Alibaba Cloud Container Service vs. Amazon EC2 Container Service vs. Azure Container Service

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Containers have increasingly become the preferred way to run applications at scale in the cloud. Yet when running applications in production, organizations leave nothing to chance. They want to build the most reliable and efficient infrastructure possible — And most of all, they want to be able to manage that infrastructure with ease. That’s when many organizations look for a container management tool, or a Container-as-a-Service (CaaS) solution like Alibaba Cloud Container Service.

The Case for CaaS

When you start the process of choosing the CaaS solution that’s right for you, the options are numerous and can become overwhelming. But when taking a look at how each solution is architected, and the approaches taken towards managing containers, the strengths and weaknesses of each solution become clear. Let’s look at some of the most popular CaaS offerings and see how they compare with Alibaba Cloud Container Service.

AWS EC2 Container Service (ECS)

ECS runs Docker containers on top of EC2 instances, and installs an ECS agent within every active container instance. The ECS agent handles execution of tasks within the container instance. It uses AWS ECR as its default container registry, but can also use Docker Hub as its registry.

The biggest reason you’d want to choose ECS as your CaaS solution is if the majority of your infrastructure runs in AWS, and you just want to test the waters with containers. However, once you start running production workloads, ECS can get quirky.

The biggest drawback with ECS is that it doesn’t provide native support for Kubernetes. Instead, ECS leverages third-party distributions from Kops, or CoreOS Tectonic. While this works, it sacrifices developer productivity by adding more complexity to the stack. This may change soon with AWS recently joining the CNCF, but as of now, it is a dilemma for both ECS and its users.

Azure Container Service (AKS)

Alibaba Cloud Container Service

Alibaba Cloud Container Service supports both Swarm and Kubernetes, and has very good integration with Kubernetes. It supports upstream Kubernetes distributions, and as a member of the Cloud-native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Alibaba is closely involved with the evolution of Kubernetes.

It’s a no-brainer to try Alibaba Cloud Container Service — There is a free trial with a $300 credit, which is more than enough to try one of your apps in production for a couple of weeks.

In conclusion, the market for CaaS solutions is wide open, with the core technologies just taking shape, and users desperately looking for ways to easily get started and simplify the management of Docker containers. While there are many CaaS solutions available, you’re better off choosing one that supports both Swarm and Kubernetes, and uses open source distributions of these tools so you’re not locked into the vendor’s implementation of Swarm or Kubernetes. Alibaba Cloud Container Service is uniquely positioned to meet this need as container usage continues to grow.


Twain began his career at Google, where, among other things, he was involved in technical support for the AdWords team. His work involved reviewing stack traces, and resolving issues affecting both customers and the Support team, and handling escalations. Later, he built branded social media applications, and automation scripts to help startups better manage their marketing operations. Today, as a technology journalist he helps IT magazines, and startups change the way teams build and ship applications.


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