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AWS ECS vs Kubernetes: What Is the Difference?

Containerization is the innovative solution to a cross-platform deployment where the entire app lives inside a container deployed on different machines. Single containers work perfectly for simple applications, but with microservices, each service needs a separate container. However, managing and scaling multiple containers can be difficult.

When we come to containerization orchestration tools for managing and scaling microservices, currently there are two biggest and top-rated tools in the market, first is Kubernetes and second one is Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS). Both ECS and Kubernretes are used for the same purpose but each with different features and infrastructure. 

Choosing the right tool can have a significant impact on your application’s scalability, management, and overall operational efficiency. In this blog, we will thoroughly review both with their key features, as well as, advantages and disadvantages that will help you to decide which one best suits your use case.

By the end of the comparison, you will have a clear understanding of which tool, Kubernetes or Amazon ECS, is the perfect choice for your web application depending on your company’s specific requirements.

What Is ECS (Elastic Container Service)?

Amazon Elastic Container Service (also known as AWS ECS) is a modern container orchestration solution that allows tech organizations to run and manage containers in a scalable and secure manner. AWS ECS uses the Docker Engine for containerization providing  almost the same features as Kubernetes but hassle free to set up the basic services. 

ECS also better integrates with other AWS services like AWS Fargate, AWS CloudWatch. You can deploy AWS ECS with AWS EC2 instances or their serverless compute engine, Fargate. While AWS ECS handles the infrastructure for container orchestration, you’ll still be required to select, deploy and maintain the necessary EC2 hosts. This is convenient, because it does not require configuring your own servers.

Key Features of Amazon ECS

1. Integration with AWS Ecosystem

    ECS provides deep integration with several AWS services like IAM (Identity and Access Management), CloudWatch, and RDS (Relational Database Service) which simplifies management and enhances the abilities of your containerized applications.

    2. AWS Fargate Launch Type 

      AWS Fargate is a serverless compute engine that integrates with ECS. With Fargate, you need not to manage the underlying EC2 instances. Just you need to define your containers, and Fargate will handle the provisioning and scaling of the compute resources.

      4. Task Definition

        In ECS, you can define containers using task definitions, which explains the container images, CPU and memory requirements, and networking configurations. ECS services allow you to run and manage a specified number of instances of a task definition.

        4. Scalability and Load Balancing 

          ECS provides the capabilities of automatically scaling your applications based on demand using AWS Auto Scaling. ECS integrates with Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) to distribute incoming traffic across your container instances.

          5. Security 

            ECS offers AWS IAM service to manage permissions and roles, providing secure access control. It also supports VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) for network isolation.

            What Is EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service)?

            As you know Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform originally designed by Google. EKS is an AWS managed service that allows organizations to run, deploy, scale, and manage large-scale containerized applications in Kubernetes, either in an AWS cloud environment. When you run Kubernetes clusters on EKS, the service manages the scalability and availability of the Kubernetes control plane automatically.

            EKS is based on a native distribution of Kubernetes, it allows you take advantage of open source Kubernetes tools and add-ons, such as automatic scaling, networking, metrics, and logging.

            Setting up Kubernetes requires users to have experience working with multi-server setups and networks since this level of infrastructure management can be challenging. But Kubernetes’ ecosystem integrates several third-party tools for simplifying certain processes and aid Developers.

            Key Features of Elastic Kubernetes Services

            1. Portability 

              As Kubernetes runs on multiple environments it includes on-premises, cloud, and hybrid deployments which makes it an excellent choice for organizations looking for a multi-cloud strategy.

              2. Extensibility 

                Kubernetes Infrastructure is highly extensible and strong with custom resources and controllers. This allows custom workflows and integrations for specific needs.

                3. Rich Ecosystem

                  The Kubernetes ecosystem includes numerous tools and extensions, such as Helm for package management, Prometheus for monitoring, and Istio for service mesh.

                  4. Declarative Configuration

                    Kubernetes uses declarative configuration through YAML or JSON files for simplified management and versioning of configurations.

                    5. Advanced Scheduling 

                      Kubernetes provides sophisticated scheduling and horizontal scaling based on custom metrics for optimized resource utilization and high availability.

                      6. Service Discovery and Load Balancing

                        Kubernetes provides service discovery and load balancing, ensuring that traffic is effectively  routed to the appropriate containers.

                        7. Self-Healing Feature

                          Kubernetes automatically restarts failed containers, replaces them, and reschedules them when nodes die, ensuring the resilience of your applications.

                          Key Differences Between ECS And EKS 

                          1. ECS vs EKS: Pricing

                            Whether you use ECS or EKS, you have to pay for the hosting infrastructure to run your applications. Costs depend on whether you are running your containerized application on a Fargate serverless model or on an EC2 instance but whether you choose ECS or EKS, the prices will be the same.

                            The main difference between both of the services is that you have to pay USD 0.10 per hour per running cluster, or USD 70 for a month of continuous operation with EKS. whereas ECS does not have a cost per cluster. This can be significant if you need to run numerous clusters on Amazon.

                            2. ECS vs EKS: Networking

                              ECS is comparatively easy to use but it does not provide control as much as EKS do. ECS users can define several network choices when creating an application deployment configuration. However, the options are basic and not very customizable.

                              On the other hand, EKS provides deep control over the network. In the default network configuration of EKS, pods and nodes share network settings. EKS provides customization of how pod networks work, via custom CNI configuration.Nevertheless some network configuration options are not supported by EKS Fargate mode.

