Kubernetes vs Nomad
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Kubernetes, through efficient container orchestration, has helped define how people think about managing application clusters. As a result, Kubernetes is now a widely adopted tool, with plenty of community support.
However, Nomad offers its own take on workload orchestration. While Nomad comes with a flexible and simplified approach compared to Kubernetes, it offers more than just a straight alternative.
So what features set these two apart? Which is better, Kubernetes or Nomad? Better yet, which one should you use?
Learn all about Kubernetes, Nomad, and how they compare in this tutorial.
What Is Kubernetes?
Kubernetes, originally developed by Google, is now an open source container orchestration system. Kubernetes manages container deployments, lifecycles, and more, all using a declarative language focused on the desired state.
Kubernetes typically operates on a cluster of nodes, where Kubernetes agents control deployments, scheduling, and other tasks.
Kubernetes has become a significant technology within the cloud computing world. Its influence continues to spread, changing not only how many operations manage deployments, but how people think of deployments entirely. Kubernetes’ use cases and capabilities continue to be extended and developed.
For a more in-depth breakdown of Kubernetes, see our guide Advantages of Using Kubernetes.
Pros and Cons
Declarative approach to infrastructure.
Portable, cloud-agnostic system.
Open source with significant community support.
Complex, often requiring significant resources to maintain.
Limited support for systems other than Linux.
What Is Nomad?
Nomad from HashiCorp offers a workload orchestration system that prioritizes flexibility and simplicity. Nomad supports highly scalable features like multi-region deployments as well as diverse workloads, from containers to standalone applications.
Nomad is part of the HashiCorp ecosystem, making it easy to integrate with HashiCorp’s other tools, like Consul, Terraform, and Vault.
Discussions around Nomad have centered around Nomad as a simplified Kubernetes alternative. However, Nomad’s flexibility makes it stand out on its own. Nomad can handle scheduling and management for highly scalable clusters, and can work with applications that are containerized, non-containerized, or a mix. What’s more, it can accomplish all of this across a wider range of systems.
Learn more about Nomad and how it operates in our tutorial How to Use Nomad for Container Orchestration.
Pros and Cons
Simpler and often requiring less configuration.
Suited to smaller teams with fewer maintenance resources.
Wider range of platforms, operating on macOS and Windows in addition to Linux.
Newer, with less community support and developed tooling.
Closely tied to the HashiCorp tools and language.
How Do Nomad and Kubernetes Compare?
With an understanding of what each tool offers on its own, here’s a closer look at how they compare side-by-side.
Both Nomad and Kubernetes are designed to orchestrate workloads. The two systems share some similarities, features, and benefits with each other.
Below are just a few of the similarities, but they highlight key features that make each a compelling tool for orchestration:
Declarative Approach: Both Nomad and Kubernetes use declarative configuration/automation scripts. The declarative language focuses on the desired state and enables an infrastructure-as-code approach to development.
Portability: Kubernetes and Nomad operate as cloud-agnostic systems. This makes them both adaptable to a wide range of cloud solutions or on-premise hardware.
Rolling Deployments: Nomad and Kubernetes support rolling upgrades that verify a deployment’s health before replacing an old deployment, and each can automatically rollback changes if a deployment fails.
External Storage Solutions: Both Kubernetes and Nomad utilize the Container Storage Interface (CSI) standard, allowing them to leverage storage resources on cloud platforms that support CSI. Linode has its own CSI that you can learn more in our guide How to Deploy Persistent Volume Claims with Linode.
Despite the similarities, Kubernetes and Nomad have different features to recommend them. This is part of what makes Nomad more than just a Kubernetes alternative, as it is capable of fulfilling a different role.
Community & Tooling: Kubernetes’ popularity has given rise to a wide array of community support. Anyone adopting Kubernetes is likely to find a diverse and robust toolset to pull from, along with solutions from a sizable and experienced community.
On the other hand, Nomad is newer and lacks the community that Kubernetes has. However, Nomad does have integration with the full HashiCorp suite of tools, giving it easy access to a range of solutions.
Maintenance: Kubernetes can be a complicated system to set up and maintain, and a Kubernetes setup often requires more hardware and staff. Nomad, on the other hand, is designed for simplicity. This makes it ideal for smaller teams getting started with orchestration, or for cases where fewer resources are needed.
Flexibility: Nomad not only supports containerized applications, but also standalone applications and frameworks ranging from Docker to Java. Nomad can also operate on a wider range of operating systems, whereas Kubernetes focuses solely on Linux.
Supporting Platforms: While both Nomad and Kubernetes are cloud-agnostic, Kubernetes has the undeniable advantage of supporting cloud platforms. Google, Amazon, and IBM, for instance, all offer Kubernetes services. Linode has its own Linode Kubernetes Engine (LKE) that provides a prepared Kubernetes cluster.
Which Should You Use: Kubernetes or Nomad?
Whether to use Nomad or Kubernetes depends on your specific needs, available hardware, and maintenance limitations.
Kubernetes often makes the most sense for large projects and large teams. Kubernetes systems tend to require more hardware and maintenance efforts, although using a platform like the Linode Kubernetes Engine can mitigate those issues. However, Kubernetes offsets such requirements with its robust capabilities when it comes to managing containerized applications across clusters.
Nomad tends to be the better option for smaller projects and smaller teams. Nomad simplifies the orchestration process, with easier maintenance and management. At the same time, Nomad is flexible. This allows it to adapt to particular needs and limitations much more easily than Kubernetes. Nomad’s flexibility makes it a compelling option when scalability is a concern, even for larger projects. Nomad has proven more efficient when it comes to large-scale clustering, being capable of handling 10,000 clusters compared to Kubernetes’ 5,000. Combine that with Nomad’s adaptable design, and a Nomad system can be made to fit your needs more precisely and effectively.
Using Them Together
The least obvious solution is using both Kubernetes and Nomad tools together. Not only is this possible, but it is a compelling way to leverage features from each tool.
Kubernetes offers container orchestration with a rich set of features and can be easily deployed through services like LKE. Between this and its community support, Kubernetes can be a compelling solution for large, high-profile cloud applications.
However, Nomad can be brought in to supplement this. Its flexibility makes it useful for complementary projects that run on a mix of containerized and non-containerized workloads. On the other hand, its simplicity makes Nomad quicker than Kubernetes, appropriate for fast-moving projects with hard deadlines.
This tutorial showcases what features set Nomad and Kubernetes apart, and which tool is more likely to work best for your specific project. Both offer excellent solutions for container orchestration, and being familiar with each helps to better decide on a setup.
Be sure to reference the tutorials linked throughout this guide to keep learning about Kubernetes and Nomad. For reference, here are several that can act as next steps:
Deploying and Managing a Cluster on Linode Kubernetes Engine (LKE)
You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.
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