Over the past few years, Kubernetes (K8s) has become the preferred method of orchestrating containers and microservices. Its self-healing, high scalability, and open-source nature make it appealing to a wide range of users.
However, deploying, running, and scaling containerized applications and microservices with Kubernetes can be quite challenging. The Kubernetes community keeps growing, but there still aren’t that many experienced K8s engineers.
Besides, managing large Kubernetes deployments can get out of control, increasing cloud costs and thinning margins.
It is difficult to manually manage Kubernetes because of these and other challenges. Without leveraging automation, optimizing Kubernetes costs at scale can be virtually impossible.
Our goal in this guide is to share with you over two dozen top Kubernetes tools, organized into categories. We’ll also suggest alternatives so you can choose what works best for your Kubernetes needs.
Table Of Contents
Kubernetes Cost Management And Optimization Tools
The Kubernetes platform is a highly scalable platform that can lead to unexpected cloud costs, when left unchecked. To manage and optimize Kubernetes costs, here are a few tools you can use.
1. CloudZero – Kubernetes cost intelligence platform
CloudZero’s Kubernetes cost analysis is a modern, granular, and straightforward cost intelligence solution for Kubernetes. With CloudZero, you can seamlessly assess your cost of goods sold (COGS) across containerized and non-containerized infrastructure. It combines both in one place and aligns those costs to the products, processes, and people that produced them.
With views like cost per customer, cost per feature, cost per namespace, cost per pod, and cost per project, you can see how much it costs to run a microservice, support a specific customer, deliver a product, and more.
This image shows how CloudZero presents that cost intelligence in a visual, easy-to-understand format down to the pod.
2. Kubecost – Continuous cost optimization
Kubecost presents costs by metrics like deployment, namespace, cluster, service, and more. A single API endpoint provides a unified view of your costs across multiple clusters. Kubecost then provides customized, dynamic recommendations so you can make cost-saving tweaks.
3. Loft Labs – Kubernetes cost monitoring with auto-stopping
The Loft control platform runs on top of an existing Kubernetes cluster to enable self-service and multi-tenancy deployments. It automatically identifies unused, old, or idle namespaces.
Once you enable Sleep Mode, the system will automatically put such namespaces to sleep after a specified period of inactivity. In addition, you can define quotas for each account, team, and user.
Loft also offers enterprise-grade multi-tenant access control, security, fully automated tenant isolation, and more.
Kubernetes Development Tools
4. Okteto – Pre-configured Dev environments
With Okteto, you get ready-to-use Dev Environments to empower your developers to build and deploy applications directly on the cloud. It provides pre-configured environments so you can skip traditional development workflows that require you to commit and push changes, and then wait for the CI to create and deploy those changes before you can check them out.
Okteto’s Dev Environments help you to code locally on your machine, with changes automatically deployed as soon as you save them.
5. Project Tye – Automatically deploy .NET apps to Kubernetes
Microsoft’s Tye is a .Net framework for building, testing, and deploying distributed apps and microservices. Project Tye provides a local orchestrator for developing microservices and deploying them to Kubernetes with minimal configuration.
The tool enables you to run multiple services with one command, make use of dependencies in containers, and use simple conventions to discover the addresses of other services.
Kubernetes Command-Line Tools
For better command execution in Kubernetes, you can use the following solutions alongside kubectl, the native Kubernetes command-line tool. This includes deploying apps, inspecting and managing cluster resources, and viewing logs.
6. Helm – Kubernetes package manager
As a package manager for Kubernetes, Helm lets you define, install, and upgrade Kubernetes apps. With Helm Charts, you can find, use, and share software made for Kubernetes instead of copying and pasting. Versioning, sharing, and hosting Charts on public or private servers is also straightforward. In addition, if you encounter a problem, you can simply roll back to a previous version.
7. Kubectx + kubens – Quickly switching between clusters and namespaces in Kubectl
Kubectx is useful for multi-cluster installations, which require switching context between clusters quickly. Instead of typing numerous and lengthy kubectl commands, kubectx does the work with a single command.
It also aliases lengthy cluster names, like this: kubectx eu=gke_ahmetb-samples-playground_europe-west1-b_dublin Instead, it runs this: kubectx eu.
In addition, Kubectx preserves your previous contexts, enabling you to switch back by executing kubectx –. Meanwhile, kubens enables rapid switching between namespaces. Also, both tools offer auto-completion on bash/zsh/fish shells to help boost your productivity.
8. Stern – Specify pod id and containers id in K8s
Stern enables you to tail many pods on Kubernetes, automatically adding new pods to the tail and removing deleted ones. You can also tail multiple containers within a pod using color-coding, making debugging easier.
