The most popular container orchestration software alternatives available today are OpenShift and Kubernetes. Kubernetes also offers other alternatives to learn more about such options, you can refer to our blog: “The Most Popular Kubernetes Alternatives and Competitors” here.
In this article, we are going to be comparing OpenShift and Kubernetes, and let me tell you, the comparison is far from fair. Indeed, comparing OpenShift and Kubernetes is difficult, as they are two very different solutions altogether. Comparing them is a little like comparing a Personal Computer (OpenShift) and a CPU (Kubernetes).
As Kubernetes is a crucial component of OpenShift, comparing the two platforms can be confusing. Hence, to help you determine which is a better option for you, we will cover the most significant differences between the two, including installation, command-line options, user interface, security, support, and other topics.
Before we proceed and take a look at the differences between OpenShift and Kubernetes, i.e., OpenShift vs Kubernetes, let’s attempt to understand them briefly.
Kubernetes is an open-source system for automating the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It’s also commonly referred to as K8s. Kubernetes was the third container-management system developed by Google. The first and second were Borg and Omega, respectively. Click here to learn more about these three container-management systems built and used by Google.
Red Hat OpenShift is an enterprise-ready Kubernetes container platform that enables automation inside and outside your Kubernetes clusters and contains a private container registry installed as part of the Kubernetes cluster.
The automation of the operational tasks necessary to execute containerized workloads and services, such as container provisioning, deployment, scaling, networking, and load balancing, is known as container orchestration. Indeed, the system that aids with the automation is a Container Orchestration System. As mentioned earlier, there are various alternatives available on the market. These include Kubernetes, OpenShift, Amazon ECS, Docker Swarm, and Nomad, to name a few. In this blog, we will address K8S vs OpenShift, where Kubernetes is purely a container orchestration engine, and OpenShift is a platform-as-a-service (PAAS) solution used to make container orchestration easier. Before we go ahead with the comparison, let’s try to understand the architecture of OpenShift and Kubernetes quickly.
A Kubernetes cluster is made up of a single or a number of master machines called control planes and a single, or a set of worker machines called nodes. The components of the application workload, known as Pods, are hosted by the worker nodes, while the control planes, or master nodes, oversee the cluster’s worker nodes and Pods.
For a Kubernetes cluster to be complete and functional, you must have a number of different components. A Kubernetes cluster is made up of the following parts:
To know more about Kubernetes architecture, read our blog!
It’s possible to create and run containerized apps on the OpenShift Container Platform. The technology that powers containerized apps is incorporated into the OpenShift Container Platform, which has its roots in Kubernetes.
Control Plane also includes CRI-O and Kubelet, where CRI-O provides facilities for running, stopping, and restarting containers. Kubelet acts as a primary node agent for Kubernetes responsible for launching and monitoring containers.
Same as Control Plane, the Worker node also contains CRI-O and Kubelet.
The first and most important distinction between OpenShift and Kubernetes is that OpenShift is a commercial product that requires a membership. In contrast, Kubernetes is an open-source Project available for free. Therefore, in the case of any issues or bugs, OpenShift offers a good paid support alternative for troubleshooting the issues. On the other hand, in Kubernetes, you need to contact the Kubernetes community, which is made up of several professionals, including developers, administrators, and architects, to troubleshoot the issues or bugs found in the tool.
Question for you: Are you ready to pay for the subscription for OpenShift, or are you good with Kubernetes, which is free of cost?
Installation is the first thing that you really need to do to get your Cluster up and running and one of the most important points to consider when discussing the OpenShift vs Kubernetes topic.
In the case of OpenShift, you must use one of the platforms listed below to install it. It cannot be installed on any other Linux distribution.
On the contrary, Kubernetes can be set up on the majority of systems and is installable via a variety of tools, including Kubeadm, Kube-spray, Kops, and Booktube.
Question for you: Do you want a restriction on the operating system, or are you comfortable using any of the available and supported systems?
Once you’ve set up your cluster, you need a way to interact with it. Hence, “Command line” is our next point of discussion in this OpenShift vs Kubernetes article.
