a solution that provides secure, scalable, and reliable container orchestration that is suitable for applications requiring maximum security and reliability. ECS also uses the least amount of compute resources and lets you focus on optimizing applications instead of managing infrastructure.

One of the core benefits of using ECS is its presence in up to 70 availability zones and 22 regions globally. Because of this, you can enjoy high uptime and low latency.

Key Features of Amazon ECS

  • Serverless AWS Fargate handles ECS clusters in the same manner as EKS
  • Provides Docker container management
  • Provides access to a variety of AWS services such as AWS Identity, Amazon Route 53, and AWS App Mesh
  • Docker image repository support for third parties
  • Optimizes the cost of non-persistent workloads through spot instances
  • Multi-environment compatibility through the Container Registry
  • Ensure resource sharing between tenants using ECS’s Amazon VPC

Apache Mesos

Mesos is Apache’s alternative to Kubernetes. It is a container orchestration tool that provides easy resource allocation and sharing among multiple distributed frameworks. That is carried out through modern kernel features like Solaris’ Zones and CGroups in Linux. To top it off, Mesos provides Chronos Scheduler for starting and stopping services, and Marathon API for scaling services and balancing the load.

Key features of Mesos

  • Supports deployments of up to 10,000 nodes with linear scalability
  • Fault-tolerant replication with Zookeeper
  • Programmers can use APIs to develop new applications in C++, Java, etc.
  • Intuitive GUI for monitoring cluster
  • Solutions for handling big data
  • Batch Scheduling

The Right Application Development Pipeline

Building and managing applications at scale don’t have to be a complex process. Several DevOps tools help to simplify these processes: container orchestration, server automation, infrastructure management, configuration management, version control, CI/CD, and continuous security.

While Kubernetes is an excellent tool for container orchestration, you may find that you need other options. This article provides you with 8 top alternatives to Kubernetes. All you have to do now is choose the best tool for your business.

Post Written by Alexander Fashakin

Hi there, I am a programmer, content writer and aspiring product growth manager. I love learning about exciting new products and technologies.

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