Containers on AWS: a quick guide

Containerisation allows development teams to move quickly and deploy more efficiently

Instead of virtualising the hardware stack (as you would with virtual machines), containers run on top of the OS kernel, virtualising at the OS level.

Here are the most popular container formats available:


In 2010, a company known as Docker helped transform cloud containerisation. This new way of architecting paved the way for the DevOps movement. But what made containers so popular? Thanks to the huge improvements in virtualisation and the rapid increase of cloud computing, containers can allow for isolated workloads based on an OS, exposing and accessing only what is necessary.

Within just a few years, Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) was introduced in November 13, 2014 and was the primary way to run containers in the public cloud. ECS is a container management service that allows you to run Docker containers on a cluster.


Google released Kubernetes in June 2014, which was later released to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) community the following year. The Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure were early adopters to Kubernetes, but with GCP being the only public cloud provider to have a working service called Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). GKE was launched in 2015 and Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) was released in the Fall of 2017 into preview mode.

Amazon EKS

Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS) is a fully managed service that makes it easy for you to use kubernetes on EKS runs upstream Kubernetes so you can connect to it with kubectl just like a self managed Kubernetes. AWS Introduced EKS at re:Invent 2017 and claims to upstream Kubernetes by using countless AWS growing services.

AWS Fargate

AWS has a hidden service that neither GCP or Azure have. AWS Fargate is a new service for running containers without needing to manage the underlying infrastructure. Fargate supports ECS and EKS but is also often closely compared with Lambda. You pay per computing second used without having to worry about the EC2 instances.

Managing Kubernetes can be complicated and usually requires a deep understanding of how to schedule, manage your masters, pods, services, and additional orchestration of architecture on top of the virtualisation that was already abstracted from you.

Fargate takes all of this away by streamlining deployments. The game-changer is that you do not need to start with Fargate, but that you can use EKS or ECS then migrate your workloads to Fargate when your program has matured further.


KOPS was the go to method of deploying Kubernetes on ECS via EC2 instances or on EC2 instances. KOPS is an open sourced project that makes running kubernetes easy. KOPS is built using EC2 instances. KOPS provides a multitude of controls on deployments and good support for high availability.

Containers are not just a hype, but they could be the future for at least the next few years. With AWS finally joining the Kubernetes club, and Fargate being a strong game-changer, anything is possible. However, there is is still a lot of unanswered questions that we hope will be addressed.

EKS and Fargate are currently limited in Ohio and Virginia regions, but you should see a big push to use these services as more regions get rolled out.

What do we do in the meantime? I’m reminded of this quote:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Until then, I believe KOPS will be the best method to use.

What containers do you use on AWS and are you waiting to explore with AWS EKS or Fargate? Let us know by contacting us here.

Check also my previous blog post on Container security here

Zach Olinske

Get in Touch.

Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.

Ilja Summala
Ilja Summala LinkedIn
Ilja’s passion and tech knowledge help customers transform how they manage infrastructure and develop apps in cloud.