K3s and K8s stand at different ends of the spectrum, each with strengths and considerations. K3s offers a lightweight, streamlined solution, perfect for resource-constrained environments, while K8s boasts the battle-hardened pedigree of scalability and resilience. This blog explores the finer differentiators between these options for your containerized infrastructure.

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Two formidable players have taken the stage in container orchestration: K3s and K8s. 

K3s is like the nimble and agile newcomer, ready to take on the world with its lightweight charm. 

Then, we have K8s, the seasoned veteran, battle-tested, and trusted by enterprises worldwide for its scalability and robustness.

Join us as we explore the technical nuances, strengths, and best-fit scenarios for each, helping you navigate the exciting world of container orchestration. 

Let the K3s vs K8s showdown begin!

Revisiting Kubernetes (K8s) 

Kubernetes, fondly referred to as K8s, is the reigning champion of container orchestration. 

It is an open-source platform that brings order and efficiency to the complex world of containerized applications. 

Think of K8s as the maestro, seamlessly coordinating an ensemble of containers, networking, storage, and computing resources. 

With its declarative approach, Kubernetes allows developers to define the desired state of their applications while it handles the intricate orchestration behind the scenes. 

This enables seamless scalability, high availability, and fault tolerance, empowering organizations to embrace the cloud-native paradigm and unlock new levels of agility and innovation. 

From scaling applications to managing complex deployments, K8s offers a vibrant ecosystem of tools and extensions, solidifying its position as the go-to solution for modern application deployment.

Also Read: Only Kubectl Cheat Sheet You'll Ever Need

What is K3s? 

K3s is a lightweight distribution of the popular container orchestration platform. 

Built for resource-constrained environments, K3s strips away the complexity while retaining the core functionality of Kubernetes. 

It offers a simplified and streamlined approach to deploying and managing containerized applications, making it an ideal choice for edge computing, IoT devices, and low-resource clusters. 

With its smaller footprint and reduced resource requirements, K3s brings the power of Kubernetes to environments where efficiency and simplicity are paramount. 

Whether you're a developer or an operator, K3s opens up a world of possibilities for deploying scalable and resilient applications in constrained scenarios.

K3s vs K8s - Performance

Regarding performance, K3s and K8s have distinct characteristics that cater to different needs. 

K3s, being a lightweight distribution, shines in resource-constrained environments. 

Its streamlined design and reduced memory footprint result in faster startup times and lower resource consumption. 

K3s excels in scenarios where efficiency and agility are critical, making it an excellent choice for edge computing and IoT deployments.

On the other hand, K8s, with its battle-tested reputation, offers unparalleled scalability and performance for large-scale deployments. 

It has been optimized to handle clusters with thousands of nodes and hundreds of thousands of containers. 

With features like horizontal pod autoscaling and automatic load balancing, K8s effortlessly scales applications to meet varying demands, ensuring optimal performance even under heavy workloads.

K3s vs K8s - Features

When comparing the features of K3s and K8s, it's important to consider the trade-offs between lightweight simplicity and comprehensive functionality.

K3s, as a lightweight Kubernetes distribution, offers a streamlined feature set tailored for resource-constrained environments. 

While it retains the core functionality of Kubernetes, K3s eliminates some of the less commonly used components and reduces the memory footprint. 

It focuses on essential features like container orchestration, networking, and storage, providing a simplified experience without sacrificing performance.

Whereas K8s is renowned for its extensive feature set and mature ecosystem. 

It offers various functionalities, including advanced networking capabilities, service discovery, load balancing, secret management, and powerful deployment options. 

K8s is designed to handle large-scale, complex deployments and provides robust solutions for managing stateful applications, monitoring, and scaling workloads.

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K3s vs K8s - Ease of Deployment

K3s, with its lightweight nature, provides a simplified and streamlined deployment experience. 

It requires fewer system resources and has a smaller installation footprint, making it quicker and easier to set up.

 K3s is designed to be straightforward and user-friendly, allowing developers and operators to get up and running with minimal effort. 

Its simplified architecture and reduced dependencies make it an excellent choice for deploying containerized applications in resource-constrained environments or on edge devices.

In contrast, Kubernetes (K8s), while more complex to set up, offer robust deployment capabilities for larger and more intricate deployments. 

It provides a wealth of configuration options, allowing for fine-grained control over the deployment process. 

K8s offers rolling updates, horizontal and vertical scaling, automated load balancing, and advanced networking options. 

Although the initial setup may require more configuration and expertise, K8s excels in managing and scaling complex applications in production environments.

K3s vs K8s - Default Components

K3s, as a lightweight Kubernetes distribution, takes a minimalist approach to default components. 

It includes only the essential components required for container orchestration, such as the Kubernetes API server, kubelet, kube-proxy, and core DNS. 

By default, K3s omits some of the less commonly used components found in a standard K8s installation, reducing the memory footprint and simplifying the deployment process.

On the other hand, K8s provides a comprehensive set of default components that form the foundation of the Kubernetes ecosystem. 

These components include the Kubernetes API server, etcd for distributed key-value storage, kubelet for managing containers on individual nodes, kube-proxy for network proxying, and the Kubernetes dashboard for visualizing and managing cluster resources

K8s vs K3s: Resources Requirements

K8s, known for their scalability and robustness, typically require significant resources to operate efficiently. 

It is designed to handle large-scale deployments and can span clusters with thousands of nodes and hundreds of thousands of containers. 

