Kubernetes vs. OpenShift, Which Is The Best Option For Your Next Project

Kubernetes vs. OpenShift, Which Is The Best Option For Your Next Project
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In this 5 minute article, we covered the major differences between open-source Kubernetes and RedHat OpenShift distributions. We’ll take a look at the ease of implementation, deployment flexibility, out-of-the-box security, options with commercial support, and additional tools, which make it easier to manage the cluster.

Despite what many think, there are alternatives to Kubernetes. Proof of it is OpenShift by Red Hat. If you read Gartner’s customer reviews you will know what we mean.

"… OpenShift - Great orchestration with enabling rapid R&D…"

"… I like the management, installation and stability of the product…"

"… A great choice for a beginner. the management interface is very good…"

The fact that OpenShift is stable and easy to operate should not surprise anyone. After all, we are talking about a Red Hat product. Red Hat experience in the IT world dates back to … the beginnings of the IT industry.

Taking all this into account, it will be interesting to compare both platforms. What are their differences? Which use cases are most appropriate for OpenShift? When it’s better to use plain Kubernetes?

Those are some of the questions that we will discuss in this article.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes (aka k8s) is an open-source container orchestration platform designed by Google. Currently, k8s is the leading container-as-a-service (CaaS) framework. The reasons that have earned Kubernetes that honor are many. Yet, if we had to choose only one, that would be its incredible flexibility.

Kubernetes is all about freedom of choice. You can install it using almost any hardware or cloud provider. An old PC? A Raspberry Pi? An enterprise-grade server? No problem. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP)? Checked. Kubernetes' flexibility is not limited to its setup requirements though. Kubernetes can use many containerization platforms. Docker, CRI-O, contained, you name it.

In short, Kubernetes is an extraordinary orchestration platform. Hands down, k8s stability and flexibility are among its most important features. Thanks to that, IT administrators can put in place any type of project in the cloud. This, if they are willing to adapt the platform to their use case.

Kubernetes Key Takeaways.

  • You can install Kubernetes on almost any platform.
  • Kubernetes is all about offering the utmost flexibility.
  • When you use k8s, you understand that you must pay a price for its versatility. Taking the time to adapt the platform to your needs.

What is OpenShift?

OpenShift is a Kubernetes distribution created and maintained by Red Hat. What? A Kubernetes distribution? So, OpenShift and Kubernetes are the same? No, not quite.

According to Red Hat, k8s is the kernel of distributed systems. From that perspective, OpenShift would be a distribution. Think of the Linux kernel and the myriad of distributions. Well, something similar happens between Kubernetes and OpenShift.

Remember the enormous flexibility of Kubernetes? That makes it possible for OpenShift to exist. Red Hat has used Kubernetes as the foundation for something new and unique. A platform that’s considered both a container-as-a-service (CaaS) and a platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Moreover, OpenShift goes beyond improving Kubernetes functionalities. It also integrates quite a few useful tools developed by Red Hat.

OpenShift Key Takeaways.

  • OpenShift is a Kubernetes distribution. As such, it shares all key k8s benefits. Scalability, stability, flexibility, and speed.
  • Red Hat provides support for the OpenShift platform.
  • OpenShift is compatible with Kubernetes container workloads.
  • The flexibility of k8s allowed OpenShift to develop its own enterprise tools.

What are the Differences Between Kubernetes and OpenShift?

Despite starting from a common foundation, OpenShift differs from Kubernetes in several areas. What that means is that each platform will not behave the same in all scenarios. That is why it will be your responsibility to choose the framework that best suits your needs.

Ease of Implementation - OPENSHIFT.

  • One of the unique advantages of OpenShift is that it has its own installation tool. This makes the process of setting up OpenShift much easier. Although, as we will see shortly, this simplicity has a price.
  • Contrary to OpenShift, Kubernetes installation is complicated and time-consuming. You have to put together many moving pieces. The Container Runtime Environment and the Container Network Interface are only the beginning. You also need to set up kubelet system service on each node, kubeadm on the main node, kubectl on the local machine. In short, the process is far from being straightforward. Even joining each node is a painful procedure.

Deployment Flexibility - KUBERNETES.

  • Kubernetes is true to its open-source origins. You are free to pick the infrastructure that better suit your project requirements. Select a Linux distribution (or cloud platform) and proceed to set up your k8s cluster. Such a level of flexibility is something that OpenShift cannot offer.
  • OpenShift’s ease of installation and management is possible, thanks to certain built-in features. Features that are possible due to OpenShift integration with the Red Hat ecosystem. In practice, that means you are not free to choose your favorite Linux distribution. Instead, you have to use Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host (RHELAH), Fedora, or CentOS. RHEL and its derivates have proven rock-solid reliability. Enterprise-grade reliability. So this limitation in the choice of an operating system is, to some extent, understandable. Still, for many administrators, this could be a deal-breaker. Many IT departments prefer using Ubuntu or Debian. So if that is your case, consider using Kubernetes.

Out-of-the-box Security Features - OPENSHIFT.

  • When it comes to out-of-the-box security, OpenShift is a clear winner. It is not that Kubernetes is insecure. Remember, OpenShift runs on top of Kubernetes. Yet, OpenShift has stricter security policies and comes with built-in authentication mechanisms. In other words, OpenShift comes prepared for enterprise-level security requirements.
  • No doubt you can configure Kubernetes to be as secure as OpenShift. That is not the issue. The problem is the time you need to achieve such a result. As with many other aspects of k8s, its flexibility is sometimes a disadvantage. The open philosophy of Kubernetes makes it unthinkable to enforce specific security rules. Such configuration is the decision of the administrator. OpenShift has a more practical mindset. Red Hat experts enforced “best security practices” into OpenShift by default.

Commercial Support - OPENSHIFT.

  • Although there is commercial support for Kubernetes, it is not on the same level as OpenShift. OpenShift is a commercial product backed by an IT giant. Red Hat. As a result, OpenShift commercial support is top-notch.
  • As is often the case with open-source platforms, commercial support can be an issue. Kubernetes is no exception. Although k8s has a giant community of developers, free support is not an option. Enterprise-level support is mandatory for many large projects. So if your project requires paid support, OpenShift is hands down the go-to solution.

Built-in Tools - OPENSHIFT.

  • Contrary to Kubernetes, OpenShifts comes prepared with several built-in tools. Open vSwitch for networking and certified Jenkins containers for CI/CD are only a few of them. All in all, OpenShift aims to offer a “turn-key” solution, while Kubernetes is more about “Do It Yourself.
  • With Kubernetes, you have to use Container Network Interface plugins to configure networking. To build CI/CD pipelines, you have to rely on third-party tools like CircleCI. In short, to achieve similar results as with OpenShift, you need to integrate a few extra tools. The problem is that complexity increases. OpenShift guarantees stability using its certified add-ons. With Kubernetes, the risk of losing stability escalates as you integrate third-party solutions.

Kubernetes vs. OpenShift, which is better?

Deciding which is the best option for your project depends on its requirements. Each project is unique, so you should focus on what is most important to you.

OpenShift’s commercial support makes it an appealing option for the enterprise. Moreover, its ease of installation and convenient management Web-UI is hard to ignore.

Add OpenShift’s focus on security and its native support for CI/CD, and you have a strong contender. OpenShift’s enterprise benefits do not end there, though. Red Hat’s Open vSwitch networking and Image Streams are also a big plus. IT administrators will appreciate both out-of-the-box solutions for sure. Yet, OpenShift is not without a few limitations. As is often the case with enterprise-focused solutions, you have to make compromises. Using Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host (RHELAH), Fedora or CentOS is mandatory. That could be a huge obstacle for many companies, especially if they use a different Linux distribution.

Kubernetes may not be able to compete with the convenience of OpenShift. Yet, it has proven its ability to handle large cluster environments with ease. Furthermore, Kubernetes versatility enables administrators to customize it to suit any need.

Indeed, the time required to adapt Kubernetes to your use case is quite long. But the result makes an effort worth it. Once k8s is set up, it can scale with unparalleled stability.

Also, when it comes to freedom of choice, nobody can beat Kubernetes' flexibility. Kubernetes is OS and cloud platform agnostic. That alone is a decisive factor for many projects.

Summary.

In this article, we covered the major differences between open-source Kubernetes and RedHat OpenShift distributions. We took a look at the ease of implementation, deployment flexibility, out-of-the-box security, options with commercial support, and additional tools, which makes it easier to manage your cluster.

We hope, this article will help you to make the right choice. If you found this article useful, please, help us to spread it to the world!

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Authors


Author avatar
Andrei Maksimov

I’m a passionate Cloud Infrastructure Architect with more than 15 years of experience in IT.

Let’s discuss your AWS questions if you still have them.

This post represents my personal experience and opinion about the topic.



Author avatar
Damaso Sanoja

Damaso was introduced to the world of technology at the age of 14 when his father bought him a Commodore 64.

Nowadays, he is a technology/automotive content writer with a passion for all things cloud.