Amazon ECS vs EKS : The best AWS Container Service

Today, we have multiple docker container orchestration tools available in the market, including Kubernetes, AWS ECS, AWS EKS, and Docker Swarm. This article explores all you need to know about Amazon ECS vs EKS.

Here, AWS ECS is a managed service provided by Amazon. Amazon also supports Kubernetes using its managed service EKS, which simplifies deploying a highly-available, scalable, and fully managed Kubernetes control-plane. Docker Swarm is an open-source container orchestration platform. It is the native clustering engine for and by Docker.  Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration tool that Google originally developed.

Docker has generally simplified the deployment of applications. It has introduced a better way in which applications are built and deployed nowadays. Docker has simplified the implementation and also increased the speed, reliability, and availability of applications. Managing containers on a small scale does not create any issues, but when it comes to managing hundreds and thousands of containers for the microservices application there is a need for an orchestration solution.

Orchestration comes into the picture when there is a need to automate container management, in terms of the deployment, scaling, networking, and availability of the container clusters. When it comes to orchestration on AWS, many teams come through a decision making phase of ECS or EKS. In this article, we explore key details about Amazon ECS and EKS and when to choose one. Before going any further in exploring AWS ECS vs EKS, let’s break them down one by one.

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Amazon ECS vs EKS Video

AWS ECS vs EKS: What is Amazon ECS?

Elastic Container Service (ECS) is a container management service that is highly scalable and fast. Managing containers and performing operations like start/stop is very easy on ECS. Containers in ECS are defined in a task definition within a service and service is a configuration that runs and maintains a specified number of tasks in a cluster. Tasks can be run on a serverless infrastructure that is managed by AWS Fargate or on a cluster of Amazon EC2 instances that is managed by the user.

Also read: AWS Fargate Pricing

An Amazon ECS architecture example and diagram

Amazon ECS architecture to understand the Amazon ECS vs EKS debate

The above architecture diagram shows that there are two subnets, public and private. EC2 instances get created as a part of an ECS cluster that belongs to a private subnet and a Load Balancer and a NAT Gateway belong to a public subnet. The incoming requests route through a Load Balancer to the EC2 instance and then are redirected to the container/task, whereas the outgoing connection from the task/container routes through the EC2 instance and then from the NAT Gateway goes to the internet.

What is Kubernetes?

It is important to understand what Kubernetes is before we proceed with Amazon ECS vs EKS. Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform that was originally developed by Google and is now maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. It automates application deployment, scaling, and management. Kubernetes gives the platform to schedule and run containers on a group of physical or virtual machines. This group of machines with Kubernetes is known as Kubernetes Cluster.

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AWS ECS vs EKS: What is Amazon EKS?

Elastic Kubernetes Service, EKS,  is a managed service that can be used to run Kubernetes on AWS. There is no need to install, operate, and maintain the Kubernetes control plane or nodes while using EKS. To ensure high availability, EKS runs Kubernetes control plane instances across multiple Availability Zones. When the nodes are unhealthy, EKS automatically replaces them. EKS provides scalability and security to the applications.

Also read: AWS Security Tools

An Amazon EKS architecture example and diagram

Amazon EKS architecture to understand the Amazon ECS vs EKS debate

In the above architecture diagram, you can see that the EKS cluster spans across multiple availability zones. It has its worker nodes in different availability zones to provide high availability for the application. The pods which are deployed get placed onto these worker nodes. NAT gateways from the public subnet allow outbound internet access to the resources deployed to worker nodes.

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Amazon ECS vs EKS

amazon ECS vs EKS networking


EKS allows up to 750 Pods per instance whereas ECS accommodates only up to a maximum of 120 tasks per instance, this is one of the important points to understand when considering the difference between Amazon ECS vs EKS.

