Kubernetes on VMware:

Comparing Platform9 Managed Kubernetes (PMK) and Pivotal Kubernetes Service (PKS)

Platform9 Managed Kubernetes (PMK) is the industry’s only enterprise-grade SaaS-Managed Kubernetes service that runs on customers’ existing VMware infrastructure.

The other Kubernetes solution natively integrated with VMware is Pivotal’s Kubernetes Service (PKS). However despite the use of the term “service” in its name, PKS is not really a managed service, it is a software solution that needs to be deployed and managed by the customer’s VMware administrators themselves, similar to traditional software products. One other VMware product called VMware cloud PKS is a fully-hosted service running only on AWS, and doesn’t let you leverage your existing VMware infrastructure.

Let’s first review the key differences between the two solutions, before drilling-in to a detailed comparison.

The four most important differences between PMK and PKS are:

  1. Integration complexity
  2. Managed service
  3. Enterprise-grade user experience
  4. Application lifecycle management

Integration complexity

In order to provide production-ready Kubernetes on VMware, PKS integrates as many as 12 different software components and point products as shown in the following figure.

PKS Integration Complexity

Many of these components belong to different product lines from different groups within VMware and Pivotal. These products all have their individual roadmaps and release timelines and require significant integration testing to release a reliable enterprise-grade solution. Whether VMware provides an integration service or releases a pre-engineered solution, the customer still has to bear the additional costs of having a working solution in their environment. Adding to the costs is the need to buy additional VMware components like NSX-T (which is mandatory) as well as vRealize components to get the monitoring and operational features.

On the other hand, PMK is a single solution/SKU that provides the the same enterprise-grade capabilities with no professional services, no long implementation cycles, and no advanced Kubernetes operations expertise, thus improving time-to-value and lowering costs.

Managed Service

VMware PKS is a set of software components that have be installed and provisioned by the customer similar to traditional software products. In addition, the customer is also responsible for ongoing day-2 operations such as upgrades, SLA’s, monitoring etc. While PKS provides all the tools needed to run Kubernetes in production, the burden is on the customer to operate these systems with strict SLAs. This can pose a significant challenge because many customers lack Kubernetes operational skills and it is quite difficult to hire and retain Kubernetes talent in-house. VMware provides a traditional ticketing support system for the solution, but since there are many different products involved, resolving issues could potentially take longer impacting uptime and availability.

PMK delivers Kubernetes on VMware as a fully managed SaaS without professional services or complex packaged software deployments. In addition, PMK’s managed service eliminates the operational complexity of Kubernetes at scale by delivering easy-to-use, production-ready operational capabilities included out of the box:

Operations Automation

zero-touch upgrades, multi-cluster operations, high availability, monitoring, diagnostics, and more, all handled automatically and backed by a 24x7x365 SLA

Enterprise-grade User Experience

PKS does not provide a User Interface that most IT/VMware admins are used to on VMware and Microsoft products. All of the Kubernetes operations such as cluster creation and management need to be executed through the CLI. This puts the additional burden on the admins to learn the Kubernetes CLI which is constantly evolving with new capabilities. In addition, PKS does not enable the Kubernetes dashboard or allow end users to login and deploy their own Kubernetes clusters.

Platform9 provides an enterprise class UI that integrates the user experience across multiple clusters across bare metal, virtualized, and containerized workloads. This also enables an easy onboarding and self-service capabilities that are easy to understand and use. A wizard-driven interface guides users to easy and quickly deploy Kubernetes clusters.

Enterprise-grade User Experience

Application Lifecycle Management: App Catalog

PKS does not ship with built-in catalog to deploy complex multi-tier container applications. Customers are left to create their own Helm charts and other manual ways of deploying large development platforms and tools such as hadoop, kafka etc.

Platform9 ships with an application catalog with hundreds of pre-packaged Kubernetes applications that can be deployed with a single click. Developers can easily deploy DevOps toolchains and CI/CD pipelines with tools like Jenkins, Spinnaker, Git etc. This greatly accelerates developer productivity and time-to-market.

