k0s vs k3s vs microk8s Kubernetes Distributions Comparison

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The journey into the land of microservices where most people concur that it is paved with the warmth of glory can be hard to go through. As the philosophies, tools, skills and technologies continue to mature, the path to the “land of glory” becomes clearer and clearer as the thicket lightens and the lights shines the way.

To add another candle into the already bright illumination, we take this chance to compare k0s vs k3s vs microk8s Kubernetes Distributions that continue to inspire more adoption of Kubernetes/Microservices into organizations as well as personal projects. Anyone who has been keen on learning Kubernetes and all matters Microservices can attest that they have come across those three names before and in case they caused whirlpools of dubiety, this article attempts to clear off smog off.

We are going to compare k0s, k3s and microk8s by looking at what they are offering and what they are about in general. So pick your favorite beverage and keep sipping it as we roll down this hill step by step. Let us first define them and then take a close look at what their pockets are carrying. Here we go.

k0s Kubernetes Distribution

From its main website, k0s is the simple, solid & certified Kubernetes distribution that works on any infrastructure: public & private clouds, on-premises, edge & hybrid. It’s 100% open source & free. The zero in its name comes from the point that developer friction is reduced to zero, allowing anyone, with no special skills or expertise in Kubernetes to easily get started.

k3sKubernetes Distribution

Adapted from Rancher, K3s is an official CNCF sandbox project that delivers a lightweight yet powerful certified Kubernetes distribution designed for production workloads across resource-restrained, remote locations or on IoT devices. Kubernetes is a 10-letter word stylized as K8s. So something half as big as Kubernetes would be a 5-letter word stylized as K3s. With that, the 3 in the name is explained thus.

Microk8sKubernetes Distribution

Derived from MicroK8s main docs web page, MicroK8s is the smallest, fastest, fully-conformant Kubernetes that tracks upstream releases and makes clustering trivial. MicroK8s is great for offline development, prototyping, and testing. Use it on a VM as a small, cheap, reliable k8s for CI/CD. It is also the best production grade Kubernetes for appliances. Develop IoT apps for k8s and deploy them to MicroK8s on your Linux boxes.

k0s vs k3s vs microk8s – Detailed Comparison Table

For ease of reading, we decided that a table will be good for easier comparison. Let us take a look at what they have to offer below.

Feature k0s k3s microk8s
Licensing Completely Open Source Completely Open Source Completely Open Source
Packaging k0s is distributed as a single binary with minimal host OS dependencies besides the host OS kernel Packaged as a single binary. MicroK8s is a Kubernetes cluster delivered as a single snap package.
Kubernetes Versions v1.20 and v1.21 Latest release updates Kubernetes to v1.22.1 Kubernetes v1.22, v1.21
Container Runtime ContainerD (default) ContainerD (default) ContainerD is the container runtime used by MicroK8s
Supported Host OS Linux (kernel v3.10 or newer)          Windows Server 2019 (experimental) K3s is expected to work on most modern Linux systems Windows 10, Linux, macOS
Control Plane Storage Options In-Cluster Elastic Etcd with TLS (default), In-Cluster SQLite (default for single node), External PostgreSQL, External MySQL sqlite3 is the default storage mechanism. etcd3, MySQL, Postgres also still available MicroK8s supports high availability using Dqlite as the datastore for cluster state.
Built-In Security Features RBAC, Support OpenID Providers, Pod Security Policies, Network Policies, Micro VM Runtimes (coming soon), Control Plane Isolation Secure by default with reasonable defaults for lightweight environments Secure by default with reasonable defaults for lightweight environments
Supported CNI Providers Kube-Router (default), Calico or Custom K3s will run with flannel by default as the CNI, using VXLAN as the default backend. Custom supported as well Flanneld runs if ha-cluster is not enabled. If ha-cluster is enabled, calico is run instead.
Supported Machine Architectures x86-64, ARM64, ARMv7 Latest release supports x86_64, ARMv7, and ARM64 x86_64, ARMv7, and ARM64
Backing Company Mirantis Rancher Canonical
Addons Minimum Addons Traefik, Helm,LB Dashboard, Ingress, DNS, and more

Conclusion

Kubernetes has managed to do what most platforms in the past have been trying to accomplish. It has made the deployment of applications as easy and as flexible as possible. It has other added advantages and benefits such as self-healing, ease of monitoring, ease of deployment, complex configuration, orchestration, security, deployment at scale among many other benefits. k0s, k3s and microk8s have come in full force to make the deployment of Kubernetes as easy for every developer out there who would wish to start deploying microservices.

We encourage you to give the three Kubernetes distributions a try and get a feel of what works for you. In the end, we would wish to thank all of you for your generosity, your support and feedback. We wish you the best in your pursuits.

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A systems engineer with excellent skills in systems administration, cloud computing, systems deployment, virtualization, containers, and a certified ethical hacker.