Amazon ECS vs EKS  namespaces


Kubernetes has the concept of namespaces which isolates workloads running in the same cluster, whereas ECS does not have such a concept in it. Namespaces provide a lot of advantages. For example, you can have a Dev, Staging, and Production environment in the same cluster which can share resources of the cluster. So, when deciding between Amazon ECS vs. EKS, it is important to consider this.

ease of use Amazon ECS vs EKS

Ease of Use

ECS is very straightforward and does not have a lot of components to learn whereas EKS is more complex as it uses Kubernetes which is altogether a vast technology to learn and requires expertise for deployments. ECS does not have any control plane, unlike EKS.

pricing and costs

Pricing and Costs

Amazon EKS consists of a control plane and infrastructure, AWS Fargate or Amazon EC2, to host containerized applications.  The pricing of ECS and EKS also depends on the infrastructure (AWS Fargate or Amazon EC2) being used to host containerized applications. On top of this, one needs to pay $0.10 per hour for each Amazon EKS cluster for its control plane. 

Portability and Compatibility

Portability and Compatibility

Both, EKS and ECS, are managed services of AWS. ECS is an AWS proprietary service whereas EKS is a Kubernetes-as-a-platform service by AWS. All of the applications running on EKS clusters can be run on any other Kubernetes cluster with a little or no change whereas deploying applications on ECS means using the proprietary container platform of AWS. One can easily move applications from EKS to self-managed or any other cloud provider’s Kubernetes cluster. But this is not the case with applications deployed on ECS.  

 Community support

Community support

For any software, platform, or framework, community support is essential. Since Kubernetes is an open-source technology, it is more widespread than ECS and a large community and support is available for it. A lot of documentation and how-to guides are also generally available for Kubernetes. 

On the other hand, ECS has greater official support from AWS than community support.

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A comparison table between Amazon ECS vs EKS

Amazon ECS vs EKS: When to choose ECS?

✔ If you’re looking to work exclusively on AWS, you should choose ECS as it offers more in-depth AWS integration than Amazon EKS.

✔ Organizations with limited expertise and insufficient resources to invest in learning Kubernetes can go with ECS.

✔ ECS is the ideal choice when there is no time to build, deploy, or migrate your containerized applications successfully to Kubernetes. 

Amazon ECS vs EKS: When to choose EKS?

✔ If you’re considering deploying containers across multiple infrastructures and would like to take advantage of Kubernetes’ flexibility, you should choose EKS.

✔ If your organization is ready to invest in learning the latest technology and wants to be on the frontline in terms of using the latest tech stack, go with EKS.

✔ When you’re looking for a more future-proof and versatile approach, EKS is the ideal choice.

✔ If you are ready to pay a few bucks for the control plane and take advantage of Kubernetes then go for EKS.

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“Amazon ECS and Amazon EKS Anywhere”

EKS Anywhere (Coming in 2021)

AWS has announced EKS Distro, a Kubernetes distribution. It will allow you to create and operate a Kubernetes Cluster on your infrastructure. It is a new deployment option that will enable you to create and operate Kubernetes clusters on your virtual machines (VMs) and bare metal servers. It will essentially allow you to take the benefits of EKS on-premises. It is coming soon in 2021.

EKS Distro will deliver a more reliable Kubernetes environment and help you create consistent clusters. It will also simplify and automate Kubernetes management for everyone.

ECS Anywhere (Available in 2021)

AWS also announced ECS Anywhere, an extension of Amazon ECS. ECS Anywhere will allow users to deploy ECS tasks on AWS managed infrastructure, as well as customer-managed infrastructure. Specific compliance or regulatory requirements won’t stop users from not using ECS. They can now have the same experience as ECS and still keep crucial data on their infrastructure. ECS Anywhere is an exciting evolution for AWS ECS and will be available in the year 2021. 

Summary of AWS ECS vs EKS

As discussed, container orchestration is not an add-on but a necessity when running your application in the container world. In this article, we talked about key details surrounding Amazon ECS vs EKS to help you choose which you’re best suited to. We explored the differences between ECS and EKS which are both managed services of AWS. The bottom line is that there’s no direct winner and each solution will offer you unique benefits or drawbacks depending on your needs.

Perhaps ECS can be an ideal choice when you are new to containers and looking for an easy solution. On the other hand, if you are looking for a better way to scale your cluster or application and you are experienced, EKS should be a good fit for you.

When it comes to a requirement where you are tightly coupled to only AWS, then ECS can help you. But if you don’t want to stick with AWS permanently and focus on Kubernetes then EKS is the choice.

Whether you choose AWS ECS vs EKS, with our AWS Managed Services, we can help you design, implement, deploy and maintain your application on AWS.

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