OpenShift vs. Kubernetes

Working with containers has been a normal part of software development and other areas in IT for quite some time. Various providers have entered the market with their own orchestration tools. Two of the best-known are Kubernetes and OpenShift. Although both solutions offer extensive container platforms, they differ in a number of aspects. Developers should think carefully about which product best suits their needs.

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Kubernetes: the open-source project

Kubernetes (also known as K8s) is probably the best-known container orchestration tool available right now. That’s partly because of the strong support the project has gained among Google employees. Moreover, Kubernetes offers substantial functional scope and can be adapted to almost any project. This is because the software is open source; a wide range of distributions can be found online. The large community behind Kubernetes is also very proficient. In case of questions or issues, it’s usually relatively easy to find someone who can help.

However, the flexibility of Kubernetes means there is no out-of-the-box solution. In many instances, it’s necessary to adjust many of its settings for container management to work. But this also allows Kubernetes to be used with any operating system.


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OpenShift: the enterprise solution

Much like Kubernetes, OpenShift is available in countless implementations. Red Hat, the maker behind OpenShift, provides various products. That’s one important difference to Kubernetes: OpenShift is a paid product. However, that means once purchased, you can expect professional support. While you need to rely on the voluntary help of experts from the community with Kubernetes, Red Hat offers guaranteed support.

Being a finished product, OpenShift not only offers ease of use but also a great degree of security. Since the system is self-contained and configured by the experts at Red Hat, you can count on high-security standards. By contrast, when you configure Kubernetes, you’re responsible for installing your own security measures.

Nonetheless, Red Hat also provides a free, open-source solution called OpenShift Origin. Its products are available as a Platform-as-a-Service. The packages offered by Red Hat may differ in detail, but they generally concern hosted versions. In other words, the company provides the necessary hardware and software configuration. You can then access a secure test environment with container technology via the internet. Running your own server is not necessary.

What all its products have in common is that they expand on Kubernetes. With OpenShift, you, therefore, get a Kubernetes distribution with additional service. So, instead of having to configure K8s yourself, OpenShift is a finished environment that can immediately be used for development, testing and deployment.

OpenShift vs. Kubernetes: comparison of container platforms

Since OpenShift is based on Kubernetes, the two tools have much in common. But the solutions do vary in certain aspects.

  OpenShift Kubernetes
Operating system Linux, Fedora, CentOS Any operating system
Security High-security routine Security dependent on the user
Release cycle Approximately 3 per year 4 per year
CI/CD Integral part of the software Possible via Jenkins
User-friendliness Designed for ease of use Less intuitive
User interface Easy user interface Dashboard can be installed
Scaling OpenShift is aimed at the enterprise level, but can be scaled Kubernetes can be used for any project size
Templates Less user-friendly High flexibility via Kubernetes Helm
Networking Open vSwitch provides networking possibilities Plug-ins from third-party providers create networking opportunities
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Conclusion: which solution should you choose?

Technically, both options are equally good. Although they differ in the details, they are certainly comparable. To make a decision, you should ask yourself whether you want to pay for the convenience of OpenShift or enjoy the maximum flexibility of Kubernetes. The latter will involve investing a lot of time (and possibly resources) in setting up the software.

If you tend to rely on the help from manufacturers, OpenShift may be more advisable. With OpenShift, everything is already configured and you can also utilize the professional support of Red Hat. However, the Kubernetes community is not to be disparaged: you’ll find plenty of experts across the online community who can help with any problem.

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