Elevating IaC Workflows with Spacelift Stacks and Dependencies 🛠️

Register for the July 23 demo →

Kubernetes

26 Top Kubernetes Tools for Your K8s Ecosystem in 2024

kubernetes tools

Kubernetes is the most popular container orchestration tool, but it gets even better when combined with other tools. The Kubernetes ecosystem contains a huge range of tools for command line, simplifying cluster management, monitoring, security, and deployment tasks. With so many options, it can be unclear which you should use when, or what the benefits are.

In this round-up, we’ll tour 25+ leading tools that support your Kubernetes clusters. We’ll explain each tool’s key features and how it improves your Kubernetes experience.

Why do you need Kubernetes tools?

Kubernetes is a powerful platform with robust functionality for running containers at scale in production-grade environments. However, while it wraps containers with some higher-level concepts, it’s still a complex system that lacks crucial components required for real-world applications.

Ecosystem tools plug these gaps. They make it easier to integrate Kubernetes with your other DevOps processes, such as by supporting GitOps and CI/CD-driven deployment. Kubernetes tools can also help simplify Kubernetes itself by allowing you to conveniently provision new clusters, inspect your workloads, and monitor utilization and costs.

Top 26 Kubernetes tools

Establishing a robust Kubernetes toolchain allows you to interact with your clusters and workloads with optimum efficiency. To select the right tools, you should evaluate different options that offer the features you require, then assess their popularity, reliability, and how well they integrate with other solutions you’re using.

The 26 best Kubernetes tools to know today include:

  1. Spacelift
  2. Kubectl
  3. Helm
  4. Kustomize
  5. kube ns / kube ctx
  6. Kubernetes Dashboard
  7. Lens
  8. Argo CD
  9. Argo Rollouts
  10. Flux
  11. Kubecost
  12. Amazon EKS
  13. Google GKE
  14. Terraform
  15. Prometheus
  16. Istio
  17. Loki
  18. Metrics Server
  19. Portainer
  20. Rancher
  21. Ingress NGINX
  22. Minikube
  23. K3s
  24. Kind
  25. K9s
  26. kube-bench

1. Spacelift

Spacelift is the most flexible Infrastructure as Code management platform, providing powerful CI/CD for your infrastructure. Your team can collaborate on infrastructure changes right from your pull requests. Spacelift lets you visualize your resources, enable self-service access, and protect against configuration drift.

Use Spacelift to manage your Kubernetes clusters without directly interacting with your cloud providers or IaC tools like Terraform, OpenTofu, Pulumi, or CloudFormation. For example, you can create a Spacelift stack that provisions a new AWS EKS cluster with Terraform, giving team members the ability to safely test their changes on demand.

Spacelift also has you covered when it comes to deploying a cluster and then deploying your application inside it. To learn more, check out: How to Maintain Operations Around Kubernetes Cluster.

2. Kubectl

Kubectl is the official command-line interface(CLI) for Kubernetes, making it the tool most users interact with. Compared to manually calling the Kubernetes API, Kubectl is a Kubernetes tool that offers a much easier way to list your cluster’s resources, add new objects, and apply declarative state changes.

kubectl [command] [TYPE] [NAME] [flags]

Nonetheless, few users take the time to fully learn Kubectl. Mastering the available commands and options can make operations quicker and easier, improving your cluster management experience. Kubectl can also provide detailed documentation that helps you learn more about Kubernetes and your resources without having to leave your terminal.

Check out our Kubectl Commands & Objects Cheat Sheet.

3. Helm

kubernetes orchestration tools

Helm is a Kubernetes package management solution. It allows you to bundle your Kubernetes manifests as reusable units called charts. You can then install charts in your clusters to easily manage versioned releases and ensure that app dependencies are available.

Helm charts can also be shared with others through centralized repositories. This allows you to distribute your Kubernetes apps without making users manually modify and apply YAML files. Helm is, therefore, the ideal solution for adding Kubernetes support to an app, including all of its components, config options, and dependencies.

4. Kustomize

kubernetes visualization tools

Kustomize is a configuration management tool that lets you customize the objects defined in Kubernetes YAML files each time they’re used. You can create a base configuration, then override it with custom layers that provide unique options for different environments such as production or staging.

Kustomize provides declarative configuration management that acts as a simple but flexible alternative to a Helm chart. Each of your overrides is created as its own YAML file, making them fully compatible with GitOps and IaC workflows. Read more: Kustomize vs. Helm – How to Use & Comparison.

5. kube ns and kube ctx

kube ns and kube ctx are a pair of Kubectl plugins that make it much more convenient to work with multi-tenant Kubernetes environments. You can use kube ns <namespace-name> to switch between namespaces, while kube ctx <context-name> changes your active cluster context — letting you effortlessly move between tenants without any long-winded -n/--namespace flags or kubectl config commands.

