The Top 10 Container Orchestration Tools

Discover the best container orchestration tools designed to help you deploy and manage containerized applications. Explore features such as container management, scalability, and automation.

The Top 10 Container Orchestration Tools include:
  • 1. Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS)
  • 2. Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)
  • 3. Docker Desktop
  • 4. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)
  • 5. HashiCorp Nomad
  • 6. IBM Cloud Code Engine
  • 7. Kubernetes (K8S)
  • 8. Portainer
  • 9. Red Hat OpenShift
  • 10. SUSE Rancher Prime

Container orchestration tools automate the processes involved in running containerized workloads, including deployment, configuration, networking, scaling, and load balancing. 

By automating various stages of the container lifecycle, they help DevOps teams to simplify their operations. They also increase scalability by automatically scaling deployments up or down as required; improve availability by continuously monitoring the health of containerized applications and re-distributing resources to reduce avoid shortages; and increase security by making it easier to enforce security policies across different platforms.  

In this article, we’ll review the top managed container orchestration tools designed to help you develop, deploy and manage containerized apps. We’ll highlight the key use cases and features of each solution, including application deployment and scaling, service discovery, resource distribution, load balancing, and application health monitoring.

AWS Logo

Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) is a fully managed container orchestration service. Primarily used to manage, deploy, and scale containerized applications, it’s designed with deep AWS integration and offers advanced security features via Amazon ECS Anywhere. ECS simplifies the process of managing container workloads within both cloud and on-premises environments.

Once ECS is deployed, developers define their applications and necessary resources. The platform then carries out launch, monitoring, and scaling activities for these applications. ECS automatically integrates with supporting AWS services that the application may need, and performs system operations, such as formulating custom scaling and capacity rules, and observing application data logs and telemetry. The central premise of ECS is to accommodate containers on AWS on a large scale, eliminating concerns over the fundamental infrastructure.

ECS offers automatic scaling and a pay-as-you-go pricing system. ECS focuses on accelerating the deployment process and providing more straightforward application management using AWS Fargate serverless compute for containers. It also ensures optimized security and compliance, ensuring that the architecture meets regulatory standards.

Amazon ECS helps developers quickly create and deploy applications, in a cost-effective, standardized, and compliant manner with enhanced security. The service is capable of automatically scaling and running web applications across various Availability Zones, supporting batch processing, and even training Natural Language Processing (NLP) and other Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning models. Combined, these features make ECS a high performance, reliability, and high-availability container orchestration tool.

AWS Logo
Azure Logo

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) streamlines the development and deployment of cloud-native applications. The Service supports Linux, Windows Server, and IoT resources. With prebuilt cluster configurations, AKS simplifies application deployment with accessible app images. It provides comprehensive features for debugging, CI/CD, logging, and automated node maintenance. AKS also offers autoscaling using Kubernetes Event Driven Autoscaler (KEDA), along with services and Kubernetes solutions available via Azure Marketplace for simplified deployments.

In addition to its container management features, Azure Kubernetes Service also enables secure application development. Teams can use Azure Policy to enforce security policies, with built-in guardrails and internet security benchmarks. Further security controls include Azure Active Directory for granular identity and access control and Microsoft Defender for Containers function for consistent security monitoring and maintenance.

AKS offers various deployment options, including on-premises implementations of AKS on customer-managed infrastructures and containerized Windows and Linux applications at the edge or in datacenters. Costs are solely for the consumed virtual machines, storage, and networking resources. Overall, we recommend AKS as a strong container orchestration tool for any organization looking to deploy containers within a Windows, Linux, or IoT infrastructure, and particularly those already using other products in Azure’s security and orchestration suite.

Azure Logo
Docker Logo

Docker Desktop is an out-of-the-box containerization software that enables development teams to easily build, share, and run containerized applications. Within the Docker Desktop platform, developers can utilize Docker Swarm mode to manage and orchestrate large clusters of containers—or Docker “daemons”—at once. In Swarm mode, these groups of clustered daemons are configured known as nodes, with a swarm manager in control.