Application Lifecycle Management: App Catalog

Detailed Comparison

The following detailed comparison table covers 18 technical and operational categories including deployment & provisioning, application & infrastructure management, and production features such as HA, zero-touch upgrades, and monitoring. The pie charts indicate level of completeness of the corresponding capability in PMK and PKS.

Key differences are highlighted:

Platform9 Managed Kubernetes (PMK) on VMware
Pivotal PKS
Provisioning of Kubernetes Clusters

Fully automated provisioning of clusters on existing VMware infrastructure

Fully automated provisioning of clusters on VMware infrastructure

High Availability and Healing

  • Built-in support for highly available clusters out of the box
  • Clusters of 1/3/5 masters are supported for quorum
  • Built-in etcd high availability support
  • Supports full repair or recovery of etcd upon failure

  • Includes Cloud Foundry Ops Manager Provides BOSH which is a vital component within PKS
  • BOSH monitors the health of clusters and enables self-healing to optimize capacity Unhealthy nodes are automatically detected and resurrected without downtime
Deployment Model(s) Supported

One deployment model offered:

  • SaaS-managed offering – ideally suited for enterprise hybrid clouds, includes support, upgrades, remote management, etc.

One deployment model offered across three platforms. The product files are downloaded for Pivotal Ops Manager and PKS and the end-user performs the install. VMware vSphere, AWS, and GCP supported

Prerequisites and Operating System Requirements

Supports all popular enterprise Linux distributions – Red Hat, CentOS, Ubuntu

PKS has an extensive list of prerequisites:

  • It can not be installed on any linux systems
  • Requires VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus Edition or vSphere with Operations Management Enterprise Plus minimum
Monitoring and Operations Management

  • 24 x 7 live monitoring
  • 99.9% guaranteed SLA
  • Proactive repair
  • Automated email notifications for any issues
  • Automated support ticket creation and triaging of issues

  • Does not provide any out of the box live monitoring for your k8s clusters, Prometheus support, etc.
  • Traditional support ticketing system
Cluster Upgrades

  • Fully automated cluster upgrades delivered seamlessly, with no interruption to the environment
  • Zero-downtime upgrade

  • Patching and upgrades of Kubernetes nodes can be managed from the PKS platform in a centralized fashion, without impact to running applications via BOSH
  • Customers are guaranteed to always have the latest Kubernetes version available to them
  • PKS maintainst compatibility to Google Container Engine (GKE)
Multi-cluster Management

  • Built in multi-cluster support. Create any number of clusters
  • Admins can manage multiple clusters across different regions, data centers and clouds

  • Supports multi-cluster management. Create one or more clusters using PKS CLI, then list the clusters, view cluster details and delete clusters using the CLI
Multi-tenancy, Role-based Access Control, and Single Sign-on Support

  • Support for multi-region management. Built in multi-tenancy support
  • Kubernetes RBAC is fully supported
  • Full support for Single-Sign On (SSO). Integrate with a SAML-based provider that your organization uses such as Okta, ADFS, Ping Identity, etc.

  • Supports multi-tenancy in a limited form
  • On VMware vSphere with NSX-T, PKS uses VMware NSX-T to isolate different clusters using NSX security policies
  • Kubernetes clusters can be deployed into different vSphere clusters and configured to use different datastores
  • Multi-tenancy is not available when deployed without NSX-T or on public clouds
Load Balancing

  • Out of the box support for cluster and service level load balancing with MetalLB load balancer
  • Can integrate with customer specific load balancers(AVI and others)

  • When deployed on vSphere with NSX-T, PKS can leverage load balancing feature from NSX-T to provide cluster and service level load balancing
  • When deployed on public clouds like GCP or AWS, PKS leverages the cloud native load balancing capability
Private Registry Support and Image Management

  • Does not provide out of the box support for private registries
  • Registries and secrets required to authenticate with the registries need to be managed by the customer separately

  • IncludesProject Harbor which is an open source enterprise container registry. Harbor simplifies image management with distribution, replication and security mechanisms
  • The Harbor registry uses a logical construct called Project
  • This is used to group users and repositories to enable fine-grained access control
Hybrid Cloud Integrations and APIs

