HomeOperationsKubernetes vs OpenShift - Which One is Better Suited for Your Company?

Kubernetes vs OpenShift – Which One is Better Suited for Your Company?

Containerization allows organizations to become agile and scalable, thus making the application development process incredibly efficient. A survey conducted by Datadog in 2022, analyzing real-world usage data to explore the current state of containers in enterprises, found that organizations expanding container adoption have an improved ability to scale exponentially and manage complex environments. The survey also stated that serverless container technologies saw a jump from 21% in 2020 to 36% in 2022. 

While container orchestration tools come in various flavors, Kubernetes and OpenShift are the most sought-after. The two offer many features that assist in managing large-scale application development, management, and deployment. 

In this article, we will briefly learn about the two bigwigs of container orchestration solutions and analyze how they compete against each other. We will also share tips to help you choose the right platform for your organization.

Kubernetes: A not-so-deep dive

K8s is an open-source container orchestration platform that automates containerized application deployment, management, and scaling. Currently managed by CNCF, Kubernetes can run on the cloud, on-prem, and hybrid clouds. It enables developers to leverage process automation, storage orchestration, self-monitoring, and many other capabilities. With a fast development cycle and its ability to run dynamic scaling, Kubernetes is lauded for facilitating innovation.

OpenShift 101

OpenShift is an enterprise-grade containerization platform and a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) based on Kubernetes. Partially built on Docker, Red Hat’s OpenShift is an open-source cloud-based platform that enables application development, deployment, and management. It offers many features, such as automatic scaling, centralized policy management, built-in security, and monitoring. 

OpenShift can integrate with various tools, thus eliminating vendor lock-in. It’s available as both a commercial product and a free platform. OpenShift’s extensibility enables users to support applications built in many languages. Marketed by Red Hat as the “Enterprise Edition of Kubernetes”, OpenShift is an attractive solution for both large-scale organizations and smaller enterprises.

Kubernetes vs. OpenShift

While it’s not fair to compare Kubernetes and OpenShift directly, we have compiled a list of key differences between them to clearly understand their standings.

1. Deployment

As an open-source platform, Kubernetes offers more flexibility in terms of environment. It offers various options, such as managed, self-hosted, and hybrid. Kubernetes implements deployment using controllers and can manage simultaneous updates. With Kubernetes, deployment of containerized applications is simplified as it uses Helm.

OpenShift is quite rigid and can be installed on only a few platforms, such as Red Hat’s proprietary RHELAH (Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host), CentOS, etc. This means the number of options significantly reduces for organizations. OpenShift implements deployment using a command which doesn’t support simultaneous updates. OpenShift’s approach to deployment is more complex but includes benefits like triggers for automatic deployment. 

2. Security

OpenShift has fairly rigid security policies right from the start. It forbids running a container as root and offers a secure-by-default option to amplify security. OpenShift enables Role-based access control (RBAC) to ensure developers only have access to the required resources to prevent account compromise problems. The platform also offers built-in Single Sign-On (SSO), thus simplifying the process of managing users and permissions across clusters.

Kubernetes is quite lenient when it comes to its security policies. It doesn’t come with innate security like authentication and authorization capabilities. This means Kuberenetes’ security features end up requiring a more complex setup. That said, Kubernetes offers a few security features like RBAC, encrypted secret storage, and network security policies. With Kubernetes, the security protocol is not defined right from the start. 

3. Integrated CI/CD

The two platforms offer quite different capabilities regarding CI/CD pipelines. Kubernetes doesn’t provide a completely straightforward solution but offers some basic support. Since Kubernetes doesn’t include an official CI/CD integration option, you must create the whole CI/CD pipeline by integrating external tools. 

Although OpenShift doesn’t offer a complete CI/CD solution either, it uses Jenkins, an automation server providing source-to-image support that functions as a CI server. OpenShift provides a unified platform to manage your CI/CD pipelines, thus improving the efficiency of your software development process. 

4. User Interface

OpenShift has an intuitive and straightforward web console with a single-touch login page. The form-based dashboard enables users to modify and manage resources in a simple and clean environment. OpenShift’s web console also includes rooms for monitoring clusters, deploying applications, and managing users. 

On the other hand, Kubernetes has a complex web interface that is hard to operate. Users have to install the Kubernetes dashboard independently and then set up authentication and authorization in order to access it, as there is no login page. Kubernetes has a basic UI but lacks the advanced features offered by OpenShift.

The final say

If you’ve been keeping up, the tally between Kubernetes and OpenShift currently stands at two for two. Each system has its unique features, benefits, and detriments and is great for building and managing containerized applications. 

Kubernetes is more bare-bones and is good for intensive-use applications that need regular updates. OpenShift has more features and is great for security-strict, heavy-duty applications. 

If you’re familiar with containerization principles, have some knowledge about Kubernetes. If your organization has a skilled container orchestration team, Kubernetes can be your preferred pick as it is significantly more flexible. 

If you’re a beginner and your organization is fairly small, you should opt for OpenShift, as it offers a better CLI and a simple web interface. OpenShift is easy to use and has dedicated support, thus increasing efficiency. 

The best option for your organization will depend on its specific needs and requirements. 

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