Kubernetes has become the de facto standard for container orchestration and management. Its flexibility, scalability, and automation capabilities have made it a must-have for any organization adopting microservices and containerized applications.
However, setting up and managing a production-grade Kubernetes cluster from scratch can be complex and time-consuming. That‘s where managed Kubernetes services come in. Leading cloud providers like AWS, GCP, and Azure now offer fully managed Kubernetes platforms that remove the headaches of cluster deployment and maintenance.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the top 8 managed Kubernetes services to help you find the right solution for your containerized workloads.
Overview of Managed Kubernetes Services
Managed Kubernetes takes care of the heavy-lifting required to run Kubernetes in production:
Provisioning – Managed services automate cluster creation, configuration and node provisioning. No need to manually set up master and worker nodes.
Upgrades – Platforms automatically keep your Kubernetes version up-to-date with the latest features and security patches.
Scaling – They handle scaling your cluster horizontally by adding or removing nodes to meet application demands.
Monitoring – Built-in tools monitor the health of your Kubernetes environment and nodes. Some provide advanced analytics too.
Security – Features like role-based access control (RBAC), VPC networking, and encryption safeguard your clusters.
Support – Enjoy enterprise-grade support from Kubernetes experts at leading cloud providers.
The main benefits of managed Kubernetes include reduced operational overhead, optimized infrastructure, and peace of mind. You get a production-ready cluster without becoming a Kubernetes expert.
Now let‘s explore the top managed Kubernetes platforms in more detail:
1. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)
Google Kubernetes Engine is a managed Kubernetes service hosted on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). As you‘d expect, it‘s deeply integrated with other GCP services.
- Fully managed control plane for simple cluster deployment
- Automatic upgrades and scaling of your cluster‘s Kubernetes version
- Integration with Stackdriver monitoring, logging, and alerting
- Support for hybrid and multi-cloud deployments with Anthos
- Pods can directly leverage advanced Google network infrastructure
GKE handles all the Day 2 operations like health monitoring and maintenance. You just focus on running your container workloads.
Advanced networking features like load balancing, node pools, and Cloud CDN integration provide performance and flexibility. GKE also offers auto-scaling, auto-upgrades, and auto-repairs of node instances.
Overall, GKE is a robust managed Kubernetes service backed by Google‘s experience running massive containerized workloads. It‘s a great fit if you‘re already using GCP.
GKE has a free tier and usage-based pricing:
- Clusters are free (you pay for underlying GCP resources only)
- Managed master node pricing starts at $0.10 per hour
- Worker node pricing starts at $0.0166 per hour
2. Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)
Amazon EKS provides a fully managed Kubernetes service on AWS. It integrates natively with other AWS tools like IAM, VPC, CLI, and CloudTrail.
- Automated Kubernetes cluster deployment and scaling
- Integration with AWS load balancers and security groups
- IAM roles and security policies for access control
- CloudWatch monitoring of cluster metrics and logs
- Runs on EC2 infrastructure across multiple availability zones
EKS removes the complexity of installing, operating, and scaling managed Kubernetes clusters. It runs up-to-date versions of Kubernetes so you benefit from new features.
The control plane is handled by AWS, while the worker nodes run on EC2 instances you manage. This allows customization of worker configuration to suit your apps.
EKS is a great choice for teams already invested in the AWS ecosystem. Seamless integration with AWS tools is a major advantage.
You pay only for the AWS resources (like EC2 instances) you use. The Kubernetes control plane is free.
- Managed master nodes are free
- Worker nodes start at $0.10 per hour for EC2 instances
3. Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)
Azure Kubernetes Service provides managed Kubernetes clusters in the Microsoft Azure cloud. It simplifies deployment and management of Kubernetes on Azure infrastructure.
- Automated upgrades, scaling, and self-healing of clusters
- Simplified deployment with Azure CLI, portal, ARM templates
- RBAC and Azure AD integration for access control
- Monitoring via Azure Monitor and Log Analytics
- Integration with other Azure services like ACI, ACR, and App Gateway
AKS streamlines Kubernetes operations on Azure by handling critical tasks like health monitoring, patching, and upgrades automatically. Integrated functionality like load balancing, CI/CD pipelines, and visualization improve DevOps.
It‘s a compelling choice for organizations using Azure. The ability to leverage other native Azure services and extend existing workflows makes AKS a seamless solution.
You pay only for the underlying infrastructure consumed, not for the Kubernetes cluster itself.
- Managed control plane is free
- Worker node prices start at ~$0.1/hour for Azure VMs
4. IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service
IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service provides fully managed Kubernetes clusters on IBM Cloud. It offers an automated deployment, operations, scaling, and security of Kubernetes environments.
- One-click cluster deployment with automatic configuration
- Seamless scaling of clusters to meet application demands
- Isolation and security with integrated IBM Cloud services
- Monitoring, logging, and utilization metrics for clusters
- Public and private cluster options available
It provides open-source Kubernetes while automating operational tasks like health management, security patching, and component replacement. This frees developers to focus on apps instead of cluster admin tasks.
The tooling integrates with CI/CD pipelines and the IBM Cloud console for simplified DevOps. It also leverages other native IBM Cloud services like monitoring, logging, security, and Watson AIOps.
Overall, this is a robust managed Kubernetes offering tightly integrated with the IBM Cloud ecosystem.
IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service Pricing
You pay hourly or monthly for the worker nodes under management:
- Managed master node is free
- Worker node pricing starts at $0.19 per hour (~$140 per month)
5. DigitalOcean Kubernetes
DigitalOcean Kubernetes provides managed Kubernetes without the steep learning curve. It aims to simplify Kubernetes for developers.