                              3. ECS vs EKS: Ease of Use

                                Both services, EKS and ECS, require a different level of developer expertise and operational knowledge as both are set up through a AWS management console. 

                                After initial setup of the cluster, ECS can be easily configured and deployed directly from the admin console. It also consists of a simple API for creating containerized applications. The ECS architecture does not have many moving parts and does not use complex abstractions.

                                On the other hand, AWS abstracts the management of the Kubernetes control plane into EKS to simplify the deployment of Kubernetes clusters for developers. But, Kubernetes is highly complex and has a steep learning curve compared to ECS. This means developers may need more experience to use EKS.

                                4. ECS vs EKS: Flexibility and Portability

                                  Kubernetes EKS provides a higher  degree of flexibility and portability due to its open source nature. It lets you avoid vendor lock-in and gives you the freedom to choose where to run your applications. 

                                  Whereas, ECS being a proprietary AWS service, does not provide that level of flexibility but offers a simpler, more streamlined experience for AWS users.

                                  5. ECS vs EKS: Monitoring Capabilities

                                    Both ECS and EKS have monitoring features and integrate with other tools.

                                    With ECS, Using the Container Insights of Amazon CloudWatch you can monitor metrics and logs. You can also set up alerts, track and filter metrics, and monitor and troubleshoot all your AWS resources at one place. ECS can also be used with third-party monitoring tools such as Grafana and Prometheus.

                                    EKS also offers monitoring features with CloudWatch Container Insights. AWS also provides a GuardDuty feature, which analyzes Kubernetes audit logs to monitor control plane activity on EKS clusters. Moreover, integration with AWS CloudTrail gives you visibility into EKS management, operations, and audit trails.

                                    6. ECS vs EKS: Security and Reliability

                                      When it comes to security, AWS offers a similar level of security and reliability for both services, ECS and EKS. Both use Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies to control access to tasks and pods. However, there are some key operational differences.

                                      You secure containerized workloads through tight integration with AWS IAM in ECS. You can assign fine-grained permissions to tasks and containers for greater isolation. The service also integrates with many other security tools.

                                      In contrast, While with EKS, you need to go with EKS Kubernetes add-ons such as KIAM, to enable AWS IAM features. However, EKS also provides access to Kubernetes native security tools. For example, administrators can analyze Kubernetes audits logs to investigate and identify security breaches or events.

                                      7. ECS vs EKS: Community Support

                                        As you know Amazon ECS is not an open-source service, so it does not provide a community. Whereas EKS is based on Kubernetes, so you have access to the Kubernetes communities such as Github repos, Slack channels, events, documentation, training resources, and more. You can also take advantage of the vast ecosystem of Kubernetes tools, Helm Charts, utilities and extensions.

                                        8. ECS vs EKS: Origin and Integration

                                          Kubernetes is an open source project initially developed by Google. Its vendor-agnostic nature is one of its key strengths, enabling it to run on any cloud platform or even on-premises. On the other hand, ECS is a proprietary service offered by Amazon, designed specifically for AWS and deeply integrated with its other services.

                                          AWS ECS vs. Kubernetes: Which One Should You Choose?

                                          When to use ECS?

                                          • If you’re new to container orchestration and deployment, ECS is a good place to start because it is less expensive and you do not require more experience in managing Kubernetes clusters. 
                                          • If you have a small organization or teams with limited resources, you will find ECS the better option.
                                          • ECS offers tighter AWS integrations allowing users to use already familiar resources like ALB, NLB, Route 53, etc. It helps them to get the application up and running quickly.
                                          • Users who want to implement a containerization strategy and move its workloads into a managed service with less up-front investment.

                                          When to use Kubernetes EKS?

                                          • If you are looking for multi-cloud capabilities and portability of containerized workloads, EKS is the perfect choice because it doesn’t lock you into the Amazon cloud. 
                                          • EKS also provides additional features and customization options, and fine-grained control. Keep in mind there is an extra charge of approx. $70 per month per cluster compared to ECS.
                                          • Kubernetes EKS can be too easy in the context of some configuration options. This is where EKS shines. It offers far more features and integrations to build and manage workloads at any scale.
                                          • Pods offer excessive control over pod placement and resource sharing. This can be invaluable when dealing with most service-based architectures.
                                          • EKS provides far more flexibility when managing the underlying resources with the flexibility to run on EC2, Fargate, and even on-premise via EKS Anywhere.
                                          • If you want greater management and monitoring capabilities via built-in Kubernetes tools and readily available external integrations.

                                          Choose Supportfly For Kubernetes Consulting Services

                                          This was all on ECS vs Kubernetes (EKS), major differences between them, but which one should you go far is the big confusion. Between the challenges of requiring a highly experienced team for handling Kubernetes management and other limitations of ECS, what should one choose? 

                                          Here Supportfly comes, which not only provides Managed Kubernetes across Multi/hybrid clouds but also accelerates the entire microservices journey of an application, for which you need Kubernetes in the first place.

                                          With Supportfly Managed Kubernetes services We enable production grade clusters in the most hassle free manner. It also helps in solving security, observability and compliance issues of Kubernetes deployment and makes Kubernetes Microservices application ready.


                                          In conclusion, it’s better to go with Kubernetes EKS if you are familiar with Kubernetes and want to get the flexibility and features it provides. On the other hand, you choose ECS  if you are just starting up with containers or want an easier solution. The choice of the platform comes down to specific user needs. Both options have their pros and cons, and any of them can be the right choice depending on the workload. If still you have confusion. Contact us for more information.