Comparing Amazon EKS and Amazon ECS - Which Container Orchestration Service is Right for You?

Amazon EKS
Amazon ECS
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Jignesh Padsumbiya Chief Operations Officer @ Infocusp
24 min read  .  03 November 2023

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In the world of containerization and orchestration on AWS, Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) and Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) are two popular choices. Both services allow you to deploy and manage containerized applications at scale, but they have distinct differences and are suitable for different use cases. In this blog post, we'll compare Amazon EKS and Amazon ECS to help you decide which one is the right choice for your containerized workloads.

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) is a managed Kubernetes service that simplifies the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications using Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform that has gained significant popularity due to its flexibility and robust feature set.

Key Features of Amazon EKS

  • Kubernetes Compatibility: EKS is fully compatible with Kubernetes, which means you can use standard Kubernetes tooling and configurations without modification.
  • Managed Control Plane: AWS manages the Kubernetes control plane, including upgrades and patches, ensuring a highly available and secure control plane.
  • Integration with AWS Services: EKS seamlessly integrates with various AWS services such as Amazon RDS, Amazon ECR, and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM).
  • Scalability: EKS allows you to easily scale your Kubernetes clusters up or down to meet your application's needs.
  • Ecosystem: It has a vibrant ecosystem of third-party tools and plugins built around Kubernetes, offering a wide range of capabilities.

Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS)

Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) is a fully managed container orchestration service that simplifies container deployment and management on AWS. It is designed to be easy to use and is tightly integrated with other AWS services.

Key Features of Amazon ECS

  • Simplicity: ECS is straightforward to set up and use, making it an excellent choice for users who are new to container orchestration.
  • Deep AWS Integration: ECS integrates seamlessly with AWS services like Amazon EC2, AWS Fargate, and AWS CloudWatch for container monitoring and scaling.
  • Task-Based Approach: ECS uses a task-based approach to define containers and their dependencies, simplifying application definitions.
  • Service Auto Scaling: It provides built-in auto-scaling for services, ensuring that your containers are automatically scaled based on defined policies.
  • Fargate Option: ECS offers AWS Fargate, a serverless container compute engine, which eliminates the need to manage underlying EC2 instances.

Comparing Amazon EKS and Amazon ECS

Feature Amazon EKS Amazon ECS
Complexity and Learning Curve It offers the full power and complexity of Kubernetes, which may have a steeper learning curve for those new to Kubernetes. ECS provides a simpler and opinionated approach, making it easier for beginners to get started.
Flexibility EKS is highly flexible and can accommodate complex containerized applications with specific requirements. While it's less flexible than Kubernetes, ECS offers a straightforward way to deploy containers for common use cases.
AWS Service Integration Integrates well with AWS services but may require additional setup for certain integrations. Provides deep integration with other AWS services out of the box.
Serverless Option EKS offers a serverless option for specific regions only. Not for all regions. A few networks configuration options are not supported by EKS in Fargate mode. Offers AWS Fargate for serverless container deployment.
Operational Overhead A managed control plane reduces operational overhead, but users are responsible for managing worker nodes. Fully managed service, reducing operational burden further, especially with Fargate.
Cost / Pricing You pay for the EKS control plane and EC2 instances (if you use EC2 worker nodes). you pay 70 for a month of continuous operation. This is the approximate price which can be changed based on region. You can find more details about pricing on the official eks-pricing page. Costs are based on the resources used by your containers and any additional AWS services you integrate. ECS does not have a cost per cluster. You can find more details about pricing on the official ecs-pricing page.
Deployment AWS abstracts the management of the Kubernetes control plane into EKS to simplify the deployment of Kubernetes clusters for developers. There is no control plane. After initial cluster setup, developers can easily configure and deploy tasks directly from the admin console. It also has a simple API for creating containerized applications. The ECS architecture does not have many moving parts and does not use complex abstractions.
Monitoring EKS supports monitoring and logging with CloudWatch Container Insights. AWS also provides a GuardDuty feature, which analyzes Kubernetes audit logs to monitor control plane activity on EKS clusters. Additionally, integration with AWS CloudTrail gives you visibility into EKS management, operations, and audit trails. In ECS, you can use the Container Insights feature of Amazon CloudWatch to monitor and aggregate metrics and logs. You can also set up alerts, track and filter metrics, and monitor and troubleshoot all your AWS resources in one place. ECS can also be used with third-party monitoring tools such as Grafana and Prometheus.
Portability EKS is designed to be Kubernetes-compatible, which means that applications and configurations developed for EKS can potentially be moved to other Kubernetes clusters, whether on-premises or on other cloud providers. ECS is an AWS-specific service, and applications and configurations created for ECS may require modifications to be used outside of the AWS environment. The tight integration with AWS services can lead to AWS-specific dependencies.
Ecosystem and Community support EKS benefits from the rich Kubernetes ecosystem, including a wide range of tools, libraries, and community support. This can make it easier to find solutions and talent familiar with Kubernetes. ECS uses its own task definition format, which is specific to the service. Migrating applications from ECS to other container orchestration platforms may require redefining tasks and services.
Scalability EKS provides fine-grained control over scaling using Kubernetes HPA (Horizontal Pods Autoscaling) which scale the number of pods and Cluster Autoscaler which adjusts the size of the worker node group. It also allows you to set up custom metrics and scaling policies. ECS provides built-in service auto-scaling, which allows you to define policies that automatically adjust the number of tasks (containers) in your service based on CloudWatch alarms, CPU and memory utilization, or custom metrics. It supports task placement strategies, which enable intelligent task distribution across clusters.
Network Policies EKS supports Kubernetes Network Policies, which allow you to define fine-grained network controls for pods and services. This is especially useful for securing communication between different parts of your application ECS abstracts networking details and simplifies network setup for users. It uses an Amazon VPC networking model. ECS provides basic network isolation using security groups but does not offer Kubernetes-style Network Policies for fine-grained control.
Load Balancers You can integrate EKS with AWS Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) and Network Load Balancer (NLB) services to expose your services to the internet. ECS integrates with Application Load Balancers (ALB) and Network Load Balancers (NLB) for routing traffic to containers.
Service Discovery EKS relies on Kubernetes-native service discovery, which is well-suited for containerized applications with complex service communication requirements. It provides DNS-based service discovery and works seamlessly with Kubernetes Service objects. ECS offers service discovery through AWS Cloud Map, which is a service designed for the AWS environment. It simplifies service registration and discovery within AWS but may require additional work for cross-cloud or on-premises service discovery.

When to Choose Amazon EKS

Consider using Amazon EKS if:

  • You are already using Kubernetes or want the full flexibility and feature set of Kubernetes.
  • Your team is familiar with Kubernetes and its concepts.
  • You require a managed Kubernetes control plane to reduce operational overhead.
  • You need advanced features like fine-grained access control and network policies.
  • You want to run your containers in a multi-cloud or hybrid environment.

When to Choose Amazon ECS

Consider using Amazon ECS if:

  • You prefer a simpler and opinionated approach to container orchestration.
  • You want seamless integration with other AWS services.
  • You are looking for a serverless container deployment option (AWS Fargate).
  • Your team is new to container orchestration and wants an easier learning curve.


The choice between Amazon EKS and Amazon ECS depends on your specific requirements, expertise, and the complexity of your containerized workloads. Amazon EKS is well-suited for those who need the full power of Kubernetes and have experience with it, while Amazon ECS offers simplicity and tight integration with AWS services, making it a great choice for those new to container orchestration or those who want a more straightforward approach.

Ultimately, both services are powerful and can effectively run containerized applications on AWS, so the decision should align with your team's expertise and the specific needs of your projects.