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Containers are one of the most popular and fastest-growing enterprise solutions. The technology addresses application developers' need for greater agility, faster delivery, modernization and lifecycle management. Indeed, Gartner predicts worldwide container management revenues will more than double from $465.8 million in 2020 to $944 million in 2024.

As containerization grows, Kubernetes has emerged as a crucial tool to help developers deploy and maintain their applications. But what are the differences among OpenShift, Kubernetes and other container solutions?

What is OpenShift?

OpenShift is an enterprise-grade open-source container orchestration platform from technology company Red Hat. OpenShift uses elements of Kubernetes container management but adds features like productivity and security that are crucial to large organizations.  

OpenShift has its origins in an open-source, downstream container orchestration project known as OKD or OpenShift Origin. But Red Hat OpenShift refers specifically to Red Hat's container orchestration suite, which includes products like open Shift Container Platform, OpenShift Dedicated and OpenShift on IBM Cloud.

Red Hat OpenShift's primary focus is on improving enterprise user experience. It aims to provide everything that large organizations need to orchestrate containers, such as full-time professional support and advanced security options.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is a free, open-source container management system that was developed and designed by Google engineers. The core system is typically the base for building other management software products.  

The original Kubernetes orchestration project was designed for early Linux container technology before being donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which is now responsible for maintaining the community. Volunteers help manage the development, maintenance and new releases of Kubernetes. However, operating Kubernetes alone doesn't allow users to integrate components like ingress, load balancing, logging, monitoring, networking and storage.

OpenShift vs Kubernetes

OpenShift and Kubernetes are used to deploy and manage groups of containers, known as clusters. An enterprise can install and operate a Kubernetes deployment themselves or, to avoid manually managing the environment, look to a vendor-managed platform like Red Hat OpenShift. The biggest differences between Kubernetes and OpenShift include:  

  • Availability: Possibly the most critical difference between OpenShift vs Kubernetes is their level of availability to enterprises. While Kubernetes is an open-source project, OpenShift is a private commercial product developed by Red Hat.
  • Deployment: OpenShift and Kubernetes also differ significantly when it comes to deployment. Kubernetes is managed through deployment objects, which need to be implemented through controllers and used to update pods and handle multiple and concurrent updates. OpenShift deployment is achieved through the DeploymentConfig command, which uses dedicated pod logics rather than controllers. This doesn't support multiple updates but does enable versioning and triggers for automated deployments.
  • Security: Red Hat's OpenShift product has more robust security policies and built-in privileges than the Kubernetes project. OpenShift also provides an integrated server that simplifies authentication processes, whereas configuring and setting up authentication on Kubernetes is more complicated.
  • Support: OpenShift is available to Red Hat customers through a subscription model that enables enterprises to manage their public, private and virtual cloud environments and offers full professional support. Kubernetes doesn't offer support, but users can seek assistance from the community and external experts.
  • Templates: Kubernetes provides more templates than OpenShift through Kubernetes Helm. Helm is a package manager that provides access to a collection of pre-configured application resources from various vendors. This offers key benefits like increased productivity, reducing the complexity of microservices deployments and enabling cloud-native app adaptation.
  • User interfaces: Both OpenShift and Kubernetes offer web-based user interfaces that enable cluster administration. Kubernetes requires a manual approach that starts with a dashboard being installed separately before using a kube-proxy to forward a local machine's port to a cluster's admin server. Users also must create a token for authentication and authorization as the dashboard doesn't have a login page. OpenShift has a login page that enables users to easily access and amend resources and visualize cluster roles, projects and servers.

How does OpenShift compare to other solutions?

Red Hat OpenShift isn't the only solution built around a Kubernetes foundation. Here's how OpenShift compares to other solutions in the containerization marketplace:

OpenShift vs Docker

Docker is an open-source containerization platform that allows developers to package apps into containers and run them on the same kernel. Docker provides an end-to-end platform that enables quick and simple app development across the entire delivery lifecycle and removes the need for repetitive configuration tasks.

The critical difference between OpenShift and Docker is that Docker focuses solely on the runtime container. OpenShift includes coordination, the REST API and web interfaces, which enables deployment and management of individual containers.  

OpenShift vs Cloud Foundry

Cloud Foundry is an open-source platform as a service (PaaS) solution from Pivotal, which provides enterprises with a selection of application services, clouds and developer frameworks. Cloud Foundry simplifies the process of building, deploying, scaling and testing applications and managing large-scale distributed services.  

There are similarities between OpenShift and Cloud Foundry. However, Cloud Foundry can be seen as a complete deployment and development platform that ties applications to its PaaS framework. It was originally built on the Diego orchestrator before moving to Kubernetes. OpenShift, by comparison, is a more generalized ecosystem or platform for any enterprise application that focuses on defining capabilities rather than programming models.

Another critical difference is that Cloud Foundry requires users to do a lot of heavy lifting as tools management and monitoring aren't automatically integrated, whereas OpenShift includes everything users need for deployment, taking the hard work away.  

OpenShift vs AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a cloud computing platform that combines PaaS with offerings like infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). AWS provides on-demand access to a wide range of data center tools and services, such as computer power, content delivery services and database storage.

These services include open-source Kubernetes solutions like Red Hat OpenShift, which means OpenShift can be deployed through AWS.  

OpenShift vs Rancher

Rancher helps enterprises manage their Kubernetes clusters. It can manage clusters that it creates or import clusters through a web user interface. Rancher runs on the RKE cluster, which is easy to install and build.  

OpenShift potentially involves a little more hands-on work to install and upgrade than Rancher, but it provides a range of tools that allow enterprises to easily create container images. OpenShift also offers fully managed support from Red Hat that Rancher can't compete with but does offer an application catalog that allows backup and monitoring to be deployed to a cluster.

OpenShift vs Anthos

Anthos is a solution developed by Google that's been described as "Linux for the cloud." It enables enterprises to build and manage applications on any cloud service.  

Anthos is powered by Kubernetes and other open-source technologies, which means there's a small overlap with OpenShift's container management. However, the vast majority of Anthos functionalities are open source and can run on OpenShift.  

OpenShift vs Tanzu

Tanzu is a suite of products from VMware that enable enterprises to deploy, manage and modernize applications at scale. The two solutions offer similar features, but Tanzu supports all public and private cloud deployments and operating systems whereas OpenShift relies on Red Hat infrastructure.  

How can WWT help?

Red Hat OpenShift assists enterprises looking to address challenges with migrating applications to containers. WWT's expertise enables customers to design, build, migrate and manage applications in any environment.

Discover how Red Hat's technology works and the features available with our OpenShift Explore Lab.