Docker Swarm provides a high level of availability for applications by linking containers to multiple hosts in a manner similar to Kubernetes. It allows a service’s configuration to be altered, including the networks and volumes it connects to, without necessitating a manual service restart. The new configurations are updated by Docker, stopping those tasks with an outdated configuration and starting new ones accordingly. Additionally, when Docker runs in Swarm mode, it enables teams to run standalone containers on any hosts within the swarm along with swarm services. However, it’s important to note that while standalone containers can be started on any daemon, only swarm managers have the capability to manage a swarm. Docker daemons, on the other hand, can assume the role of managers, workers, or both within a swarm. The Docker Engine Command Line Interface (CLI) can be used to create a swarm of Docker Engines for deploying application services without the requirement for supplementary orchestration software. Finally, Swarm mode supports a decentralized design that handles differences between node roles at runtime, making it possible to create an entire swarm from a single disk image. 

The declarative service model used in Docker Desktop provides a defined state for the services in your application stack. It also offers capabilities for scaling up or down by declaring the number of tasks you wish to run, and automatically adapting to these changes. The multi-host networking feature allows you to specify an overlay network for your services, while service discovery assigns each service a unique DNS name. This effectively enables internal load balancing and secure communications by default. Docker Desktop also supports rolling updates, letting you apply service updates to nodes incrementally and roll back if needed. 

Docker Logo
Google Logo

Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) allows businesses to run and manage containerized applications at scale using Google’s infrastructure. The service utilizes Google’s expertise in operating production workloads at considerable scale, drawn from their in-house cluster management system, Borg. GKE is available via two editions: Standard and Enterprise.

The GKE Standard edition provides automatic cluster lifecycle management, pod and cluster autoscaling, cost visibility, and automatic infrastructure cost optimization. In addition, it integrates both the Autopilot and Standard operation modes. The GKE Enterprise edition includes all the standard features, along with management, governance, security, and configuration for multiple clusters, all streamlined through a unified console.

GKE Autopilot provides a hands-off operations mode that manages the underlying compute of your cluster for you, while still offering you a complete Kubernetes experience. Such features enable businesses to only pay for running pods, not system components, OS overhead, or unallocated capacity, which can result in significant cost savings. The GKE service also supports container-native networking and security, complete with pod-level firewall rules.

With built-in hardening and best practice configurations, built-in security measures, automatic upgrades, and Google Cloud integrated CI/CD options, GKE offers a robust platform for businesses to manage their containerized applications efficiently and securely.

Google Logo
HashiCorp Nomad Logo

HashiCorp Nomad is a versatile and scalable tool for deploying and handling both containerized and non-containerized applications. Designed to support a modern datacenter, it provides capabilities for long-running services and batch jobs, and is compatible with a diverse range of workloads. Nomad’s lightweight design uses a single binary and modest resources. It works across Windows, Java, VM, Docker, and more.

Nomad enables DevOps teams to manage the life cycle of a variety of applications, including containers. Its seamless integration with HashiCorp Consul and Vault maximizes operational flexibility, and its scalability extends to thousands of nodes in a single cluster. The platform can deploy across private datacenters, and across multiple clouds. For non-containerized application orchestration, Nomad enables organizations to run their applications without the need for rewriting or refactoring, simplifying workflows.

HashiCorp Nomad is also suitable for managing workloads at the edge, making management of geographically distributed edge environments simpler and operationally efficient. For batch processing workloads, Nomad natively supports system batch and parameterized jobs and allows for automatic provisioning of clients.

Lastly, Nomad includes autoscaling features for maintaining optimal cluster and workload instance counts. This allows it to respond to demand and reduce over-provisioning costs. Overall, with its scalable architecture and optimistically concurrent scheduling, Nomad makes it easy to deploy thousands of container deployments per second, saving both time and costs.

HashiCorp Nomad Logo
IBM Logo

IBM Cloud Code Engine is a fully managed, serverless platform designed to run containers, deploy source code, create batch jobs, and create functions. By integrating your container images, batch jobs, source code, or function, IBM Cloud Code Engine can control and secure the associated infrastructure, eliminating the need for user-led sizing, deployment, or scaling of container clusters.

With IBM Cloud Code Engine, DevOps teams can focus on writing code while IBM ensures security and efficiency. The platform can handle various industry standards and regulations for a wide array of applications, promising secured apps with encrypted traffic and rigorous access controls.

As a truly serverless platform, IBM Cloud Code Engine automatically scales your workload as needed, with pricing based solely on the resources you consume. It can also run batch jobs and create functions, scaling them to meet demand and disappearing when not needed.

