Managed Kubernetes Services Perfected for Startups

The Managed Kubernetes Services from the leading organizations in the cloud computing ecosystem have all made huge strides over the past few years, enabling companies to run containerized workloads with cutting-edge open source capabilities.

Managed Kubernetes Services Perfected for Startups
Image by Rinson Chory / Unsplash

Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration solution to manage your microservices architecture. Managed Kubernetes — or Kubernetes as a service (KaaS), on the other hand, is a service provided by third-party providers.

Kubernetes was originally a Google in-house project for its own container orchestration purposes. It is now the fastest growing project in the history of open-source software, after Linux. Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) published a report in 2021 that found 5.6 million developers now use Kubernetes [1]. One of the biggest advantages of Kubernetes is that it helps you achieve agile application creation and deployment.

For many organizations, adopting Kubernetes is a significant and beneficial change. The widespread use of Kubernetes among Cloud engineering teams means lower learning curve, making it further profitable for businesses that have complex applications comprising multiple services running in different containers.

Managing Kubernetes, however, on infrastructure that you administer can be exceedingly complex and time-consuming. You can be exposing yourself to security flaws if you don't have robust security practices in place. By using a managed Kubernetes service and choosing the best practices to spin up clusters, you can accelerate your path to cloud-native application development and move through the initial stages of implementation rapidly. Managed service providers have promoted this cost efficient operating model by allowing organizations to focus more on their core business.

This article compares seven responsible Managed Kubernetes Providers that are certified through CNCF’s Kubernetes conformance program. Their offerings allow you to free up your engineers for strategic activities and get a full set of analytics on the health of your cluster and services to ensure it stays up-to-date and secure.

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Kubernetes Certification roadmap for developers, sysadmins & security researchers.

7 Fully Managed Kubernetes Services for Startups

Most of these Cloud providers offer infrastructure credit for qualifying startups, so play around and see what works best for your containerized application requirements. Below are the seven best managed Kubernetes services.

Editor's Note: Some cloud providers may charge a management fee for every cluster and may require vendor lock-ins. To make wise decisions, we recommend reading “Is it right for you?” and learning independently.
Company Kubernetes Service Details
DigitalOcean DOKS — DigitalOcean Managed Kubernetes Learn more
Linode LKE —  Linode Kubernetes Engine Learn more
Google Cloud GKE — Google Kubernetes Engine Learn more
Canonical Managed Kubernetes — Canonical Learn more
Vultr VKE — Vultr Kubernetes Engine Learn more
Azure AKS — Azure Kubernetes Service Learn more
AWS EKS — Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service Learn more

DOKS — DigitalOcean Managed Kubernetes

DigitalOcean Managed Kubernetes — DOKS is a managed K8s service allowing you to deploy Kubernetes clusters (everything pre-installed) without the complexities of handling the control plane and containerized infrastructure. These K8s clusters are compatible with Kubernetes toolchains and integrate easily with DigitalOcean Load Balancers and block storage volumes.

The administration dashboard is intuitive and provides security features to retrieve detailed forensic data to help with investigations into security incidents.

You don’t need direct access to instances to deploy Kubernetes because DigitalOcean gives you managed Kubernetes and databases. It also offers you to deploy pre-configured open source applications to quickly set up your cluster with Kubernetes 1-Click Apps that use the helm package manager.

Managed Kubernetes Services
Source: DigitalOcean - Github 

Is it right for you?

DigitalOcean is a world-leading cloud infrastructure platform, economical for deploying and managing Kubernetes. You'll only pay for the cluster resources that you use and the resources you control, e.g. Droplets, API Usage, associated block storage and load balancers.

DigitalOcean Kubernetes include the control plane for free (unlike other providers that charge more than $50 per month). You can reliably run your workloads and remove the one point of failure in Kubernetes with a self-repairing, highly available control plane with an SLA of 99.95% so you can be confident in your uptime.

DigitalOcean's community is diverse & continues to grow. You'll find a substantial body of documentation, tutorials and guides for Kubernetes, much of it contributed by open-source enthusiasts.


LKE — Linode Managed Kubernetes

Linode Kubernetes Engine (LKE) is a fully managed container orchestration engine that allows you to run Kubernetes on Linode's powerful infrastructure combined with ease of use and simple pricing. With LKE, you will be able to effectively employ open source resources, work around node pools with auto-scaling of clusters in real time to get stable containerized applications.

LKE is a developer-friendly K8s container orchestration service. You can distribute containers across your cluster and get the most out of your resources. The service provides a seamless expansion of your cluster so your applications can scale automatically to meet any demand using horizontal cluster auto-scaling.

