kubeadm vs minikube, pros and cons

Once you start looking into creating a Kubernetes cluster to run your containerized applications, one of the first decisions you need to make is what tool to use to run your cluster. Two of the most popular choices for running Kubernetes on a Linux system are kubeadm and minikube. Each one has their pros and cons, and fills a certain niche that the other does not.

In this tutorial, we will look at the differences between kubeadm and minikube. We will weigh their pros and cons in an effort to help you decide which one of these tools would be the better choice for your future Kubernetes environment. Join us below to learn about the scenarios in which each of these tools excel.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • kubeadm and minikube similarities and differences
  • kubeadm and minikube pros and cons
  • Which tool should I use, kubeadm or minikube?
kubeadm vs minikube, pros and cons
kubeadm vs minikube, pros and cons
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Any Linux distro
Software Kubernetes, kubeadm, minikube
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Kubeadm Background Information

Kubeadm is software that allows an administrator to bootstrap and manage a Kubernetes cluster. It is a robust tool that can manage a massive number of nodes and pods at scale, making it suitable as a choice for automating Kubernetes clusters of any size. As such, it is a production ready tool that Linux administrators frequently use to run their Kubernetes environments, whether they be in the cloud or locally managed server hardware.

Kubeadm Pros:

Production ready: Kubeadm is often used in production environments, such as for a company’s web server that needs to handle millions of visits every day. It comes with all the tools needed to launch containerized applications at scale, and allows an administrator to manage virtually unlimited nodes and pods. It has been thoroughly tested by developers and enterprises and meets their needs.

Customizable: Many aspects of kubeadm can be customized to fit the needs of the Kubernetes cluster. Even core components such as the API server, etcd, and kubelet can be configured and confined to various requirements. This makes kubeadm a wise choice for Kubernetes clusters that are liable to change over time.

Administration: Kubeadm allows for fine tuned administration of all aspects in your Kubernetes cluster. You get to pick which kind of network add-on you want to use, can configure authentication, and many other settings to fit the needs of your individual cluster.

Kubeadm Cons:

Intricacy: Kubeadm comes with a steep learning curve and is not recommended for Kubernetes newcomers or those without an intimate understanding of how containerized orchestration works in the first place. It is an intricate software with many settings that need to be configured, and there is not a lot of indication when or why something goes wrong, so the administrator needs to be comfortable troubleshooting on their own.

Troubleshooting: Due to kubeadm’s complexity, you will need seasoned administrators that are able to tackle issues when they arise. Maintaining a Kubernetes cluster via kubeadm can be challenging and time consuming.

There are other Kubernetes tools besides kubeadm and minikube, such as Kind, K3s, and Microk8s. Each one has a specific use case that is important to understand when choosing the right software that you want to manage your Kubernetes cluster with.

Minikube Background Information

Minikube is software that allows users to run a Kubernetes cluster of just a single node. It is rather fast to set up and makes for a perfect testing environment for developers to see how their containerized application will run on Kubernetes. It is not meant for production, but rather to test applications and deployment settings to see how they fare before sending them to a production environment.

Minikube Pros:

Ease of use: When compared to other Kubernetes tools, minikube is easy to use and initially set up. It comes with many settings already configured out of the box, so you can get going quickly.

Development: Minikube is ideal for developers that need to test their containers or deployments before sending them into production. By the same logic, it is also useful for Kubernetes administrators to see how something runs before pushing the settings to their production Kubernetes cluster such as kubeadm.

Studying: Minikube is a perfect starting point for newcomers that want to get a foot in the door with building Kubernetes clusters. It gives us all the tools we need to package a containerized application, launch it as a pod, and then play with deployment settings via the kubectl command.

Minikube Cons:

Limited scope: Since minikube is only meant for development and testing purposes, it is just a single node and will not give much benefit to running Kubernetes via minikube rather than running a container directly. It is mostly pointless to try using it in a production environment.

Performance: It can be hard to gauge realistic performance of a containerized application or fully fledged Kubernetes cluster via minikube since it is only a single node and does not have many of the features of a different Kubernetes tool like kubeadm. When running a resource intensive application, you are more likely to see performance degradation with minikube.

Closing Thoughts

In this tutorial, we learned about the principal differences between kubeadm and minikube, and weighed the pros and cons of each software. While both are capable of running Kubernetes, kubeadm is a production ready bootstrapper and can be used to scale applications. On the other hand, minikube is ideal for testing or development purposes, and is a good starting point to learning Kubernetes. Most Linux administrators will find themselves using both kubeadm and minikube, but for very different purposes.

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