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Best Container Management Software Shortlist

After evaluating myriad tools, I've curated the top container management software to address your software challenges.

  1. Mirantis Kubernetes Engine - Best for large-scale container orchestration
  2. containerd - Best for core container runtime without the frills
  3. CRI-O - Best for Open Container Initiative (OCI) based operations
  4. Alauda Container Platform - Best for Alibaba Cloud-native applications
  5. Sysdig - Best for container and Kubernetes security insights
  6. Linux Containers - Best for lightweight and fast virtualization
  7. Portainer - Best for simple and efficient container management
  8. Rancher - Best for enterprise Kubernetes management
  9. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) - Best for automated operations in GCP
  10. Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) - Best for AWS-native Kubernetes deployments
  11. Red Hat OpenShift - Best for hybrid cloud container platform solutions
  12. Kubernetes - Best for open-source container orchestration

Navigating the world of docker containers in agile environments demands robust container management solutions. With the rise of microservices and varying operating systems, it's crucial to manage container images and dependencies efficiently. Container-based deployments, whether on Windows or in the public cloud, require tools that simplify provisioning, bolster container security, and offer intuitive user interfaces.

Elastic container services and monitoring tools further ensure that both on-premise and public cloud deployments function. Understanding this intricate landscape, I've delved deep into these frameworks to help you pinpoint solutions that address your specific pain points.

What Is a Container Management Software?

Container management software is a specialized set of tools designed to facilitate the creation, deployment, and scaling of containers in software applications. Primarily utilized by DevOps professionals, system administrators, and developers, these tools offer a consistent environment for applications to run, irrespective of where they're deployed.

They address the challenges of maintaining application consistency across diverse environments, ensuring efficient resource allocation, and simplifying complex orchestration tasks, thus streamlining the entire container lifecycle.

Overviews of the 12 Best Container Management Software

1. Mirantis Kubernetes Engine - Best for large-scale container orchestration

Mirantis Kubernetes Engine container management software dashboard
This is an image from Mirantis Kubernetes Engine (formerly Docker Enterprise) includes the Universal Control Plane (UCP), which helps manage your clusters and applications through a single interface.

Container orchestration has become the backbone of many enterprises, especially when dealing with complex applications. The Mirantis Kubernetes Engine addresses this need by providing a platform specifically designed to orchestrate large-scale container deployments.

Why I Picked Mirantis Kubernetes Engine:

I chose the Mirantis Kubernetes Engine after comparing various platforms based on scalability and management capabilities. Among the tools I assessed, this engine stood out for its specialized focus on large-scale orchestration, ensuring enterprises don't hit growth ceilings unexpectedly.

My judgment confirmed that, for those handling vast and growing container deployments, the Mirantis Kubernetes Engine is the optimum choice.

Standout Features & Integrations:

The Mirantis Kubernetes Engine offers multi-cloud capabilities, ensuring you aren't tied down to a single provider. With a high degree of automation, it reduces the manual workload associated with container orchestration. Integrations-wise, it connects with most major cloud providers, including AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure, as well as supporting integrations with popular CI/CD tools.


Pricing upon request


  • Scalability tailored for large-scale operations
  • Comprehensive multi-cloud capabilities
  • Support for popular CI/CD integrations


  • Might be overkill for smaller operations
  • The steeper learning curve for those new to Kubernetes
  • Specific pricing details are not immediately available on the website

2. containerd - Best for core container runtime without the frills

containerd container management software home page
Here is a screenshot from Containerd's home page.

At its essence, containerd is all about providing the core functionalities of a container runtime. Stripped of unnecessary extras, it caters to those looking for a straightforward solution without any added complexities.

Why I Picked containerd:

In selecting the right tools, I place a high emphasis on simplicity and efficiency. While comparing various container runtimes, containerd stood out for its focus on delivering the basics without any added layers. It's this no-frills approach that makes it the ideal choice for those wanting a core container runtime, free from distractions.

Standout Features & Integrations:

containerd is designed to be less monolithic, which means it offers a leaner approach to runtime. It supports OCI images, ensuring a consistent and standard approach. In terms of integrations, it aligns well with Docker and Kubernetes, providing a bridge between these platforms.


Pricing upon request


  • Lean and efficient core runtime
  • Full OCI image support
  • Integrates well with Docker and Kubernetes


  • Lacks some advanced features found in other runtimes
  • Might require additional tools for complete orchestration
  • Documentation can be sparse for newcomers

3. CRI-O - Best for Open Container Initiative (OCI) based operations

Cri-O container management software automatic monitoring of the applications dashboard
Here is a screenshot of CRI-O's automatic monitoring of the applications dashboard.

CRI-O is built around the idea of offering a lightweight container runtime optimized for OCI compatibility. It ensures that containers running under Kubernetes align with the Open Container Initiative standards.

Why I Picked CRI-O:

When choosing tools, OCI compatibility was a key factor. I determined that CRI-O, with its focused approach to OCI-based operations, offered something distinct from many other runtimes. For those prioritizing strict OCI adherence, CRI-O undoubtedly shines the brightest.

Standout Features & Integrations:

CRI-O offers a high degree of modularity, allowing users to swap out or replace components as needed. Its commitment to OCI standards means it provides a reliable environment for Kubernetes containers. On the integration front, CRI-O works harmoniously with major Kubernetes versions, guaranteeing consistent performance.


Pricing upon request


  • Strict adherence to OCI standards
  • High modularity for custom configurations
  • Kubernetes integrations


  • Might be niche for those not prioritizing OCI
  • Fewer community plugins compared to other runtimes
  • Requires more specific knowledge for optimization

4. Alauda Container Platform - Best for Alibaba Cloud-native applications

Alauda Container Platform - container management software features
Here is a screen capture from the Alauda Container Platform.

Alauda Container Platform is tailor-made for those deeply embedded in the Alibaba Cloud ecosystem. It streamlines the deployment and management of cloud-native applications on this specific platform.

Why I Picked Alauda Container Platform:

In assessing tools specific to cloud platforms, I noticed a gap when it came to Alibaba Cloud. My judgment led me to the Alauda Container Platform, which offers specialized features tailored to Alibaba's environment. For those entrenched in the Alibaba Cloud infrastructure, I opined this to be the best fit.

Standout Features & Integrations:

The platform offers end-to-end container solutions, from development to production, all optimized for Alibaba Cloud. Its native tools, like the Alauda DevOps platform, allow for streamlined application lifecycle management. Furthermore, it integrates well with Alibaba Cloud's suite of services, making the deployment and scaling process smooth.


Pricing upon request


  • Tailored for Alibaba Cloud environment
  • Comprehensive container solutions from dev to prod
  • Native tools for enhanced application management


  • Less versatile for non-Alibaba Cloud users
  • Might have a steeper learning curve for the uninitiated
  • Fewer community contributions compared to more mainstream platforms

5. Sysdig - Best for container and Kubernetes security insights

Sysdig's monitor dashboard showing which workloads are running at any given point in time
This is a view from the Sysdig's monitor dashboard showing which workloads are running at any given point in time, and which deployments are having problems.

Sysdig is a comprehensive tool designed specifically to deliver deep insights into the security of containers and Kubernetes environments. Given the increasing complexities of containerized infrastructures, a dedicated approach to security becomes paramount, and that's precisely what Sysdig aims to offer.

Why I Picked Sysdig:

When it came to picking a tool focused on container and Kubernetes security, Sysdig was a standout in my comparisons. I judged its capabilities based on depth, precision, and clarity of insights. In my opinion, Sysdig's detailed approach to security insights makes it best suited for those navigating the intricate terrains of container and Kubernetes operations.

Standout Features & Integrations:

Sysdig offers features such as runtime security, compliance checks, and vulnerability management tailored for containers and Kubernetes. It also comes with deep integrations with Kubernetes, making the process of detecting threats and anomalies intuitive. Additionally, its Falco integration, an open-source Kubernetes-native runtime security project, takes its capabilities a notch higher.