6. Kubernetes Dashboard

kubernetes gui tools

Kubernetes Dashboard is the official Kubernetes web interface. It provides a visual overview of the workload objects in your cluster, allowing you to quickly monitor resources, change scaling options, and check Node-level CPU and memory utilization. The Dashboard is a great alternative to Kubectl when you don’t want to remember complex terminal commands.

7. Lens

kubernetes logging tools

Lens is another Kubernetes management tool with a powerful visual interface. It’s a desktop app that aims to offer an IDE-like Kubernetes experience. Lens’s features include support for Helm charts, app templates, metrics monitoring across several engines, and seamless multi-cluster connectivity. You can also use Lens to control Kubernetes RBAC configs and invite team members to your clusters.

Learn more with our Kubernetes Lens tutorial.

8. Argo CD

monitoring tools for kubernetes

Argo CD is a continuous delivery (CD) solution that makes it easier to automate app deployments to your Kubernetes clusters. It uses a GitOps strategy to periodically sync changes directly from your Git repositories. Argo also defends against configuration drift by regularly verifying that the objects in your cluster match those defined in your repository.

ArgoCD comes with a robust CLI and web interface. It allows you to take control of your Kubernetes deployments without directly exposing cluster access to developers.

9. Argo Rollouts

kubernetes automation tools

Argo Rollouts enables progressive app delivery to your clusters. It lets you increase deployment safety by using strategies such as blue-green, canary, and experimental rollouts. You can declaratively configure your rollouts and the criteria that let them proceed, such as initially exposing a new release to 50% of users and gradually expanding the rollout based on time delays, metrics, or manual actions.

10. Flux

kubernetes ci cd tools

Flux CD provides a toolkit of components for implementing GitOps-powered continuous delivery to your Kubernetes clusters. Similarly to ArgoCD, it automatically reconciles your cluster’s state to your Git repositories and other sources, while preventing drift. 

Flux is simple to configure, easy to integrate with IaC solutions, and supported by a strong ecosystem of compatible tools and platforms. See our FluxCD tutorial.

11. Kubecost

best kubernetes deployment tools

Cost management is one of the most frequently encountered Kubernetes challenges.

Kubecost solves this problem by providing real-time insights into the costs accrued by your Kubernetes clusters running in the cloud. It lets you monitor costs over time, check which workloads are having the biggest cost impact, and identify potential savings options.

Read more about Kubecost and how to use it.

12. Amazon EKS

best kubernetes monitoring tools

Amazon’s Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) is a managed Kubernetes service that allows you to provision new clusters in AWS within minutes. EKS automatically manages your cluster’s control plane and Nodes, letting you concentrate on deploying your workloads. This eliminates many of the challenges associated with starting, maintaining, and updating your own clusters, so it’s ideal when you want Kubernetes without the administration overheads.

13. Google GKE

kubernetes pentesting tools

Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) is another managed Kubernetes service that lets you spin up new cloud clusters on demand. It’s specifically designed to help you run Kubernetes workloads without specialist Kubernetes expertise, and it includes a range of optional features that provide more automation for admin tasks. These include powerful capabilities around governance, compliance, security, and configuration management, all of which can be challenging to implement if you’re directly managing your own clusters.

14. Terraform

top kubernetes tools

Terraform is a leading Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool that allows you to automate cloud provisioning and management activities. 

For Kubernetes users, Terraform can create new clusters in any cloud based on consistent config files you version in a Git repository. Terraform can also be used to deploy workloads inside your cluster, such as from Kubernetes manifest files or Helm charts.

15. Prometheus

kubernetes observability tools

Prometheus is the best-known time-series database engine. It has many use cases, but in the context of Kubernetes, it’s a great way to store and query metrics that provide observability for your cluster and its workloads. You can receive alerts when metrics change, such as a Node CPU usage spike or a Pod failure, and integrate with tools like Grafana to visualize your values on dashboards. 

Kubernetes doesn’t include any monitoring solution by default, so Prometheus is commonly used to add these crucial missing capabilities. See how to set up Prometheus monitoring for the Kubernetes cluster.

16. Istio

configuration management tools kubernetes

Istio is a service mesh that enables simpler networking, traffic management, service discovery, and monitoring for your Kubernetes clusters. It coordinates communications between your app’s microservices, providing much more control than the plain Kubernetes Service model.

Istio offers application-aware networking that understands your app’s requirements. It uses the Envoy proxy to abstract the underlying networking environment and facilitate universal traffic management.

17. Loki

kubernetes templating tool

Loki is a log collation tool from the Grafana family of observability solutions. It aggregates, groups, and labels logs from your applications, helping you troubleshoot problems and monitor activity. Although Loki is a general-purpose tool, it’s well-suited to Kubernetes and comes with several Kubernetes-specific features. It automatically scrapes and indexes metadata from your Kubernetes workload objects, such as Pod labels, to accompany your Pod logs.

18. Metrics Server

Metrics Server is a Kubernetes addon that collects CPU and memory resource utilization information at the Node and Pod level. It’s a lightweight, single-cluster, Kubernetes-only alternative to more complex monitoring solutions like Prometheus.