Kubernetes offers a command-line tool for interacting with the control plane of a Kubernetes cluster. Kubectl is the name of this utility. You can issue commands to Kubernetes clusters using kubectl. With kubectl, applications can be deployed, cluster resources can be inspected and managed, and logs can be seen.
With OpenShift, similar functionality is provided by the oc command seeing as it was developed by kubectl.
With OpenShift, similar functionality as that of kubectl is provided by the oc command. That said, it also expands to natively support more OpenShift Container Platform features, such as:
Question for you: Do you want to use kubectl, which issues commands to your Kubernetes cluster, or do you have resources that require oc command to be in place?
Command line is not the only option that interacts with your Cluster, so does User Interface. Hence, an efficient web-based User Interface (UI) is necessary for cluster administration and cannot, therefore, be skipped when talking about Kubernetes vs OpenShift.
The Kubernetes dashboard must be installed independently, and you must use the kube-proxy to route a local machine port to the cluster’s admin server. Additionally, seeing as the dashboard lacks a login page, you must manually establish a bearer token to serve as authorization and authentication.
The web console for OpenShift contains a login page. The console is easily accessible, and most resources can be created or modified via a form. Servers, projects, and cluster roles can all be seen.
Question for you: Can you afford to invest efforts to install a Dashboard on your own, or do you want a fancy User Interface to access your cluster?
A way to separate Kubernetes cluster resources within a single cluster is through the use of namespaces in Kubernetes. Namespaces are designed for environments with a large user base spread across numerous teams or projects. Namespaces are a technique used to allocate cluster resources to different users.
There are projects in OpenShift that are nothing more than enhanced Kubernetes namespaces. The project is used in exactly the same way as a Kubernetes namespace when deploying software on OpenShift, with the exception that users cannot create projects on their own and must be granted access by administrators.
Question for you: Does Namespace in Kubernetes meet your requirement to isolate resources in your Cluster, or do you explicitly need Projects in OpenShift?
Helm templates are available in Kubernetes and are flexible and simple to utilize. Charts are packages, and Helm is the package management tool. When talking about Kubernetes vs OpenShift, this point should definitely be considered.
In the context of OpenShift, a template defines a collection of objects that can be processed and parameterized to generate a list of objects for generation by the OpenShift Container Platform. Anything you are authorized to produce within a project can be created using a template.
OpenShift templates lack the advanced templates and package versioning found in Helm charts. As a result, OpenShift deployment becomes more difficult, and, in most cases, external wrappers are required.
Question for you: If you are already familiar with Helm, do you still want to learn OpenShift Templates?
You can use your own Docker registry with Kubernetes. However, Kubernetes doesn’t have an integrated image registry. In contrast, the built-in container image registry offered by the OpenShift Container Platform is a regular workload for the cluster. It works on top of the current cluster infrastructure while offering users an out-of-the-box solution for managing the images that run their workloads. This registry doesn’t need special infrastructure configuration, and it can be scaled up or down like any other cluster workload. The ability to produce and retrieve images is further controlled by setting user permissions on the image resources, seeing as they are linked to the cluster user authentication and authorization system. This is one of the OpenShift features that differentiate it from Kubernetes. Make a note that you can also integrate your OpenShift Cluster with several major image registries such as, but not limited to, Docker Hub, Amazon Elastic Container Registry (ECR), Google Container Registry (GCR), and Microsoft Azure Container Registry (ACR).
Question for you: Do you require an integrated image registry within your cluster or do you have no issues using your own image registry?
OpenShift has stricter security guidelines than Kubernetes. Indeed, in Openshift, you aren’t allowed to execute basic container images or many official images due to security requirements.
For instance, seeing as OpenShift restricts running a container as root and many official images don’t comply, the majority of container images available on Docker Hub don’t work on the platform.
Role-based access control (RBAC), a feature that OpenShift offers by default, helps to ensure that each developer only has access to the capabilities they require to prevent account compromise problems. Due to the lack of native authentication and authorization features, Kubernetes security features require a more complicated setup.
Other security rules, such as IAM and OAuth, are set by default when you create a project with OpenShift. User permissions only need to be added if required. This speeds up the setup process for your application environment and therefore saves you time.