Pricing upon request


  • Tailored security insights for Kubernetes environments
  • Comprehensive vulnerability management
  • Falco integration for enhanced security checks


  • Might have a learning curve for beginners
  • Deployment might require advanced configurations
  • The interface can be complex for non-technical users

6. Linux Containers - Best for lightweight and fast virtualization

Linux Containers project test dashboard
Here is a screenshot from the Linux Containers project test dashboard.

Linux Containers, often referred to as LXC/LXD, present a robust solution for those seeking a lightweight virtualization method. Unlike traditional virtual machines, LXC offers a more efficient, less resource-intensive alternative while still providing isolation.

Why I Picked Linux Containers:

Choosing a virtualization solution often boils down to a balance between performance and resource consumption. In my analysis of various tools, LXC's ability to provide fast and efficient virtualization without draining resources made it an obvious pick. It's this unique lightweight approach that I believe suits users wanting performance without overheads best.

Standout Features & Integrations:

LXC is known for its scalability and density, allowing many containers to run on a single machine without significant overhead. It's also OS-agnostic, meaning containers can run different Linux distributions regardless of the host OS. Integration-wise, LXC works well with most Linux distributions and can be managed using its native tools or third-party solutions like Juju.


Free (open-source)


  • Efficient, lightweight virtualization
  • OS-agnostic container capability
  • High scalability and density


  • May not be suitable for non-Linux environments
  • Some advanced configurations might be challenging
  • Lack of native GUI may deter some users

7. Portainer - Best for simple and efficient container management

Portainer environments screenshot
This is the Portainer environments screenshot - showing that with Portainer, you can easily manage your Kubernetes, Docker, Nomad, and Edge environments from a single pane of glass.

Portainer breaks down the complexities of container management into an intuitive interface, making the task of managing and orchestrating Docker and Kubernetes environments more accessible. The platform’s straightforward approach to container management is a relief for both novices and seasoned professionals.

Why I Picked Portainer:

In selecting a container management platform, the balance between power and simplicity was paramount for me. Portainer stood out because it transforms complex container tasks into manageable actions through a user-friendly interface. This made me believe it's the best tool for those who value efficiency without a steep learning curve.

Standout Features & Integrations:

Portainer provides a unified dashboard for container orchestration, offering visibility into services, containers, images, and networks. It supports both Docker and Kubernetes, ensuring flexibility in the choice of orchestration. Additionally, integrations with popular registries like Docker Hub,, and Azure Container Registry augment its capabilities.


From $3/user/month (billed annually)


  • Intuitive UI for easier container management
  • Supports both Docker and Kubernetes
  • Unified dashboard for comprehensive visibility


  • Might lack some advanced functionalities
  • Integration with other tools may require manual configurations
  • Limited community edition features

8. Rancher - Best for enterprise Kubernetes management

Rancher's cluster dashboard
Here is a screen capture from Rancher's cluster dashboard.

Rancher stands as a full-stack Kubernetes management platform, aiming to ease the deployment, scaling, and management of Kubernetes clusters. Tailored for enterprise requirements, Rancher ensures that companies can handle Kubernetes operations at scale, making it a go-to choice for businesses of significant size.

Why I Picked Rancher:

In my process of selecting a Kubernetes management platform fit for enterprises, Rancher’s holistic approach to Kubernetes operations was a distinguishing factor. Based on my judgments and the comparisons I conducted, I found that Rancher’s focus on scaling Kubernetes operations aligns it well with enterprise demands, setting it apart from other similar platforms.

Standout Features & Integrations:

Rancher provides multi-cluster management, a unified operations interface, and integrated GitOps workflows for continuous delivery. Its extensive integration suite includes tools like Prometheus for monitoring, Fluentd for logging, and Istio for service mesh capabilities.


