The 7 Most Popular Kubernetes Distributions

We explore the key elements of a Kubernetes distribution and highlight 7 of the most popular.

Kubernetes has been widely adopted in modern software development as it offers a powerful, portable and open-source platform that automates the management of containerized applications.

Kubernetes comes in two flavors:  1. Vanilla Kubernetes  2. Managed Kubernetes

Kubernetes is also sprawling, complex, and difficult to set up and configure. Kubernetes distributions that incorporate Kubernetes along with container tools, in the same sense that different vendors offer distributions of the Linux kernel and its userland.

Key Elements of a Kubernetes Distribution

1. The Container Runtime 2. Storage 3. Networking

Popular Kubernetes Distributions


Rancher offers a full stack for software teams looking to manage Kubernetes applications anywhere: private cloud, public cloud or on-premises.

Red Hat OpenShift

OpenShift allows on-premises orchestration of containers developed in Docker and managed by Kubernetes. It was developed by the Red Hat Linux team as part of a suite of container orchestration software that allows the development of cloud-enabled services on-premises, which can then be deployed anywhere.


Mirantis is an Enterprise vendor of Red Hat’s open-source Openstack platform that is mostly used to host Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings on physical or virtual machines. The Mirantis Kubernetes Engine, formerly known as Docker Enterprise, allows DevOps teams to build and ship code faster to both private and public clouds.

VMWare Tanzu

VMWare Tanzu is a stack of Kubernetes-specific products focused on modernizing application development and virtualization of infrastructure, facilitating simpler development and operations. With VMWare Tanzu, organizations can speed application development and delivery using a set of container images created and maintained by administrators.

Docker Kubernetes Service (DKS)

Included in the enterprise version of Docker, DKS was developed to reduce the complexity of configuring and running enterprise-grade applications using Kubernetes. The Docker Kubernetes Service allows development teams to integrate Kubernetes into the entire DevOps process, from the desktop to production environments.

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)

The Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service is largely popular since it enables High Availability by running multiple instances of the Kubernetes Control Plane in different regions. The service makes it easy to deploy, manage and scale Kubernetes applications on-premises or in the AWS cloud.

Elastisys Compliant Kubernetes

Elastisys is a managed Kubernetes service that offers full-time support throughout an application’s entire lifecycle. The platform comes with approved CNCF open-source tooling built in, and includes a security layer so teams can reap all the benefits of Kubernetes while also enforcing strict security guidelines.