Alternatives to OpenShift: A Guide for CTOs

A guide for CTOs looking for alternatives to RedHat's OpenShift, including EKS, GKE, AKE, Rancher & DigitalOcean.

Brandon Gubitosa
Brandon Gubitosa

Table of Contents

RedHat's OpenShift is a flexible, scalable container application platform that facilitates application deployment and management.

OpenShift provides a range of features such as automatic scaling, load balancing, and monitoring, making it an attractive solution for organizations of all sizes. It is ideal for developers who want to create and deploy applications quickly, without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.

It is also a great choice for DevOps teams that want to streamline their workflow and quickly deploy applications across different environments. OpenShift's flexible deployment options and its ability to integrate with other cloud platforms make it a popular choice for businesses looking to future-proof their applications.

For CTOs looking for alternatives to OpenShift, this article will explore some of the best alternatives available, the benefits, and downsides they provide.

1. Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS):

EKS is a managed service by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that provides a secure and highly available environment to run Kubernetes clusters, making it easier to deploy, manage, and scale containerized applications.

Pros of Using Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS):

  • Scalability: EKS can quickly and easily scale up or down to accommodate changing workloads, allowing you to optimize your resources for maximum efficiency. Currently, Amazon EKS supports two autoscaling products, Karpenter and Cluster Autoscaler. With Karpenter, new compute resources are automatically provisioned based on specific requirements of cluster workloads. Cluster Autoscaler automatically adjusts the amount of nodes in your cluster when pods fail or rescheduled on other nodes.
  • Security: EKS uses Amazon’s security infrastructure to provide a secure environment for running and managing Kubernetes clusters. AWS is responsible for the Kubernetes control plane which contains the control plane nodes and etcd database.
  • Easy Deployment: EKS provides an easy-to-use interface that makes it simple to deploy and manage Kubernetes clusters in your cloud. When using EKS you can run Kubernetes on AWS without having to install, operate and maintain your own Kubernetes control plane or nodes. Using a managed service like EKS removes a good chunk of the complexity of deploying and configuring applications on Kubernetes.
  • Automation: With EKS, you can automate many of the tasks associated with managing and deploying containerized applications, making the process faster and more efficient. EKS automatically manages the availability and scalability of the Kubernetes control plane nodes that are responsible for scheduling containers, managing application availability and storing data on clusters.
  • Cost Savings: By leveraging the scale and efficiency of the cloud like most managed services from cloud providers, EKS can help reduce operational costs by reducing hardware and maintenance requirements. For each Amazon EKS cluster you create, you pay $.10 per hour, and only pay for what you use. You do not need to meet a minimal spend amount and there are no upfront pricing commitments. EKS pricing calculator is extremely helpful to estimate your costs. If you were to have one EKS cluster up and running 24/7/365 you are looking at it costing $876 a year or $2.40 a day to be up and running.

Cons of using Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS):

  • Limited Configuration Options: Some customers may be limited in terms of configuration options because EKS currently has yet to support all Kubernetes versions or features. Since nodes are self-managed, security and updates of the nodes are completely the user's responsibility. Compared to GKE which is fully automated when it comes to upgrading versions.  
  • Manual Integration to AWS ecosystem: Although EKS is part of the AWS service offering you have to manually integrate them together as there is no automation setup for that functionality.

2. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE):

GKE is a managed Kubernetes service that provides a scalable infrastructure for deploying and managing containerized applications. It automates every aspect of your cluster, including scaling, upgrades, and node management. This means developers can focus on writing code rather than infrastructure management.

