Kubernetes and Red Hat OpenShift are two leading container orchestration tools in the market today. In this article, we will discuss these tools and what are the differences between them.
Most production environments have started using containers as they are easily scalable, cost-effective, better than virtual machines, and faster deployable. Of course, it is easier when working with 10-20 containers but imagine if your production environment of a Kubernetes cluster has hundreds of containers. It becomes challenging to manage the container lifecycle with multiple containers running in parallel. That is why you need a container orchestration platform/tool to manage all the automated deployment, scaling, organizing, and management of containers.
Comparing Kubernetes with OpenShift would not be fair as these container orchestration tools are two different projects. Kubernetes is an open-source project, while OpenShift is a product of Red Hat offerings. Comparing Kubernetes with OpenShift is like comparing an engine of a car with a car. This is because Kubernetes itself is the core part of the overall OpenShift architecture.
Now let me first briefly explain what Kubernetes and OpenShift are.
What is Kubernetes?
Kubernetes is currently the most popular container orchestration tool, open-source, and widely used for automatically deploying and scaling containers. This open-source tool was originated in 2014 by Google and developed by a cloud-native computing foundation using the Go programming language.
Kubernetes has a master-slave architecture to have a master node and many worker nodes in a Kubernetes cluster. There will be multiple parts running inside each worker node that are nothing but a group of containers combined as a working unit. Kubernetes uses YAML to define the resources sent to the API server for creating the actual application.
Advantages of Kubernetes
- Since it is open-source, it is free to use for any platform
- It has a massive active community of developers and engineers, which helps in releasing new features continuously
- You can rollback and rollout easily to handle the downtime automatically
- For network traffic distribution, it offers load balancing capabilities
- It supports different programming languages and frameworks, which gives flexibility to developers and administrators
- It helps in utilizing the infrastructure resources very efficiently and reducing the overall cost
- It comes with a default dashboard that offers a ton of information to understand everything about the cluster
Red Hat OpenShift
OpenShift is an enterprise-grade container platform developed by Red Hat. It is written in Go and AngularJS programming languages, and the initial release came out in 2011. You can use Red Hat OpenShift for both cloud-native and traditional applications.
Red Hat OpenShift is powered by Kubernetes, which allows you to run applications inside containers. OpenShift comes with a web interface dashboard and CLI, which helps the developers and software engineers build their application codes. It also allows DevOps engineers to manage and monitor the Kubernetes cluster.
Advantages of Red Hat OpenShift:
- It supports open container initiative (OCI) for container hosting and runtime
- It includes plenty of fixes to security, defect, and performance issues
- It can build and deploy the application faster with agility
- It is straightforward to integrate with many other DevOps tools
- It validates multiple 3rd party plugins for every release
- Using a unified console on Red Hat, it can quickly implement and enforce policies
- It supports Prometheus and Grafana, which helps in monitoring the cluster
- It can be easily used with any cloud provider or at on-premises
OpenShift vs. Kubernetes
#1. Open Source vs. Commercial
The most fundamental difference between Kubernetes and OpenShift is that Kubernetes is an open-source project, and OpenShift is an enterprise-level commercial product. This means that Kubernetes is a self-supported tool. In case any issue or bug is identified in this tool, people reach out to the Kubernetes community, which consists of many developers, administrators, architects, etc., to troubleshoot the issue.
Whereas in OpenShift, you get a good paid support option for troubleshooting any issue with this Red Hat product subscription. With an OpenShift subscription, you can also manage the public, private and virtual infrastructure through Red Hat CloudForms.
The deployment of an application in the production environment is a crucial stage of the DevOps process, and OpenShift makes it very simple. It automatically takes care of every step from development to deployment, so you don’t have to worry about each step in the CICD pipeline to do things manually. So even as a beginner, you will feel very comfortable using OpenShift to execute a CICD pipeline for application deployment. In OpenShift, the deployment is performed using the DeploymentConfig command.
On the other hand, deployment in Kubernetes is complex and often performed only by an expert. You will have to set up every step of the pipeline for application deployment manually. Deployment objects are used in the case of Kubernetes deployments, and they can handle multiple concurrent updates.