- Pre-configured Kubernetes clusters with click-and-go deployment
- Automatic updates, security patching, and scaling
- Integration with DigitalOcean Load Balancers for high availability
- Cluster monitoring tools for visibility into utilization and health
It handles provisioning, operating, and managing the Kubernetes control plane. You focus on running apps and development.
The hosted control plane provides high availability across multiple availability zones. Kubernetes CLI access allows advanced customization and configuration.
For developers already using DigitalOcean, it‘s a simple way to run production Kubernetes workloads. Quick deployment, affordable pricing, and minimal management overhead make it attractive.
DigitalOcean Kubernetes Pricing
Very affordable managed Kubernetes is available for as low as $0.10 per hour:
- Managed control plane is free
- Worker nodes start at $0.10 per hour
6. Platform9 Managed Kubernetes (PMK)
Platform9 Managed Kubernetes delivers Kubernetes-as-a-Service with advanced cluster management. It aims to provide enterprise-grade Kubernetes on any infrastructure.
- Simple SaaS management for Kubernetes clusters
- High availability with automatic failover
- Multi-cluster management from a central control plane
- Visibility into clusters with monitoring and cost analytics
- Security integration with LDAP, SAML, RBAC, and more
PMK essentially handles your entire Kubernetes operations and lifecycle management. Their SaaS platform provisions, manages, and scales clusters while providing monitoring insights.
It flexibly supports leading private and public clouds as well as VMware infrastructure. This hybrid/multi-cloud capability sets PMK apart from provider-specific offerings.
Platform9 is ideal for organizations that want Kubernetes without the complexity. Hands-off management and operational visibility allow teams to focus on shipping code.
Platform9 Managed Kubernetes Pricing
PMK has custom enterprise pricing:
- Contact Platform9 sales for a price quote
- Free 30-day trial available
7. Red Hat OpenShift
Red Hat OpenShift provides an enterprise-ready Kubernetes platform with extensive features and security. It aims to simplify app development and cloud-native deployments.
- Automated Kubernetes cluster provisioning and management
- Multi-cloud flexibility with support for all major providers
- Advanced security features like role-based access control
- Integrated CI/CD pipelines and GitOps workflows
- Global user support with SLAs for enterprise-grade reliability
OpenShift combines Kubernetes container orchestration with developer tools and operational management. Their advanced security, networking, and automation extend Kubernetes for the enterprise.
It‘s a great fit for large organizations that want a standard Kubernetes platform across on-prem and cloud environments. OpenShift provides consistency across data centers, edge, and multi-cloud.
Red Hat OpenShift Pricing
OpenShift has tiered pricing and custom enterprise plans:
- OpenShift Online (Starter): Free for limited use
- OpenShift Dedicated (Pro): Starts at ~$24K per year
- OpenShift Container Platform (Enterprise): Custom pricing
8. VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid
VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid is a Kubernetes runtime for deploying and managing containerized apps across environments. It brings consistent, upstream-compatible K8s to your data centers and clouds.
- Automated Kubernetes cluster lifecycle management
- Consistent operations across on-prem vSphere and public clouds
- Advanced networking and security policies
- Integrated with Tanzu for modern app development
- Extended support including SLAs for enterprise-grade operations
Tanzu Kubernetes Grid handles multi-cluster deployment, operations, and scaling. It aims to simplify Kubernetes usage for IT teams through industry-standard open-source tooling and APIs.
For organizations using VMware, it enables a scalable self-service Kubernetes platform across existing vSphere resources and public cloud infrastructure.
VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Pricing
Tanzu Kubernetes Grid has custom enterprise pricing set by VMware sales.
- Contact VMware sales for a detailed price quote
- 60-day free trial available
Key Considerations for Managed Kubernetes
When evaluating managed Kubernetes solutions, keep the following factors in mind:
Server Locations – Look for providers with global data centers close to your users for optimal performance.
Hybrid & Multi-Cloud – Choose a flexible platform that can span on-prem, edge, and multiple public clouds.
Security & Compliance – Verify the service offers necessary safeguards like encryption, RBAC, and security certifications.
Networking & Traffic Management – Advanced ingress control, load balancing, service mesh, and traffic routing capabilities.
Monitoring & Alerting – Robust observability tools to monitor health, utilization, logs, costs, and usage.
Ecosystem Integration – Tight integration with surrounding cloud services, developer tools, pipelines, and workflows.
Pricing & Support – Factor in total cost of ownership including worker nodes, support levels, and enterprise features.
When to Choose Managed Kubernetes
Here are some common scenarios where a managed Kubernetes service makes sense:
You want Kubernetes benefits without infrastructure management complexities.
Your team lacks Kubernetes expertise to configure, secure, and run a production cluster.
You need k8s available consistently across on-prem and multi-cloud environments.
Your business requires enterprise-grade Kubernetes support, SLAs, and production certifications.
You want to leverage capabilities of the underlying IaaS/PaaS ecosystem.
Your IT team is small and needs to minimize time spent on Kubernetes admin tasks.
You have security concerns hosting your own Kubernetes control plane.
Managed Kubernetes removes the heavy lifting required to build, scale, and manage production-grade clusters. Leading cloud platforms offer robust managed Kubernetes services to simplify container orchestration.
This guide provided an overview of the top managed Kubernetes solutions. We covered their key capabilities, pricing models, and notable features. All eight options abstract Kubernetes complexity so you can focus on shipping applications.
I hope this review helps you find the ideal managed Kubernetes platform for your container environment and use case! Let me know if you have any other questions.