Pros of using Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE):

  • Easy to deploy and manage: Like most managed services, one of the best advantages of choosing GKE is that it provides a user-friendly graphical user interface for deploying and managing clusters. This makes it simple and efficient to get up and running quickly.
  • Automated maintenance and upgrades: All nodes in a cluster are regularly upgraded with the latest version of Kubernetes, and nodes can be added or removed without any manual intervention. However, let's say you are operating multiple environments for delivering software updates to minimize risk and downtime for software and infrastructure you can still manually update clusters to test them out yourself. Follow GKE's best practices for upgrading clusters to learn more on how to do so in an efficient matter.
  • High scalability: When it comes to auto-scaling with GKE there are two popular options, regional or zonal control plane. Both come with their trade-offs. Regional clusters have multiple control planes across multiple computing zones in a region, thus making it highly available. This is in comparison to zonal clusters which only have one control plane in a single compute zone. Learn more in GKE's best practices for availability.
  • Built-in security: GKE helps secure your applications by providing several features such as role-based access control, identity monitoring, and network isolation for each node in a cluster. With GKE the Kubernetes control plane components are managed and maintained by Google.
  • Reliability: You can use Kubernetes’ high availability feature which ensures applications remain available during updates or other disruptions in service availability by having nodes running on different machines within the same region or across multiple regions for redundancy purposes. According to their site, GKE comes with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that is financially backed providing availability of 99.95% for the control plane of Autopilot clusters, and 99.9% for Autopilot pods in multiple zones.
  • Cost-effective: Autopilot clusters in GKE accrue a flat fee of $.10 per hour for each cluster after the free tier. GKE also has a committed use discounts offering. If you plan on using GKE long-term you will receive a 45% discount off on-demand pricing for a three-year commitment or 20% discount off on-demand pricing for a one-year commitment.

Cons of using Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE):

  • Limited customization options: While GKE provides many out-of-the-box features that make it easier to deploy services quickly, customizing components may require more manual work compared to other solutions like AWS ECS or Azure Container Service (AKS).
  • Limited support for certain services: Not all services are available on GKE; some popular ones such as MongoDB may need additional configuration if you want them running on GKE clusters due to their proprietary nature (vs open source solutions).  

3. DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS):

DigitalOcean Kubernetes is another managed Kubernetes service that offers an easy-to-use interface with advanced features like load balancing, auto-scaling, and node management. It provides a straightforward way to deploy and manage containerized applications in the cloud.

Pros of using DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS):

  • Easy setup: Setting up a Kubernetes cluster on DigitalOcean is quick and easy. There are pre-built configurations that allow users to get up and running quickly with minimal effort. If you don't need to fully customize anything in Digital ocean you can launch applications on Kubernetes without touching a CLI tool. If you are new to Kubernetes their deploy first image tutorial is helpful and lays the foundation of what you should know with Kubernetes and DigitalOcean.
  • Affordable pricing: DigitalOcean offers competitive pricing for its Kubernetes service, making it an attractive option for those looking for an economical solution not tied into one of the major three cloud-providers. The total cost of a DOKS cluster varies based on the configuration and usage of node pools throughout the month. It is recommended if you are running critical workloads to add the availability control plane which increases uptime with a 99.95% SLA. This plan costs $40 per month and is prorated hourly.
  • Flexible scalability: DigitalOcean's Cluster Autoscaler feature automatically adjusts the Kubernetes cluster by adding or removing nodes based on the clusters capacity to schedule pods.
  • Comprehensive dashboard: DigitalOcean's dashboards are user-friendly dashboards for managing your Kubernetes environment, including creating and managing nodes, storage, networking, and more.

Cons of using DigitalOcean Kubernetes:

  • Limited plugin support: While the platform supports many popular plugins that are necessary for running a successful infrastructure, the selection is still somewhat limited compared to other providers.
  • No dedicated customer support: Unlike some other providers, DigitalOcean does not offer dedicated customer support for its Kubernetes service. Users are expected to use online forums or self-help resources instead.
  • Limited security options: Security options are somewhat limited when compared to other providers - while the company offers several measures such as role-based access control (RBAC) and pod security policies (PSPs), these may not be sufficient for more complex implementations or high-security environments.

4. Rancher

Rancher is an open-source container management platform designed for organizations that are running Docker in production. It provides features such as resource scheduling, cluster management, and service discovery to help manage large deployments of containers. It also enables users to easily deploy Kubernetes clusters and other container orchestration tools.