Metrics Server support is integrated with Kubectl. Its data can be accessed via the kubectl top command. Metrics Server is required to use Kubernetes auto-scaling features, including Horizontal Pod Autoscaler (HPA) and Vertical Pod Autoscaler (VPA), so it’s a best practice addition to production clusters.

19. Portainer

kubernetes testing tools

Portainer is a container management platform that provides a powerful web interface to administer your workloads. It natively supports Kubernetes environments to help you manage your Pods, Deployments, Helm charts, and other cluster resources. Portainer also provides robust RBAC capabilities and an external authentication layer, letting you grant team members access to Kubernetes through Portainer without directly exposing your cluster.

20. Rancher

kubernetes debugging tools

SUSE’s Rancher is a Kubernetes management tool that’s targeted at enterprise use. It provides a centralized platform for managing your Kubernetes clusters across cloud providers and on-premises datacenters. You can provision new clusters, monitor your workloads, and conduct security scans to efficiently govern your environments and maintain compliance. 

Rancher is a good tool to use when you’re running Kubernetes at scale and are struggling to move between separate platforms.

21. Ingress NGINX

Ingress resources are crucial to Kubernetes networking: they allow you to expose apps externally using HTTP routes. However, to use Ingress, you need an Ingress controller in your cluster. Ingress NGINX is the most popular choice—it’s fast, powerful, and easy to configure.

As the name implies, Ingress NGINX works by using an NGINX web server to reverse proxy incoming requests to your Kubernetes services. The proxy routes are automatically configured from the Ingress resources you add to your cluster. If you want a simple Ingress solution that works across multiple cluster distributions, then Ingress NGINX could be right for you.

22. Minikube

tools for kubernetes

Minikube makes it easy to start your own local cluster. With one command, you can bring up a complete Kubernetes environment on your workstation, letting you conveniently develop your project and test deployments.

Minikube can run your cluster’s components as a virtual machine, container, or bare-metal on your host. Bundled add-ons make it simple to enable advanced optional features, including Ingress, Istio, Elastic Stack, and GPU support, so it’s ideal for Kubernetes newcomers and experienced users alike.

23. K3s

kubernetes development tools

K3s is another compact Kubernetes distribution. Developed by SUSE, it’s packaged as a single binary that comes in at less than 70MB. Despite this tiny footprint, K3s is certified as compatible with upstream Kubernetes, is ready for production use, and supports high availability.

K3s is equally well-suited to local development use and real-world applications scaled across hundreds of Nodes. The small binary size also makes K3s ideal for heavily resource-constrained environments, including IoT devices.

24. Kind

kubernetes devops tools

Kind is our third tool that can be used to start a Kubernetes cluster, but this one has a slightly different focus. It lets you run Kubernetes environments in Docker containers, with each container acting as a Node. 

It’s intended to make it easier to test cluster behavior when developing Kubernetes itself, so you might benefit from using it if you plan to contribute features. Kind can also be a good alternative to Minikube if you already have Docker installed.

25. K9s

kubernetes command line tools

Looking for a terminal-based Kubernetes experience but one that’s a bit more sophisticated than Kubectl? K9s is a complete terminal UI that lets you monitor, manage, and benchmark your Kubernetes workloads. It offers a versatile dashboard-like interface in your console.

K9s is customizable with different views and columns, letting you easily access the information you need. It’s heavily dependent on aliases and hotkeys to quickly navigate the interface. You can also add skins and plugins that extend the tool’s functionality.

26. Kube-bench

best monitoring tool for kubernetes

kube-bench is an automated tool that scans your cluster to check it meets security best practices. The checks are configured as YAML files, which allow you to easily customize tests and add new ones. The default ruleset is based on the Kubernetes CIS Benchmark standard.

Running kube-bench regularly allows you to audit your cluster’s security and identify any possible threats. Repeat the tests after you’ve made changes to demonstrate that you’ve removed the risk and restored your cluster to compliance.

Key points

This has been a high-level summary of some of the most popular Kubernetes tools you’ll see mentioned today. These tools allow you to use Kubernetes more effectively by supporting healthy, robust, and convenient cluster management processes.

Our list is far from exhaustive — there are plenty more great Kubernetes tools out there that serve specific use cases and workload types. If you don’t see what you need here, then keep searching because new options are constantly appearing. As Kubernetes is just one piece of the broader DevOps landscape, you can also check out our massive guide to the 70+ Most Useful DevOps Tools for 2024 if you need other products that work with the cloud, CI/CD, and the software development lifecycle.

And if you want to learn more about Spacelift, create a free account today or book a demo with one of our engineers.

Manage Kubernetes Faster and More Easily

Spacelift allows you to automate, audit, secure, and continuously deliver your infrastructure. It helps overcome common state management issues and adds several must-have features for infrastructure management.

Start free trial

The Practitioner’s Guide to Scaling Infrastructure as Code

Transform your IaC management to scale

securely, efficiently, and productively

into the future.

ebook global banner
Share your data and download the guide