The platform also alleviates the need for infrastructure management, covers cluster sizing, scaling, networking, and automatically secures your apps with TLS and isolates them from other workloads.

IBM Logo
Kubernetes Logo

Kubernetes, often known as K8s, is an open-source platform that uses automation to help DevOps teams scale and manage their containerized applications. Compatible with on-site, hybrid, or public cloud structures, Kubernetes provides the flexibility to effortlessly transfer workloads to preferred locations.

Kubernetes safeguards applications by implementing automated rollouts and rollbacks. It automatically implements modifications to your application while keeping an eye on its health, reducing outages. In case of errors, Kubernetes has the capability to roll back the changes.

The platform offers native service discovery and load balancing. Kubernetes also has built-in features for storage orchestration, which provide automated mounts for any selected storage system, be it local storage, public cloud, or a network storage system. The platform is equipped with self-healing capabilities, which can restart failed containers, replace, or reschedule containers when nodes malfunction, ensuring efficient application performance.

Kubernetes also features secret and configuration management, automatic bin packing, batch execution, horizontal scaling, and IPv4/IPv6 dual-stack allocation. This solution is designed for extensibility, allowing users to enhance their Kubernetes cluster features without the need to alter upstream source code.

Kubernetes Logo
Portainer Logo

Portainer is a comprehensive container management software designed to facilitate the secure and rapid deployment of containers. The software caters to various industries, platforms, and devices, and its intuitive user interface significantly streamlines the container management lifecycle.

Portainer supports container deployment, reducing the task load of launching containerized applications, and effective platform management, which allows the full utilization of containerized apps across any platform. The software also includes IoT device management, ensuring secure connectivity between OT and IT networks, along with triage and remediation capabilities for fast, centralized troubleshooting and management.

Portainer places a critical focus on security and compliance, enabling the secure deployment of container-based applications. It offers a defined lifecycle management feature that promotes controlled self-service with necessary guardrails. This software also includes audit logging, automatic stack updates, and configurable change windows.

The powerful suite of features in Portainer’s platform makes it well-suited to any development team managing containers across various industries and platforms.

Portainer Logo
Red Hat Logo

Red Hat OpenShift is a comprehensive platform designed to support the development, deployment, and management of applications. Powered by Kubernetes, it supports a range of public cloud, on-premises, hybrid cloud, and edge architectures. Red Hat OpenShift’s solutions cater to both traditional and cloud-native applications. They are built on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and are compatible with the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform. This enables automation within and outside Kubernetes clusters.

OpenShift streamlines application development and delivery with built-in Jenkins pipelines and source-to-image technology. It converges development, operations, and security for application modernization and speeds up new cloud-native app development and delivery processes. OpenShift’s edge computing capabilities extend application services to remote locations and analyze inputs in real time.

RedHat OpenShift is available as either a self-managed or fully managed solution, giving users the flexibility to choose based on their requirements. It supports high-demand workloads, including AI/ML, edge computing, and more. The platform automates deployment and lifecycle management, bolstered by a wide ecosystem of technology partners.

Red Hat Logo
Rancher Logo

Rancher Prime by SUSE is an all-encompassing management platform designed to help teams operate Kubernetes across any certified distribution. The platform is compatible with on-premises and cloud infrastructures, including multi-cloud, and it can also be used for deployments at the edge. It operates on Kubernetes distributions that are certified and supported by the Rancher by SUSE team.

Using Rancher Prime’s expansive catalog of integrations and unique UI extensions framework, organizations can enhance their Kubernetes capabilities. Businesses can either deploy tools from the Rancher app catalog or implement bespoke, peer-developed, or existing Rancher certified extensions. The platform simplifies cloud native infrastructure by unifying virtualized workloads with containers, providing a straightforward method to navigate storage, deploy CI/CD workflows and manage the OS from one platform.

Rancher Prime also helps teams improve container security. It provides an advanced policy management system, full lifecycle security abilities and insightful observability metrics via AIOps. It allows deployment from a secure private registry and provides prearranged Kubewarden policies to cut down misconfiguration across the clusters.

In addition to its technical capabilities, Racher Prime offers high levels of enterprise support, as well as access to professional services and a comprehensive knowledge base, which helps organizations to get the most out of the platform.

Overall, Rancher Prime promotes secure application development and increased productivity, offering local development and testing and fostering collaboration between operators and developers.

Rancher Logo
The Top 10 Container Orchestration Tools