Pros of Rancher:

  • Easy to use: Rancher offers a graphical user interface that makes it easy for users to manage their containerized applications and resources with minimal effort. Users of Rancher have the option of creating Kubernetes clusters with either Rancher Kubernetes Engine (RKE) or cloud Kubernetes services like GKE, AKS or EKS.
  • Scalable: With Rancher, users can quickly scale their applications up or down depending on demand, making it ideal for businesses that must launch and deploy new services rapidly.
  • Secure: Rancher provides built-in security features such as authentication, authorization, data encryption, and network segmentation which make it difficult for unauthorized access of data and resources.
  • Open Source: Rancher is open-source software that allows users to access the codebase and customize it according to their own needs. They also have two other plans available; Rancher Prime and Rancher Prime Hosted that come with additional enterprise support and the ability to deploy from a trusted private container registry.

Cons of Rancher:

  • Limited Flexibility: Since it is a self-contained platform, it may not be suitable for larger-scale projects due to its limited flexibility when compared to other orchestration platforms such as Kubernetes or Docker Swarm.
  • High Learning Curve: As the platform is relatively new in comparison to others, there is a high learning curve associated with understanding how the platform works and how to get the most out of it.
  • Limited Support Resources: As Rancher is still an emerging tool, limited support resources are available online compared to more established solutions such as Kubernetes or Docker Swarm.

5. Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS)

Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS) is a fully managed service from Microsoft Azure, which provides a platform for users to quickly deploy and scale containerized applications in the cloud. It simplifies the process of running and managing Docker containers on the Azure platform. AKS provides application developers with an open-source platform with all the tools, libraries, and resources they need to quickly develop and deploy their applications.

Pros of using Azure Kubernetes Service:

  • Easy to deploy and manage: Like other managed service providers AKS simplifies the deployment and management of Kubernetes clusters, allowing developers to quickly deploy and scale their applications without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure. AKS handles all critical tasks associated such as health monitoring and maintenance of clusters. After creating an AKS cluster, AKS automatically creates and configures a control plane.
  • Cost-effective: With its pay-as-you-go pricing model, AKS helps customers save on operational costs by only charging for what is used. While AKS does have a free-tier, it is not recommended to use that tier for critical, testing or production workloads. The standard tied is priced at $.10 per cluster per hour and can handle up to 5000 AKS Cluster Nodes. If you already know that you'll be using AKS long-term you can sign up for either a 1-year, 3-year or spot reserved plan to save on costs.
  • Highly available : AKS ensures that your application is highly available by automatically deploying the nodes across multiple availability zones for improved reliability and redundancy. We recommend following their guide for high-availability for multi-tier AKS applications.
  • Security: AKS provides advanced security features such as network segmentation, multi-factor authentication, operation logging, and auditing capabilities to help keep users’ data safe from malicious attacks.
  • Automated updates: AKS continuously polls for new versions of Kubernetes, providing automated patching and ensuring that customers are always running the latest stable version of Kubernetes clusters.

Cons of using Azure Kubernetes Service:

  • It requires a certain level of Kubernetes expertise to manage and configure, so it may not be suitable for less experienced users.
  • If the application is highly proprietary, then additional security measures will be needed to protect sensitive data or applications running on Azure Kubernetes Service.
  • There is a lack of customization options for specific workloads, which can limit its ability to meet more complex requirements.
  • Application performance may suffer due to the overhead of managing multiple containers across multiple nodes in the cluster, resulting in longer response times and reduced scalability.

Wrapping Up

OpenShift is a great choice for many development teams looking to manage and deploy their applications in the cloud. However, there are various alternatives available that can offer better customization, scalability, and cost optimization. Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), DigitalOcean Kubernetes, Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), and Rancher are some of the best options available.

If you do choose deploy open-source applications on Kubernetes, Plural can help. Our free and open-source platform provides engineers with all the operational tooling they would get in a managed offering plus a verified stream of upgrades, all deployed in your own cloud for maximum control and security.

Brandon Gubitosa

Leading content and marketing for Plural.