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Top 10 Container Orchestration Tools and Services

6 min read

Containers are a popular way of packaging and deploying applications in a consistent and isolated manner. They offer many benefits, such as portability, scalability, efficiency, and security. However, managing a large number of containers across different environments can be a complex and daunting task. This is where container orchestration comes in.

Container orchestration is the process of automating the deployment, management, scaling, networking, and coordination of containers. It helps to simplify the operational aspects of running containerized applications and ensures that they are running optimally and reliably. Container orchestration is essential for DevOps, as it enables faster and more frequent delivery of software, improves collaboration and communication, and reduces costs and risks.

However, container orchestration also poses some challenges, such as choosing the right tool or service, integrating with existing systems and tools, ensuring security and compliance, and handling failures and errors. There are many options available for container orchestration, each with its own features, advantages, and disadvantages. How do you decide which one is best for your needs?

In this article, we will explore the top 10 container orchestration tools and services and compare them based on various criteria, such as functionality, compatibility, performance, and usability. We will also provide some recommendations and best practices for choosing and using a container orchestration tool or service. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the container orchestration landscape and be able to make an informed decision about your container orchestration needs.


Kubernetes



Kubernetes is the leading container orchestration platform, developed by Google and maintained by the CNCF. It is a distributed system of master and worker nodes that run pods, which are groups of containers. Pods can be scaled, exposed, and updated using replica sets, services, and health checks. Kubernetes offers scalability, flexibility, resilience, and portability for containerized applications, but also has complexity, overhead, and security challenges. Users can use a managed Kubernetes service from cloud providers, such as IBM, Amazon, Google, or Microsoft, to simplify and enhance their Kubernetes experience.


OpenShift



OpenShift is a platform for container orchestration based on Kubernetes and developed by Red Hat and IBM. It is an open-source project, with a commercial version available as well.

OpenShift enhances Kubernetes with some extensions and integrations, such as:

  • Security: OpenShift provides a security framework that includes RBAC, SCC, service accounts, secrets, certificates, identity providers, and image scanning and signing.
  • Automation: OpenShift provides automation tools that enable CI/CD, GitOps, and operators for containerized applications and services.
  • Developer experience: OpenShift provides a web console, a CLI, a developer perspective, and IDE and code editor integrations for managing the cluster and the applications.
  • Cost: OpenShift provides a pricing model that is based on the cores and memory used by the cluster and the applications. It also offers a free tier, a pay-as-you-go option, and some discounts and credits.

OpenShift can be deployed in different ways, such as:

  • OpenShift Container Platform: This is the self-managed version of OpenShift, which allows users to run the platform on their own infrastructure.
  • OpenShift Dedicated: This is the fully-managed version of OpenShift, which allows users to run the platform on a dedicated cluster hosted and operated by IBM.
  • OpenShift Online: This is the cloud-based version of OpenShift, which allows users to run the platform on a shared cluster hosted and operated by IBM.

Docker Swarm



Docker Swarm is a clustering solution for Docker containers, integrated into the Docker Engine. It is a simple and lightweight system of manager and worker nodes that run services, which are groups of containers. Services can be scaled, exposed, and routed using replicas and ports. Docker Swarm offers simplicity, compatibility, and performance for container orchestration, but also has functionality, scalability, and security limitations. Users can use tools and services that support Docker Swarm, such as Docker Enterprise, Portainer, and Swarmlet, to overcome some of the limitations and enhance their Docker Swarm experience.


Hashicorp Nomad



Nomad is a scheduler for diverse workloads, such as containers, binaries, VMs, Java JARs, and more, developed by Hashicorp. It is a distributed system of server clusters and client agents that run allocations, which are groups of tasks. Allocations can be scaled and exposed using count and ports. Nomad offers ease of use, efficiency, and extensibility for workload scheduling, but also lacks service discovery. Users can use integrations and use cases for Nomad, such as Consul, Vault, Terraform, and Waypoint, to overcome the lack of service discovery and enhance their Nomad experience.


Rancher



Rancher is a software stack for Kubernetes management, developed by Rancher Labs and SUSE. It is an open-source project, with a commercial version as well.

Rancher is a platform for a central server and managed clusters. The server runs the Rancher management server, which provides a unified interface and control plane for the clusters. The clusters run the Rancher agent, which registers and communicates with the server. The clusters can be RKE, K3s, RancherOS, or imported, depending on the infrastructure and device type.

Rancher offers advantages for Kubernetes management, such as:

  • User interface: Rancher provides a web UI and a CLI, which allow users to create and manage clusters and resources from a single dashboard or terminal.
  • Multi-cluster management: Rancher allows users to manage multiple clusters from a single pane of glass and provides features such as cluster templates, alerts, monitoring, and backup and restore. It also supports multi-tenancy, which allows users to create and manage projects and namespaces within a cluster and assign roles and permissions to users and groups.
  • Catalog: Rancher provides a catalog of Helm charts, which are packages of pre-configured Kubernetes resources that can be deployed with one click. The catalog includes Rancher charts and partner charts, which are curated and supported by Rancher and its partners. Users can also add their own custom charts to the catalog or use external chart repositories.
  • Support: Rancher provides a high level of support and service for its users and customers and offers plans and options, such as community support, enterprise support, professional services, and training and certification. It also provides a Rancher Federal service, which is a dedicated and secure platform for government agencies and contractors.

