Developers love containerization, and Kubernetes (K8s) is the best open-source system for deploying and managing multi-container applications at scale.
However, a significant challenge is choosing the best managed Kubernetes service for your application development.
In this guide, we compare the two of the most popular managed K8 services, the Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) and Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) to help you make an informed decision.
What’s a Managed Kubernetes Service?
Managed Kubernetes refers to when a third-party service provider takes over the responsibility for some or all the work necessary to successfully deploy and manage Kubernetes so that developers don’t have to manually install Kubernetes on their computers. So, essentially, it refers to any service that lets developers use Kubernetes without installing or managing it.
The most popular managed Kubernetes services are Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).
What is Microsoft AKS?
The Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is an open-source, fully-managed containerization service from Microsoft Azure. Remember that Azure is Microsoft’s cloud service. AKS first became available in June 2018 and is available to deploy, scale, and manage containers and container-based apps in cluster environments.
The Microsoft AKS offers provisioning, scaling, and resource upgrades depending on requirements and demand without downtime in the Kubernetes environment cluster. The best part is that users don’t need technical or in-depth knowledge of containerization to use AKS.
Azure AKS Key Features
- Fast to provide newer Kubernetes versions
- Automatic node health repair
- Native support for resource monitoring within the Kubernetes cluster
What is Amazon EKS?
The Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) is a managed container orchestration service that allows developers to take advantage of Kubernetes services on the Amazon Web Service (Amazon’s cloud service) without manually deploying Kubernetes.
The biggest benefit of the EKS is that you don’t need to install, operate, or maintain the Kubernetes control plane or nodes.
EKS runs Kubernetes control plane instances across multiple availability zones. It automatically replaces unhealthy nodes and provides scalability and security to applications.
It’s important not to confuse EKS with the Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS). ECS is also a container management service from AWS. However, unlike EKS, ECS is not based on Kubernetes.
Amazon EKS Key Features
- 99.95% Service Level Agreement (SLA) by default
- EKS provides HA across both workers and master nodes
- Node groups simplify provisioning and lifecycle management of nodes
AKS vs. EKS Features Side-by-Side
We all know the main features we want from managed Kubernetes services. These include upgrades and availability, pricing, serverless compute, onboarding, and quota limits. So, let’s compare the two primary services, AKS and EKS, to see how they stack up against each other in these key areas.
Upgrades and Availability
AKS, as we mentioned earlier, has been the quickest to support the newest versions of Kubernetes of the managed Kubernetes services. It has a structured approach to supported versions and encourages customers to upgrade to the latest versions of Kubernetes quickly. The only downside is that a big chunk of the upgrade work is manual.
EKS typically takes longer to support newer versions of Kubernetes and takes a more pragmatic approach to upgrades and supports older versions of Kubernetes for a longer period of time. For instance, as of writing EKS currently continues to support version 1.17 (Please refer to the EKS docs for up-to-date versioning).
As for node repairs, both have automated capabilities whereas for AKS this occurs on a node by node basis whereas EKS applies node repairs via node groups.
AKS charges users for visible infrastructure only – on-demand. You can reserve particular services for a later time or pay for spot instances. However, all the other services, including master node and cluster management, are completely free of charge on a no SLA basis. If customers opt to add an uptime SLA with Azure AKS, the cost is of $0.10 per cluster per hour.
EKS also supports pre-paying for compute resources used for worker nodes through AWS savings plans or reserved instances and spot instances while charging a $0.10/hour fee per cluster for Kubernetes cluster nodes managing the control plane.
Managed containerization relies heavily on serverless computing resources for convenience and faster work. Fortunately, both AKS and EKS support serverless compute.
AKS connects users to a serverless feature known as Virtual Nodes, which runs Kubernetes pods based on the Azure Container Instances. EKS, meanwhile, provides integration with Amazon’s serverless container platform, Fargate.
Thus, in both cases, you don’t need to run your pods on a full virtual machine (VM). This way, developers can seamlessly run containers on serverless resources for faster working and more gradual scaling.
