In the battle of AWS Fargate vs. Portainer for the best container management software, which one comes out on top? We’ll go over the features, pros, and cons, and use cases of Fargate and Portainer in this article so that you can make the choice that’s best for your situation.
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AWS Fargate vs. Portainer: Basics
AWS Fargate is a serverless compute engine for running containers in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud. Fargate is compatible with both Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), depending on whether you want to use Docker containers or Kubernetes.
Portainer calls itself a “lightweight management UI which allows you to easily manage your different Docker environments.” The Portainer software is free and open-source and was created by Neil Cresswell and Anthony Lapenna.
AWS Fargate vs. Portainer: Features
The most important AWS Fargate features are:
- Serverless computing: In the last section, we mentioned that AWS Fargate is a “serverless” container management solution. Serverless computing is a paradigm in which end users don’t have to worry about provisioning and managing the servers on which their applications run; instead, these concerns are automatically handled behind the scenes.
- Scalability: By deploying potentially tens of thousands of containers in a matter of seconds, Fargate makes it much easier to scale applications during times of peak demand.
The most important Portainer features are:
- Support for multiple environments: Portainer includes support for both Docker hosts and Swarm clusters. Although Portainer does not currently support Kubernetes, this functionality is expected to arrive in the future release of Portainer 2.0.
- Templates: To save time and effort, users can define templates for deploying common Docker containers or Docker Swarm services.
- Access control: Portainer has strong user authentication and authorization features so that you can enjoy fine-grained control over the environment.
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AWS Fargate vs. Portainer: Pros and Cons
The benefits of AWS Fargate include:
- Less complexity: As a serverless technology, Fargate is a CaaS (containers as a service) solution. Instead of worrying about deploying, managing, and scaling containers yourself, you can sit back and let Fargate handle the tricky technical questions.
- Integration with AWS ecosystem: Fargate is part of the AWS suite, and is intended to be used with container orchestration services such as Amazon ECS and EKS. If you already heavily use AWS, then Fargate might be the natural choice.
The disadvantages of AWS Fargate include:
- Less customization: Fargate is a “one size fits all” solution, in which users sacrifice greater customization and control for increased convenience and ease of use. This means that Fargate may not be suitable for complicated use cases, or for special situations involving questions of governance and risk management.
- Higher costs (possibly): Because AWS Fargate automatically handles container orchestration for you, the service costs more than ECS and EKS. In addition, in the long run, Fargate will likely be more expensive than an on-premises container management solution.
The benefits of Portainer include:
- Free and open-source: If your organization is budget-conscious, or if using an open-source container management solution is important to you, then Portainer may be a good fit. As we discuss below, however, Portainer may not be suitable for mission-critical deployments.
- Extensible: Portainer comes with multiple add-ons for purchase that extend the software’s functionality, including external authentication, registry management, and role-based access control.
The disadvantages of Portainer include:
- Lack of support: As a free, open-source project, Portainer does not have the enterprise-level support services that a large organization may require. This lack of institutional support may be a significant barrier to deploying Portainer in production.
- Security flaws: Portainer may suffer from security vulnerabilities that also make it unacceptable to large enterprises. In December 2019, FortiGuard Labs discovered seven critical vulnerabilities in Portainer, although all of these security flaws were quickly patched.
AWS Fargate vs. Portainer: Pricing
We’ve written an entire article on AWS Fargate pricing if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty details, but here’s a quick breakdown. Fargate costs depend on the amount of CPU and memory resources you use, as well as the time you use them for. As of writing, the costs of Fargate were:
- $0.04048 per vCPU per hour
- $0.004445 per GB per hour
Fargate’s pricing model tells you exactly how much you’ll pay per hour—but it also makes it harder to estimate the cost of large projects, where you may not have a good idea of the total amount of resources you’ll consume.
The community edition of Portainer is free and open-source. Users can purchase a “Personal Support” plan that allows them 5 support calls per year. In the near future, Portainer’s developers plan to launch a business edition of the software that comes with support and success plans. According to the Portainer website, members will enjoy “exclusive access to tools and community platforms.”
AWS Fargate vs. Portainer Alternatives
AWS Fargate and Portainer are both competitive options, but they’re far from the only container management software on the market. IronWorker is a serverless container management solution (like Fargate) that has been built from the ground up to address the issues that many users have with Fargate and Portainer.
The benefits of IronWorker include:
- Greater flexibility: As an AWS offering, Fargate can only run in the AWS public cloud. IronWorker, on the other hand, has been designed to allow for a wide range of deployment possibilities: public cloud, on-premises, dedicated servers, or a hybrid setup that runs both in the cloud and on-premises. This tremendous flexibility helps you become more agile and less susceptible to vendor lock-in.
- Ease of use: Like Fargate, IronWorker is a serverless container management solution that saves you from the complexity of provisioning servers yourself. In addition, IronWorker has a clear, easy-to-use dashboard that provides complete visibility into your containers.
- Strong user support: Using powerful, convoluted container management solutions such as AWS Fargate can be overwhelming for new users, while open-source software like Portainer often suffers from the lack of strong community support. IronWorker strikes the right balance, with extensive documentation (including code samples and training videos) and “white-glove” support options for large projects.
Given these advantages, it’s no surprise that IronWorker currently enjoys an average user rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on the business software review website G2. IronWorker user James C. writes that the software “helped us harness the efficiency of the cloud,” adding: “The result has been a drastic reduction in the AWS spend we have been getting, as we are finally optimized to take advantage of the elasticity that cloud computing offers.”
In summary, here are the most important takeaways from this AWS Fargate vs. Portainer comparison:
- Features: AWS Fargate is a serverless container management solution that makes it easy to scale tens of thousands of containers in production. Portainer includes support for both Docker hosts and Swarm clusters, and helps users save time and effort with pre-built templates.
- Pros and cons: Fargate users don’t have to worry about provisioning servers, and can enjoy synergy with the rest of the AWS ecosystem; however, they also have less customization options and potentially higher costs. Portainer is free and open-source, but this comes at the cost of a weaker support community and potentia security flaws.
- Pricing: AWS Fargate uses per-hour pricing, while Portainer plans to introduce a paid Business Edition for enterprise customers.
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