With respect to security, the comparison between these two options simply isn’t fair, seeing as OpenShift’s security is, in fact, quite strict.
Question for you: Do you want security by default in your Cluster, or can you manage it on your own?
Organizations can use the OpenShift Container Platform to automate the delivery of their applications using DevOps techniques such as continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD). The OpenShift Container Platform offers the following CI/CD options to fulfill organizational needs:
This is one of the features that differentiates OpenShift from Kubernetes. Indeed, OpenShift provides built-in CI/CD integration. On the other hand, Kubernetes doesn’t have an official CI/CD integration option. Therefore, in order to create a CI/CD pipeline using Kubernetes, you must integrate external tools.
Question for you: Do you want an integrated CI/CD solution within your cluster, or can you take care of the tools and their installation on your own?
Since Kubernetes is an open-source project, a sizable and engaged developer community constantly works together to improve the platform. When it comes to OpenShift, the support group is substantially smaller and consists mainly of Red Hat developers.
OpenShift provides committed customer service, support, and advice as a commercial offering. As an open-source, community-based, free project, Kubernetes doesn’t provide specialized customer support.
In light of the above, when developers run into Kubernetes problems, they must wait for their questions to be answered, relying on the experience of other developers on discussion forums. Red Hat engineers are available to support OpenShift users around the clock.
Question for you: Do you want a paid dedicated support team to help you with your issues, or you can rely on the community and search for solutions free of cost?
Ideally, to increase productivity, you want the flexibility to move your application between different cloud service providers without having to modify or replace your application infrastructure.
There are different cloud providers, including AWS, GCP, and Azure, that offer various Kubernetes managed services, each with their own set of add-ons, plugins, and usage guidelines. Before switching between cloud services, you need to become familiar with the managed Kubernetes services in order to grasp how things work. This is why Kubernetes is not as cloud agnostic as OpenShift. True enough, the user experience and features of hosted or managed OpenShift remain the same.
Question for you: Do you plan to move from one cloud provider to another, or would you rather always use the same one?
Since Kubernetes is an open-source project, it’s free and doesn’t require any licensing. Therefore, you aren’t required to pay anyone if you manage Kubernetes on your own. However, you will be charged if you utilize a managed service offered by any provider, such as AWS, GCP, or Azure. The cost will be determined by the platform you choose and the number of resources you use.
OpenShift provides two types of services – Red Hat OpenShift cloud services editions and Self-managed Red Hat OpenShift editions. If you are using cloud services, Red Hat OpenShift reserved instances can be purchased for as little as $0.076/hour as of November 20, 2022, and the cost of self-managed Red Hat OpenShift depends on your subscription and sizing choices.
Question for you: Would you rather use a self-managed Kubernetes cluster and save money or spend on a managed service?
|1||Product vs Project||OpenShift is a Product of Red Hat and an enterprise-ready Kubernetes container platform.||Kubernetes is an open-source project that was originally owned by Google and then donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).|
|2||Installation||Limited to RHCOS and RHEL.||Supported most of the Operating Systems.|
|3||Command line||Both oc and kubectl commands can be used to interact with the cluster where the oc command also supports OpenShift Container Platform features.||Kubectl is the command that can be used to interact with the Cluster.|
|4||User Interface||OpenShift has a fancy and better user interface or dashboard.||The dashboard has to be installed separately and doesn’t bring much information than the command line|
|5||Project vs Namespace||Projects are nothing more than Namespaces with additional features.||Namespaces are used to isolate resources within a single cluster.|
|6||Templates vs Helm||OpenShift’s Templates are not as flexible and user friendly as Hem Templates.||Kubernetes’ helm charts are simple to use and offer lots of flexibility.|
|7||Image Registry||OpenShift offers a built-in, internal container image registry to manage images locally.||You must set up and integrate your own Image Registry.|
|8||Security||More strict security policies than Kubernetes.||Less strict security policies compared to OpenShift.|
|9||CI/CD||Easy to implement DevOps practices and provides integration with Jenkins.||No out-of-the-box CI/CD integration.|
|10||Support||Red Hat developers make up the majority of the much smaller support community.||A large, active developer community works together to improve the platform.|
|11||Cloud Agnostic||The user experience and features do not change whether you use a hosted or managed OpenShift.||You need to become familiar with the managed Kubernetes services offered by different cloud providers seeing as things change when you move from one cloud to another.|
|12||Pricing||You will be charged for both self-managed clusters and managed services provided by any provider including AWS, GCP or Azure.||No cost for self-managed clusters, however, you need to pay if you are using a managed service provided by any provider such as AWS, GCP, or Azure.|
Try to answer the questions mentioned in the table with Yes or No under [ Your Input ] columns for Openshift and Kubernetes. This table will help you choose between OpenShift and Kubernetes. In the end, weigh both options by calculating the percentage related to the questions for which you answered Yes. The service with the highest percentage is surely the right choice for you!
