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Dorra ELBoukari for AWS Community Builders

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Amazon EKS Distro (EKS-D)

Since June 2018, AWS has provided Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) to its customers. It is an upstream and certified conformant version of Kubernetes. This service helped to manage containerized workloads and services in the AWS Cloud and in on-premises. Amazon EKS have always guaranteed scalability, reliability, performance and high availability.

This service was satisfying for many users as they have enjoyed applying it effeciently to their projects.

On the 1st of December 2020, AWS announced their new service Amazon EKS Distro (EKS-D) to the audience interested in Kubernetes, the portable, extensible and open-source platform of orchestration. As everyone was curious about this concept, a myriad of questions immerged: What is EKS-D? Why Amazon created this product? What is the advantage of EKS-D?

To answer those questions, we have to explain first the meaning of "Kubernetes distribution" to avoid any confusion.

What is a Kubernetes Distribution?

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) defined this term a long time ago, as the pieces that an end-user needs to install and run Kubernetes on the public cloud or on the on-premises. Here is a spreadsheet that details Kubernetes Distributions and Platforms:

What is EKS-D?

EKS-D is a Kubernetes distribution that relies basically on Amazon EKS and holds the same benefits that his 'ancestor' has. At this point, I found it useful to use the word 'Ancestor' because it is crystal clear that EKS-D is just an evolution and exploitation of the Amazon EKS service. But it is more sophisticated since it creates reliable and secure clusters to host Kubernetes.

Why EKS Distro?

Amazon EKS is convenient for many users, but not all users can take advantage of it. To explain that, you have to consider the Amazon EKS responsibility model in the figure below.

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AWS wants to simplify Kubernetes managing for the customers who may not find the right approach to leverage their applications. Customers must spend a minimal duration on operating Kubernetes. Instead, they need to focus on their business. This is the reason why Amazon EKS takes responsibility for Tactical Operations. This sounds great, but in fact, it deprives a considerable number of customers of using Amazon EKS.

Some users need for example to apply their custom tools on the control plane as their applications require a customization of the control plane flags. Another category of customers may have specific security patches to apply according to their compliance. Others have a wide variety of computing requirements (Hardware, CPU, environment, etc.)

Those considerable requirements urged the appearance of EKS Distro. It aims to help users get consistent Kubernetes builds and have a more reliable and secure distribution for an extended number of versions. Customers can now run Kubernetes on your own self-provisioned hardware infrastructure, on bare-metal or on cloud environment.

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