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Red Hat OpenShift vs. Kubernetes

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Red Hat® OpenShift® is a Kubernetes distribution—a commercialized software product derived from an open source project. Red Hat OpenShift and Kubernetes are both container orchestration software, but Red Hat OpenShift is packaged as a downstream enterprise open source platform—meaning it’s undergone additional testing and contains additional features not available from the Kubernetes open source project.

Red Hat OpenShift is an enterprise open source container orchestration platform. It’s a software product that includes components of the Kubernetes container management project, but adds productivity and security features that are important to large-scale companies.

"OpenShift" refers to the downstream container orchestration technology derived from the OKD open source project (previously known as OpenShift Origin). "Red Hat OpenShift" refers to the suite of container orchestration products by Red Hat. Red Hat packages a number of preconfigured components alongside OpenShift in various products, including:

Red Hat OpenShift focuses on an enterprise user experience. It’s designed to provide everything a full-scale company may need to orchestrate containers—including enhanced security options and full-time professional support—and to integrate directly into enterprises’ custom IT stacks, which may include:

Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration project. It helps users manage clustered groups of hosts running Linux containers, which are sets of processes that contain everything needed to run in isolation.

Kubernetes was originally developed and designed by engineers at Google—one of the early contributors to Linux container technology—before it was donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) in 2015. That means that the CNCF is the entity responsible for maintaining the Kubernetes community, while volunteer contributors and administrators are responsible for Kubernetes development, maintenance, and releases.

Red Hat was one of the first companies to work with Google on Kubernetes—even prior to launch—and has since become the second leading contributor to the Kubernetes project.

Docker was once synonymous with containers, but now refers to several things:

  • A specific container technology
  • An open source community
  • A software company

Red Hat OpenShift and Kubernetes both manage groups of containers called clusters. Each cluster has 2 parts: a control plane and worker nodes. Containers run in the worker nodes, each of which has its own Linux operating system. The control plane maintains the cluster’s overall state (like what apps are running and which container images are used), while worker nodes do the actual computing work.

While a business can choose to install and manage their Kubernetes deployment themselves, an enterprise Kubernetes platform can help those with limited resources, or who don’t want the added responsibility of manually managing their Kubernetes environments.

A vendor-managed Kubernetes platform, such as Red Hat OpenShift, can provide commercial support, handle upgrades and patches, and increase security for Kubernetes and Kubernetes-native applications. The vendor also usually vets third-party integrations, like networking, storage, container registries, and cloud services. The Kubernetes vendor might also provide monitoring, alerting, and logging solutions.

For all that Kubernetes can do, users still need to integrate other components like networking, ingress and load balancing, storage, monitoring, logging, and more. Red Hat OpenShift offers these components with Kubernetes at their core because—by itself— Kubernetes is not enough.

As a catch-all container platform, Red Hat OpenShift is more than a software product. It can be the key to adopting a DevOps culture—automating routine operational tasks and standardizing environments across an app’s life cycle.

Get started with enterprise Kubernetes

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Develop, deploy, and manage your containers—anywhere, at any scale, on an enterprise-ready Kubernetes container platform. 

Control Kubernetes clusters and applications from a single console, with built-in security policies.