E.g., For sample inputs, we have 30% for Openshift and 70% for Kubernetes, hence our choice should be Kubernetes over Openshift.
|Sr. No||Question for you||OpenShift|
|1||Are you ready to pay for the subscription for OpenShift, or are you good with Kubernetes, which is free of cost?|
(Weight = 20%)
|2||Do you want a restriction on the operating system, or are you comfortable using any of the available and supported systems?|
(Weight = 5%)
|3||Do you want to use kubectl, which issues commands to your Kubernetes cluster, or do you have resources that require oc command to be in place?|
(Weight = 5%)
|4||Can you afford to invest efforts to install a Dashboard on your own, or do you want a fancy User Interface to access your cluster?|
|5||Does Namespace in Kubernetes meet your requirement to isolate resources in your Cluster, or do you explicitly need Projects in OpenShift?|
(Weight = 5%)
|6||If you are already familiar with Helm, do you still want to learn OpenShift Templates?|
(Weight = 10%)
|7||Do you require an integrated image registry within your cluster, or do you have no issues using your own image registry?|
(Weight = 5%)
|8||Do you want security by default in your Cluster, or can you manage it on your own?|
(Weight = 15%)
|9||Do you want an integrated CI/CD solution within your cluster, or can you take care of the tools and their installation on your own?|
(Weight = 10%)
|10||Do you want a paid dedicated support team to help you with your issues, or you can rely on the community and search for solutions free of cost?|
(Weight = 5%)
|11||Do you plan to move from one cloud provider to another, or would you rather always use the same one?|
(Weight = 10%)
|12||Would you rather use a self-managed Kubernetes cluster and save money or spend on using a managed service?|
(Weight = 5%)
Both OpenShift and Kubernetes allow you to deploy and manage containerized applications quickly. However, they do differ in certain ways, which is why we have this blog on OpenShift vs Kubernetes for you. Kubernetes is available free of cost, whereas Openshift has different plans to match your needs. So, OpenShift asks you to pay, however it provides customer support that Kubernetes doesn’t. This doesn’t mean you won’t get help if you face issues while using Kubernetes. Indeed, Kubernetes has a huge community available to support you. Another thing to note is that Kubernetes Helm charts are great to work with, while OpenShift has a fancy user interface dashboard. The list of differences is long.
Now that you’ve read this article, you should better understand the key distinctions between OpenShift and Kubernetes. You should consider your skill set, requirements, and specifications when selecting a platform. It’s also important to explore and test the solution before integrating the tool into your workflow, seeing as you want to develop the pipeline that works best for you.
Thanks to our Decision Making Table, you probably already know the answer to the question, “Which one to choose, OpenShift or Kubernetes?”. This was the main goal of our article.
Yes. At its core, OpenShift is a cloud-based Kubernetes container platform. It is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that adds value-added services to supplement Kubernetes and a containerization software. Also, OpenShift is a 100% certified Kubernetes by the CNCF.
You should take on a student’s perspective when learning, seeing as the initial understanding of ideas is one of the biggest barriers to learning not only containers and OpenShift but also Kubernetes. Utilize all the tools at your disposal, including blogs, YouTube, documentation, and any other online resources available to you. Furthermore, we’re here whenever you need us! Don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Yes, there is no restriction for such. You can use your pre-built Docker images on your OpenShift cluster, however, you may face security issues if your Images use the “root” user within the running container.
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