Kubernetes vs OpenShift: 5 Key Differences

Kubernetes vs OpenShift

In recent years distributed computing, DevOps, and CI/CD have become mainstream. The adoption of these technologies also paved the way for containers and containerization for shipping production applications.

Containerization enables companies to develop and deploy applications that run in isolated user space on the same OS. While it allows multiple such apps to run, a single application wrapper is called a container. To manage many such containers effectively, there is a need for some sort of tools and technologies.

Both Kubernetes and OpenShift step in here, as container management services. These are the top two container management services. Thus, it makes sense to compare them shoulder to shoulder and find out which one is better and what features they contain.

So let’s get started with Kubernetes first.

What is Kubernetes?

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Kubernetes, which is often mentioned as K8s, is free and open-source container management and orchestration software. It is a technology platform developed by Google, which was later open-sourced to the community. After it was open-sourced, it was immediately adopted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

Most companies use Kubernetes for deployment automation, automatic scaling of their servers and cloud infrastructure, and load balancing among deployed applications. Kubernetes introduced Container-as-a-Service frameworks.

Kubernetes is highly helpful in automating many different processes, such as balancing containers in a VM, and orchestration. Having known about the basics of Kubernetes, let's find out the fantastic features of this platform.

Features of Kubernetes

1. Self-healing

One of the biggest features of Kubernetes is that it provides self-healing. You can create health checks that can be performed periodically on your containers. If any of those checks fail, Kubernetes will take care of that container.

With self-healing, Kubernetes can restart containers when they don’t pass health checks, and it can even terminate those containers once a restart threshold has passed. It can even help avoid downtime. For example, imagine a user sent a request to what is now a dead container. Kubernetes can redirect this request to a healthy container, while it still fixes stuff in the background. The user reaches a healthy service so their request succeeds instead of failing.

2. Scaling

Scaling becomes effortless with Kubernetes. The platform can automatically add more resources when they're needed (scale up), and remove resources when not needed (scale down). This ensures that your resources are never wasted.. Moreover, horizontal scaling ensures that your existing infrastructure is not hampered while scaling up or down.

3. Automatic Bin Packing

You can provide the cluster to Kubernetes and give the details of the resources required by each container that you want to deploy. After this, it is Kubernetes’ responsibility to find the ideal node for each container and its resource needs. Using automatic bin packing, Kubernetes ensures that your clusters are utilized in the best manner and that each container is assigned to the correct cluster node.

4. Progressive Rollouts

Progressive rollouts are crucial for production apps where there is high traffic. You cannot make the mistake of deploying everything at once as this could overwhelm the system and introduce downtime. This may result in errors post-deployment. That is where Kubernetes progressive rollouts help you. It pushes changes to the system in incremental steps, ensuring that every container has enough time to initialize smoothly.

This strategy helps you not break down production servers while making newer deployments. The best part about this is Kubernetes can roll back the changes if there are any issues, so you can return to the stable version of your application.

After understanding Kubernetes, now is the perfect time to learn about the other platform, OpenShift.

What is OpenShift?

While Kubernetes is the underlying technology for OpenShift, this, too, is a container management solution. Developed by Redhat and based on Kubernetes and Docker, OpenShift is a cloud Platform-as-a-Service for containerization and related solutions.

OpenShift is a Kubernetes container platform that allows software engineers to create, deploy and scale software applications on the cloud.

Want to learn more about OpenShift? Check out this video.

Let’s have a look at its features.

Features of OpenShift

1. RedHat Enterprise Linux CoreOS

Red Hat acquired CoreOS sometime back, and now it comes bundled with OpenShift. Due to this new change, maintenance tasks are pretty simplified, and administrators don't have to do things manually. CoreOS takes care of running hosts, and if any of them fails, it is replaced with a new host, without downtime.

Redhat Enterprise Linux CoreOS is now more refined and provides a lightweight and container-optimized Linux distribution for your apps.

2. Role-Based Access Control

OpenShift now comes with Role-based Access control as the primary feature, which is non-negotiable. This works with the principle of least privilege and gives team members just enough access to get their work done. By leveraging this, many teams can make their clusters more secure and keep out unauthorized access.