Pricing upon request


  • Comprehensive multi-cluster management
  • Integrated GitOps workflows for enhanced deployment
  • Extensive suite of integrations tailored for Kubernetes


  • Requires a certain level of expertise for setup
  • Some features might be overwhelming for small teams
  • The interface may seem dense to new users

9. Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) - Best for automated operations in GCP

Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) container management software analytics dashboard
This is a view from Google Kubernetes Engine of its cloud console dashboard.

Google Kubernetes Engine offers an environment for deploying, managing, and scaling containerized applications using Google’s infrastructure. Being deeply integrated with the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), GKE stands out as an ideal solution for businesses that prioritize automation within the GCP ecosystem.

Why I Picked GKE:

The decision to choose GKE was grounded in its tight-knit integration with GCP and its automation capabilities. From my evaluation and the opinions I formed, I determined that GKE’s strength lies in its automation features, especially for those already invested in the Google Cloud ecosystem.

Standout Features & Integrations:

GKE offers automated cluster management, allowing for auto-upgrades, auto-scaling, and auto-repair. It integrates with GCP services such as Stackdriver for logging and monitoring, Google Cloud Storage, and BigQuery for data analysis.


From $0.10/user/month (based on compute resources used)


  • Deep integration with Google Cloud services
  • Robust automated cluster management features
  • Reliable security with Google-backed infrastructure


  • Might be less intuitive for non-GCP users
  • Pricing can become complex based on resource consumption
  • Limited flexibility outside the GCP ecosystem

10. Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) - Best for AWS-native Kubernetes deployments

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) container management software containers view
Users can automatically visualize and monitor applications on Amazon EKS.

Amazon EKS provides a managed Kubernetes service that integrates deeply with the AWS ecosystem, making the deployment, management, and scaling of containerized applications simpler for AWS users. Its AWS-native foundation ensures an experience for businesses heavily reliant on AWS infrastructure.

Why I Picked Amazon EKS:

When it came to selecting a Kubernetes service tailored for AWS, Amazon EKS was a clear choice. Based on my comparisons and the criteria I set, I judged that Amazon EKS's depth of integration with AWS tools and services is unmatched, making it a prime option for AWS-centric deployments.

Standout Features & Integrations:

Amazon EKS boasts features like automated Kubernetes version upgrades and patching. It’s well-integrated with AWS services, including Amazon CloudWatch for monitoring, AWS Identity and Access Management for security, and AWS App Mesh for enhanced networking.


From $0.20/user/month (based on nodes run)


  • Deeply integrated with the AWS ecosystem
  • Automated version upgrades and patching
  • Strong security with AWS-native features


  • The steeper learning curve for non-AWS users
  • Costs can ramp up with extensive resource use
  • Initial setup requires AWS-specific knowledge

11. Red Hat OpenShift - Best for hybrid cloud container platform solutions

Red Hat OpenShift container management software console overview
Here is a screenshot of the Red Hat OpenShift Container Management Software's console overview.

Red Hat OpenShift is a Kubernetes-based hybrid cloud platform designed to enable the deployment and management of containerized applications. Catering to both public and private cloud environments, OpenShift is specifically aligned with businesses searching for flexible hybrid cloud solutions.

Why I Picked Red Hat OpenShift:

OpenShift caught my attention due to its versatility in catering to both public and private cloud deployments. My determination, rooted in objective comparisons and evaluations, led me to believe that OpenShift's adeptness at handling hybrid cloud solutions sets it apart from other platforms. Its prowess in this domain justifies its position as the best solution for hybrid cloud container platform needs.

Standout Features & Integrations:

OpenShift offers automated operations, developer services for a consistent experience and multi-cluster management. Integrations are abundant, with support for Jenkins for CI/CD, Prometheus for monitoring, and deep ties with Red Hat’s extensive software suite.


