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What exactly is the difference between Apache's Mesos and Google's Kubernetes? I understand both are server cluster management software. Can anyone elaborate where the main differences are - when would which framework be preferred?

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Mesos and Kubernetes both are container orchestration tools.

Kubernetes is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications.” Kubernetes was built by Google based on their experience running containers in production over the last decade.

The major components in a Kubernetes cluster are:

  • pods — a way to group containers together

  • replication controllers — a way to handle the lifecycle of containers

  • labels — a way to find and query containers, and

  • services — a set of containers performing a common function


Mesos is an open-source cluster management project by Apache, designed to scale to very large clusters, from hundreds to thousands of hosts. Mesos supports diverse kinds of workloads such as Hadoop tasks, cloud native applications etc. It gives you the ability to run both containerized, and non-containerized workloads in a distributed manner.

It was initially written as a research project at Berkeley and was later adopted by Twitter as an answer to Google’s Borg (Kubernetes’ predecessor). To combat its high degree of complexity (Mesos is super complicated and hard to manage!), Mesosphere came into the picture to try and make Mesos into something regular human beings can use.

Mesosphere supplied the superb Marathon “plugin” to Mesos, which provides users with an easy way to manage container orchestration over Mesos.

In mid-2016, DC/OS (Data Center Operating System) — an open source project backed by Mesosphere — was introduced, which simplifies Mesos even further and allows you to deploy your own Mesos cluster, with Marathon, in a matter of minutes.

Now, if we compare kubernetes and Mesos(DC/OS)

kubernetes is a cluster manager for containers while mesos is a distributed system kernel that will make your cluster look like one giant computer system to all supported frameworks and apps that are built to be run on mesos.

Mesos was born for a world where you own a lot of physical resources to create a big static computing cluster. The great thing about it is that lots of modern scalable data processing application runs very well on Mesos (Hadoop, Kafka, Spark) and it is nice because you can run them all on the same basic resource pool, along with your new age container packaged apps.

Mesos cluster also runs alongside the Marathon cluster. Marathon, created by Mesosphere, is designed to start, monitor and scale long-running applications, including cloud native apps. Clients interact with Marathon through a REST API. 

Also, a point to be noted is that you can actually run Kubernetes on top of DC/OS and schedule containers with it instead of using Marathon. This implies the biggest difference of all — DC/OS, as it name suggests, is more similar to an operating system rather than an orchestration framework. You can run non-containerized, stateful workloads on it. Container scheduling is handled by the Marathon.

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