Fargate uses the Amazon Load Balancer (ALB) for implementation. For AKS, you can use the load balancer of your choice.
Another critical factor when choosing a managed Kubernetes service is the ease of onboarding. AKS lets users create, upgrade, and delete clusters with one command.
On EKS, besides configuring a web console, you simply connect worker nodes to the cluster via kubectl to create a cluster.
Quota limits (based on locations) can also be a significant challenge for developers working with managed Kubernetes services. The good news is that both AKS and EKS offer up to 100 clusters per region. Both AKS and EKS divide nodes across node pools, with each pool capable of running 100 nodes. You’ll also recall that each node can run multiple pods in both cases.
However, Amazon EKS’s quota system is slightly better. Experts attribute this to Amazon’s better data center infrastructure.
For instance, EKS offers 3,000 nodes for each cluster, whereas AKS only affords developers 1,000 nodes per cluster. Developers also get up to 30 managed node groups, while AKS offers a maximum of 10. Finally, you can look forward to a maximum of 737 pods per node on the EKS, whereas the Microsoft AKS offers a maximum of 250.
Networking and Security
Finally, the importance of networking and security features cannot be overstated in an application development environment.
Fortunately, again, both the Amazon EKS and Microsoft AKS offer excellent support for networking and security.
AKS requires network policy enablement whenever you create a new cluster. Users can also access additional policy management features through the Azure Policy service.
EKS offers even more detailed networking and security features with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM). Additionally, developers are guaranteed support for pod security policies by default.
AKS vs. EKS Stand Out Features
In the end, it comes down to your project and unique needs. For instance, if you need a provider that quickly supports the latest version of Kubernetes, then Microsoft’s AKS may be the better choice. However, if you require more flexibility around Kubernetes upgrades with the ability to easily integrate with a large number of cloud services and solutions AWS provides, EKS might be a better option.
Feature Comparison Table
Below you will find a comparison table with the most relevant features that are considered when it comes to defining a Kubernetes Managed Service provider (Source: CNCF).
|Amazon EKS||Azure AKS|
|High availability of Clusters||EKS provides HA across both workers, and master nodes spanned over different accessibility zones||AKS provides a manual approach to HA deployed in Availability Zones, for greater availability.|
|SLA||EKS guarantees 99.95% uptime||No SLA for free version
$.10 per cluster per hour providing uptime of 99.95% for the Kubernetes API server for clusters that use Azure Availability Zone and 99.9% for clusters that do not use Azure Availability Zone.
|SLA financially-backed||Yes||Yes, for extra fee|
|Resource Availability with Node Pools||EKS provides functionality for node pooling||AKS does not provide node grouping and recommends different clusters in different scenarios|
|Scalability||EKS provides auto-scaling policies, but have to be set manually||AKS provides Cluster Autoscaler by default|
|Control plane: log collection||Logs are sent to AWS CloudWatch||Logs are sent to Azure Monitor|
|Bare Metal Clusters||EKS will support the use of bare metal nodes via Amazon EKS Anywhere||AKS does not support bare metal nodes|
|GPU support||Yes (NVIDIA); user must install device plugin in cluster||Yes (NVIDIA); user must install device plugin in cluster|
|Resource Limits||EKS handles limits are per account||AKS handles limits per subscription|
|Resource monitoring||EKS offers Insights Metrics||AKS offers Azure Monitor|
|Secure Image Management||Elastic Container Registry||Azure Container Registry|
|CNCF Kubernetes Conformance||Yes||Yes|
Which Managed K8s Service is the Best for You?
Ultimately, the choice is yours as both Amazon EKS and Microsoft AKS are excellent managed Kubernetes services. We hope the above summary helps you choose which service is best for your organization.
To learn more about why so many enterprises are partnering with Rafay to automate operations for EKS and AKS, visit our getting started for Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Amazon EKS (& EKS-D) docs.
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