AWS Fargate vs AWS ECS: Detailed Comparison

Containerization in the cloud has changed the way cloud architecture has transformed and evolved over the past few years. As businesses are having growing dependency on building, deploying, and managing applications at a faster pace, containers are giving the pace to this and which is not going to stop anywhere soon. Plethora of containers and container orchestration services are available but most of them require configuring and managing clusters of virtual machines for containers to run.

Today we look more in detail about two most prominent container orchestration platforms – AWS ECS (Amazon Elastic Container Service) and AWS Fargate, key differences between the two, features and use cases.

What is AWS ECS?

AWS ECS is a scalable container orchestration platform. It is designed to run, stop and manage containers in a cluster. As containers became popular and started on a huge scale AWS launched Amazon Elastic container service (ECS). It is a highly scalable, high performance yielding and reduced overhead to some extent however, users still needed to manage the underlying infrastructure which hosted container applications. 

Features of AWS ECS

Some of the key features of ECS are:

  • Windows containers supported.
  • Dedicated ENI to tasks enabling network segregation.
  • Managed services with support for private AMI on host instances. 
  • Spot instances and Spot fleet is supported. 
  • Elastic IP addresses for dynamic cloud computing. 

What is AWS Fargate?

Before the advent of container services users used to launch applications on virtual machines. In AWS cloud applications were deployed on EC2 instances. The application was packaged with the operating system into an Amazon Machine image (AMI) and run-on AWS EC2 instance. When dockers introduced the container concept, applications started getting deployed on these containers. Containers were similar to virtual machines but one major difference between container and VM was containers unlike VM shared host system kernel with other containers as depicted in diagram below.

It is a compute engine for Amazon Elastic container service (ECS) which lets containers run without having the need to provision, configure and scale VMs cluster which host container applications. It eliminates the need to manage the EC2 instances on its own; in fact users are not required to use EC2 instances at all as Fargate himself acts as compute engine. With fargate launch all required is package application in containers, mention memory and CPU requirements, define IAM policies and then launch application. All scaling and infrastructure requirements are self-managed. It seamlessly integrates with Amazon ECS & EKS launching and managing containers 

Features of AWS Fargate

Some of the key features of AWS Fargate: 

  • ‘Serverless’ container orchestration platform to take care of scaling and availability in AWS.
  • Removes the need to provision, manage and scale EC2 instances. 
  • Additional configuration can be applied to an autoscaling group to scale instances based on capacity. 
  • Developers can focus only on application development rather than underlying infrastructure.

AWS Fargate vs AWS ECS

Below table summarizes the key difference between the two:

Which one is best for use?

If you wish to have a full control over the infrastructure and are ready to take charge of EC2 instances, ECS is the suitable option. On the other hand, if you want a managed service and do not mind shelling out some extra money, Fargate is the best bet for you.

If your requirements include automatic scaling or running containers win a serverless environment, then AWS Fargate is the ideal solution. However, if you need more flexibility or are restricted by a budget, then ECS is the better option.

As both services are excellent options for operating containers in AWS, the decision is dependent on your individual requirements and preferences.

To summarize, while selecting which service to choose, it is important to take into account the following considerations:

  • Level of control required over the infrastructure.
  • The amount of need for flexibility.
  • Budget

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