Managed Kubernetes Services: Comparing the Best Options for Containerized Applications

Sujatha R

Note: Pricing and product information are correct as of April 16, 2024, and subject to change

The Kubernetes market is on an impressive growth trajectory, with projections indicating a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23.40% between 2022 and 2030. This growth is expected to propel the market from its 2022 valuation of USD 1.8 billion to a substantial USD 7.8 billion by the end of the forecast period 2030, underscoring the increasing demand for efficient and scalable container orchestration solutions across industries.

However, setting up and maintaining a Kubernetes cluster can be a complex, resource-intensive, and technical task. Fortunately, cloud providers provide managed Kubernetes services which removes the overhead of managing the underlying infrastructure.

The business narrative has shifted from “Should we adopt Kubernetes service?” to “Which Kubernetes service provider should we choose?” We answer this question in this blog post, where we discuss the best options available to manage your containerized applications.


  1. Managed Kubernetes services simplify the deployment and management of Kubernetes clusters, enabling organizations to focus on their applications rather than managing the underlying infrastructure.

  2. While managed Kubernetes services by hyperscaler cloud providers give flexibility and scalability, their complexity in setup and configuration presents a deep learning curve, creating a bottleneck for teams whose primary focus is building and deploying applications.

  3. By abstracting the complexities of cluster management and infrastructure configurations, DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS) enables lean engineering teams to focus on their core innovations and accelerate time-to-market.

💡With DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS), you get the control plane included at no extra cost, making Kubernetes adoption a breeze. Unlock the true potential of Kubernetes without breaking the bank.

Start your journey towards simplified managed Kubernetes by signing up today!

What are managed Kubernetes services?

Managed Kubernetes services are cloud-based offerings that abstract away the complexities of setting up and maintaining the underlying Kubernetes infrastructure, allowing businesses to focus on deploying and managing their containerized applications.

A growing e-commerce startup might opt for a managed Kubernetes service like DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS) to quickly scale its containerized application.

Managed vs unmanaged Kubernetes

Unmanaged or self-managed Kubernetes refers to deploying and managing Kubernetes clusters entirely on your own infrastructure, whether on-premises or in the cloud. This approach provides greater control over the Kubernetes environment but also requires businesses to handle all aspects of setup and maintenance.

5 key benefits of managed Kubernetes services

With the following key benefits, managed Kubernetes services have become an easy option for organizations that seek to leverage the power of containerized applications while minimizing the operational complexities and costs associated with managing Kubernetes clusters.

1. Simplified cluster management and operations

Managed Kubernetes services offer a streamlined approach to deploying and operating Kubernetes clusters, eliminating the complexities of setting up and managing the underlying infrastructure. Cloud providers with dedicated managed Kubernetes services handle critical tasks such as provisioning resources, configuring networking, and managing the control plane, allowing businesses to focus on developing and deploying their cloud-native apps. By offloading the overhead of cluster maintenance, businesses get more time to prioritize their product roadmap, implement marketing ideas, or raise venture capital funding.

2. Scalability and high availability

One of the core advantages of managed Kubernetes services is scalability. Scalability enables businesses to seamlessly scale their Kubernetes clusters vertically or horizontally, helping to ensure high availability and accommodating fluctuating cloud workloads. These services automatically manage the lifecycle of cluster nodes, ensuring applications remain accessible and responsive even during peak demand, like the surge of traffic on Black Friday for e-commerce websites or the high user activity following a major feature release for a SaaS company.

3. Cost optimization

By leveraging the public cloud infrastructure and managed services offered by major cloud providers, businesses can optimize their cloud costs and avoid the capital expenditure associated with building and maintaining their own Kubernetes clusters. Managed Kubernetes services often include features like automatic scaling and load balancing, allowing organizations to pay only for the resources they consume, resulting in cost savings and improved resource utilization.

4. Enhanced security and compliance

Security is a critical concern when deploying and managing containerized applications. Managed Kubernetes services from reputable cloud providers offer robust security features. These services help ensure cloud compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements, reducing the burden on businesses to maintain and enforce security best practices.

5. Vendor support and expertise

By opting for a managed Kubernetes service, businesses gain access to the expertise and support provided by the vendor. Major cloud providers have dedicated teams of Kubernetes experts who monitor, update, and troubleshoot the managed Kubernetes clusters. This support can provide proactive issue resolution, security patch management, and access to the latest features and updates, enabling businesses to focus on their core competencies.

Exploring the leading managed Kubernetes services

Here’s a brief overview of some of the major managed Kubernetes offerings from leading cloud providers. By exploring these managed Kubernetes services, your business can gain insights into the options available for deploying and managing your containerized applications on the public cloud.

1. DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS)

DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS) streamlines the deployment and management of containerized applications, offering a managed Kubernetes service tailored to the needs of cloud-first businesses. One of the key advantages of DOKS is its user-friendly approach to creating and scaling Kubernetes clusters. Through the control panel and Command-Line Interface (CLI), developers can provision, scale, and tune their clusters with ease, without grappling with intricate configurations. This streamlined experience expedites the setup process, allowing startups to rapidly deploy their cloud-native apps on a reliable and cost-effective managed Kubernetes solution.

DOKS seamlessly integrates with existing toolchains and GitHub workflows, ensuring smooth continuous delivery pipelines across multi-cloud environments. This integration not only enhances developer productivity by accelerating iterative tasks and review cycles but also provides improved visibility into the underlying infrastructure, fostering better observability and troubleshooting capabilities.

To address the scalability and high availability requirements of production-grade containerized applications, DOKS offers a fully supported Kubernetes solution with a high-availability control plane available at an affordable $40 per month, with 99.95% uptime SLA. Additionally, DOKS incorporates transparent billing and the option to utilize preemptible Droplet instances (DigitalOcean’s virtual machines), enabling startups to optimize costs based on traffic patterns and availability requirements.

