AWS EKS Alternatives

Note: Pricing and product information are correct as of Feb 9, 2024, and subject to change

The growth of cloud computing and containerized applications has led to tremendous demand for managed Kubernetes services. With the worldwide public cloud computing market continuing to grow rapidly - expected to reach $679 billion by 2024 - it is more important than ever for cloud businesses to stay ahead of the competition. Choosing an efficiently managed Kubernetes solution is key to accelerating development cycles and containing operational costs.

By handling a large part of mundane cluster administration tasks and infrastructure maintenance, managed Kubernetes services allow development and operations teams to concentrate on building innovative applications while being minimally involved in cluster tasks. As a leading cloud provider today, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a popular managed Kubernetes service with Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), which was introduced in 2018. However, while widely used, EKS also has some inherent strengths and weaknesses.

AWS EKS provides sophisticated functionality for organizations with ample existing AWS expertise, but its complexity may make it a poor choice for lean teams focused on rapid application building. Before even basic EKS cluster deployment, intricate configuration across IAM (Identity and Access Management), VPCs (Virtual Private Cloud), EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) node groups, and several adjacent AWS offerings is required. This tangent away from core software engineering can slow developer velocity, as containerization knowledge is often not transferable across convoluted cloud infrastructure setups.

For startups with small development teams and lean engineering crews, it is essential to evaluate more streamlined Kubernetes options that empower focus on building cutting-edge cloud-native products. In this guide, we will walk you through several managed Kubernetes alternatives to AWS EKS, equipping you to confidently choose the best option aligned with your goals.

💡Accelerate time-to-market DigitalOcean Managed Kubernetes, a simple, cost-effective alternative to EKS. Sign up for DigitalOcean Kubernetes today.


  1. Hyperscalers such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform may have high complexity in setup and configuration which can slow developer velocity for teams focused on rapid application building.
  2. As an alternative to EKS, DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS) simplifies deployments with automated provisioning and cluster management behind a user-friendly interface.
  3. Those looking for an alternative to EKS should evaluate platforms in several ways, including cost, flexibility and integrations, security, and ease of use.

5 deciding factors for an enterprise Kubernetes management solution

Those looking for an enterprise-level managed Kubernetes solution should consider multiple factors in their search, considering their specific needs. While enterprise businesses may have certain requirements, startups may prioritize efficiency and ease of use over other factors.

1. Extensibility and integration

When considering an enterprise managed Kubernetes solution, the ability to extend and integrate with your existing ecosystem is crucial. This includes support for customization, third-party integrations, and enriched functionality like service mesh.

Startups often operate in dynamic environments where adaptability is key. Choosing a platform that easily integrates with existing pipelines, infrastructure, and adjacent services provides the versatility needed to support diverse use cases, enabling these businesses to scale and evolve seamlessly.

2. Security

Security is a top priority in any enterprise or startup setting. When evaluating managed Kubernetes solutions, it’s essential to review identity and access controls, compliance certifications, and encryption standards. Robust security features should be a cornerstone of your decision-making.

As digital businesses grow, so does the complexity of their data landscape. A strong security posture, including features like private networking and vulnerability scanning, is crucial for protecting sensitive data. This is especially important for businesses in sectors with stringent compliance requirements.

3. Cost

Understanding the cost implications of a managed Kubernetes solution is critical. This involves not only immediate expenses but also long-term cost projections based on usage growth. Understanding your future costs and how they align with budget constraints is vital for effective financial planning.

Startups and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) often operate with tight budgets and need cost-efficient solutions. A managed Kubernetes platform with transparent pricing, aligning with usage patterns, enables these businesses to allocate resources effectively, avoiding unexpected financial strains.

4. Skill sets and ease of use

The learning curve associated with a managed Kubernetes solution can impact development timelines. Prioritizing platforms that align with your team’s capabilities, that offer intuitive abstractions and excellent documentation, is key for a smooth adoption process.

Startups often work with small teams where every member wears multiple hats. Simplifying infrastructure management with an easy-to-use Kubernetes platform allows developers to focus more on building and less on mastering complex operations, fostering agility.

5. Documentation quality

Documentation is the unsung hero of efficient operations. When evaluating managed Kubernetes solutions, the quality of documentation plays a crucial role. Documentation can include valuable examples, tutorials, API references, and troubleshooting advice that makes it easier for teams to implement a Kubernetes solution.

Emerging businesses may not have dedicated DevOps teams, and their developers often wear various hats. A platform with robust documentation lowers the barrier to productivity. This is especially beneficial for startups and ISVs where individuals might need to switch between roles, requiring clear and accessible resources.

7 AWS EKS alternatives

1. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)

GKE makes it simple to deploy and manage containers to scale applications with Google’s deep expertise in container orchestration technology. It offers automatic updates to quickly upgrade container clusters and infrastructure management behind a user-friendly UI. It also provides advanced networking capabilities like multi-cluster ingressing.

On the downside, mastering GKE’s multitude of configuration options may involve moderate complexity compared to more streamlined rivals. Costs may also accumulate quickly at scale from its billing model–which lacks cost optimizations in exchange for ease of management like preemptible nodes. GKE’s highest 99.95% uptime SLA requires using more expensive regional clusters, otherwise, zonal clusters have lower guarantees. Regional clusters add a significant $0.10 per hour per cluster - meaning you may pay extra for that advanced high availability. This might quickly escalate costs, especially for those needing multiple production-grade clusters. So businesses without substantial budgets should be aware that GKE’s advanced capabilities come alongside restrictions around limited free allowances and premium SLAs.

2. Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

Azure Kubernetes Service provides simplified deployment and management of Kubernetes clusters on Azure infrastructure. Seamless integration with surrounding Azure services like monitoring, identity management, and CI/CD pipelines allows building modern container applications faster. AKS offers user-friendly control dashboards and automates mundane configuration tasks like upgrades and scaling. Networking capabilities are also robust - supporting service meshes, load balancing, and hybrid on-prem connectivity.

AKS offers a 99.95% SLA but requires users to deploy clusters across availability zones, which may result in additional charges. . This could significantly impact startups and growing digital businesses differently depending on their resource consumption and budget constraints. The additional charges associated with deploying across multiple availability zones may potentially increase the overall cost of running AKS clusters. These charges typically include the costs of virtual machines, storage, and networking resources provisioned in each Availability Zone. When setting up a cluster itself, network policies must be activated during the creation process and cannot be turned on for an existing cluster afterward. This inability to apply network policies retroactively may disrupt operational workflows, requiring additional time and effort to reconfigure the cluster or implement alternative security measures.

3. DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS)

DOKS simplifies Kubernetes deployments by automating provisioning, scaling, tuning, security, and resilience behind a user-friendly control panel and CLI. By abstracting the complexities of Linux infrastructure and cluster management, DOKS accelerates the setup process, allowing startups to focus on their core innovations rather than grappling with intricate configurations. Furthermore, DOKS offers enhanced visibility into the infrastructure and seamless integration with existing toolchains and GitHub workflows. This not only expedites iterative tasks and review cycles but also ensures smooth continuous delivery pipelines across multi-cloud environments.

With DOKS, startups can navigate the complexities of scaling their operations with confidence, using a reliable and cost-effective solution. The high-availability control plane is available at $40. Transparent per-second billing and preemptible Droplet instances lower costs aligned with traffic burstiness and availability requirements. With high-grade documentation, DOKS accelerates developer productivity within Kubernetes without expertise tax. The integration of Cilium Hubble into DOKS brings significant benefits to startups and ISVs by enhancing observability and security within their Kubernetes clusters at no additional cost. With Cilium, the eBPF-based networking, users gain advanced network visibility, enabling real-time monitoring and troubleshooting of microservice interactions. Enhanced security analysis and threat detection capabilities help identify potential risks, while a scalable architecture ensures suitability for large-scale production environments.

DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS) is optimally designed to simplify the needs and requirements of startups, offering simplicity, ease of use, and cost predictability. Its streamlined approach to infrastructure management empowers startups to focus on innovation without getting bogged down by complex configurations. DOKS provides startups with the agility and flexibility they need to rapidly deploy and scale their applications, enabling them to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced market. With DOKS, startups can efficiently manage their Kubernetes clusters while enjoying transparent pricing and exceptional support.

4. Linode Kubernetes Engine (LKE)

LKE aims to simplify container orchestration for teams leveraging Linode’s cloud infrastructure and capabilities. Linode, acquired by Akamai, a larger content delivery network provider, in 2022 offers a tight integration of LKE with Linode’s virtual machines, storage volumes, node balancers, and other services which enables smoother provisioning and management of multiple Kubernetes clusters. The intuitive control panel UI and guided launch flows also facilitate getting started for existing Linode users.

However, there are a few key gaps. Users might find significant challenges in data migration into LKE clusters. New users may struggle to leverage full capabilities, with some unclear settings and sparse documentation which may require heavy hand-holding. Locating answers can involve work across sections lacking contextualization. Moreover, limited global presence (compared to hyperscalers) and operating system support fall behind enterprise Kubernetes platforms. While ease of initial usage is a strong suit, the breadth of functionality, documentation, cost efficiencies, and support ecosystem might make LKE less robust for more sophisticated workflows relative to incumbents. The current pricing Linode lists for enabling high availability control planes is an extra $60 per month per Kubernetes cluster. Given small teams typically operate only a few Kubernetes clusters, this recurring HA add-on cost may make production-grade resilience expensive, especially for SMBs.

