Container orchestration tools come in many flavors, and OpenShift and Kubernetes are the two most in-demand. Red Hat OpenShift is a commercial software suite used for container orchestration, while Kubernetes has become the synonym for containerization tools.

We’ll be taking a comparative look and exploring the main differences between Openshift and Kubernetes so you can decide which is better for your project.

Table of Contents

What is Container Orchestration?
Red Hat OpenShift
What is Kubernetes?
OpenShift vs. Kubernetes: top 5 differences
    ➤  Commercial vs. free
    ➤  Security
    ➤  Dashboard
    ➤  Updates and Support
    ➤  Built-in vs. Third Party
Technical differences between OpenShift and Kubernetes
    ➤  Integrated CI/CD
    ➤  Image Registry
    ➤  Deployment
OpenShift vs. Kubernetes: which is better?

What is Container Orchestration?

In a nutshell, containers are standalone software packages that include libraries, tools, settings, and runtime to make applications work. Containers are lightweight, portable, and secure, providing an insulated space compatible with any environment.

The industry adopted them as a core component of containerization architecture since they provided faster deployment and scalability and worked uniformly across the development and staging phases.

Amongst the orchestration technologies most commonly used are Docker Swarm, Kubernetes, Podman, and Nomad. We recommend you to check out our thorough comparisons between them all in our blog.

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Red Hat OpenShift

OpenShift is an open-source, enterprise-grade platform for container application development, deployment, and management, based on Kubernetes. It comes both as a commercial product and a free platform. Ultimately, it is a commercial software suite included as a feature in many enterprise cloud service packages.

Developed by Red Hat, OpenShift is written in Go and AngularJS. It supports Java, Go, Node.js, Python, PHP and Ruby, but it can be extended to support other programming languages. OpenShift integrates easily with other DevOps tools, and it’s Open Container Initiative (OCI) compliant for container hosting and runtime. It can use Docker containers and as it is Kubernetes-based, will feel familiar to developers coming from those platforms.

Companies working with OpenShift are looking for an all-in-one platform with strict security policies, faster application deployment, and dedicated support. These characteristics make it a very attractive solution for large-scale projects or smaller enterprises that lack the dedicated resources to manage, secure, and monitor their applications.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is a free, open-source container orchestration platform currently maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and the leading containerization tool in the industry. Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure include Kubernetes in their packages.

Written in Go, Kubernetes is a container management tool specialized in deploying, automating, and scaling applications. It has a fast development cycle, with new versions coming out every couple of months, being appreciated by developers for promoting innovation, thanks to a strong community with many groups invested in the evolution of K8s (Kubernetes short-form name).

Kubernetes is used together with Docker as complementary technologies, but it also supports many other frameworks. Kubernetes includes other advantageous features such as load-balancing, networking, security, self-healing, and high scalability across all the nodes that run on the built containers.

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OpenShift vs. Kubernetes: top 5 differences

OpenShift and Kubernetes share a lot of common ground and features, but there are some major differences. Here are the top five differences between OpenShift and Kubernetes, followed by other relevant technical distinctions.

Commercial vs. free

The biggest difference between them is that Openshift is a subscription-based, commercial product, and Kubernetes is free to use as an open-source project.

OpenShift’s subscription includes a complete set of tools and dedicated support. Kubernetes has community support and combines with other 3rd-party tools for specific tasks or operations.


OpenShift has strict security policies right from the start. For instance, it requires a minimum of user privileges for even basic operations and also limits Docker Containers to run as simple images.

Kubernetes security features require a more complex setup as it lacks native authentication and authorization capabilities, resourcing to an API to be used with third-party tools for that purpose. The security protocol is not defined right out of the box like OpenShift, as there is no default encryption within a cluster, making K8s more susceptible to attacks.


OpenShift provides a great user experience with a simple web console. Its simple, form-based dashboard allows users to manage all the resources in one clean, straightforward environment.

Kubernetes user interface is harder to operate. To access the GUI (Graphical User Interface), developers must install the dedicated Kubernetes dashboard, then set up an authentication and authorization process to access it since the interface doesn’t even have a login page. More advanced developers won’t have any problem with this, but it may hinder beginners right from the start.

Updates and Support

OpenShift, as a commercial product, offers dedicated customer service, support, and guidance. Kubernetes, as an open-source, community-based, free project, won’t. If developers come across any issues with Kubernetes, they must rely on the experience of other developers in forums and wait for their questions to be answered. OpenShift has a team of Red Hat engineers ready to help 24/7.

Built-in vs. Third Party

OpenShift’s suite includes features like Monitoring and Networking by default. Prometheus and Grafana are two monitoring tools that alert about issues on the stack; networking is enabled out-of-the-box with Open vSwitch, an OpenShift native solution.

For the same purposes, Kubernetes needs to rely on third-party plug-ins and software.

Technical differences between OpenShift and Kubernetes

OpenShift and Kubernetes share a lot of common ground and features, but there are some major differences. Here are the top five differences between OpenShift and Kubernetes, followed by other relevant technical distinctions.

Integrated CI/CD

CI, or Continuous integration, is a DevOps best practice. CI means running automated tests to check if the merge of changes in the main code doesn’t break the application and ensure there are no integration challenges with every new commit. CD, or Continuous delivery, happens after or along with continuous integration. After the build stage, all the code changes are deployed to the testing and/or production environment.

OpenShift uses Jenkins, an automation server that provides source-to-image support and can be used as a CI server. Kubernetes also relies on a third-party tool called CircleCI to build a CI/CD flow.

Image Registry

Developers can set up a Docker registry on Kubernetes, but it doesn’t provide an integrated image registry. On the other hand, Openshift has an integrated image registry to be used with Red Hat or Docker Hub through a console containing all the information about the images in the project.


Openshift and Kubernetes have different approaches regarding deployment. OpenShift’s may seem more complex but brings added benefits, like triggers for automatic deployments.

Kubernetes implements deployment objects using controllers, while OpenShift uses a command. OpenShift deployment command does not support multiple updates, but Kubernetes deployment objects can handle concurrent updates.

But there is another fundamental difference in the deployment process between them.

Kubernetes uses Helm, a set of YAML manifests made to simplify the deployment of containerized applications. It is a more straightforward approach than OpenShift templates which lack the simplicity and sophistication of Helm charts. OpenShift single pod deployments may not be as effective in more complex scenarios.

OpenShift vs. Kubernetes: which is better?

Like so many other technologies, what is better for some companies is not for others. Both platforms are excellent for building, deploying, and managing containerized applications.

Kubernetes is great for intensive-use apps that require regular updates, like games. OpenShift may be the right option for security-strict, GDPR compliant, heavy-duty apps like those of institutional or governmental character, or healthcare.

Self-hosted Kubernetes is more complex to install, manage, and monitor without third-party integrations. OpenShift seems to be an easier option to manage with its many built-in features,
but it is limited to Red Hat Linux distributions. At the core, OpenShift is built on a Kubernetes layer but brings additional features that make it a different flavor of container orchestration.

Enterprises can benefit from the dedicated support provided by an OpenShift subscription. Still, Kubernetes may be the best option if companies have a skilled container orchestration team, avoiding subscription costs.

Kubernetes and OpenShift are two excellent options. Do you know which suits your project best?

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