ECS vs EKS – Which Service to Go For

Container orchestration refers to managing containers at scale. This is the part that often causes some confusion for IT managers. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss two leading container orchestration services, ECS vs EKS, by Amazon. The goal is to help you choose the appropriate service for your organization.  

Containers are standard units of software that store code and all the other software dependencies to enable an application to run quickly in various computing environments. A container is a standalone, executable software package containing all the necessary elements to run an application. It includes code, system tools, runtime, settings, and system libraries.  

Let’s start by explaining what the two services offer. We will then look at their various aspects to determine your best choice.  

What is Amazon ECS?  

Amazon ECS stands for Elastic Container Service (ECS). It is a high-performance, scalable container management service that enables organizations to run, scale, and deploy containerized applications on AWS efficiently. You can easily perform functions like start/stop on ECS. Thus, container orchestration is very easy on ECS.  

ECS has been specifically designed to work at scale while offering robust security and high availability. Moreover, it provides deep integration with other AWS services like Amazon VPC, Elastic Load Balancing, AWS IAM, and many others.   

ECS also offers the AWS Fargate feature, enabling you to deploy containers without provisioning servers. It, therefore, reduces scaling complexities and management overheads.   

Use the Auto Scaling groups to handle Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) instances to keep up with your application’s rising requirements. You can manage the scaling by yourself or use the managed scaling option. Once you provide a target capacity, ECS provides you with a plan that helps you scale up or down without letting the process spiral out of control. Kubernetes lack this option.   

Moreover, you can employ Amazon CloudWatch to track and aggregate your EKS and ECS metrics using Container Insights. It lets you set alarms and track and troubleshoot all of your AWS container resources in a single place, including monitoring metrics like memory, CPU, and storage use. Use the ECS vs EKS Cluster to filter these metrics.  

Additionally, ECS operates well with third-party monitoring tools as well, such as Prometheus. But such tools are usually used in Kubernetes.   

Let’s talk about EKS now.  

What is Amazon EKS?  

Amazon EKS stands for Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes. It enables easy management, deployment, and scalability of containerized applications using Kubernetes on AWS. EKS uses the open-source tool Kubernetes, which means that EKS-managed applications are entirely compatible with other applications managed by a standard Kubernetes environment.  

Kubernetes is open-source container management or orchestration platform for software management, deployment, and scalability. It has an extensive ecosystem of tools which includes Envoy, Initio, Helm (templating deployment tool), and an elaborate range of service meshes.   

It also offers certificate management tools such as Jetstack’s cert-manager and other metrics reporting tools like Jaeger, Grafana, Prometheus, etc., for tracking and monitoring. Amazon ECS and EKS support Grafana and Prometheus, other toolsets are not supported. Thus, these other enhancements are not available in ECS.  

Just like ECS, EKS also uses Amazon Fargate to reduce management overheads and Amazon CloudWatch Container Insights for keeping an eye on metrics. Moreover, you don’t need to install, run, and manage Kubernetes nodes or control planes when using EKS. It runs Kubernetes control plane instances across various availability zones.  

Let’s compare the two services now.  

ECS vs EKS – A Comparison  

1. Price  

The most significant difference between the two container orchestration services – ECS and EKS – is price. You don’t have to pay an additional charge for Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) launch types when using ECS. You only pay for the AWS resource EC2 launch types created to run and store applications. Simply put, you pay for only what you use with no hidden costs or additional charges.  

The pricing model of EKS is similar to that of ECS, but it comes with some additional costs. You have to pay $0.20/hour for every Amazon EKS cluster. Don’t worry; this is not as expensive as it first sounds. Like many other users, you can use just one cluster to run and manage multiple applications by utilizing Kubernetes IAM security and namespaces.   

As mentioned earlier, ECS and EKS work with Amazone Fargate – a serverless compute engine. Thus, you only need to pay for the resources you use; you don’t have to fret about scaling your cluster capacity or choosing instances. As a result, you will never fall into the trap of over-provisioning.  

2. Security  

When it comes to security, both ECS and EKS are good. ECS users can employ Identity and Access Management (IAM) to give granular access permissions regarding each container. Similarly, IAM is used to restrict access to a service as well. This is possible because ECS is tightly integrated with IAM.  

EKS does not have the same level of integration with IAM as ECS does. However, IAM roles for service accounts overcome this issue to a considerable extent. By associating an IAM role with a Kubernetes service account, you enable your containers from any pod using that service account to access AWS permissions.  

Generally, applications use either an AWS software development kit (SDK) or a command-line interface (CLI) to generate API requests for authorized services.  

3. Compatibility  

EKS can be ported to operate on any Kubernetes infrastructure since it is essentially a Kubernetes-as-a-service offered by AWS. You can also make EKS part of a federated cluster. You can easily run it on-premises or with another service provider. This has become possible since 2021 due to EKS Anywhere, a new deployment option for ECS vs EKS that lets you create and manage Kubernetes clusters on customer-managed infrastructure.  

As for ECS, it initially operated only on AWS. However, since May 2021, ECS Anywhere lets you deploy tasks on your own or third-party infrastructure. Thus, both ECS Anywhere and EKS Anywhere offer third-party infrastructure compatibility. In that sense, both services are equivalent.  

4. Simplicity vs. Flexibility  

Users love ECS for the simplicity it offers. Since ECS offers an AWS-opinionated solution for operating containers at scale, it requires less time for you to create, deploy, or migrate your containerized applications. It reduces the number of decisions you have to make around the network, compute, and security configurations while maintaining scalability and access to features.  

On the other hand, EKS is famous for offering the flexibility of Kubernetes to its users. It provides a secure, scalable, and reliable Kubernetes environment. Teams opt for EKS to gain the advantage of its vibrant ecosystem, open-source APIs, and extensive flexibility.  


Both services are excellent, but they suit different types of users.  

If yours is a company that works exclusively with AWS cloud, Amazon ECS would be a better option for you. That’s because it offers deep integration with AWS. Moreover, if you have limited expertise on Kubernetes or insufficient IT resources that you can invest in Kubernetes learning, go for ECS. It is the best choice for you when you have time constraints and cannot deploy and migrate your applications to Kubernetes.  

However, if you’re looking for flexibility to deploy containers across multiple infrastructures, ECS vs EKS is the right option. It offers you a versatile and future-proof approach with its latest tech stack. But mind you, it’ll also cost you a few extra bucks!  

We hope this blog post helps you make the right decision between these two leading AWS container orchestration services.  

If you need further help regarding Amazon ECS and EKS, contact us at [email protected]. 

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