Azure Kubernetes vs Azure Container Instances

Containers and Virtual Machines (VMs) are the basic building blocks of Azure Kubernetes and Azure Container Instances. Containers are a software bundle that includes everything for an application to run smoothly. This software bundle includes the operating system, runtime environment, system tools, libraries, etc. Containers are based on read-only docker images. To allow a read-write function, the docker adds a read-write file over the docker image, thus creating a container.

  • Virtual Machines consist of a guest operating system and a virtual copy of the hardware needed to run the applications and workloads. Containers, on the other hand, only virtualize the operating system and the required libraries which are needed to run the applications. Continue reading to learn the key differences between Azure Kubernetes Service and Azure Container Instances.

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

  • Kubernetes are an open-source platform that enables the management of container groups and workloads. These container groups and workloads may be running on several hosts simultaneously. It is imperative to manage them in real-time, so Kubernetes is used. The management is done based on the master and worker. Azure Kubernetes provides the services of the master, while the end-user manages it as a worker.

Kubernetes – being an open-source platform – is free to use. However, you pay for the worker nodes within each of the clusters. AKS clusters can be created using Azure Portal or the Azure CLI.

Azure Container Instances (ACI)

  • If you don’t want to invest in expensive architecture and infrastructure for running container workloads, then Azure Container Instances is the right solution for you. ACI is offered by Microsoft as PaaS (Platform as a Service). It allows you to deploy ACI using Azure Portal, Azure CLI, ARM Template, or Powershell.


  • azure kubernetesIn terms of pricing, AKS is known to be more flexible than ACI. AKS only charges for the virtual machines (VMs), which in turn run the worker nodes. AKS also charges for storage and networking resources that are used by the clusters. To better understand how much your costs will be, you should know the types of VMs that will be running in your clusters, the number of the nodes, and their operating duration.

On the other hand, ACI bills you each time you run a container group. Each container group consists of vCPUs and memory resources. These resources are not restricted to a single container group and can be used by multiple container groups as well.


  • A key feature of AKS is that it allows you to scale your system’s capabilities within Kubernetes. There is an option of manual scaling and horizontal pod autoscaling (HPA) for automatic scaling. To scale your system, you need to select metrics and then decide the number of nodes based on CPU utilization.

ACI scales your system’s capabilities using container groups running on the same host. These groups are similar to a Kubernetes pod because they share key resources such as memory, network, storage volumes, and lifecycles.


  • AKS offers automatic security updates and regular checks of the installed versions. It has an Azure-like security feature that automatically updates network security groups and the operating system on the clusters. Access to sensitive pod traffic and credentials is also secured.

On the other hand, ACI provides a secure and reliable connection to Azure Virtual Networks. You can deploy groups and access resources for your on-site workloads on the Azure Virtual Network. This secure connection can be between ACI containers and other container groups, virtual network databases, and on-prem resources. The end-user must also take cyber security measures to protect their systems from damage.

If you are confused about selecting either Azure Kubernetes or Azure Container Instances, then contact Henson Group today. We are among the best and most qualified managed service providers (MSPs) for Azure services. We have been in business since 2002 in the US and have a strong overseas presence in Europe and Asia. We are offering a free Azure assessment to help you decide on the best Azure-related services for your organization.