Cloud education

Vanilla Kubernetes vs Managed Kubernetes

Sachin Jha

Posted: October 26, 20214 min read

Ever wondered why the “wheel of a ship” stands as the logo of Kubernetes? The name Kubernetes originates from the Greek word κυβερνήτης, meaning helmsmen or steersmen, to represent that Kubernetes provides a way of steering a ship full of containers. Kubernetes is a container orchestration system that was designed & initially open-sourced by Google in 2014 out of the internal Google orchestrator Borg. Since its inception, the role of Kubernetes has grown exponentially in not only enterprises, but also across startups who increasingly use Kubernetes as part of their application architecture to ensure their apps are scalable and manageable. To quote the official definition:

“Kubernetes, also known as K8s, is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It groups containers that make up an application into logical units for easy management and discovery.”

In the past several years, Kubernetes has become that de facto leader for container orchestration and management. A recent survey by Pure Storage found that the top reasons for Kubernetes adoption include accelerating deployment frequency, increasing automation, and reducing IT costs. Despite its popularity, Kubernetes is a complex system, which can be a barrier for businesses looking to take advantage of its benefits. There are multiple ways that companies can leverage the power of Kubernetes, whether they have the expertise to manage it themselves or would benefit from a managed Kubernetes offering. Below we outline the different Kubernetes deployments available and the benefits of using a managed Kubernetes provider.

What is Vanilla Kubernetes?

“Vanilla Kubernetes” or open source Kubernetes is a term coined to describe a Kubernetes setup that is as basic as it gets–it has the main components to run Kubernetes, but not much else. A vanilla Kubernetes setup includes the control-plane nodes which run etcd, the api-server, a scheduler, and the controller-manager. It also includes worker nodes, and each node runs a kubelet, kube-proxy, and a container runtime like Docker.

While a vanilla Kubernetes installation will give users full control over their Kubernetes setup, it also requires more time to configure, since so little has been added to the backbone of Kubernetes. To operationalize a vanilla Kubernetes installation, users will need to add an ingress-managed load balancer, autoscaling, CI/CD, and install software to handle logging, monitoring, and alerting.

What is “managed Kubernetes”?

Although Kubernetes is open source, many companies planning to adopt Kubernetes do not have the expertise or resources to set up and maintain the cluster themselves. Managed Kubernetes providers help those looking to use Kubernetes by providing them with the necessary support and maintenance of the Kubernetes clusters. A managed Kubernetes deployment should provide users with a hassle-free control plane, easy deployment options, and ongoing Kubernetes maintenance, enabling users to focus on their business and bringing their apps to market.

Many cloud providers offer managed Kubernetes services, but they all differ slightly in their exact configuration options and the level of support they provide to their customers. DigitalOcean’s Managed Kubernetes service is built to give users the efficiency of vanilla Kubernetes along with the simple user experience and cost savings that come with using DigitalOcean’s cloud services.

Benefits of using DigitalOcean managed Kubernetes

DigitalOcean Kubernetes is built to enable development teams both small and large to take advantage of this market-leading container orchestration platform without the lead time required to provision, install, and operate a cluster. Here are some of the benefits of using DigitalOcean managed Kubernetes:

  • Reduced operations overhead: Managing self-hosted clusters requires expertise, time, and resources that many small businesses lack. By using DigitalOcean Kubernetes, DigitalOcean does the heavy-lifting, continuously monitoring your Kubernetes Control Plane to make sure you are always able to access and deploy to your cluster. We manage key services and settings on your behalf so you don’t need to worry about your Kubernetes clusters going down.

  • Faster time to market: Leveraging a managed version of Kubernetes allows developers and businesses to take advantage of containerized application deployment, leading to a faster time to market.

  • No lock in: One common concern around using a managed version of Kubernetes is being locked-in by the managed provider to certain configurations and setups. DigitalOcean Kubernetes doesn’t lock you in, so you can build your Kubernetes cluster on DigitalOcean however you’d like, and have the flexibility to move it later if required.

  • Worry-free upgrades and patches: We schedule automatic updates of your clusters to new versions of Kubernetes, so you can utilize the latest enhancements to the orchestration platform without having to keep track of upgrades yourself. For extra protection, DigitalOcean Kubernetes uses Surge upgrades, which takes 10 nodes at a time and creates new nodes before destroying the old ones.

  • Predictable pricing and included control plane: DigitalOcean Kubernetes uses simple, transparent pricing so you’ll always know what you’re paying for. Additionally, DigitalOcean includes the control plane for free with your managed Kubernetes instance.

Try DigitalOcean Kubernetes today

If you’re interested in trying DigitalOcean’s managed Kubernetes for your applications, take DigitalOcean Kubernetes for a spin. If you have questions about migrating from another cloud provider or what your total costs will be on DigitalOcean once you start scaling, you can schedule a meeting with our team of experts who can help answer any questions you have.


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