Red Hat OpenShift vs Kubernetes: Key Differences

In today's fast-paced digital environment, the critical role of container orchestration is indisputable. As businesses and developers tackle the challenges of deploying, managing, and scaling applications in containers, Kubernetes and OpenShift have emerged as leading platforms in the orchestration landscape. Each technology plays a crucial role in the deployment of modern applications, addressing distinct requirements and preferences within the tech community.

This blog post discusses the key differences between OpenShift and Kubernetes, providing insights that will help technical professionals understand the unique advantages and considerations associated with each platform.

Through a detailed exploration of their architectures, core components, security features, and more, you will understand how to leverage these technologies to meet the demands of modern application deployment.

Understanding container orchestration

Container orchestration is the automated management of the life cycle of containers, including provisioning, deployment, scaling, networking, and state management. This technology is crucial for applications that rely on containers for their deployment, as it ensures that the infrastructure can dynamically respond to an application's needs, maintaining high availability and efficient resource utilization.

Read more about containerization and container orchestration via our learning hub.

Kubernetes in brief

Kubernetes, also known as K8s, was a key step in the evolution of container orchestration technologies. The open-source platform features a robust framework and extensive capabilities for automating the deployment, operation, and scaling of application containers. Its layered architecture removes the complexity involved in managing containerized applications.

Kubernetes has become the cornerstone of cloud-native application deployment across diverse environments, from on-premises data centers to public clouds and hybrid setups.

Visit our post, “Introduction to Kubernetes,” to explore K8s’ architecture in-depth.

OpenShift: An in-depth overview

OpenShift, developed by Red Hat, is a powerful enterprise-grade container orchestration platform similar to Kubernetes but with additional features and tools. It offers a comprehensive environment for developing, deploying, and managing containerized applications.

OpenShift integrates and simplifies numerous aspects of the container lifecycle, from source code management to production deployment, emphasizing security, developer productivity, and operational efficiency.

Core components and architecture

OpenShift has essentially the same core architecture as Kubernetes, utilizing pods, services, deployments, and volumes. However, it introduces additional components and abstractions that cater to enterprise requirements:

  • Routes: Extending the typical Kubernetes service, routes provide named, external access to services, supporting load balancing and SSL/TLS termination.
  • BuildConfigs and image streams: These components automate building container images from source code, managing updates to images, and triggering deployments.
  • Projects: An extension of Kubernetes namespaces, projects add a layer of access control and organization, aligning with enterprise governance and team structures.

OpenShift's enhanced Kubernetes experience

OpenShift enhances the Kubernetes experience by providing a more integrated and user-friendly environment. It includes a comprehensive web console that offers visibility into the cluster's state, application metrics, and operational actions:

OpenShift web console (Source: OpenShift blog) Fig. 1: OpenShift web console (Source: OpenShift blog)

Additionally, OpenShift places a strong emphasis on improving the developer experience with tools and features such as:

  • Source-to-Image (S2I): A tool that builds reproducible container images from source code without needing Dockerfiles
  • Developer console: A user-friendly interface that allows developers to create, deploy, and manage their applications directly from a web browser
  • CodeReady Workspaces: A Kubernetes-native development environment that enables developers to code, build, test, and run applications on OpenShift

For operations teams, OpenShift provides advanced monitoring, logging, and automation tools to streamline the deployment and management of applications at scale. It integrates with existing CI/CD pipelines and offers automated scaling, self-healing capabilities, and comprehensive security features:

Monitoring in OpenShift (Source: OpenShift Blog) Fig. 2: Monitoring in OpenShift (Source: OpenShift Blog)

Security and compliance in OpenShift

Security is a cornerstone of OpenShift, with built-in security features at every layer of the container stack:

  • Enforces security policies and access controls at the project and cluster level
  • Provides a secure container runtime with SELinux
  • Includes automated scans of container images to uncover vulnerabilities
  • Supports compliance with industry standards and regulations, ideal for sensitive and regulated workloads

Key differences between OpenShift and Kubernetes

While Kubernetes and OpenShift share a common foundation, there are distinct differences between the platforms that can influence an organization's choice depending on their specific needs, technical requirements, and operational preferences.

Installation and setup

Kubernetes offers flexible installation options across environments: cloud, on-premises, and hybrid. However, setting up a Kubernetes cluster from scratch can be complex, requiring a deep understanding of its components and configurations.

OpenShift provides the OpenShift Container Platform and OpenShift OKD (the community distribution) to allow for a more streamlined installation. It also includes installer tools and pre-configured templates that simplify setup, although this may impose more specific infrastructure requirements than vanilla Kubernetes.

Security features

Kubernetes implements network policies, role-based access control (RBAC), secrets management, and other robust security features. However, securing a Kubernetes cluster often requires additional tools and configurations to meet enterprise security standards.

OpenShift builds on Kubernetes' security model by adding enhanced security features out of the box, such as security context constraints (SCCs) to extend Kubernetes' security policies. OpenShift also integrates more tightly with enterprise authentication systems and provides automated vulnerability scanning of container images.

User interface and experience

Kubernetes offers Kubernetes Dashboard as a basic web-based UI, providing visibility into a cluster's state and resources. For more advanced operations, users primarily rely on the kubectl command-line tool.

