AWS Fargate and Amazon ECS are both container management solutions from Amazon Web Services—so what’s the difference between them? In this Fargate vs. ECS comparison, we’ll go over features, use cases, pricing, and more.
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AWS Fargate vs. ECS: Basics
AWS Fargate is a serverless compute engine for running containers in the Amazon Web Services public cloud. With AWS Fargate, users don’t have to concern themselves with issues such as container and server; these issues are automatically handled behind the scenes.
Amazon ECS (Elastic Container Service) is Amazon’s proprietary container orchestration service. ECS is one of two options for container orchestration in Amazon Web Services, along with EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service).
While many people wonder about the question “Fargate vs. ECS”, the truth is that it’s not quite the right comparison to make. Rather than a head-on Fargate vs. ECS comparison, the question to ask is whether you should use Fargate and ECS together. In fact, both Fargate and ECS can be used in conjunction with each other, but this is just one of several possibilities:
- AWS Fargate requires a container orchestration service to run, which can either be ECS or EKS, the Kubernetes-exclusive equivalent.
- ECS can use AWS Fargate to orchestrate containers, but it can also use Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) or the on-premises alternative AWS Outposts.
AWS Fargate vs. ECS: Features
The most important features of AWS Fargate include:
- Serverless computing: “Serverless” computing solutions such as AWS Fargate are a bit of a misnomer: they still require servers to run, but they save users the trouble of having to provision and manage these servers themselves.
- Data security: By now, most IT leaders agree that the public cloud is more secure than on-premises for maintaining the security of sensitive and confidential data. Fargate can execute each container in a separate runtime environment with its own CPU and memory resources, making it much more difficult for hackers to breach the entire system.
The most important features of Amazon ECS include:
- Flexibility: With Amazon ECS, you can take advantage of Fargate’s serverless offering, or get more granular, server-level control over your infrastructure with Amazon EC2. Amazon ECS supports Docker, Windows containers, and any third-party hosted Docker image repository.
- Scheduling options: Amazon ECS includes multiple options for container scheduling: task-based scheduling (e.g. batch processing jobs), service-based scheduling (for stateless services and applications), and daemon scheduling (e.g. for logging, monitoring, and backups).
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AWS Fargate vs. ECS: Pros and Cons
Because AWS Fargate and ECS are designed to be used in conjunction with each other, they share many of the same advantages and drawbacks. In fact, the benefits of Fargate and Amazon ECS can also be considered disadvantages, depending on your commitment to the AWS ecosystem.
The pros of using AWS Fargate and Amazon ECS are:
- AWS integrations: If you’re already using AWS, adding Fargate and ECS to your workflow will be relatively easy and straightforward. You can take advantage of synergies with other AWS offerings, such as data storage and ETL solutions.
- Convenience: Fargate applies a layer of automation over the task of container management, which makes them dramatically easier to use than trying to manage containers yourself. However, this comes at the cost of having less visibility into your containers’ internal operations. To gain more control, many AWS customers instead use ECS with Amazon EC2.
The cons of using Fargate and ECS are:
- Challenging learning curve: If you’re not already using AWS, the learning curve for Fargate and ECS will be much steeper. According to the business software review website G2, Amazon ECS has several usability issues. ECS reviewer Chike I. writes: “You need to really understand what you are looking at before you can configure and use it. You might even need an AWS certified engineer.”
- Vendor lock-in: Fargate and Amazon ECS are AWS services, which means that they’re exclusive to the Amazon public cloud. This can be a benefit if you’re already committed to the AWS ecosystem, but it also entails the risk of vendor lock-in if you want to migrate away from AWS later on down the line.
AWS Fargate vs. ECS: Pricing
AWS Fargate pricing is fairly straightforward: it’s a “pay as you go” solution that bills you based only on the compute and memory resources you actually consume, without any upfront fees. As of writing, the costs of AWS Fargate in the US East region were as follows:
- $0.04048 per vCPU per hour
- $0.004445 per gigabyte of RAM per hour
Note that you can dramatically reduce your AWS Fargate costs if you’re willing to use “spot pricing,” which allows AWS to reclaim your resources and temporarily interrupt your tasks during times of heavy demand.
Amazon ECS pricing, on the other hand, is a little more complicated:
- You can use ECS with Fargate, which will have the prices listed above.
- You can also use ECS with Amazon EC2, which has multiple pricing models: on-demand, spot pricing, reserved instances, and more. Using on-demand EC2 is significantly cheaper than Fargate. For example, an instance with 1 vCPU and 2 gigabytes of RAM costs only $0.0255 per hour in the US East region.
- Finally, you can use ECS with AWS Outposts, a fully managed on-premises IT as a service platform, in which case you can only purchase capacity in 3-year installments.
You can also use a combination of these options (e.g. both AWS and Amazon EC2), depending on what best suits your needs.
AWS Fargate vs. ECS Alternatives
If you’re looking for the best container management software, AWS Fargate and ECS are two names that keep popping up—but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the right choice for you. IronWorker is a serverless container management solution, like Fargate, that addresses many of the shortcomings of Fargate and ECS:
- Flexible deployment: Above, we mentioned the risks of vendor lock-in that come with using solutions such as AWS Fargate and ECS, which only run in the AWS public cloud. IronWorker is capable of running not only in the public cloud, but also on-premises, on a dedicated server, or in a hybrid model that combines the cloud and on-premises.
- Ease of use: If you’ve never used AWS before, trying to get started with AWS Fargate and/or ECS may be too steep of a learning curve. IronWorker makes it easy to get started with rich, detailed documentation that includes training videos and code samples. IronWorker also offers a wide variety of support plans, from self-service to enterprise, depending on your needs.
- Scalability: IronWorker is a powerful, highly scalable container management tool that has just as much to offer as larger alternatives such as Fargate and ECS. For example, IronWorker helps the sports website Bleacher Report deliver push notifications to 12 million mobile devices, day in and day out. According to Bleacher Report senior software engineer Eddie Dombrowski: “Before Iron.io, we were constantly triaging production issues. After Iron.io, we delivered billions of push notifications with ease.”
In this Fargate vs. ECS comparison article, we’ve gone over the most important differences between Fargate and ECS, including:
- Use cases: Both AWS Fargate and Amazon ECS can be used together—but they don’t have to be. Fargate is a serverless container management solution that needs to be used in conjunction with a container orchestration service such as Amazon ECS or EKS. On the other hand, Amazon ECS can work with Fargate, as well as Amazon EC2.
- Pricing: AWS Fargate uses a simple “pay as you go” pricing model that charges for the use of compute and memory resources by the hour. Amazon ECS pricing depends on whether you use it with Fargate, EC2, or Amazon Outposts.
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