3. Event-Driven Auto Scaling

Microsoft helped Red Hat to implement event-driven auto-scaling in OpenShift. Event-driven auto-scaling is a mechanism wherein the architecture scales based on event triggers. Here is a better example to understand it. Suppose your eCommerce website is going through a sale week, and suddenly the number of users requesting access increases. Traffic on the website goes up significantly. In this case, event-driven auto-scaling quickly launches new server instances to keep up with the increased demands.

Based on Kubernetes, this helps teams develop and deploy serverless and event-driven infrastructure.

4. Lifecycle Management

With newer versions of OpenShift, life cycle management has become relatively more straightforward. It allows automatic deployment and failover for all your applications. This means that now tracking the lifecycle of your clusters and nodes becomes easier.

After understanding both technologies, now is the perfect time to have a look at their differences.

Differences Between Kubernetes and Openshift

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1. User Interface

A sparking difference between the two is their user interface. Being an enterprise product, OpenShift has a better web-based user interface. And it comes pre-installed, by default. It provides a login page and a dashboard upon login from where you can manage all your resources effectively.

The web interface of OpenShift also provides a way to manage roles and servers with just a few clicks.

Kubernetes can also give you access to a web-based user interface. But it's not preinstalled. It's an add-on that you have to install and configure yourself. And the configuration steps are rather complicated. It's also tricky to secure this web-based user interface. Experienced developers and admins can do it. But it might be an intimidating task for beginners.

2. Security

OpenShift follows the principle of least privilege; hence it has stricter and more robust security measures. It provides protection from unauthorized access in a much better way. You cannot request any action without having the proper level of access.

Kubernetes does support security measures like role-based access (RBAC). But setting it up can be a bit more involved. It's also a bit harder to understand for total beginners. So you might say OpenShift is a bit more user-friendly in this area, our OpenShift 4 course will guide you through the fundamentals and basic concept of it helping you to build simple OpenShift cluster.

3. Container Image Management

Container image management needs to be practical and accessible for everyone, and that's where OpenShift works better. With its built-in image registry, OpenShift allows teams to manage their container images securely and effortlessly.

OpenShift’s image management tool is quite powerful, and it allows you to download and modify container images locally.

Kubernetes does not have its own container image management service, but it leverages the external Docker registry to get the work done. Managing and changing container images can be automated with the help of community tools and scripts, but there is no built-in functionality in Kubernetes, like OpenShift has.

4. Deployment & Support

Being an open-source tool, Kubernetes wins at deployment options, flexibility, and support. It offers many more deployment options ranging from Microsoft Azure, AWS, GCP, and famous Linux distributions like Debian and Ubuntu.

Kubernetes has an established community, and you can get the answers to your questions quickly. You may have to work around some things, but the documentation has everything you need.

OpenShift, on the other hand, can be deployed only on Red Hat distributions or Linux distributions like CentOS and Fedora. You do get more things out-of-the box. It might be more user-friendly, but the price you pay is less flexibility and freedom to do whatever you want.

5. CI/CD Support

OpenShift comes with built-in support for CI/CD (Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery/Deployment), which enables easier deployment of applications. A solution called OpenShift Pipelines can be used. Or a third-party tool like Jenkins can be added on, for similar purposes.

On the other hand, Kubernetes does not come with CI/CD support built-in, but it can be integrated with third-party tools to enable CI/CD pipelines for your apps.


Coming to an end, if you are looking for maximum control over your containers, you should choose Kubernetes, but going this way will be a little tough as you’ll need in-depth knowledge. If you want to get the work done in an easier way without diving deep into technicalities and want good security and a user interface from where you can control your resources, OpenShift is the way.

Both of these platforms are excellent, and it all boils down to your competencies and infrastructure requirements in the end.

As a Node.js Development company, eSparkBiz technologies prefer both Kubernetes and Openshift for managing and deploying applications and our developers love it! If you are planning to develop your next projects with Node.js, hire Node js developer to leverage the benefits of these technologies.

If you are interested to start your Kubernetes learning journey, check out our Kubernetes learning path and Kubernetes for the Absolute Beginners – Hands-on Tutorial.