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Kubernetes Vs. Mesos: A Comparison of Containerization Platforms Part II

Mohammed NaserMohammed Naser

Kubernetes and Apache Mesos are major players in container orchestration. Let's take a look at how they compare to each other.

Kubernetes, Docker Swarm & Apache Mesos are the three big players in container orchestration. All three all fall into a class of DevOps infrastructure management tools that are also known as Container Orchestration Engines (COEs). Although Docker is considered standard for containerization, there are no clear winners in the orchestration space. Both Kubernetes and Mesos are widely used orchestration systems in the Docker community and provide a gradient of usability versus feature sets that are evolving with time.

Once you understand the difference between Kubernetes and Docker Swarm, the next step is to see how Kubernetes and Mesos fair against each other and how they complement each other.

A Brief Overview of Kubernetes

Kubernetes was designed by Google from scratch to orchestrate Docker containers - the goal was to empower application developers, provide a standard deployment interface, and build on a Modular API core that allows vendors to integrate systems around the core Kubernetes technology. It is basically a cluster management tool for Docker containers. Kubernetes aids in scheduling and deploying a large number of containers replicas onto a node cluster. Since it's an open-source model, Kubernetes can run almost anywhere, and all the major players in public cloud providers offer easy ways to utilize this technology.

A Brief Overview of Apache Mesos

Initiated as a UC Berkeley project, Mesos was created as a next-generation cluster manager. It is open source software that provides efficient resource isolation and sharing across distributed applications or frameworks. Mesos is a distributed systems kernel, with a full API for programming directly against the datacenter. Mesos architecture consists of a master process that manages slave daemons running on each cluster node, and frameworks that run tasks on these slaves.

Mesos gained popularity and was immediately adopted by Twitter, Apple (Siri), Yelp, Uber, Netflix, and many other prominent names in the technology world to support everything from micro-services, big data and real-time analytics, to elastic scaling.

When to Use Kubernetes or Mesos

Kubernetes is ideal for those who are new to the clustering world; it is the quickest, easiest and lightest way to flex your fingers and start experimenting with cluster-oriented development. Kubernetes is a highly versatile, large open-source development community and it offers a very high level of portability since it is being supported by a lot of providers. From a business point of view, Kubernetes is mainly recommended for companies that are production-ready and require any type of containerized environment, big or small that is feature-rich. It is best for medium-scale, highly redundant systems. However, managing Kubernetes requires a larger IT staff.

Mesos is best for large systems and it is designed for maximum redundancy. Mesos is recommended if you have existing workloads such as Hadoop, Kafka, etc. It gives you a framework that lets you interleave those workloads with each other. Interestingly, Mesos is currently being adapted to add a lot of the Kubernetes concepts and to support the Kubernetes API. So it will be a gateway to getting more capabilities for the Kubernetes applications. Hence, it is the most stable platform, but overly complex for small-scale systems under 10-20 nodes. That's why Mesos is usually recommended and is best for companies that use multi-cloud and multi-region clusters such as Twitter or Uber.

Strength & weaknesses of Kubernetes and Mesos

Kubernetes is clearly a market leader and is quite popular with enterprises and developers. As Kubernetes is widely used, it has a large community behind it. There are a number of other platforms that support Kubernetes, including Red Hat OpenShift and Microsoft Azure. However, Kubernetes is expensive and provides no certification plans for the vendors.

Mesos may not be as popular as Kubernetes but it is supported by few large renowned organizations such as Twitter, Apple, Yelp, etc. A major strength of the Mesos lies in Big Data and analytics. Container orchestration is not exactly its core strength. Compared to Kubernetes, the Mesos learning curve is steep and quite complex. Mesos does too much and is too generic that requires a framework for most cases.

Comparison between features of Kubernetes & Mesos

Let's compare five main features of Kubernetes and Mesos:

  • Application Definition Kubernetes is a combination of Pods, Replication Controllers, Replica Sets, Services, and Deployments, where Pod is a group of co-located containers; the atomic unit of deployment. In Mesos, the Application Group models dependencies as a tree of groups. Components are started in dependency order.
  • Load Balancing In Kubernetes, Pods are exposed through a Service, which can be a load balancer. In Mesos, applications can be reached through Mesos-DNS, which can act as a basic load balancer.
  • High Availability In Kubernetes, Pods are distributed among Worker Nodes. Whereas in Mesos, applications are distributed among Slave Nodes.
  • Storage In Kubernetes, there are two storage APIs- The first provides abstractions for individual storage backends (e.g. NFS, AWS EBS, ceph, flocker). The second one provides an abstraction for a storage resource request which can be fulfilled with different storage back-ends.

In Mesos, a Marathon container can use persistent volumes, but such volumes are local to the node where they are created, so the container must always run on that node. To cater to this, an experimental flocker integration supports persistent volumes that are not local to one node.

  • Networking The networking model of the Kubernetes lets any pod communicate with other pods and with any service. The model requires two networks (one for pods, the other for services). However, neither network needs to be reachable from outside the cluster. The most practical way of meeting this requirement is to deploy an overlay network on the cluster nodes.

In Mesos, Marathon's docker integration facilitates mapping container ports to host ports, which is a limited resource. A container does not get its own IP by default, but it can if Mesos is integrated with Calico. Even so, multiple containers cannot share a network namespace (i.e. cannot talk to one another on local host).

In Summary

Both the technologies have something to do with Docker containers and they provide the access to container orchestration for application portability and scale. Both Kubernetes and Mesos aim to make it easier to deploy & manage applications inside containers in the data center or cloud. Both provide a level of blanket support to companies of all sizes.

In the end, it's all about finding the right cluster management solution that fits the company's individual depending upon their todays and future needs.

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