Running K8s demands considerable memory, CPU power, and storage capacity to ensure optimal performance, especially in production environments where reliability and scalability are paramount.

In contrast, K3s shine in resource-constrained environments. As a lightweight Kubernetes distribution, it offers a streamlined and efficient footprint. 

K3s reduces the resource requirements by excluding non-essential components while retaining core functionalities. 

This makes it an excellent choice for edge computing, IoT devices, and low-resource clusters where hardware limitations are a concern.

Also Read: Top Kubernetes (K8s) Cost Optimization Tools

K3s vs K8s: Speed

K3s, being a lightweight distribution of Kubernetes, excels in terms of speed and responsiveness. 

Its streamlined design and reduced memory footprint result in faster startup times and lower resource consumption. 

K3s is specifically optimized for speed and efficiency, making it an ideal choice for scenarios where quick deployment and minimal overhead are crucial, such as edge computing and IoT devices.

On the other hand, K8s, with their robust and feature-rich nature, may have slightly longer startup times and higher resource requirements than K3s. 

However, once up and running, K8s offers exceptional performance and scalability for larger and more complex deployments. 

It is engineered to handle massive workloads and cluster scaling, providing optimal performance under heavy loads.

K8s vs K3s: Security

K8s, being a mature and widely adopted platform, has a robust security framework. 

It provides security features, including role-based access control (RBAC), network, secrets management, and pod security policies. 

K8s offers a fine-grained security model allowing administrators to define and enforce access controls, ensuring only authorized users and processes can interact with the cluster. 

It also integrates with third-party security tools and solutions to enhance security posture.

On the other hand, K3s emphasizes security through simplicity and reduced attack surface. 

It follows a minimalistic approach as a lightweight distribution by excluding non-essential components and reducing the potential attack vectors. 

K3s still includes essential security features like RBAC and secrets management but may not provide the same level of granular control and advanced security options as K8s. 

However, K3s aims to provide a secure environment without compromising performance and resource efficiency.

Also Read: Differences between Observability & Monitoring

K3s vs K8s: Support

K8s, being the more established and widely adopted platform, benefits from a vast and active community of users, contributors, and vendors. 

The Kubernetes community is known for its strong support network, with numerous online forums, documentation, and resources available. 

Additionally, many cloud providers and technology companies offer dedicated support and consulting services for Kubernetes best practices, deployments, assisting with troubleshooting, best practices, and performance optimization.

On the other hand, K3s, as a relatively newer and lightweight distribution of Kubernetes, may have a smaller community than K8s. 

However, it still benefits from the Kubernetes ecosystem and community, ensuring support and resources for K3s users. 

While the support options may not be as extensive as those available for K8s, the community-driven nature of Kubernetes ensures that users can seek guidance, share experiences, and find solutions to common challenges.

When to Use - K3s vs K8s?

Choosing between K3s and K8s depends on your deployment's needs and requirements. Here's a closer look at when to use each platform.

When to Choose K3s?

Resource-constrained environments

If you're operating in edge computing, IoT devices, or limited resources, K3s shines. Its lightweight nature and reduced memory footprint make it highly efficient in these scenarios.

Simplified deployment

If you value a streamlined and user-friendly experience with minimal setup and configuration, K3s is the way to go. It offers a hassle-free deployment process, allowing you to get up and running quickly.

When to Use Kubernetes (K8s)?

Large-scale deployments

If your application demands scalability and can potentially grow to thousands of nodes and containers, K8s excels. It is designed to easily handle complex, high-traffic workloads, ensuring optimal performance and availability.

Advanced features and ecosystem

If you require a comprehensive set of features and access to a wide range of integrations and tools, K8s is the ideal choice. 

It offers advanced functionalities for networking, storage, monitoring, and more, supported by a mature community and vendor ecosystem.

Also Read: Docker Swarm vs Kubernetes (K8s)

K3s vs MicroK8s

K3s is ideal for resource-constrained environments, edge computing, and IoT, offering efficiency and simplified deployment. 

MicroK8s, on the other hand, is geared towards local development and testing, providing a lightweight setup for running Kubernetes on a single machine. 

It is suggested to choose K3s for constrained environments and MicroK8s for local development needs.

K3s vs Minikube

 K3s is a lightweight Kubernetes distribution tailored for resource-constrained environments, edge computing, and IoT devices. It prioritizes efficiency and offers a streamlined deployment process. 

Minikube is a tool designed for the local development and testing of Kubernetes applications. It provides a convenient way to run a single-node Kubernetes cluster on a developer's machine. 

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Kubernetes Rancher vs K3s

Kubernetes Rancher and K3s, both developed by Rancher Labs, offer distinct solutions within 

Kubernetes Rancher is a comprehensive management platform with a centralized interface for deploying, scaling, and managing Kubernetes clusters. 

With advanced features like multi-cluster management, monitoring, and enhanced security, it caters to organizations needing extensive management capabilities across multiple clusters. 

On the other hand, K3s is a lightweight Kubernetes distribution specifically designed for resource-constrained environments and edge computing. 

It emphasizes simplicity, reduced resource usage, and a streamlined deployment process. 

Also Read: What are DORA Metrics and Do they Make Sense?

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use K3s for production?

Ideally, you shouldn't use K3s for production.

Using K3s in production depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Consider factors such as the scale of your workload, resource constraints, and the level of support and compatibility required for your production environment.