ECS (Elastic Container Service) and Plain open-source Kubernetes often come head-to-head in multiple conversations around container orchestration. However, it is important to know that they come from different backgrounds catering to different needs. So should one even compare it? Are there any similarities? Well, in this blog, we will get to know about that. We will also discuss ECS and Plain Kubernetes in detail so that you can decide for yourself. 

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There's no doubt that containers have emerged as a game changer in developing and deploying the application. And in that, ECS and Plain Kubernetes have gained quite a name. 

However, often we find the question, ECS vs. Plain Kubernetes, which one should be chosen. 

Comparing both is like comparing two different things, maybe like comparing a circle and a cylinder! They might seem similar, but they have different origins and target different use cases. 

ECS is a managed container orchestration service backed by AWS. It simplifies the deployment and management of containers on AWS infrastructure. 

At the same time, Plain Kubernetes is an open-source project initially developed by Google. It is a container orchestration platform that can be used in various environments. That includes on-premises, public clouds, and also hybrid setups. 

So let's talk about the key differences between ECS and Kubernetes, highlighting their strengths, limitations, and unique features. Understand their distinct differences so that you'll be equipped to determine which platform aligns best with your specific requirements.

What is ECS?

ECS is one of the amazing tools that help developers manage their Docker Containers effortlessly. ECS runs in the virtual machines in the Amazon cloud, which takes all the heavy lifting for the users. 

It scales and schedules containers across different Availability Zones (AZs). Not only that, but it also keeps an eye on their performance using cool services like IAM, CloudWatch, and CloudTrail. 

And the best part about ECS is? Users can easily control and tweak their container setup using its user-friendly interface. 

Similarities between ECS and Kubernetes

Even though both ECS and Plain Kubernetes have their fair share of differences, there are also certain similarities. Let's have a look at a few of them. 

Simplified Container Management

ECS and Plain Kubernetes aim to simplify the process of managing containers. 

Both offer different ways to help users effortlessly run and scale containerized applications. Users can benefit from automatically launching and controlling containers on both platforms. 

Scalability and Load Balancing

Both ECS and Kubernetes help containers scale horizontally across multiple nodes or virtual machines. That helps in having an efficient distribution of workloads, and it also ensures the high availability of the application. 

Integration with Services

Be it Plain Kuberenrtes and AWS ECS, both of them have good integration capabilities with other services. 

ECS offers seamless integration with AWS tools, and plain Kuburentes offers integration with various third-party services. 

Resource Optimization

Both of these platforms are well-known for their resource optimization capabilities. 

They help users utilize their resources by intelligently scheduling containers based on available resources and requirements. This not only makes the process cost-effective but also offers efficiency. 

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Kubernetes vs AWS ECS Pricing: Cost Comparison

AWS manages ECS, and its pricing is based on the resources you are using. Users only pay for the EC2 instances, EBS volumes, and data transfer. 

However, there are maybe the costs for load balancers, CloudWatch monitoring, and other related AWS services associated. 

Plain Kubernetes is an open-source platform that makes it a free platform. However, it is important to understand some costs are associated with maintaining the infrastructure. 

Additionally, users might have to bear the cost of networking, storage, load balancers, and any third-party tools or services they opt for. 

Also Read: Top Tools for Kubernetes Cost Optimization

Kubernetes vs. ECS - Differences in Terminologies


In ECS, it refers to a logical grouping of container instances. 

In Kubernetes, it refers to a group of nodes that work together to run applications.

Pods vs. Tasks

In Kubernetes, pods mean a group of one or more containers deployed together on a node. 

In contrast, ECS uses Tasks to refer to a collection of scheduled and executed containers. (more on this in a later section)


Service means a set of Pods and provides a stable network endpoint in Kubernetes. 

In ECS, service means a long-running task definition that ensures a specified number of tasks are running and automatically handles scaling and load balancing.

Also Read: AWS Karpenter vs Kubernetes Cluster Autoscaler

Namespace in Kubernetes vs Cluster in ECS

The Namespace is used by Kubernetes to logically isolate resources within a cluster. 

Whereas in ECS, "Clusters" serve a similar purpose as logical groupings of resources but are at a higher level, representing the overall environment.

Kubernetes Pod vs ECS Task

As mentioned, Kubernetes pods refer to a group of one or more containers deployed together on a node. You can consider it as the smallest deployable unit. 

It can consist of one or more containers that share the same network namespace and storage volumes.

It is an atomic unit of deployment within Kubernetes. These pods provide a cohesive environment for containers to run together, communicate efficiently, and share resources. 

On the other hand, ECS Task is the collection of scheduled and executed containers. 

It represents a logical grouping of one or more containers that are scheduled and executed together. A task in ECS can consist of multiple containers that work together to form a complete application.

Also Read: Differences between Istio, Consul, and Linkerd

Amazon ECS vs Open-source Kubernetes: Networking

ECS is well-known for offering robust networking by providing a built-in networking solution. 

ECS uses Amazon VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) to isolate and secure container deployments. It also leverages AWS features, like security groups and subnets, that help control containers' inbound and outbound traffic flow.

Kubernetes offers more flexible networking. CNI (Container Networking Interface) allows users to choose from various networking solutions. 

To help users get greater control of their container communication, it offers options like overlay networks, bridge networks, and more. 

Kubernetes vs AWS ECS: Application Health Checks

To define the health checks in Kubernetes, users can use probes. It allows users to periodically check the health of containers running in a Pod. 

Typically, there support two types of probes supported by Kubernetes: Readiness and Liveness Probes. Liveness verifies if the container is running correctly, and readiness verifies if a container is ready to receive traffic. 