KubeSphere



KubeSphere is a cloud-native operating system, using Kubernetes as its kernel. It provides a plug-and-play architecture, allowing third-party applications to integrate into its ecosystem. It is an open-source project, with a commercial version as well.

KubeSphere is a platform with a central control plane and edge clusters. The control plane runs the KubeSphere console, which provides a unified interface and control plane for the clusters. The clusters run the KubeSphere agent, which registers and communicates with the console. The clusters can be KubeEdge, K3s, K8s, or imported, depending on the device and infrastructure type.

KubeSphere offers advantages for cloud-native application management, such as functionality, compatibility, observability, and localization. However, KubeSphere also has disadvantages, such as complexity, overhead, and security.

One way to overcome some of the disadvantages of KubeSphere is to use some of the components and scenarios for KubeSphere, such as KubeEdge, KubeKey, KubeSphere DevOps, and KubeSphere Service Mesh.


Mesos



Mesos is a distributed system kernel for large-scale data processing, using a master-agent architecture and a low-level API. It is an open-source project with a commercial version as well.

Mesos allows frameworks to run on the cluster and provide their own scheduling and coordination logic. Frameworks can be of different types, such as batch, streaming, interactive, or service. Frameworks can also be monolithic or modular, depending on the scheduler.

Mesos offers advantages for data processing, such as scalability, reliability, resource efficiency, and complexity. However, Mesos also has disadvantages, such as functionality, compatibility, and security.

One way to overcome some of the disadvantages of Mesos is to use some of the frameworks and applications that run on Mesos, such as Marathon, Aurora, Spark, and Hadoop.


AWS Fargate



AWS Fargate is a serverless compute engine for containers developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS). It is available in several regions.

AWS Fargate is a service of the Fargate launch type and the Fargate platform version. The launch type allows users to run containers on Fargate instead of on EC2 instances. The platform version defines the features and capabilities of Fargate, such as the container runtimes, network modes, and task definitions. The platform version can be 1.3 or 1.4, with 1.4 being the latest and recommended.

AWS Fargate offers advantages for container orchestration, such as simplicity, scalability, security, and cost. However, AWS Fargate also has disadvantages, such as functionality, compatibility, and performance.

One way to overcome some of the disadvantages of AWS Fargate is to use some of the services and integrations that work with AWS Fargate, such as Amazon ECS, Amazon EKS, AWS Lambda, and AWS App Mesh.


Cloudify



Cloudify is a cloud orchestration platform that supports hybrid and multi-cloud deployments using a declarative and intent-based approach. It is an open-source project with a commercial version as well.

Cloudify is a platform for a Cloudify Manager and Cloudify Agents. The manager runs the Cloudify Orchestrator, which provides a unified interface and control plane for the cloud resources. The agents run the Cloudify Executor, which executes the blueprints, which are YAML files that describe the desired state and configuration of the cloud resources.

Cloudify offers advantages for cloud orchestration, such as flexibility, automation, orchestration, and a learning curve. However, Cloudify also has disadvantages, such as complexity, overhead, and security.

One way to overcome some of the disadvantages of Cloudify is to use some of the plugins and blueprints that enable Cloudify to manage various cloud resources, such as AWS, Azure, GCP, and OpenStack.


GitLab



GitLab is a DevOps platform that offers end-to-end solutions for software development and delivery using a single application. It is an open-source project with a commercial version as well.

GitLab is a platform consisting of a GitLab server and GitLab runners. The server runs the GitLab application, which provides a unified interface and control plane for the software lifecycle. The runners run the GitLab executor, which executes the pipelines, which are sequences of tasks that run on the runners.

GitLab offers advantages for software development and delivery, such as collaboration, integration, security, and pricing. However, GitLab also has disadvantages, such as complexity, overhead, and performance.

One way to overcome some of the disadvantages of GitLab is to use some of the capabilities and services that GitLab provides for container orchestration, such as GitLab CI/CD, GitLab Kubernetes Agent, GitLab Auto DevOps, and GitLab Managed Apps.

Conclusion

In this article, we have covered the top 10 container orchestration tools and services used by many organizations in production. We have seen how container orchestration can help us manage complex application deployments and infrastructure automation with ease and efficiency. We have also looked at the key features and differences of various container orchestration tools and services, such as Kubernetes, Openshift, Nomad, Docker Swarm, Rancher, Mesos, and several cloud-based managed services.

Choosing a container orchestration tool or service depends on various factors, such as your team size, budget, application compatibility, security compliance, and available expertise. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and you may have to experiment and evaluate different options to find the best fit for your needs. However, some general advice would be to go with a managed service unless you are building a PaaS solution for your customers, and to leverage the service mesh tools and the cloud-native foundation tools to enhance your container orchestration capabilities.

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Abraham Dahunsi Web Developer 🌐 | Technical Writer ✍️| DevOps Enthusiast👨‍💻 | Python🐍 |

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