Everything you need to know about Rancher – enterprise Kubernetes management

One of the most valuable innovations that have happened in cloud computing is the use of containers to run cloud-based applications and services. Platforms like Kubernetes have made it much easier to manage containerized workloads and services on cloud platforms. For those who may not know, Kubernetes is an open-source platform for deploying, managing and automating containerized workloads and services.

Being open-source, Kubernetes has several distributions that you can choose from if you intend to deploy workloads on the cloud. One of the distributions that you choose is Rancher. If you are keen to learn more about Rancher and how it compares with other Kubernetes distributions, this article is for you. We shall discuss what Rancher is, its key features, why you should use it, and how it compares with other alternatives.  Let’s dive in!

rancher what it is

What is Rancher?

Rancher is a software stack that is used to manage Kubernetes clusters. It is basically software that DevOps can use while adopting the user of containers. Rancher includes a full distribution of Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, and Apache Mesos, making it simple to manage container clusters on any cloud platform. Some of the popular companies that use Rancher include; Alibaba travelers, Abeja, Trivago, UseInsider, Starbucks, Oxylabs, yousign, and many more.

Rancher has recently been bought by SUSE, and this acquisition will significantly change their direction. SUSE already had its container management solution, but after acquiring Rancher, they will most likely pivot from their initial solution and focus on making Rancher a much better software.

One of Rancher’s significant benefits is the ability to manage multiple Kubernetes clusters in a simplified manner. It offers simplified management of multiple Kubernetes clusters that can be created manually using ranchers Kubernetes distribution called RKE (Rancher Kubernetes Engine) or imported into cluster manager management panel.

Besides Rancher Kubernetes Engine (RKE), Rancher has initiated several other innovative projects, and one of these is the K3S – a simper Kubernetes control panel that is mainly used in edge computing. Now that SUSE has taken Rancher, we hope that they will improve it even further to make it a complete Kubernetes platform.

Features in Rancher

Some of the main features in Rancher include the following

  • Docker Catalog App
  • Included Kubernetes Distribution
  • Included Docker Swarm Distribution
  • Included Mesos Distribution
  • Infrastructure Management
  • Some of the key features in Rancher include the following;
  • Manage Hosts, Deploy Containers, Monitor Resources
  • User Management & Collaboration
  • Native Docker APIs & Tools
  • Monitoring and Logging
  • Connect Containers, Manage Disks, Deploy Load Balancers

Why use Rancher?

With several other distributions of Kubernetes on the market, why choose Rancher? Let’s look at some of the key advantages/benefits Rancher poses.

  • It is easy to use: One of the reasons one would choose Rancher over any other Kubernetes platform is the simplified web UI that makes it easy to do whatever you need. It is a platform that even developers who are not so experienced with Kubernetes can easily get started with.
  • It can easily be deployed on any cloud infrastructure: Another critical advantage that Rancher has over other Kubernetes platforms is its compatibility with different cloud platforms; so, you can quickly deploy it on any cloud infrastructure.
  • Simplifies managing clusters: Rancher is probably the best choice to manage multiple Kubernetes clusters from one interface. Its ability to manage multiple clusters is one of the significant strengths that were built at the core of Rancher.
  • It includes load balancing and health check: This is one of the major features that is included in Rancher, which is very handy if you intend to deploy a system that will likely get huge traffic.
  • It is open-source and totally free: RKE, K3s, and all other Rancher products are open source and free to use for anyone. If you don’t have a budget to spend on container management software, then Rancher is the best choice for you. However, getting support from Rancher labs will require you to pay some money.

 When not to use Rancher.

Despite having lots of advantages, there are certain scenarios where it is advisable not to use Rancher. Below are some of the situations where you should avoid using Rancher.

  • If you are interested in more mature products: When compared to other Kubernetes platforms like OpenShift, Rancher is pretty new and is still evolving. If you are the kind of person that loves using already mature products that won’t experience any radical changes, you might be disappointed with Rancher.
  • If you don’t intend to use multiple clusters: One of the major strengths that Rancher has over other Kubernetes distributions is its ability to manage multiple container clusters from one interface. For those managing single clusters, you will likely not put Rancher to good use, so you are better off choosing another platform.

How Rancher compares with other alternatives like OpenShift

One of the key strengths that OpenShift has over Rancher is that it is a mature platform and has full support from Red Hat. If you are already into the Red Hat ecosystem, your obvious choice for managing containers should be OpenShift. Rancher also has support from Rancher Labs, but it is not as reliable as Red Hat’s. Using Rancher is more logical if you intend to manage multiple container clusters.


Rancher is an excellent tool for managing and automating Kubernetes clusters. It also has lots of handy features that you can take advantage of, especially if you are managing multiple Kubernetes clusters.

The ability to manage all your clusters from one place is one of the reasons you should choose Rancher over any other platform if you intend to manage multiple clusters. Rancher is also very easy to learn and use, so new Kubernetes users can quickly get started with Rancher.

Need training, consulting or architecting?

We are SUSE and Red Hat Business Partnerns. We can help you deploying both Rancher and OpenShift PoCs so you can evaluate and try both solutions. We have also also developed some Docker / kubernetes and OpenShift 4 hands-on trainings that could be of your interest.

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