Plus, DOKS integrates with Cilium Hubble, a powerful networking and observability solution, at no additional cost. This integration brings advanced network visibility, enabling real-time monitoring and troubleshooting of microservice interactions within Kubernetes clusters. Cilium Hubble also boosts security analysis and threat detection capabilities, helping startups identify potential risks and build a scalable architecture suitable for large-scale production environments.

With extensive customer support and a focus on simplicity, DOKS empowers organizations to leverage the power of hassle-free Kubernetes. This enables businesses to navigate the complexities of scaling their operations with confidence, accelerating developer productivity and ensuring a smooth transition to containerized application deployment and management.

2. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)

Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) is a managed Kubernetes service offered by one of the major cloud providers—Google Cloud. GKE provides a user-friendly interface for creating production-ready Kubernetes clusters and managing their lifecycle, including automatic updates and upgrades. GKE offers advanced networking capabilities, such as multi-cluster ingress, which allows load balancing across multiple Kubernetes clusters and regions. However, mastering the multitude of configuration options available in GKE may involve a high level of complexity compared to other players in the managed Kubernetes space.

Achieving GKE’s highest 99.95% uptime Service Level Agreement (SLA) requires using more expensive regional clusters, as zonal clusters have lower availability guarantees. Regional clusters incur an additional cost of $0.10 per hour per cluster, which can quickly escalate expenses, especially for organizations requiring multiple production-grade Kubernetes clusters.

As a result, startups and other businesses with limited budgets should carefully evaluate their requirements and the potential costs associated with GKE’s advanced capabilities and premium SLAs. While GKE offers a feature-rich managed Kubernetes solution, its pricing model might not be the most cost-effective option for every use case, particularly for those with smaller-scale deployments with tighter financial constraints.

3. Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS)

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) as its managed Kubernetes service, enabling businesses to run Kubernetes clusters on the AWS cloud. One of the advantages of Amazon EKS is its integration with other AWS services, enabling businesses to leverage the broader AWS ecosystem for features like access management, load balancing, and auditing. Amazon EKS allows teams to stay up-to-date with the latest Kubernetes releases through automated version updates, ensuring their clusters run on the newest production-ready versions validated by AWS.

While Amazon EKS provides Kubernetes services, the initial setup and integration with adjacent AWS services like Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) networking, EC2 (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud) autoscaling groups, and load balancing can pose significant challenges, especially for teams without specialized AWS architecture expertise. When comparing AWS EKS with other managed Kubernetes service providers, this complex interplay of AWS services may present a steep learning curve for organizations focused primarily on application development.

Companies may also find the pricing model for Amazon EKS more complex than some alternatives. Charges accumulate across various AWS resources consumed by the Kubernetes clusters, such as EC2 instances, load balancing distributions, and inter-region data transfers can result in AWS bill shock. These cost complications may make it challenging for smaller teams to accurately predict their full cost structure upfront.

Looking for AWS EKS alternatives? Discover DigitalOcean Kubernetes (DOKS), a managed Kubernetes service that simplifies container orchestration without sacrificing power or flexibility.

With DOKS, you get to eliminate the complex infrastructure configurations. You can also experience intuitive cluster provisioning, autoscaling, and tuning through a user-friendly control panel and Command Line Interface(CLI).

→ Take an immersive DOKS tour to experience the simplicity of DOKS.

4. Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

Microsoft’s Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) offers a managed Kubernetes solution for deploying and operating containerized applications on the Azure public cloud infrastructure. AKS integration streamlines the development and deployment workflows, allowing teams to build and deliver modern container applications. They provide user-friendly control dashboards and automate tasks such as Kubernetes version upgrades and cluster scaling, reducing the operational overhead for developers and administrators. AKS offers networking capabilities and supporting features like service meshes and load balancing.

While AKS offers a high 99.95% uptime SLA, achieving this level of availability requires deploying clusters across multiple availability zones within an Azure region. This requirement can potentially result in additional charges for the virtual machines, storage, and networking resources provisioned in each availability zone. These Azure hidden costs may impact startups and growing digital businesses differently depending on their resource consumption and budget constraints.

Streamline cloud operations with DigitalOcean’s managed Kubernetes service

DOKS provides a fully managed Kubernetes control plane out-of-the-box, eliminating the need for complex infrastructure configurations. Our straightforward pricing model has allowed many (Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and startups to scale their business to great heights.

For instance, PlayFlow Cloud simplifies game server setup and management for thousands of developers worldwide by leveraging DigitalOcean Kubernetes as the backbone of their scalable infrastructure, citing its ease of use and affordability as instrumental to their business growth. “My first foray into Kubernetes was on DigitalOcean. The simplicity of setting up Kubernetes clusters empowered me to automate and scale our game servers effortlessly,” says Haseeb Sheikh, the Founder and CEO of PlayFlow Cloud. image alt text

One of the key advantages of DOKS is its effortless integration with other DigitalOcean products, fostering a cohesive and integrated experience for users. Features such as automatic Kubernetes version updates, cluster autoscaling capabilities, and robust API support help to improve functionality and ease of use, enabling teams to focus on their core development efforts rather than managing the underlying cluster infrastructure.

DOKS is backed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) certification, comprehensive documentation, and a vibrant community, helping to ensure adherence to industry standards and best practices. This support ecosystem empowers users to efficiently manage their Kubernetes clusters while receiving proactive and responsive customer support from DigitalOcean.

Whether you’re a developer, startup, or well-established enterprise, you can unlock the full potential of your cloud infrastructure by choosing the right DOKS plan. DigitalOcean’s managed Kubernetes service offers a compelling solution for streamlining operations, optimizing costs, and accelerating application delivery pipelines.

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