From $50/user/month (billed annually)


  • Provides a robust platform for hybrid cloud solutions
  • Integration with Red Hat’s suite of tools
  • Extensive developer services for a uniform experience


  • Pricing might be on the higher side for small businesses
  • Requires familiarity with Red Hat’s ecosystem
  • Setup can be intricate for newcomers

12. Kubernetes - Best for open-source container orchestration

Kubernetes container management software dashboard
Here is a screenshot from the Kubernetes' workloads dashboard.

Kubernetes stands as an open-source platform designed to automate the deployment, scaling, and operation of application containers. Given its vast community support and adaptability, it has become the de facto choice for organizations aiming for effective container orchestration.

Why I Picked Kubernetes:

Choosing Kubernetes was a natural decision, given its prominence and widespread adoption in the container orchestration space. In comparing and weighing the merits of various platforms, it became clear to me that Kubernetes’ open-source nature and vast community support made it unique. These attributes underscore its position as the top choice for open-source container orchestration.

Standout Features & Integrations:

Kubernetes boasts features like automatic bin packing, self-healing mechanisms, and horizontal scaling. Its integration capabilities are vast, with compatibility for tools like Helm for package management, Istio for service mesh, and Grafana for monitoring.


Free (open-source)


  • The rich feature set for container orchestration
  • Broad community support leading to rapid innovations
  • Wide range of integrations with other tools


  • The steep learning curve for beginners
  • Requires in-depth knowledge of advanced configurations
  • Community support, while vast, can sometimes be fragmented

Other Noteworthy Container Management Software

Below is a list of additional container management software that I shortlisted, but did not make it to the top 12. They are definitely worth checking out.

  1. Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) - Good for integrating with Azure services
  2. IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service - Good for hybrid cloud deployments on IBM Cloud
  3. Google Cloud Run - Good for event-driven computing solutions
  4. Azure Arc - Good for managing resources across multiple clouds
  5. Nomad - Good for flexible workload orchestration
  6. Apache Mesos - Good for large-scale cluster management
  7. Kontena Pharos - Good for maintainable Kubernetes clusters
  8. Huawei Cloud Container Engine (CCE) - Good for Huawei Cloud-native deployments
  9. K3s - Good for lightweight Kubernetes needs
  10. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Container Engine for Kubernetes (OKE) - Good for Oracle Cloud-native container orchestration
  11. AWS Fargate - Good for serverless container deployments on AWS
  12. VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations - Good for integrating with VMware infrastructure

Selection Criteria For the Best Container Management Software

When navigating the vast landscape of container management and orchestration platforms, it becomes crucial to know what to prioritize. Over the years, I've evaluated dozens of container orchestration tools, and I've come to realize that a few distinct criteria set the best apart from the rest. In this evaluation, I particularly prioritized the following elements:

Core Functionality

  • Container Orchestration: The tool should efficiently manage container deployment, scaling, and scheduling.
  • Service Discovery: It should automatically discover and communicate with services.
  • Load Balancing: Distribute traffic across a set of services or containers.
  • Automatic Rollouts & Rollbacks: Update containers and revert changes if something goes wrong.
  • Secret & Configuration Management: Store sensitive data and manage application configurations.

Key Features

  • Scalability: Ensures the system can handle increased demands by adjusting the container resources.
  • Multi-Cloud Integration: Compatibility with multiple cloud service providers, not just one.
  • Security Protocols: Essential features like role-based access controls, network policies, and secret management.
  • Monitoring & Logging: In-built capabilities to monitor container health and log essential data.
  • Extensibility: Ability to integrate with additional plugins or extensions to enhance functionality.
  • Storage Management: Ensuring persistent, reliable, and efficient storage solutions.


  • Intuitive Dashboard: A clear, organized dashboard that provides an overview of clusters, nodes, and container health.
  • Role-Based Access: Configuration options to grant or restrict access based on user roles.
  • API-Driven Interface: Provides flexibility and customization options for advanced users.
  • Active Community & Documentation: Presence of a robust user community and comprehensive documentation to assist in troubleshooting and onboarding.
  • Consistent Updates & Patches: The tool should have a history of regular updates to address issues and introduce improvements.
  • Training & Learning Resources: For complex enterprise solutions, the availability of training programs, wikis, or learning libraries is a boon.