  • Includes the most native integration with all major private data center/private cloud offerings and major public cloud providers
  • Integrates natively with VMware vSphere, Linux/KVM, OpenStack
  • Clusters on public clouds are created with the public cloud’s IaaS layer to provide a native Kubernetes cluster experience

  • Supports on-premises and public cloud based deployments
  • On-premises requires vSphere or vSphere with NSX-T
  • Does not support pure bare metal deployment, or Linux/KVM virtualized environment
Enterprise Grade User Experience

  • Provides and enterprise class UI and user experience
  • The clarity UI provides a single pane of glass across bare metal, virtualized and containerized workloads
  • Unify all your data centers, private clouds, and public clouds under single UI

  • Lags behind significantly in this category
  • There is no UI for PKS. All Kubernetes operations such as cluster creation and management happen purely via CLI
  • PKS does enable the Kubernetes dashboard
Application Lifecycle Management - Application Catalog

  • Built in support for Application catalog that’s populated with public Helm chart applications
  • Administrators can provide users access to applications that are private to the organization
  • Support for managed apps

  • Does not ship with a built-in Kubernetes application catalog
  • It is able to deploy Helm charts
Production Grade Service Level Agreement

  • Platform9 contractually promises 99.9% cluster uptime and high availability
  • Provides self healing, problem resolution through the service

  • Provides traditional support via subscription model
  • Troubleshooting is handled via support tickets
  • Customers drive the manual upgrades and any issues require support team engagement
Ease of Setup, Installation, Continuous Use, Management, and Maintenance

  • Platform9’s SaaS managed gets Kubernetes up and running in minutes
  • Create a simple Kubernetes cluster using on-prem servers, VMs or public cloud resources in minutes
  • Manage clusters with one-click UI-based upgrades and troubleshooting

  • The installation of PKS is manual and requires Pivotal Ops Managed to be configured for on-prem and public cloud use
  • Any problems require logging a support ticket
Networking Support and Integrations

  • Provides full CNI support
  • Integrates OOB with Flannel, Calico, Weave and OpenContrail
  • Other CNI compatible integrations possible on customer request

  • Supports integration with VMware NSX-T for advance networking on VMware.
  • It also support flannel, calico, nuage, OVN and kube-router
Storage Support and Integrations

  • Supports integration with any flexvolume drivers
  • Integrates with any cinder supported storage backend. – Supports integration with all popular storage backends such as NetApp, Pure Storage, etc.

  • Requires k8s vSphere cloud provider so that vSphere persistent storage and data services are exposed at container volume level
  • Cluster admins can create storage classes that can map to a specific underlying vSphere datastore or a VSAN datastore with desired configuration, or by referencing a vSphere storage policy name
  • For deployment on public clouds, PKS integrates with cloud specific persistent storage offerings
Self Service Provisioning

  • Complete self-service provisioning enabled via Platform9’s clarity UI
  • Users log into the UI as part of a specific Tenant (eg dev/test/production) and are able to access clusters provided they have been granted access
  • Quick deployment of pods, deployments and services via a wizard

  • Does not include a UI for Kubernetes, which means there is no self service capabilities for Administrators to manage their k8s clusters
  • End-users cannot log in and deploy or manage their workloads
  • The Kubernetes dashboard UI can be used out-of-the box for cluster creation
Built-in CI/CD Support

Provides Spinnaker and Jenkins via the Helm application catalog

Does not ship with a CI/CD tool by default


Platform9 Managed Kubernetes is the industry’s first managed service on VMware that is production ready and easy to use. Modernize your current VMware environments, benefit from the open source innovation with our 100% pure upstream Kubernetes, avoid lock-in, and ensure portability across environments. Let platform9 handle all the complex operational tasks including zero-touch upgrades, patching, logging, monitoring, alerting, and high availability.

Learn more about Platform9 Managed Kubernetes for VMWare

Learn More

Get Kubernetes on VMware Today
Contact Us

The browser you are using is outdated. For the best experience please download or update your browser to one of the following: