By: Thu Nguyen

Read Time: 3 min

One of my former teammates approached me the other day (and by other day i mean like 3 months ago) and asked ‘Am I thinking about this right? Kubernetes is actually akin to the Linux Kernel.  So Rancher and OpenShift are distributions of Kubernetes. And for a supported enterprise application I’m more likely to use a more enterprise focused distribution than a DIY distribution, yeah?’ To which I responded ‘Yep, you hit the nail on the head’.
As the number of K8s deployment models, distributions, and use cases become more widespread we are going to keep having conversations about why you choose one k8s stack over another.  There is a strong desire to avoid things like RKE (Rancher) and OKD (OpenShift), but I see lots of struggles getting this to work.
While talking with my new team a few weeks ago we kept going back and forth about the benefits of Helm in Kubernetes, and so I broke the comparison down even further into the following chart:




Scheduler Tux the penguin

Linux Kernel

Kubernetes (container engine).png


Distribution Gentoo Logo




Rancher (RKE)



Image result for fedora linux
Image result for openshift

OpenShift (OKD)


Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Red Hat Openshift Vector Logo

Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform

Applications tarballs Images, YAML objects
Packages Rpm


HelmHelm, Operators

Package Manager Katello
Operator Lifecycle Manager (OLM)

The same week we had that conversation, Brian ‘Redbeard’ Harrington of CoreOS fame posted a blog about OpenShift and Kubernetes that expressed the same sentiment.
So, while not a perfect comparison, I feel like it kinda drives the point home.  If you are planning to run Kubernetes, unless you have the spare resources to build all the layers, you should aim for a distribution.  
Much like Linux,

Have you been thinking about the similarities between the Linux kernel and Kubernetes as well? Drop me a message @xaeth

About Thu Nguyen

Thu Nguyen is a technical writer who cares deeply about human relationships.


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