K3s vs K8s: Why this Debate is Reimagining How We Optimize

Tyler Au
5 minutes
May 18th, 2023
Tyler Au
5 minutes
May 18th, 2023

Why Does the ‘K3s vs K8s’ Debate Even Matter?

Have you heard of the case where Apple purposely slowed down older models of their phones? The tech giant quietly pushed an update that would slow the performance of older iPhones, while passing this off as a move to “prolong the life” of the affected models. Contrary to Apple’s intent, many people believe that this was actually a ploy to encourage owners of slowed phones to upgrade their devices to the latest models. Whether Apple actually had their customers’ wishes in mind is up for debate, but one thing is certain: optimization is ALWAYS at the top of our minds.  

But what if the most optimized way isn’t necessarily the best? This philosophy is fueling the debate on whether Kubernetes or K3s is better. 

Kubernetes or K8s is a container orchestration platform geared towards speeding up the development and deployment of clustered applications through automation. Companies like Spotify, Netflix, and Doordash rely heavily on K8s to keep their high value process and solutions afloat, and for good reason too. K8s hosts a variety of powerful automations, such as health monitoring and automatic load balancer, to make development and management processes as easy as possible. 

K8s has set the groundwork for many companies and orchestration tools to follow, but a new competitor has waged war against the giant. 

Meet K3s.

What is K3s vs K8s?

To understand why this debate is even happening in the first place, you have to understand what K3s is.

K3s is a fully CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation) certified Kubernetes; this version of the popular container orchestration platform was launched by popular certified kubernetes distribution Rancher in 2020 and has since been accepted by the CNCF. Like its predecessor, K3s is able to automate deployment, scaling, and management processes. Unlike its predecessor, K3s is a more lightweight Kubernetes option (approximately 3 billion lines of Kubernetes source code were removed from its production), providing a plethora of value for many resource-constrained users.

K3s is perfect for organizations currently using Kubernetes and enjoy the K8s features, but want to reduce the complexity of such a setup. Designed to run on both cloud and on-premise environments, K3s presents a viable container orchestration option that’s faster than K8s and is as capable as K8s, giving companies of any size and maturity a chance to utilize container technology. 

A lightweight version of Kubernetes is certainly enough to spark a debate in the tech community.. In this day and age, is Kubernetes even worth using if there’s an easier option out on the market? Here are some differences and similarities between the two:

The Similarities

K3s is pretty much the same as Kubernetes.

The Differences

Okay K3s is VERY similar to Kubernetes, if not a rewrapping of Kubernetes in a lighter shell. Although this is true, K3s has some differences from K8s.

For one, K3s is way more lightweight than K8s, as already established. This means that K3s consumes less resources than Kubernetes and can support more environments and users that are more resource-constrained. In addition, less resources are consumed in order to install K3s, requiring a minimum of 512mb of ram to install and operate. 

Unlike K8s, K3s does not require external dependencies and actually supports more database backends than K8s. K3s can only run on certain operating systems, however, staying closely to Linux systems. For more information on specific operating systems like Raspberry Pi, please visit the K3s requirements page

For the most part, K3s presents a smaller alternative to the sometimes clunky Kubernetes, giving the same features and capabilities of Kubernetes to K3s clusters and users. 

With K3s presenting a less-resource alternative to Kubernetes, it would naturally be the better choice to use.. Right? To be honest, this was never a story of K8s vs K3s, but rather in which situations would these very similar solutions thrive.

The Use Cases of K3s and K8s

If you’re familiar with Kubernetes, then you’ll know that it’s able to be used in a variety of different scenarios. From scaling e-commerce platforms to pushing the development of mobile apps, Kubernetes pushes the boundaries of what’s possible for developers and DevOps alike. For example, Kubernetes and microservice architectures are practically best friends. Deploying microservices on Kubernetes make it possible to automate the scaling of services, make the entire application more portable, and even create instances where health monitoring is easy. 

Upstream Kubernetes, an open source version of Kubernetes maintained by CNCF, is also making waves by providing community updates to revolutionize Kuberntes. For one, users of upstream Kubernetes can enjoy a faster time to market, better application management and updating, stronger CI/CD pipelines, and even better application portability. K8s is ideal for massive hyper scalers, with K3s being quite the opposite.

Because it hosts the same capabilities as Kubernetes while being leagues lighter than the original solution, K3s excels in lightweight operations. Packaged as a single binary file,  K3s pushes the boundaries for a ton of industries and services, with IoT and IoT devices, developmental processes, and edge computing being amongst some of the practices and applications that benefit the most from K3s. Like K8s, K3s is also exceptional to use within CI/CD pipelines.

Where K3s shines the most is within resource constrained environments. Smaller companies will be able to enjoy the benefits of Kubernetes and the quick runtime of K3s without a Kubernetes developer. Although personnel knowledgeable in Kubernetes would be beneficial in this situation, K3s was designed and built by Rancher to be simple, from the entire installation and launching process, to actual operation. Don’t be fooled though: the simplicity of K3s does not take away from the power of this platform. 

K3s and K8s with Lyrid

Whether your solution requires a faster, more resource-light option like K3s, or the heavier but more feature-robust option like K8s, you can rest assured knowing that Lyrid can offer the best of both worlds.

With Lyrid, you’ll get all the features of Kubernetes while still being lightweight and cost-effective. Users and partners are able to enjoy the automations of Kubernetes within a single platform, letting them efficiently deploy and manage their solutions with a simple interface. In addition, partners reported an average of 60% cost savings on their cloud spend and an increase in their web speed. Here are just a few of the new features that users can enjoy:

  • One-Click Github Deploy
  • App Rolling Deployment
  • OpenStack + Oracle Kubernetes Cluster API support

And much more! Read about our newest updates in our feature blog.

To learn more on how to supercharge your Kubernetes game, book a demo with us!

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