Just specify the container flag to limit what containers to show. Also, since the query is a regular expression, you can easily filter the pod name without specifying the exact id (such as, omit deployment id).
9. K9s – Kubernetes terminal UI
K9s terminal-based UI helps view, manage, and interact with clusters. This open-source project makes it easier to navigate, observe, and manage deployed apps in the wild. It continuously monitors Kubernetes for changes and offers corresponding commands for interacting with the observed resources.
You can run it on Linux, macOS, and Windows. Plus, it utilizes aliases to navigate most K8s resources.
Kubernetes Cluster Management Tools
Kubernetes cluster management tools provide visibility into clusters, helping you manage app life cycles across hybrid environments. Here are a few powerful ones you can use with K8s.
10. Ansible Kubespray – Automation for Kubernetes
Kubespray uses various tools from RedHat Ansible to provision Kubernetes. The tool integrates Ansible playbooks, provisioning tools, inventory, and domain knowledge for managing Kubernetes clusters.
Along with faster Kubernetes cluster deployments, it customizes the implementation process as well. Kubespray runs on bare metal, most cloud services, and supports most Linux distributions, like Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS, OpenSUSE, Debian, and Flatcar.
11. Kops – Installation, upgrades, and management of K8s clusters
Short for Kubernetes Operations, Kops helps build, destroy, update, and maintain highly available and production-grade Kubernetes clusters using the command line. Currently, Kops supports AWS deployment and GCE is in beta, while VMware vSphere is in alpha.
Kops empowers you to control the entire Kubernetes cluster lifecycle, from provisioning infrastructure to deleting clusters.
12. Rancher – Complete K8s cluster management
Rancher manages many Kubernetes clusters with a focus on security and operational efficiency. It is an open-source toolkit of cluster and container management tools that deliver Kubernetes-as-a-Service. Besides running containers in the cloud, on-premises (data center), and at the edge, Rancher is also ideal for hybrid clouds and multi-cloud deployments.
Kubernetes Service Mesh Tools
A service mesh refers to a dedicated infrastructure layer you add to your apps. You can add features such as observability, security monitoring, and traffic management without modifying your code. The term also describes both the software that implements this pattern and the security or network domain it creates.
13. Contour – High-performance ingress controller for K8s
The Contour project serves as the control plane for Envoy, a high-performance load balancer and L7 proxy. It also supports configuration updates on the fly and multi-team ingress delegation by default whilst keeping a lightweight profile. You can also deploy Contour as either a daemonset or Kubernetes deployment.
14. Istio – Language-independent and transparent service networking layer
The Istio project layers on top of existing distributed applications without obscuring them. It then enables a more uniform and efficient way to connect, secure, and monitor K8s services. Istio improves load balancing (for HTTP, WebSocket, gRPC, and TCP traffic), monitoring, and service-to-service authentication with minimal or no code changes.
15. Gloo Mesh – Istio-based Kubernetes service mesh
Solo.io’s service mesh orchestration solution is an Istio-based service mesh. Gloo Mesh helps simplify and bring together how you configure, operate, and gain visibility into service-to-service connectivity within distributed apps. Gloo Mesh Enterprise recently added multi-tenancy workspaces, VM support, and advanced Istio management on top of its connectivity, security, and observability capabilities for Kubernetes, microservices, and VMs.
Kubernetes CI/CD, Networking, and Storage Tools
Different tools are available for each Kubernetes function. Here is a tool for each of these categories.
16. Flagger – Kubernetes progressive delivery operator
Flagger facilitates automatic promotions of canary deployments using Istio, Contour, Gloo, Nginx, App Mesh, Linkerd, and Skipper routing to perform traffic shifting, along with Prometheus to analyze canaries.
During a canary deployment, you roll out the release to a small group of users, test it, and then push it out to the entire group if it works as expected. Flagger uses the service mesh running in your cluster to manage traffic between deployments.
It measures metrics like average request duration, HTTP requests success rate, and pod health before shifting traffic to the canary. It works for strategies like canary, A/B testing, and blue/green deployments.
17. Calico – Kubernetes Networking and Security Tool
Calico is a container network interface (CNI) tool for containers, virtual machines, and local workloads (host-based). During Kubernetes deployments, Calico uses Layer 3 to provide network policies and safely route packets to pods. You can also integrate it with a service mesh to implement workload policies across clusters.
18. Longhorn – Distributed block storage
This highly persistent block storage solution for Kubernetes is open-source, cloud-native, and easy to deploy. They not only built Longhorn on Kubernetes to run anywhere, but it also supports distributed block storage through containers and microservices.