OpenShift features a more comprehensive and user-friendly web console with detailed insights into applications, cluster resources, and administrative functions. OpenShift's web console also facilitates application deployment, scaling, and management, making these tasks more user-friendly for individuals with different levels of technical skill.

Support and community

Kubernetes users benefit from an extensive open-source community, with members actively contributing documentation, support, and numerous third-party tools and extensions. Commercial support is also available through various Kubernetes service providers.

OpenShift — as a Red Hat product — offers official enterprise support, including access to Red Hat's extensive documentation, professional services, and customer support. The OpenShift community is also actively involved in further improving the platform.

Pricing and enterprise readiness

Being an open-source project, Kubernetes itself is free. Costs incurred are associated with the infrastructure it runs on and any commercial support services. As to its enterprise readiness, Kubernetes’ flexibility makes it a good fit for numerous types of enterprise applications.

OpenShift’s subscription model includes software, support, and maintenance from Red Hat. This can appeal to companies looking for a comprehensive solution with predictable costs and enterprise-level support.

The table below presents a summarized comparison of the two platforms:

Feature Kubernetes OpenShift
Installation Flexible but complex Streamlined with installer tools
Security Strong, with additional configurations needed Enhanced out-of-the-box security features
User interface Basic web UI and CLI Comprehensive and user-friendly web console
Support Community and third-party providers Official enterprise support from Red Hat
Pricing Free, costs associated with infrastructure Subscription model, including software and support
Enterprise readiness High, with flexibility for customization High, with integrated solutions and support

In summary, Kubernetes is ideal for organizations that require flexibility in their infrastructure setup and have the technical expertise to manage and secure a Kubernetes cluster. It's well-suited for both startups and enterprises that prefer an open-source approach and are looking to integrate with a wide array of cloud-native tools.

OpenShift is suitable for enterprises that seek a comprehensive, out-of-the-box solution with integrated developer tools, enhanced security features, and enterprise-level support. It's particularly appealing to organizations prioritizing ease of use, security, and compliance within their container orchestration platform.

Observability in OpenShift and Kubernetes

In containerized environments, observability refers to the ability to monitor, log, and trace the activities and performance of containers and applications across a distributed system. This capability is essential for diagnosing issues, understanding system behavior, and making informed decisions to optimize performance and resource utilization.

Both OpenShift and Kubernetes offer mechanisms and tools to facilitate observability, but their approaches and the ecosystem of tools available can differ.

Kubernetes Observability

Kubernetes offers basic monitoring capabilities through metrics exposed by the kubelet on each node, along with integration options with a wide range of open-source and commercial monitoring tools. Common choices include Prometheus for metrics collection and Grafana for visualization, which can be deployed as part of the Kubernetes ecosystem.

OpenShift Observability

OpenShift enhances Kubernetes' monitoring capabilities by integrating and pre-configuring Prometheus and Grafana as part of its platform; this provides a more seamless observability experience out of the box. OpenShift also offers additional tools like the Elasticsearch, Fluentd, and Kibana (EFK) stack for logging, making it easier to aggregate and analyze logs across the cluster.

Site24x7's Role in Enhancing Observability

To enhance observability in both OpenShift and Kubernetes environments, ManageEngine Site24x7 offers comprehensive monitoring solutions. It helps administrators and developers gain deeper insights into their applications and infrastructure, facilitating quicker issue resolution and more effective performance optimization via a unified view of metrics, logs, and traces.

For Kubernetes, Site24x7 can integrate with the cluster to collect metrics, logs, and events, offering detailed dashboards and alerting mechanisms that help monitor the health and performance of the cluster and its workloads.

In OpenShift environments, Site24x7 leverages the platform's built-in monitoring tools. It adds advanced analytics, comprehensive dashboards, and customizable alerts, providing an enhanced observability layer that supports operational and development needs.

Advanced Monitoring Features with Site24x7

Site24x7’s automated anomaly detection uses machine learning to identify unusual patterns in application or infrastructure behavior. This advanced feature alerts administrators to potential issues before they impact users.

Customizable dashboards are another key function, allowing teams to tailor their monitoring views to specific needs, while an integrated alerting system ensures that critical issues are promptly addressed.

By leveraging Site24x7 in conjunction with the native observability tools in OpenShift and Kubernetes, organizations can achieve a more robust and effective monitoring strategy. This approach supports proactive issue resolution, performance optimization, and a better understanding of system behavior. All of this, in turn, contributes to higher reliability and efficiency of containerized applications.


While Kubernetes offers a flexible, widely adopted platform for container orchestration, OpenShift goes beyond Kubernetes’ functionality with enterprise-ready features, enhanced security, and an integrated developer experience. Organizations must consider their requirements, goals, and existing technologies when choosing between the two platforms.

However, no matter which orchestration platform an organization chooses, as containerized applications continue to drive innovation and efficiency in software development and deployment, the importance of effective observability cannot be overstated. Unified and cloud-native platforms such as Site24x7 ensure these complex environments remain performant, reliable, and secure.

For further insights into monitoring and optimizing your Kubernetes or OpenShift environment, consider exploring Site24x7's dedicated solutions with a 30-day free trial.

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