ECS also has similar functionality when it comes to health checks. Users can configure the health task through Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) or Application Load Balancer (ALB). 

These load balancers can periodically send requests to your containers to determine their health. If a container fails the health check, ECS can replace it with a healthy one to maintain the desired application state.

Also Read: Best Practices for Kubernetes

Kubernetes vs Amazon ECS: Number of Containers/Machines

Kubernetes offers amazing flexibility to help users deploy and manage large numbers of containers across clusters of machines. 

Users can scale their applications horizontally by adding more devices to the cluster and distributing containers across them. Besides that, Kubernetes takes care of scheduling and orchestrating the containers. This ensures optimal resource utilization.

ECS also offers a similar capability to Kubernetes, with slight differences. 

In ECS, users can define tasks that consist of one or more containers. These tasks can be deployed on a cluster of machines managed by ECS. 

The number of tasks can vary based on users' application requirements. It also allows users to scale the number of tasks to match the desired level of containerization. 

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Kubernetes vs. AWS ECS: Ease of Deployment

ECS is well-versed in providing a more streamlined and simplified deployment experience. Since Amazon manages the service, ECS abstracts away many of the complexities of deploying containers. 

It offers an intuitive web console, CLI tools, and integrations with other AWS services. These features make the process of getting started with ECS much easier. 

Whereas Kubernetes offers a highly flexible and extensible platform for deploying containers. It is known for offering various deployment options. 

These options include YAML manifests, declarative configurations, and deployment controllers. However, it requires a steep learning curve. 

Also Read: A Complete List of Docker Commands

Kubernetes vs ECS: Application Availability & Scalability

ECS offers a mechanism for ensuring application availability and scalability. ECS offers service configurations that ensure the desired number of tasks or containers are always running. 

It also helps automatically handle container failures, replace unhealthy instances, and scale the number of tasks based on load or predefined rules. 

Kubernetes provides built-in features for high availability and scalability. The concepts, like replica sets, ensure that a specified number of identical containers are always running. 

Kubernetes can automatically restart containers, redistribute them across nodes, and even scale the number of replicas based on resource utilization or demand. This helps maintain application availability and seamless scaling as your workload increases.

Also Read: How to Manage Kubernetes Clusters using Kubeadm?

ECS vs. Kubernetes: Flexibility/Vendor Lock-in

Since plain Kubernetes is an open-source platform, it offers a great degree of flexibility. 

The good thing about it is it can be deployed on various cloud providers, on-premises environments, or in hybrid setups. This gives users the freedom to use their infrastructure, and that helps them be stuck with one specific vendor. 

Whereas AWS manages EWS, it's tightly integrated with the AWS ecosystem. It's a brainer that ECS simplifies deployment and management on AWS. 

But it can also lead to vendor lock-in because it is specifically designed for the AWS environment. 

ECS vs. EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service)

ECS is a managed container orchestration service provided by AWS. At the same time, EKS is a Kubernetes offering that AWS manages. 

ECS is known for removing infrastructure complexity and offering seamless integration with other AWS services. 

EKS, on the other hand, is known for offering the flexibility and scalability of Kubernetes. It allows users to leverage rich kubernetes systems via them. Read this blog for a more thorough understanding of the differences between ECS and EKS.

Which to Choose - ECS, Kubernetes, or EKS?

Choosing between ECS, Kubernetes, or EKS depends upon various factors. Let's have a quick look at each of them. 

Familiarity and Expertise

If your team is well-versed and great with kubernetes, then leveraging EKS might be the right option for you. 

However, if you want a more straightforward and well-managed service, then ECS or Plain Kubernetes might be the right option. 

Ecosystem and Community Support

When it comes to ecosystem and community support, each one of them holds a great position. 

However, Kubernetes wins this race with its wide community reach and vast ecosystem of tools, extensions, and resources. 

Scalability and Infrastructure Requirements

The three of them offer a great horizontal scaling ability. However, ECS is tightly integrated with AWS services and is well-suited for AWS-centric environments. 

And EKS offers a more vendor-specific approach. 

Ultimately, the decision should be based on your requirements, existing infrastructure, team expertise, and long-term goals.

Evaluate the trade-offs between ease of use, flexibility, scalability, ecosystem support, and cost to determine whether ECS, Kubernetes, or EKS best fits your container orchestration needs.

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ECS vs Open-source Kubernetes - Summary of Differences





Based on AWS resource usage

Open-source, pricing varies by provider


ECS Cluster, Task, Services

Pods, replica sets, services


Built-in networking with Amazon VPC

Flexible network options with CNI

Pod vs Task

Group of containers within a Pod

Group of containers within a Task

Application Health checks

Integrated with Elastic/ Application LB

Liveness and readiness probes

Number of Containers & Machines

Scalability based on task definitions

Scalability across a cluster of nodes

Ease of Deployment

Simplified deployment and management

Flexible and extensible deployment options

Application Availability & Scalability

Built-in high availability and scaling

Built-in high availability and scaling

Flexibility/Vendor Lock-in

Tightly integrated with the AWS ecosystem

More flexibility, less vendor lock-in


Does ECS replace Kubernetes?

No, ECS (Amazon Elastic Container Service) and Kubernetes are different container orchestration platforms.

Is ECS based on Docker Swarm?

No, ECS is not based on Docker Swarm. AWS developed and designed an ECS container orchestration service to work with Docker containers.

How many containers can run in an ECS task?

An ECS task can run multiple containers. The number of containers per task can vary based on the application requirements. 

What to choose, ECS or EKS?

The choice between ECS (Amazon Elastic Container Service) and EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service) depends on various factors.