In Kubernetes, you can manage the cluster using the default dashboard initially. But because of its limited features and basic user interface, as the cluster size grows, you will have to add more advanced tools such as Istio, Prometheus, Grafana to manage the cluster with ease.
Red Hat OpenShift offers a user-friendly dashboard to manage the cluster. The web console of OpenShift provides capabilities to perform some advanced operations on the cluster for better management. OpenShift also suggests integrating the cluster with the EFK stack and Istio. And finally, the available ansible playbooks and installer in OpenShift helps you manage the cluster smoothly.
Whether it is virtualized or bare metal, a cluster will have multiple virtual machines within it. In Kubernetes, the addition of virtual machines takes a lot of time. It requires developers to create YAML scripts for it.
Whereas in OpenShift, scaling is effortless. OpenShift can bring up the virtual machines into the cluster faster with the available installers and Ansible playbooks. In addition, the process of scaling in OpenShift is straightforward.
Kubernetes comes with a lot of flexibility as there is no fixed way of working with it. You can use any operating system with more limitations to run Kubernetes. Kubernetes has helped many organizations come out of their legacy architectures as they were pretty outdated and did not meet the current market needs.
You cannot use all the operating systems when you are working with OpenShift. You can only use Red Hat distributions, FedoraOS, and CentOS with OpenShift.
The security policies in OpenShift are stricter in comparison to Kubernetes. For example, OpenShift does not allow you to run the containers as root. It also restricts the users from using many official images present on DockerHub. So, while working with OpenShift, you will need to learn about its security policies first. But because of these restrictions, the authentication and authorization in OpenShift are more reliable than Kubernetes.
Whereas in Kubernetes, setting up proper authentication and authorization capability would take a lot of effort. Unlike OpenShift, Kubernetes clusters can have many vulnerable docker images if container scanning tools are not integrated into the cluster. Kubernetes offers role-based access control (RBAC) features, but that is not enough for the advanced level of security required in production environments. So, compared to OpenShift, a lot of security improvements are yet to happen in Kubernetes.
#6. Web Interface
To perform all the cluster administration work, you need a suitable and easy-to-use web interface. And this is what OpenShift offers. It has a simple login for every user, and after logging in, it gives the complete visualization of the cluster, which is very easy to understand. Red Hat’s OpenShift has a user-friendly web console that allows the DevOps engineers to execute Kubernetes tasks and the operation teams to monitor the application comfortably. The control has multiple options like build, deploy, update, scale, expose, etc., which can be implemented with just a click of a button.
Kubernetes comes with a basic dashboard that can only help you with basic tasks. In addition, the dashboard is not very user-friendly as compared to other dashboards available in the market. That is why DevOps engineers would prefer to integrate the default Kubernetes dashboard with other visualizations tools like Prometheus and Grafana.
To summarize, here is a table for differences between Red Hat OpenShift and Kubernetes:
|Developer||Cloud-Native Computing Foundation||Red Hat Software|
|Initial Release Date||7 June 2014||4 May 2011|
|Written In||Go||Go, AngularJS|
|Management||Container management is complex||Uses ImageStreams to manage multiple container images easily|
|Deployment||Supports all cloud and Linux platforms||Supports only Red Hat distributions, CentOS and Fedora|
|Flexibility||Open source, so better flexibility||Has limited flexibility|
|Security||The security level can be maintained easily||The security policies here are stringent|
|Networking||It lacks a good networking solution but lets you add 3rd party network plugins.||Come with its networking solution for users|
|Learning Curve||Not easy for beginners, more suited for DevOps professionals||Suitable for beginners|
That was all about Kubernetes, OpenShift, and their differences. Both container orchestration platforms are in demand in the IT industry. So, depending on your requirement, you can choose the best-suited container orchestration platform for your organization.
You should go with Kubernetes if you need flexibility with your projects. But if you can follow a defined approach and want to use a container orchestration platform with ease of deployment and management, OpenShift is a better choice. And if you have been in the DevOps domain for the past few years, you can try your luck with Kubernetes. But in case you are a beginner, choose OpenShift as it will make most of the things pretty straightforward for you.
Now, you can make your decision between Red Hat OpenShift and Kubernetes.