5. Vultr Kubernetes Engine

Vultr brings Kubernetes integration into its broader platform ecosystem for customers already leveraging its flexible cloud infrastructure, providing convenient cluster deployment and scaling integrated with Vultr-hosted resources like load balancers and block storage. This reduction in environment switching and contextualization benefits users running adjacently hosted workloads. Vultr’s pricing model offers competitively priced node compute services which can provide cost advantages to customers.

The flipside of Vultr is that additional offerings such as managed databases like MongoDB and Kafka, platform-as-a-service solutions, and serverless solutions, are not available with Vultr. One of the drawbacks of Vultr is its additional cost for DDoS protection, which is priced at $10 per month. In contrast, DigitalOcean offers DDoS protection is included with Droplets, providing users with added security without incurring extra expenses. Additionally, many users have expressed dissatisfaction with Vultr’s customer care, citing poor responsiveness and support. For startups and growing digital businesses, these factors can have significant implications. The additional cost for DDoS protection with Vultr may strain SMB budgets, potentially leading to unexpected expenses.

6. Oracle cloud infrastructure container engine for Kubernetes (OKE)

OKE smooths out the deployment and scaling of containerized applications with automated provisioning of clustered capacity. Deep integration across components like networking, registry, logging, security, and developer services aims to lessen operational complexity by transitioning applications into OKE. By handling cluster infrastructure and linking surround tooling, OKE claims abbreviated time to market while workloads leverage Oracle’s bare metal compute. Kubernetes updates also get automated in the background avoiding manual upgrade chores, freeing users to consume the latest open source functionality as soon as available.

However, enabling OKE adds substantial extra charges on top of already expensive Oracle cloud infrastructure costs, making it hard for some smaller businesses to fit into their budget. Oracle allows customers to create OKE clusters without hourly fees but loses functionality. Basic clusters skip add-ons like virtual nodes, fine-grained configurations, workload identity, increased nodes, and self-managed scaling. Most critically, basic clusters may not qualify for reimbursement from an SLA. Instead, node updates disrupt cycle downtime. While the fee removal eases budgets, downgrading data plane reliability and manageability may introduce business risk. Cloud architects may face challenging tradeoffs when opting for limited basic clusters in Oracle Kubernetes Engine (OKE). Additionally, undertaking disruptive scaling and upgrades may lead to downtime, potentially impacting business operations and user experience. These tradeoffs highlight the importance of carefully considering the implications of choosing basic clusters within OKE and weighing them against budget constraints and business requirements.

7. OVHcloud Kubernetes

OVHcloud offers simplified deployment of Kubernetes through managed control plane provisioning and maintenance. It leverages OVH public cloud infrastructure to run container workloads without complex cluster setups. Automatic version upgrades keep OVH Kubernetes aligned with the latest stable releases. With this managed Kubernetes, users only pay the regular public cloud infrastructure charges for the virtual machine instances provisioned.

While OVHcloud Managed Kubernetes is currently available in Europe, North America, and Asia, data center choice remains more limited than hyperscalers. This may impact latency-sensitive applications. While OVHcloud Managed Kubernetes caps cluster size at 100 nodes, DOKS allows clusters up to 512 nodes. This greater scalability makes DOKS better suited for businesses anticipating significant growth or workload spikes. Larger production clusters may require splitting workloads across multiple Kubernetes instances incurring added overhead. Troubleshooting intricacies rely heavily on OVHcloud support tickets. More advanced users may desire deeper control and visibility into cluster operations and metrics.

Control costs and optimize workflows with DigitalOcean

With a focus on simplicity, reliability, and scalability, DigitalOcean Kubernetes stands out among AWS EKS alternatives, particularly for startups and developers. Offering a built-in Kubernetes control plane and competitive network transfer pricing, DOKS provides cost-effective solutions that align with the budgetary needs of growing businesses. Its seamless integration with other DigitalOcean products ensures an integrated experience, while features like automatic updates, cluster autoscaling, and robust API support enhance functionality and ease of use.

“My experience with AWS wasn’t as great because it’s over-complicated with lots of documentation. DigitalOcean cuts down the development time, and it’s stable and much cheaper which I love as well.” - Oleksandr Polishchuk, CTO, Younet. Testimonials from DOKS users echo the sentiment that DigitalOcean simplifies development processes, providing stability and affordability compared to other providers like AWS.

Coupled with CNCF certification, comprehensive documentation, and a vibrant community, DOKS empowers users to efficiently manage their Kubernetes clusters while receiving proactive and responsive customer support. Sign up for DigitalOcean today and unlock the full potential of your cloud infrastructure.


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