Demystifying OpenShift vs Kubernetes: An IT Professional‘s Guide

Hello there! With containers becoming essential building blocks in modern application architecture, you may be wondering how to navigate the complex container orchestration landscape. The two leading platforms in this space are OpenShift and Kubernetes. From the outside, they seem quite similar. But once we peek under the hood, some important distinctions emerge that can guide your decision making.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unpack everything you need to know about these two technologies so you can determine the right container platform for your infrastructure needs and workloads. Arm yourself with knowledge before making your next moves in the container world!

Why Container Orchestration Matters

Before understanding the nitty-gritty differences between orchestrators, let’s step back and talk about why container orchestration is such a big deal in the first place.

As you know, containerized applications break services down into small building blocks called containers. This brings development agility along with scalability and resilience.

The Challenge: While containers transform application design, running containers in production brings its own headaches around coordination, availability and networking. Issues like:

  • Provisioning and scheduling containers intelligently
  • Facilitating communication between containers
  • Monitoring health and self-healing failures
  • Load balancing and horizontal scaling

Manually managing all this container sprawl gets complex quick. That‘s where orchestrators like Kubernetes and OpenShift come into play.

Orchestration Automates Container Operations

Container orchestration platforms handle all those tricky operational tasks mentioned above automatically:

  • Deploying and scheduling containers
  • Managing networking and services
  • Monitoring health and resources
  • Auto-scaling deployments

This orchestration layer is crucial because it allows developers to focus strictly on building containerized applications without needing to worry about infrastructure complexities.

According to RedMonk analyst Stephen O‘Grady, "…orchestration is perhaps the most critical element of the container infrastructure stack.”

Clearly, container orchestration solves major headaches. Now let’s explore Kubernetes and OpenShift specifically.

An Overview of Kubernetes and OpenShift

Kubernetes has become the de facto standard open-source container orchestrator. Originally designed by Google, Kubernetes provides the fundamental build blocks for running container workloads:

  • Pods: Hold groups of tightly coupled containers
  • Deployments: Declare and update Pods
  • Services: Enable cross-Pod networking
  • Volumes: Provide data persistence

With these basic objects, developers can containerize applications on Kubernetes. Its open source model also allows unlimited customization and extensibility.

Red Hat OpenShift serves as the enterprise-ready container platform, building on pure Kubernetes with heightened security, developer services, and production features:

  • Tighter default security policies
  • Integrated developer tooling
  • Pre-built deployment automation
  • Official support from Red Hat

Positioned as the "Enterprise Kubernetes", OpenShift expands upstream Kubernetes capabilities – albeit through a commercial offering rather than open source project.

Now let’s unpack the key differences between them in more detail!

5 Major Differences Between Kubernetes vs OpenShift

Both platforms provide robust container orchestration, but approach it quite differently:

1. OpenShift Adds More Out-of-The-Box Services

OpenShift includes integrated technologies like:

  • Source-to-Image for building container images
  • Service Mesh for cross-service networking
  • Operator Framework to automate deployments
  • CI/CD Pipelines for continuous delivery

This means developers spend less time cobbling together foundational services and more time building code on OpenShift.

2. OpenShift Comes With Pre-Built Deployment Tools

On top of all the standard Kubernetes deployment resources, OpenShift also offers:

  • Templates to define parameterized app stacks for easy replication
  • Operators to automate and manage app deployments end-to-end

Together these automate deployment patterns for faster app development cycles.

3. OpenShift Enhances Security Capabilities

While Kubernetes offers baseline security, OpenShift goes further for enterprise needs by incorporating:

  • Role Based Access Control (RBAC) providing greater identity management
  • Network Policies to isolate projects
  • Image Scanning to detect vulnerabilities within containers
  • Web Console centralizing all permissions and policies

Making OpenShift well-equipped even for highly regulated environments.

4. OpenShift Includes Support Directly From Red Hat

Given OpenShift‘s enterprise focus, support also expands beyond community forums:

  • 24×7 Ticket Support for getting expert help anytime
  • Documentation with extensive technical manuals
  • Ops Manager for managing hybrid infrastructures

Delivering production-grade support for mission critical systems.

5. OpenShift Comes at an Added Cost

Given the robust feature set, OpenShift pricing starts at $50/month for the managed service while Kubernetes remains free open source software.

Open SourceYesNo
Managed OfferingsNoRed Hat platforms
PricingFreeStarts at $50/month

Clearly the enterprise-readiness of OpenShift brings expanded capabilities – but at an added cost.

When Should You Use Kubernetes vs OpenShift?

With a grasp on their differences, when should you use Kubernetes vs OpenShift?

Opt for Kubernetes when you…

  • …want maximum flexibility and customization control
  • …your app doesn‘t have complex operational requirements
  • …need an orchestrator but have budget constraints

Choose OpenShift for use cases like…

  • …stringent security standards to meet
  • …mission-critical workloads with SLAs
  • …want automated management workflows out of the box
  • …optimizing developer productivity

Of course, tradeoffs exist in either direction. But generally, OpenShift brings more operational benefits from the start while Kubernetes offers fuller control.

Key Takeaways: Kubernetes vs. OpenShift

While OpenShift incorporates Kubernetes at its core, its security controls, automated management capabilities, developer tooling and support model make it the prime enterprise option – albeit at an added cost over open source Kubernetes.

Kubernetes remains ideal for organizations wanting cloud-native capabilities but more flexibility from open source. Hopefully this guide gave you clarity on which container orchestrator aligns closer to your needs!

With container adoption accelerating, spending time upfront to understand these two promising alternatives sets your team up for success. Once you have the lay of the land, you can containerize applications with confidence knowing how Kubernetes and OpenShift compare!

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