The tool creates a dedicated storage controller per block device volume while synchronously replicating the volume across multiple replicas in different nodes. Kubernetes then orchestrates the storage controller and those replicas.
19. Velero – Backup and migrate persistent volumes for K8s
Formerly Heptio Ark, Velero provides backup and recovery tools for cluster resources and persistent volumes. You can run Velero on-premises or in the cloud. Velero also enables you to quickly schedule backups, move cluster resources to other clusters, restore them in case of data loss, and replicate production clusters to development and testing clusters.
Free And Open-source Kubernetes Monitoring Tools
These tools help improve real-time observability into Kubernetes resources. While some platforms include a web console, others generate and expose metrics at the cluster level.
20. Kubewatch – K8s Events Watcher And Handlers Trigger
Bitnami Labs’ Kubewatch is a Go-based open-source watcher for Kubernetes. It observes about a dozen different resources, from deployments and replication controllers to persistent volumes and ingress controllers.
Kubewatch monitors predefined Kubernetes resources for changes and reports them to your Slack channel. Yet, you can also use webhooks to get alerts through SMTP, Flock, Hip Chat, and Mattermost.
21. Weave Scope – Monitoring for Kubernetes and Docker containers
With Weave Scope, you automatically detect processes, containers, and hosts. You do not need to use kernel modules, agents, special libraries, or coding when using it. The tool is also available as an open-source project or cloud-hosted solution. Plus, it integrates seamlessly with Kubernetes, Docker, DCOS, and AWS ECS.
22. Kubetail – Simultaneously tail K8s logs from multiple pods
Kubetail provides a handy bash script that enables you to aggregate (tail/follow) numerous logs from multiple pods into a single stream — at the same time. Filtering or highlighting aren’t included in the original Kubetail, but an additional fork is available on GitHub that includes log coloring. But you can option to turn off color coding.
Read more about advanced Kubernetes monitoring and observability tools here.
Kubernetes Test Solutions
These K8s testing solutions can help you maintain your infrastructure in optimal condition, from rebooting daemons safely to performing distributed load tests.
23. Kured – Reboot Daemon for K8s
Kured performs safe reboots when prompted by an underlying OS’s package management. It lets you watch for reboot sentinel files or sentinel commands that run successfully. An API server lock ensures only one node can reboot at a time. Kured can also delay reboots if Prometheus alerts are active or if you select certain pods. It cordons and drains worker nodes before rebooting, uncordoning them after.
24. K6d – Load testing for Kubernetes
Grafana Labs’ K6d project enables you to run distributed K6 load tests on K8s. The goal is to enhance your baseline availability by load-testing your Kubernetes infrastructure and analyzing the results. To run K6 tests in Kubernetes, you need to clone a GitHub repository to use an operator, which then you can deploy manually to your cluster using Make and Kustomize.
25. Chaos Mesh – Chaos engineering for K8s
Chaos Mesh enables you to perform experiments in production without modifying your app’s deployment logic. It uses CustomResourceDefinition (CRD) to define a chaos environment and deploy custom resources. It then enables you to monitor the experiment’s progress in real-time while allowing failed experiments to roll back quickly.
Kubernetes Security Tools
Kubernetes is not inherently secure, so you need to tighten its security features to safeguard your apps. Here are some top K8s security tools you can use for that.
26. Kamus – Open-source secret management for Kubernetes
Kamus is a zero-trust GitOps secrets encryption and decryption tool for Kubernetes apps. It helps encrypt secret values so you can commit them to source control. Only an application running on Kubernetes can decode these encrypted secret values.
Kamus leverages strong encryption providers, like Google Cloud KMS, Azure KeyVault, and AES, to encrypt secrets. It also lets you encrypt a secret for a specific application that only that app can decrypt.
27. Terrascan – Secure IaC
With Terrascan, you get over 500 out-of-the-box policies to help scan across your Infrastructure-as-Code, including Kubernetes, AWS CloudFormation, Terraform, ArgoCD, and Atlantis based on standards such as the CIS Benchmark. It employs the Open Policy Agent (OPA) engine to create custom policies based on the Rego query language.
What Next: Optimize Your Kubernetes Costs With Confidence
Only CloudZero enables you to allocate 100% of your spend in hours. This empowers you to align everyone around business-critical cost dimensions. By combining Kubernetes costs with non-containerized resources, CloudZero allows you to get a complete picture of your cloud costs.
CloudZero breaks down your cloud bill into actionable cost intelligence, including cost per customer, feature, product, project, and dev team. With this information, you can pinpoint where to trim resources for cost savings and where to invest more to maximize ROI — all without compromising customer experience or limiting innovation among your engineers.