Top 6 Kubernetes Distributions for Platform Engineering Teams in 2023

Handoyo Sutanto
5 min
March 16, 2023
Handoyo Sutanto
5 min
March 16, 2023

Kubernetes Distribution Services Aimed at Optimizing Platform Engineering

With 2023 well underway, many companies are shifting their focus to workplace and workflow optimization. The mass enthusiasm over DevOps processes is slowly fizzling, as many companies find themselves struggling to implement true DevOps due to their lack of talent and resources. Many DevOps departments also find trouble in defining metrics and standards, while continuously introducing new tools to optimize performance.

Enter platform engineering.

Platform engineering, as defined in an article by Luca Galante, is the practice of designing and building tools and workflows that allow software engineers to become self-dependent and self-sufficient. A good platform engineering team will be able to meet the abstraction level of the developer teams that interact with the internal developer platform (IDP), or all of the tech and tools that developer teams need to succeed, as created by a platform engineering team

Here are the top 6 Kubernetes distribution services making life easier for platform engineers:

Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service

Microsoft’s foray into the Kubernetes space, Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) stands out because of its automotive capabilities. Extending to the management and scaling of Kubernetes clusters, as well as to CI/CD pipelines, AKS automation provides a streamlined option for developers to deploy quicker. AKS users can also deploy and manage more flexibly than most allow, letting users push to public cloud, on-premise machines, and on the Edge. With Microsoft investing upwards of $1 billion annually on cybersecurity R&D, users can enjoy certified security. Pricing options for AKS are also extremely manageable, letting users pay for only what they need.

Cons of this service include the need to manually update cluster components. While the service hosts a plethora of automations, users have found it difficult to update their clusters, with the average expertise level of doing so being non-beginner friendly. Users have also reported that there are hidden fees in the process of data transferring. Lastly the support for AKS is notorious for being late, due to the sheer user volume.

Google Kubernetes Engine

Coming from the creator of Kubernetes itself, Google, Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) is a huge player in the Kubernetes space. Hosting the same automated features as AKS, GKE is also capable of automatically upgrading control planes and nodes and repairing nodes based on their health requirements. GKE can also automatically scale your clusters based on the current workload, saving you money and resources in the process. If your platform engineering team prefers a more manual take, the 3 different cluster configurations allow you to take the reins. Best of all, GKE does offer a free tier for those who want to get started, commitment free.

That being said, GKE cluster models require the use of virtual machines in a cloud environment, severely limiting distribution amongst the cloud and data centers. In addition, customizing your server configuration is nearly impossible in GKE, forcing you to either use Container Operating System or Ubuntu.

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service 

Like the two options listed before, Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) is certainly a powerhouse in the Kubernetes realm. EKS cluster configuration allows teams to choose between managed nodes, self-managed nodes, and serverless engines- giving teams the power to choose how they run Kubernetes. With EKS Anywhere, Amazon’s open source deployment option for EKS, organizations can deploy and manage Kubernetes clusters on their own infrastructure while being supported by AWS and proving to be ultra flexible. With the same automated capabilities as AKS and GKE, EKS is certainly a fierce competitor.

Unlike GKE, EKS does not host a free-tier option, barricading themselves from any organization that simply wants to try the service. According to users, EKS can be more expensive compared to AKS and GKE, with this price being accompanied by expert-level complexity. Lastly, EKS updates must be installed manually. 

Red Hat OpenShift

Covered in our container orchestration dating show blog, Red Hat OpenShift is Red Hat’s Kubernetes distribution service. OpenShift is notorious for being ultra secure (the Red Hat name says it all), without sacrificing any of its functions. In one platform, OpenShift is able to manage multiple clusters, push development, and host security operations. The service also has the ability to run cloud native microservices at scale and automate entire development and deployment processes, as well as security updates, in the press of a button. Not to mention that OpenShift is extremely flexible.

OpenShift’s shortcomings are with their OS compatibility. OpenShift is only able to run certain operating systems, with the most obvious of which being Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This somewhat limited degree of flexibility extends to their support system and required user level; OpenShift is known for having questionable support for the expert-level experience their platform needs.

Rancher Kubernetes Engine

Rancher Kubernetes Engine is an enterprise Kubernetes distribution service created by Rancher that allows users to install and manage Kubernetes clusters. This Cloud Computing Native Foundation (CNCF) backed service hosts automated installations and upgrades, update rollout and rollbacks, and vendor independence - giving total control to the users. Being able to be run in the cloud or on-premise with bare metal, RKE is hyper flexible and is known for its easy installation and automation processes.

RKE’s shortcoming fall on their parent company, Rancher. According to many, Rancher can only support clusters running on certain OS. Also, many users have complained about Rancher’s support, stating that the “ease of use” for many Rancher products (including RKE) dilutes the quality of their support.

Lyrid Managed Kubernetes

The premier managed Kubernetes service in our completely unbiased opinion is Lyrid Managed Kubernetes! 

Let’s be honest, Kubernetes in itself is a complicated thing. Often requiring whole teams and top of the line engineers, Kubernetes is complex to run, and even more complex to install. One wrong move and you’ll have an infrastructure nightmare in your hands. 

With Lyrid Managed Kubernetes, you’re able to reap the benefits of Kubernetes, without the headaches associated with it. The automated scaling, deployment, and load-balancing, the self-healing and health monitoring, the update rollouts and rollbacks - all of these are included in our service. Our users have also utilized the around-the-clock expert assistance and worldwide availability with our data center network.

Are you looking to optimize your IDP and platform engineering workflows? Check out our managed Kubernetes service today!

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