AWS ECS vs EKS – Ultimate Showdown

AWS offers some container orchestration engines to help you manage the complexity of running multiple containers. The core services on AWS that allow you to run and manage containerized applications include:

  • Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS): a container orchestration service
  • Amazon Elastic Container Registry (ECR): a managed Docker container registry, similar to Docker Hub but tightly tied to the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) service
  • Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS): a Kubernetes cluster management service on AWS
  • AWS Fargate: a provisioning type in both Amazon ECS and Amazon EKS

While Amazon ECS and EKS share some similarities, they also have significant differences between them. This is why developers find it a challenge to decide which to use. In this article, we will compare Amazon ECS and Amazon EKS to help you make the right choice.

Amazon ECS

Amazon ECS enables developers to run and deploy thousands of containers in the cloud without the added complexity of managing servers, networks, security, and storage. ECS is highly scalable, high-performant, and fast; it also supports Docker containers. The following are tasks you can accomplish using ECS:

  • Deploy containers directly from your local Docker environment
  • Deploy containers to either AWS Fargate or Amazon EC2 instances
  • Make containers accessible from anywhere with zero downtime and complexity
  • Secure containers using built-in AWS security services
Amazon ECS working diagram (Source: Amazon) Fig.1: Amazon ECS working diagram (Source: Amazon)

The properties of ECS that make it popular among developers include the following:

  • Requires less experience from the user
  • Requires less management overhead
  • Is cost-effective

Amazon EKS

Amazon EKS helps you create a managed Kubernetes cluster that simplifies application deployment and scaling. EKS provides a high level of control over containers and performance, with little effort needed to manage and configure them.

EKS gives developers control over the Kubernetes worker nodes while it manages the control plane nodes, meaning you do not need to manage or patch the master servers. Communication between the master and worker nodes remains securely encrypted.

Amazon EKS working diagram (Source: Amazon) Fig. 2: Amazon EKS working diagram (Source: Amazon)

Developers believe that Amazon EKS is more extensible than Amazon ECS, as it interfaces nicely with all traditional Kubernetes enhancements such as Helm, Istio, Envoy, and several service meshes.

You can adopt EKS in the following scenarios:

  • Microservices
  • Batch processing
  • Frontend applications
  • Hybrid deployments—on-premises and cloud data centers

The properties of EKS that make it appealing to developers include:

  • Preserves all Kubernetes features and extensions
  • Handles the Kubernetes control plane (not a developer)
  • Features high availability; identifies and replaces faulty control plane nodes with zero downtime
  • Has a readily available Kubernetes community for EKS users to leverage since EKS is upstream of Kubernetes

Ultimate Showdown—Comparison Parameters

In making a comparison, developers should consider different parameters, including:

  • Developer-friendliness in deploying containers
  • Overall simplicity
  • Cost
  • Compatibility
  • Monitoring
  • Security
  • Networking
  • Scaling of containers

Developer-Friendliness and Deployments

An important parameter to look into first is how friendly these services are for developers to implement in terms of deployment and management.

Amazon ECS requires no control plane. Developers must set up the cluster and then configure and deploy tasks using the management console.

Amazon EKS takes over the management of the control plane from Kubernetes. Developers and DevOps engineers are expected to be experts in using other tools that interface with Kubernetes/EKS.

ECS has a simpler procedure for deployments, while EKS requires more configuration and expertise, meaning developers and engineers must configure and deploy the Kubernetes pods using Kops.

Overall Simplicity and Flexibility

Amazon ECS was designed with simplicity at heart. It reduces the time needed to build, deploy, and migrate containerized applications; it also reduces the number of decisions that developers must make concerning compute, network, and security settings. If you want a container service that is simple and powerful, Amazon ECS is the go-to solution.

In the area of flexibility, Amazon EKS offers broad flexibility by being compatible with every software that the open-source Kubernetes tool integrates with. AWS also adds security and resilience to the Amazon EKS service as with all AWS Managed Services. If you want a container service that interfaces with other technologies on your application stack, Amazon EKS is the right choice.


Amazon ECS does not charge extra for compute platforms such as EC2 instances or Fargate launch types. Users do, however, have to pay for AWS resources they create on the compute platforms while running applications.

Amazon EKS, on the other hand, has additional costs alongside the traditional pricing model. Users pay $0.10/hour for each EKS cluster, although they can provision just one Kubernetes cluster to run multiple applications via Kubernetes namespaces.


All Kubernetes add-ons are compatible with Amazon EKS. An application that runs on EKS clusters can also run, without any problems, on a Kubernetes cluster with negligible configuration required. This is not possible for ECS, as it uses a proprietary container only available on AWS.

The launch of ECS Anywhere (and EKS Anywhere) has made ECS compatible with third-party cloud infrastructures. Still, if you need a large cloud and on-premises (hybrid) deployment model, you should select EKS since Kubernetes is more flexible.


The AWS IAM service secures both EKS and ECS with policies that control access to tasks/pods. A slight difference ensues from the deeper level of integration that Amazon ECS has with IAM—something that is absent in EKS.

Amazon ECS integrates finely with AWS Secrets Manager and Systems Manager Parameter Store. For EKS, this would require the EKS controller or Kubernetes External Secrets.


With Amazon ECS, users can configure elastic network interfaces (ENIs) for tasks using the Amazon VPC mode. The maximum amount of tasks per instance you can create is 120. If you wish to provision more tasks, ECS supports that with a higher limit for ENIs and special prerequisites for the configuration.

With Amazon EKS, users can configure a dedicated network interface with a public IP address for their Kubernetes pods.

In a nutshell, ECS has more managed control, while EKS has to be self-managed.

Scaling of Containers

Configuring scalability on Amazon ECS can be a little cumbersome. There is a managed scaling feature that enables you to scale containers up or down on both AWS Fargate and Amazon EC2 compute platforms.

Amazon EKS doesn’t offer a fully managed scalability feature. To manage nodes, you would need to use the Cluster Autoscaler. You must also configure requests, limits, and the Horizontal Pod Austoscaler (HPA) in managed resources.

When it comes to scaling containers, Amazon ECS is the best choice, given its managed scaling feature.


Amazon ECS and EKS have built-in monitoring features that developers can further extend with other tools.

For example, both ECS and EKS make use of CloudWatch to monitor and aggregate logs and metrics using the Container Insights feature. On ECS, you can set alarms, track metrics, and monitor all resources right from one place. You can also integrate Grafana or Prometheus with ECS for further monitoring of your system. As for EKS, you can integrate it with AWS CloudTrail to gain insight into EKS management, audits, and operations.

A bonus parameter to consider is the level of community support for the services. If this matters to you, then Amazon EKS is the best choice because Kubernetes has a wider community as well as resources, extensive tools, and channels for communication.

Setting up

Amazon EKS is more complex to set up than ECS. For EKS, you have to configure the CLI and AWS IAM along with users and permissions. Furthermore, you are responsible for managing the process of creating worker nodes, as EKS does not come with those automatically. Adding to your workload, you also need to set up Terraform or CloudFormation with EKS.

With ECS, you can easily configure and deploy tasks from the console, or even make use of an API to create containerized applications.


Amazon ECS can be a great choice for smaller teams and smaller infrastructure requirements. It is simpler to use and enjoys deeper integration with other services on AWS.

Depending on your needs, you should be able to weigh the two options and decide which is best to implement, given the benefits they each offer.

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