Kubernetes: French cloud Scaleway challenges AWS, Google and Microsoft

In this comparison of Kubernetes as a Service offerings, find out which players are out there as well as their strengths and weaknesses and pricing.

Kubernetes has definitely won the battle of software container orchestrators. Since it was officially unveiled by Google in June 2014, the open source solution has grown in popularity and has continued to do so ever since. Handling K8s, as its afficionados call it, remains complex, however, and cloud providers quickly saw the value of offering a managed version. By using a Kubernetes as a Service offer, organizations are freed from the configuration, operation and maintenance of the orchestrator. The cloud manages the updates and the automatic sizing of machine resources(Ram, CPU) according to the activity.

Initiator of the open source project, Google was also the first to market a KaaS. Called Google Container Engine (GKE), it was launched in August 2015. Its two big rivals, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, will only unveil their alternatives, Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) and Azure Kubernetes Service(AKS) respectively, at the end of 2017. By virtue of its precedence, Google has been leading the way. Today, the three American providers are equal, believes Cyril Becker. “They offer almost identical functional coverage,” notes the CTO of Alter Way. More recently, two “Frenchies ” have joined the party. OVHcloud launched Managed Kubernetes Service in private beta in October 2018 and then its commercial version in February the following year. Scaleway, meanwhile, unveiled its Kubernetes Kapsule beta in October 2019 and the final Kubernetes Kapsule release in late March 2020.

Comparison of Kubernetes cloud offerings
Offering Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) OVHCloud Managed Kubernetes Service Scaleway Kubernetes Kapsule
Release 2015 2017 2017 2018 2019
Latest supported version of Kubernetes 1.17 1.17 1.17.a 1.18 1.19
Functional benefits 100% open source ecosystem, pre-emptive VMs, Linux and Windows compatibility, hybrid and multi-cloud deployment, serverless containers. Integration with AWS services (CloudWatch, IAM…), hybrid deployment (Outposts), serverless option (Fargate). Identity management (Azure Active Directory), integrated development (Azure Dev Spaces), personalized recommendations (Azure Advisor). Deployment of Kubernetes in public (OpenStack) and private (VMware) clouds or dedicated bare metal servers (with Platform9). Autoscaling, autohealing, Kubernetes dashbord, preconfigured Ingress Controller.
Free flat control No No Yes Yes Yes
References Pizza Hut, Sky Italia, Tokopedia, Alpha Vertex… Verizon, Snap, Pearson, Condé Nast… Bosch, Siemens Heathineers, Finastra… NC NC
Pricing (excl. VAT) 0,10 euro per hour for each cluster created in addition to the resources consumed (except Anthos GKE offer). 0,10 euro per hour for each cluster created in addition to the consumed resources. Pricing based on consumed resources. Optional SLA contract according to the activity time: 0,085 euro per cluster and per hour. Pricing based on resources consumed. General purpose” instances from 0.0619 euro per hour. Pricing based on resources consumed. Compatible instances from 0.02 euro per hour.

For Cyril Becker, Scaleway is a real challenger to the three American giants. “Its offer is robust and covers almost the same functionalities while breaking the prices”, he acknowledges. In this, our expert compares the Parisian provider to DigitalOcean, a troublemaker in the U.S. market that has been offering a very competitive managed Kubernetes service for over a year. The small number of regions offered by the Scaleway cloud (Paris, Amsterdam and soon Warsaw) and the lack of precedence of the stable version of its Kapsule distribution nevertheless handicap the subsidiary of Iliad.

Free management of clusters or not

As for OVHcloud, Cyril Becker regrets the time taken by the European leader in cloud computing to cover the main features of a KaaS. Its service has only integrated autoscaling this year. The provider intends to catch up. In the spirit of transparency, it unveiled this summer the R&D roadmap for its product. Its offer is only available in France (Gravelines) and Canada (Beauharnois). Whether it’s Scaleway or OVHcloud, their status and location made in France are a real asset in the eyes of a growing number of companies.

Of course, there are other criteria to consider. Starting with the life cycle of version upgrades. Here again, Scaleway stands out by supporting the latest major version of Kubernetes (1.19). This may delight the developer community, keen on new features, or conversely, confuse technical directors looking for a stable and proven version of Kubernetes.

“The choice of an open source system meets the desire to rely on agnostic technologies”

Other criteria: the pricing method, and above all access to the control plane at no extra cost. This means the brain of the orchestrator, in charge of positioning the pods on the different machines of a cluster. Google Cloud, which offered it for free at the beginning, has since made a change of course. It now applies fees for the management of a cluster, just like AWS. Azure has remained on a free model. The same logic applies to Scaleway and OVHcloud. The user only pays for what he consumes in resources: virtual machines, bandwidth, storage and any associated services.

On the compute part, Google offers natively “pre-emptive” instances. Corresponding to the excess capacity of Compute Engine, these instances show price reductions of up to 60%. In return, they can be stopped at any time by Google, even if this probability is low, and are systematically shut down after 24 hours. AWS and Azure also offer this type of instances called spot “but it requires de facto more configuration”, warns Cyril Becker.

Amazon EKS, serverless and hybrid

Adherence to proprietary services is another point to keep in mind. What’s at stake? Limiting dependence on a cloud and promoting conditions for application reversibility. GKE relies on a 100% Kubernetes ecosystem while AWS and Azure tie their KaaS to home-made bricks. GKE manages identification with Kubernetes while Amazon will use its own solution called AWS IAM (for Identity and Access Management). For Cyril Becker, this approach contradicts the original philosophy of Kubernetes. “The choice of an open source system meets the desire to rely on agnostic technologies,” argues the CTO of Alter Way.

Other criteria may come into play, such as the hosting method or the number of load balancers supported. On this last point, AWS supports several load balancers: ALB, Network Load Balancer (NLB) or Classic Load Balancer. Another advantage of Amazon EKS is that it is available in both on-premise (or hybrid) and serverless mode via the AWS Outposts and Fargate services respectively. For its part, OVHcloud has partnered with Platform9 to offer its managed Kubernetes solution on dedicated bare metal servers.

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