How Rancher is different from cloud-hosted Kubernetes Services like GKE, EKS and AKS

Cloud Kubernetes services implement Kubernetes for a specific cloud. Rancher’s RKE can implement Kubernetes on any infrastructure. Rancher additionally provides multiple cluster management and application workload management across any Kubernetes clusters.

Cloud Kubernetes services are an excellent way to operate Kubernetes on a cloud. They are easy to setup. You can create a Kubernetes cluster in the cloud with a simple command or API call. Cloud providers manage the Kubernetes cluster for you. For example, they monitor the health of your cluster and perform upgrades, reducing the administrative burden.

They are often the most cost-effective way to run Kubernetes because cloud providers typically don’t charge for the resources required to run the Kubernetes management plane. This leads to significant savings for smaller clusters as it takes at least 3 nodes to run a production-grade etcd database and Kubernetes masters.

Rancher is unique in that it is designed to work tightly with cloud Kubernetes services. You can deploy Rancher’s management server on a cloud Kubernetes cluster. You can then use Rancher to manage multiple cloud Kubernetes clusters. Rancher enables you, for example, to authenticate users for cloud Kubernetes clusters through your own on-premise Active Directory.

Use RKE to Set Up Kubernetes Clusters When

You want a specific Kubernetes configuration in the cloud not supported by cloud Kubernetes services.

You want to deploy a Kubernetes cluster on a cloud provider that does not yet support a Kubernetes service.

You want to setup a Kubernetes cluster on VMware clusters or bare metal servers.


How Rancher is Different from Open-source Kubernetes installers like Kops and KubeSpray

Kops and KubeSpray are popular open-source Kubernetes installers. Kops works particularly well with AWS. KubeSpray uses Ansible to deploy Kubernetes on any infrastructure, and was a significant inspiration for the design of our own lightweight Kubernetes installer, Rancher Kubernetes Engine (RKE).

Rancher does allow you to install Kubernetes on any infrastructure, but it is much more than a Kubernetes installer. Rancher is a complete platform for multi-cluster management and application workload management across any Kubernetes clusters.

If you have Kubernetes clusters setup by Kops and KubeSpray, you can import these clusters into Rancher and take advantage of the additional capabilities provided by Rancher. For example, Rancher will allow you to manage your Kops and KubeSpray clusters alongside GKE or EKS clusters, implement uniform user authentication and enforce consistent access control and security policies.


How is Rancher different than PaaS platforms like Pivotal CloudFoundry and Red Hat OpenShift

Most PaaS platforms predated Docker and Kubernetes. They have since embraced and adopted Docker and Kubernetes technologies. Pivotal CloudFoundry introduced the Kubo project that provides a Kubernetes distro powered by BOSH. The rest of Pivotal CloudFoundry, however, is not built on Kubernetes. Because of this, the stability of the Kubernetes implementation is dependent on CloudFoundry, creating a risk of cascading failures.

Red Hat OpenShift integrates with Kubernetes more tightly. Both Red Hat OpenShift and Rancher are built on Kubernetes. Unlike Rancher, OpenShift only supports a single Kubernetes cluster per OpenShift deployment, and does not support running on cloud-hosted Kubernetes services, such as GKE, EKS and AKS.

Rancher is less opinionated about the overall technology stack. While Red Hat OpenShift locks users into RHEL and Red Hat’s distribution of Docker and Kubernetes, Rancher provides users with choice of operating systems, Docker engine, and Kubernetes implementation.


How Rancher is Different from Commercial Kubernetes Operations Platforms like CoreOS Tectonic

There are many commercial Kubernetes operations platforms like CoreOS Tectonic on the market today. Commercial Kubernetes platforms not only support the installer itself, they also provide a set of tools to monitor the on-going operation of the Kubernetes cluster. The commercial vendor also provides support for the underlying Kubernetes codebase.

Rancher with its embedded RKE Kubernetes distro provides the same functionalities as a commercial Kubernetes operations platform. Rancher is unique in that it not only supports our own distribution of Kubernetes, but allows users to manage all of the Kubernetes clusters running in their organization, including clusters built using commercial Kubernetes operations platforms like Tectonic.