Most Common Questions Regarding Container Management Software

What are the benefits of using container management software?

Container management software offers numerous advantages to businesses and developers:

  1. Scalability: Easily adjust to growing user demands by scaling services up or down.
  2. Efficiency: Maximize server and infrastructure usage by running multiple containers on a single machine.
  3. Isolation: Containers run in isolation, ensuring that they don't interfere with each other or with the host system.
  4. Consistency: Maintain a consistent environment across the development, testing, and production phases.
  5. Portability: Containers can be moved across local machines, data centers, and various cloud environments.

How much do these tools typically cost?

The cost of container management tools varies widely, depending on factors like features, scalability options, and the intended user base. Some tools offer a free tier, while others might charge based on the number of nodes, clusters, or containers managed.

Can you explain the typical pricing models for these tools?

Container management software usually follows these pricing models:

  1. Per Node Pricing: Charges are based on the number of nodes or instances being managed.
  2. Resource Consumption: Pricing depends on the amount of CPU, memory, or storage resources consumed.
  3. Flat Rate: A fixed monthly or yearly rate regardless of usage or scale.
  4. Freemium: Basic features are available for free, with advanced features and scalability options in paid tiers.

Which software is known to be the cheapest?

The pricing landscape is dynamic, with promotions, updates, and changes. However, as of the latest information, tools like K3s and Nomad tend to be on the more affordable end of the spectrum.

Which software is the most expensive?

Enterprise solutions, such as those offered by leading cloud providers like AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure, can be more expensive, especially when considering the full range of features and scalability options.

Are there any free options available?

Yes, several tools offer free tiers or entirely free versions. Kubernetes, for example, is an open-source platform and can be used free of charge. However, there may be costs associated with running it on cloud platforms or using additional integrations and features.

Why is there such a range in pricing for these tools?

The vast range in pricing is due to the varied features, scalability options, target audience (from individual developers to large enterprises), and levels of support and maintenance offered by different tools. Some tools might also include additional services like monitoring, logging, or security features that can affect the price.

Do I always need a paid version to get the best features?

Not necessarily. Many open-source or freemium tools offer robust features that cater to a wide range of needs. However, paid versions often provide additional benefits like premium support, advanced security features, and more extensive scalability options.

Other Container Management Software Reviews


Selecting the right container management software is pivotal for businesses aiming to achieve scalability, efficiency, and consistency in their operations. This guide delved deep into various top-tier container management tools, highlighting their unique selling propositions, key functionalities, usability factors, and pricing models.

I also touched on the importance of discerning key features specifically for individual needs rather than focusing on the multitude of functionalities these tools might offer.

Key Takeaways

  1. Understand your needs: Before choosing a tool, pinpoint your specific requirements. Whether you're leaning towards efficiency, scalability, or a balance of both, there's likely software tailored to your needs.
  2. Pricing doesn't equate to quality: While some expensive tools offer extensive features and support, many affordable or even open-source platforms can provide robust functionalities that cater to a wide range of requirements.
  3. Prioritize usability and support: The design, onboarding ease, and customer support of a tool can significantly impact its usability. Ensure the chosen software aligns with the user experience you anticipate, especially if it's intended for a larger team or complex projects.

Final Thoughts

There are many noteworthy container and Kubernetes resources to explore. Let's broaden our knowledge base together.

By Paulo Gardini Miguel

Paulo is the Director of Technology at the rapidly growing media tech company BWZ. Prior to that, he worked as a Software Engineering Manager and then Head Of Technology at Navegg, Latin America’s largest data marketplace, and as Full Stack Engineer at MapLink, which provides geolocation APIs as a service. Paulo draws insight from years of experience serving as an infrastructure architect, team leader, and product developer in rapidly scaling web environments. He’s driven to share his expertise with other technology leaders to help them build great teams, improve performance, optimize resources, and create foundations for scalability.