OpenShift vs. Kubernetes : Product & Project Comparison

OpenShift vs. Kubernetes: What is the Difference?

In this article, we will examine and point out some of the differences between two popular container orchestration management systems, Red Hat OpenShift and native Kubernetes.

Both OpenShift and Kubernetes are open-source platforms helping with container orchestration and application development. With OpenShift being a product and Kubernetes being a project.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration system, first developed by Google and is now part of the Cloud-Native Computing Foundation. It enables the automation of highly available containerized solutions through auto-scaling, load balancing, storage automation, and self-healing capabilities.

You can learn more about Kubernetes with our detailed Kubernetes tutorial.

What is OpenShift?

What is OKD?

OpenShift OKD (Origin Key Distribution) is the community distribution of Kubernetes that powers Red Hat OpenShift. Also referred to as Origin, it supports multiple programming languages, including Go, Node.js, Ruby, Python, PHP, Perl, and Java.

OKD is a sibling Kubernetes distribution to Red Hat OpenShift. Enterprise-level support is offered with OpenShift only, not OKD.

What is OpenShift Container Engine?

As well as the OpenShift container platform, the engine version of OpenShift is available. The platform version offers more features, such as advanced management around logging, traceback, and chargeback, Advanced networking capabilities like OpenShift Service Mesh and Multi-tenant software-defined networking, and a better developer experience with automated builds, integrated console, and built-in CI/CD pipelines.

Essentially Openshift container engine is a cheaper, cut-down version with a subset of the platform version’s features. For full details, check the documentation.

Differences and Similarities

openshift vs kubernetes

1) Deployment Options

Kubernetes uses an object-based deployment system, while OpenShift uses DeploymentConfig (DC). Kubernetes Objects are persistent entities in the Kubernetes system that represent the state of your cluster. A DeploymentConfig in OpenShift is more or less equivalent to a Kubernetes Deployment however, a deployment uses ReplicaSet and DeploymentConfig uses ReplicationController.

2) Security

Learn more about Kubernetes Security Best Practices.

3) Support & Cost

Kubernetes has a large open-source support network, whereas OpenShift is more limited, although OKD is also an open-source project which is mainly led by Red Hat developers.

Red Hat offers OpenShift enterprise-level support policies, which are defined by a base entitlement as well as additional Add-On Entitlements. The licensing of Red Hat Openshift is subscription-based and must be renewed periodically. Costs will grow as the cluster grows in size.

4) Releases and Updates

Both Kubernetes and OpenShift release new versions around four times a year. Kubernetes object deployment supports several concurrent and simultaneous updates, while OpenShift DeploymentConfig does not.

Details on the update lifecycles for both can be found here and here.

5) Networking

6) Templates

7) Image Registry Management

Openshift uses an integrated container registry called ImageStreams to make image management easy, something which is not natively handled in Kubernetes.

Kubernetes does not have an integrated image registry. A 3rd party one must be used, such as Azure Container Registry (ACR) or Amazon Elastic Container Registry (ECR).

8) Integrated CI/CD

OpenShift comes with a fully supported Jenkins image for streamlined CI/CD (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery), whereas Kubernetes does not have an integrated solution.

Currently in ‘technology preview’ is OpenShift Pipelines, which is a cloud-native, continuous CI/CD solution based on Kubernetes resources. It uses Tekton building blocks to automate deployments across multiple platforms by abstracting away the underlying implementation details.

See 7 Best Practices and Tools for Kubernetes CI/CD Pipelines.

9) User Experience and Interface

Openshift provides an enhanced user interface over Kubernetes, although Kubernetes has a lot of 3rd party options that can be used to enhance the UI.

Openshift provides monitoring through Prometheus and utilizes Grafana to display dashboards, which would need to be added to Kubernetes (Learn how to set up Prometheus Monitoring On a Kubernetes Cluster).

Openshift has integrated tools that allow access to the cluster resources. External tools are needed for use with Kubernetes.

The Kubernetes dashboard must be installed, and users have to create bearer tokens to make authentication and authorization easier, something which is handled by the OpenShift login page and out-of-the-box dashboard.

Why use Spacelift with Kubernetes?

Spacelift helps you manage the complexities and compliance challenges of using Kubernetes. It brings with it a GitOps flow, so your Kubernetes Deployments are synced with your Kubernetes Stacks, and pull requests show you a preview of what they’re planning to change. It also has an extensive selection of policies, which lets you automate compliance checks and build complex multi-stack workflows.

You can also use Spacelift to mix and match Terraform, Pulumi, CloudFormation, and Kubernetes Stacks and have them talk to one another. For example, you can set up Terraform Stacks to provision the required infrastructure (like an ECS/EKS cluster with all its dependencies) and then deploy the following via a Kubernetes Stack.

Key Points

The most Flexible CI/CD Automation Tool

Spacelift is an alternative to using homegrown solutions on top of a generic CI. It helps overcome common state management issues and adds several must-have capabilities for infrastructure management.

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