AWS Fargate vs. Rancher: which one is the winner when it comes to the best container management software? In this article, we’ll discuss the features, pros, and cons, and cost of both Fargate and Rancher to help you make a fully informed decision.
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AWS Fargate vs. Rancher: Basics
AWS Fargate is a serverless compute engine that executes containers in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud. In particular, Fargate is intended to be used with either Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) or Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), depending on the setup of your container solution.
Rancher bills itself as “enterprise Kubernetes management” and “a complete software stack for teams adopting containers.” Originally founded in 2014, Rancher Labs has raised $70 million in funding. The Rancher software is free and open-source.
AWS Fargate vs. Rancher: Features
The most important AWS Fargate features are:
- Serverless computing: As a “serverless” container management solution, AWS Fargate automatically handles tricky issues such as provisioning and managing servers before you can start deploying containers. This brings it in line with other AWS serverless computing offerings such as AWS Lambda.
- Scalability: AWS is one of the “big three” public cloud providers, which means it has power and scalability on its side. Fargate is able to deploy tens of thousands of containers in just a few seconds, which makes it suitable for the most high-demand and high-performance applications.
The most important Rancher features are:
- Orchestration features: Rancher includes a wide variety of container orchestration features, including automatic load balancing, resource management, multi-tenancy, and user management.
- Support for multiple frameworks: Rancher supports Docker Swarm, Kubernetes, and Apache Mesos, making it a flexible container management solution.
AWS Fargate vs. Rancher: Pros and Cons
The benefits of AWS Fargate include:
- Less complexity: Just like we now have SaaS (software as a service) and IaaS (infrastructure as a service), Fargate is Amazon’s CaaS (containers as a service) solution. Fargate helps even less technically inclined users spin up containers without needing to worry about managing them under the hood.
- Integration with AWS ecosystem: AWS Fargate is used in conjunction with other container orchestration services such as Amazon ECS and EKS, as well as other parts of the AWS ecosystem. Fargate users can leverage synergies and cost-savings if they’re already in the AWS public cloud.
The disadvantages of AWS Fargate include:
- Technical constraints: AWS Fargate comes with certain technical constraints that may prove bothersome for certain users. For example, Fargate does not provide access to the underlying ECS or EKS instance. In addition, many Fargate users complain about the lack of persistent storage, although this has been somewhat improved lately by adding Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) support.
- Higher costs (possibly): Fargate’s convenience comes at a cost: it’s likely more expensive than using ECS or EKS, as well as using your own on-premises solution. On the business software review website G2, reviewer Ralph K. writes that “Fargate is a good bit pricier than running your own servers.”
The benefits of Rancher include:
- Greater flexibility: Rancher is a much more flexible container management solution than AWS Fargate. Users can choose from different deployment options such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, DigitalOcean, and bare-metal servers.
- Ease of use: Rancher users generally praise the tool’s simple, clear, intuitive user interface.
The disadvantages of Rancher include:
- Technical constraints: As of writing, Rancher is only compatible with Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, CentOS, and RedHat—and not with other operating systems such as Windows and macOS. In addition, Rancher does not support RKT containers, and has discontinued Swarm and Mesos support as of Rancher 2.x. This may be a deal-breaker for you, depending on your IT environment.
- Smaller community: Because it’s a smaller and open-source tool, Rancher may not be the right choice for large organizations that need a robust, mature, enterprise-class container management solution.
- Impending acquisition: In July 2020, Rancher Labs announced that it would be acquired by SUSE, the world’s largest independent open-source software company. Adopting technology like Rancher while it’s undergoing a transition is higher-risk, since the new owner may decide to make changes or deprecate certain features.
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AWS Fargate vs. Rancher: Pricing
AWS Fargate pricing depends on how much CPU and memory resources your containers use, as well as how long they’re in use. The costs of Fargate as of writing were:
- $0.04048 per vCPU per hour
- $0.004445 per GB per hour
This per-hour Fargate pricing model is straightforward and easy to understand, but it also makes it more difficult to estimate how much a large project with high resource consumption will cost. Also note that you can significantly lower your Fargate costs by using spot pricing, in which your containers may be occasionally interrupted if AWS needs to reclaim the resources they’re using.
As mentioned above, the community edition of Rancher is free and open-source to use under the Apache License. However, large teams that use Rancher in production will likely want to purchase a support plan from Rancher Labs. According to Rancher Labs co-founder Shannon Williams: “Pricing is based on the number of vCPUs under management in a Rancher deployment, and whether business hours or 24x7 support is required.” Rancher’s pricing model is opaque, and interested users are encouraged to contact the company for a quote.
AWS Fargate vs. Rancher Alternatives
While the question of “AWS Fargate vs. Rancher” is no doubt fascinating, it’s also quite limiting—after all, there are plenty of other container management tools out there. IronWorker is a serverless container management solution (like Fargate) that has been built from the ground up to solve users’ real container management needs.
The benefits of IronWorker include:
- Greater flexibility: Container management tools such as AWS Fargate are too restrictive for many users since they can only run in one location: the AWS public cloud. IronWorker gives users the ultimate flexibility to decide where to deploy their containers—whether that means the public cloud, on-premises, dedicated servers, or using a hybrid setup that runs both in the cloud and on-premises.
- Ease of use: IronWorker, like Fargate, is a serverless container management solution that saves you the time, effort, and pain of provisioning servers yourself. In addition, the IronWorker dashboard offers a single pane of glass that gives users complete visibility into the goings-on of their environment at any point in time.
- Strong user support: IronWorker occupies a happy medium between the overwhelming complexity of AWS and the too-small open-source community of Rancher. With extensive documentation (including code samples and training videos) and “white-glove” support options for large projects, IronWorker’s strong support options enable every customer to excel using the platform.
Thanks to these advantages and more, IronWorker has achieved an average user rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on the business software review website G2.
Below are the most important conclusions of this AWS Fargate vs. Rancher comparison:
- Features: AWS Fargate’s most valuable features include its serverless nature and its ability to scale tens of thousands of containers in production. Rancher, meanwhile, offers users a wide variety of orchestration features that make the container management process easier to handle.
- Pros and cons: Fargate’s greatest advantages are serverless computing and its synergies with ECS and EKS, while its disadvantages include certain technical constraints and higher costs than self-managed options. Rancher is flexible and easy to use but also suffers from technical constraints, and its fate is uncertain given its pending acquisition.
- Pricing: AWS Fargate uses per-hour pricing for CPU and memory resources. Rancher is free and open-source but offers paid support plans for enterprise clients.
If you’re not sure that AWS Fargate or Rancher is the right choice, give IronWorker a try. Websites such as HotelTonight, Bleacher Report, and Untappd have all used IronWorker to power their high-volume container workloads, dramatically improving scalability and performance.
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