Linode offers multiple ways to provision a cluster — the service console or the Linode API conveniently allows you to manage node pools. You can create, contract, or expand or upgrade Kubernetes clusters effortlessly and even integrate Kubernetes management with your own infrastructure.

Managed Kubernetes as Service
Source: Linode

Is it right for you?

LKE offers a pay-as-you-go pricing model — hourly billing for the resources you consume–Compute Instances, NodeBalancers, and Volumes. The billing rules and billable items depend on the cluster type and the resources you’re using and there are NO management fees.

Linode delivers Kubernetes plus all the strong open-source ecosystem of Kubernetes tooling needed for production at scale — all supported by the HA Control Plane with 99.99% SLA. The service includes a free Kubernetes Control Plane, which can be upgraded to high-availability for $60 per cluster, per month.


GKE — Google Cloud Kubernetes Engine

Google Cloud Kubernetes Engine — GKE is considered the most advanced managed, production-ready K8s environment for running and scaling containerized applications using Google Cloud infrastructure. GKE is a preferred option for organizations like Spotify, PayPal, and Twitter simply because it’s mature, easy to use, and packed with advanced cluster management features that Google Cloud provides.

The goal of GKE is to help users trace and understand their Kubernetes applications end-to-end, providing greater visibility into their inner workings — auto-scaling, health checks and automatic repair of microservices, integrated logging and monitoring, and private container registries. In addition, it comes with four-way auto-scaling and multi-cluster support, including a high-availability control plane.

Managed Kubernetes Services
Source: GKE - Github

Is it right for you?

Kubernetes in Google labs provide better experience managing Kubernetes clusters—after all, Google invented it—and GKE is one of the pioneering cloud service for deploying clusters on GCP.

GKE promotes hybrid cloud models to ensure portability across the cloud and on-premise infrastructures. With no vendor lock-in, you’re free to migrate your Kubernetes applications and run them anywhere Kubernetes is supported, even in your own data center.

You can drill in deeper with Google Cloud pricing calculator to estimate your GKE charges, including cluster management fees and the pricing of other resources.


Managed Kubernetes — Canonical

Canonical Kubernetes is one of the most sophisticated Kubernetes management system built from the ground up following best security practices. The platform’s 24/7 monitoring is one of its strong suits—Canonical Kubernetes comes with advanced monitoring, observability, alerting, capacity planning and continuous service checks to ensure your Kubernetes environment and applications stay healthy and secure.

Canonical provides a reliable cloud-neutral advice for both private/hybrid operations and offers a multi-cloud operations strategy for mixing and matching workloads for the best mix of latency and price across both fixed and variable workloads.

Managed Kubernetes Services
Source: Canonical - Managed Kubernetes

Is it right for you?

As the publisher of Ubuntu, Canonical OpenStack and Kubernetes are ready for ML/AI enabled applications. Ubuntu being the best choice for running AI/ML frameworks, is one of the platform’s selling points along with full stack support and Metal as a Service (MAAS) for managed Kubernetes.

Canonical as your managed service provider offers the most dependable Kubernetes service to build a vendor agnostic open-source Kubernetes. The service includes expert-level business consultancy to help achieve your business goals and the global team of solution engineers provides 24x7 reliable operations.

Canonical Kubernetes is best suitable for established companies to expand operations without having to build a global team. Their cloud-native approach with Kubernetes provides greater ability and speed for innovation.


VKE — Vultr Kubernetes Managed Service

Vultr Kubernetes Engine (VKE) is a fully managed service for deploying and scaling containerized applications with predictable pricing. Vultr manages the control plane and worker nodes and provides integration with other managed services such as Load Balancers, Block Storage, and DNS.  

Vultr provides a self-managed solution that allows developers to manage control plane and other components with ease. The service includes Vultr Cloud Controller Manager (CCM), a support tool that connects Vultr features to your Kubernetes cluster for optimizing performance and savings. You can easily monitor the node's state and assign their IP addresses.

Managed Kubernetes
Source: Vultr - Github

Is it right for you?

Using VKE doesn’t attract cluster management fees, unlike other platforms. You’re charged for the worker nodes and the network resources that you deploy and use — Compute, Worker Nodes, Load Balancers, and Block Storage resources.

VKE service automatically deploys managed Load Balancers as required for your Kubernetes Load Balancer/Ingress services. It integrates with K8's development tools but does not come with an ingress controller pre-configured. However, Vultr Load balancers will work with any ingress controller like Nginx, HAProxy, and Traefik.

Vultr is suitable for developers, startups and small businesses. The technical support (in-scope) is free — you can open support tickets for VKE issues or consult the documentation for solutions.


AKS — Azure Kubernetes Service

AKS — Azure Kubernetes Service is Microsoft's fully managed container orchestration service to develop and deploy cloud-native apps in the Azure Cloud platform with built-in code-to-cloud pipelines and guardrails.

With AKS, you can prepare containerized applications for production by using Draft for AKS to ready source code and non-containerized applications for deployments to a Kubernetes cluster. Developers can iteratively develop and debug applications with the Kubernetes extensions for VS Code. You can also configure advanced networking, integrate Azure AD, setup monitoring, and other features during the deployment process and add CI/CD pipelines through GitHub Actions and simplify runtime and portability with Dapr.

AKS provides a user-friendly console that allows you to build, scale, or deploy quickly. You can also auto-scale applications using KEDA — Kubernetes Event Driven Auto-scaler and take advantage of prominent Kubernetes tools and services in Azure Marketplace with one-click deployments to the Kubernetes platform.

Kubernetes Managed Services
Source: Azure Github

Is it right for you?

As a managed Kubernetes service, Azure offers flexible billing models, handles health monitoring and maintenance for free. Since Kubernetes masters are operated by Azure, you only pay for the agent nodes within your clusters, not for the masters. AKS offers no-charge cluster management, so you'll pay for the instances and the associated resources consumed.

The best way to experience the AKS is by trying, so go ahead and rapidly set up a test deployment strategy and gain observability into your K8s environment. You can detect failures with the K8s resource view, free control-plane telemetry, log aggregation, and container health.

AKS is suitable for a startup to enterprise business for building complex applications that use machine learning and big data analytics.


EKS — Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) is a managed Kubernetes service that makes it easy for anyone to run Kubernetes management infrastructure across multiple AWS availability zones for high availability, and to eliminate a single point of failure.

With Amazon EKS, you can leverage all the performance, scale, reliability, and availability of AWS Cloud infrastructure. You can also manage your Kubernetes clusters and applications in hybrid environments and run Kubernetes in your data centers.

Amazon EKS is used by organizations to run distributed training jobs with EC2 GPU-powered instances, including Inferentia, deploy training and inferences using Kubeflow. Applications running on EKS are fully compatible with existing Kubernetes toolchains and plugins from partners and the K8s community. The service also integrates natively with CloudTrail, IAM, Cloud Map, App Mesh, ELB, etc.

Managed Kubernetes provider
Source: Amazon EKS

Is it right for you?

Amazon EKS bills you $0.10 per hour for each cluster that you create. If you are using Amazon EKS managed node groups, you pay for AWS resources (e.g., EC2 instances, EBS volumes, Outposts capacity) you create to run your Kubernetes worker nodes. There's no vendor lock-in — no minimum fees or upfront commitments.

You can see detailed information for Amazon EKS and architecture cost in a single estimate with AWS Pricing Calculator.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world-leading cloud provider used by world-leading companies like Adobe, Citrix, Coursera, NASA, Netflix, Reddit, and SAP. It's a preferable choice for organizations that already use AWS for other workloads and makes sense to extend their application integration with EKS offering solution. It is most suitable for companies with open-source talent like Kubernetes certified professionals.

FAQs — Managed Kubernetes as a Service 

What is the Managed Kubernetes Service?

Managed Kubernetes is a type of cloud hosting service that provides the most powerful technologies for your Kubernetes production management to make sure your containerized applications are both secure and fast. Responsible providers take care of the cloud services related issues like backups, security checks, updating Kubernetes, and much more.

What are the Strengths of Managed Kubernetes?

Managed Kubernetes can be less expensive to operate and maintain than equivalent self-managed options, which can be exceedingly complex and challenging to find the right skills for production management. To counter the complexity of running, deploying and managing Kubernetes, companies turn to a managed Kubernetes service to expand operations, minimize security risks and maintain business focus.

Why is Managed Kubernetes Service better?

No painful tasks of self-hosting headaches — it's become easier than ever to spin up new clusters from scratch and add additional computing power in response to load. In order to realize the benefits, you'll have to find the right managed Kubernetes services.


TL;DR

These managed Kubernetes providers will help you employ the best security practices without the complexity of managing it yourself. Once your applications are containerized and deployed, you can also setup/integrate Kubernetes Cluster Monitoring with Helm and Prometheus Operator.

If you are curious about learning Kubernetes or Cloud engineering, we've got a few practical resources for you.

Disclosure: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Kubernetes, CNCF, DigitalOcean, Linode, Google Cloud, Canonical, Vultr, Azure Cloud, AWS, or their partners. This article may contain links to content on third-party sites. By providing such links, kanger.dev does not adopt, guarantee, approve, or endorse the information, views or products available on such sites.

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