8 Essential Open Source Tools That Simplify Kubernetes Workflows for IT Pros

IT pros should consider these eight open source tools to simplify Kubernetes administration, security, and cost management.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology analyst

August 7, 2023

6 Min Read

As Kubernetes has grown in popularity to become the de facto container orchestration solution, the ecosystem of Kubernetes tools has expanded rapidly. Today's IT teams have a wide selection of tools to choose from to help manage, monitor, secure, and cost-optimize Kubernetes clusters and workloads.

To provide guidance on which Kubernetes tools IT pros should know today, this article walks through eight of the most popular open source tools that help simplify Kubernetes workflows.

1. Kubectl: The Essential Kubernetes Administration Tool

Kubectl is, with little doubt, the single most important Kubernetes tool. It's the command-line utility that most Kubernetes distributions use by default to administer clusters, deploy Pods, check the status of workloads, and more.

Related: 5 Key Kubernetes Trends to Follow in 2023

Some distributions use other CLI tools for administration; for example, OpenShift relies primarily on oc, which provides most of the same functionality as kubectl, with some added features. But in general, kubectl is the go-to tool for Kubernetes management.

2. Kubectx: For Switching Cluster Context

One of the first things you'll discover when using kubectl is that you need to configure it for the "context" of the cluster you want to manage. Otherwise, kubectl won't know how to interact with the cluster you're working with

If you have just one cluster to manage, you can configure the kubectl context once and move on. But what if you have multiple clusters? Resetting the context manually each time you need to work with a different cluster is a lot of pain.

Kubectx solves this problem. It's an open source Kubernetes tool that allows you to toggle between kubectl context with just a single command.

3. Prometheus for Open Source Kubernetes Monitoring

The list of monitoring tools that can support Kubernetes is very long. Some are open source, and some are not. Some were designed for cloud-native environments like Kubernetes, and others were built with other use cases in mind, although they are capable of supporting Kubernetes.

If you're looking for a Kubernetes monitoring solution that both is open source and was designed for monitoring containers and other cloud-native workloads, Prometheus is probably the most obvious solution. It checks off all of the core boxes that you'd want from a Kubernetes monitoring tool, and the fact that it's free and open source is a bonus.

4. Jaeger for Kubernetes Tracing

Jaeger is to Kubernetes tracing what Prometheus is to Kubernetes monitoring. Jaeger is an open source tool designed to help trace problems within Kubernetes workloads to their source.

Used alongside tools like Prometheus, Jaeger can help pinpoint the cause of Kubernetes performance issues quickly.

5. Kubewatch, a Tool for Managing Kubernetes Notifications

Monitoring and tracing tools such as Prometheus and Jaeger are good at collecting lots of data from Kubernetes, which you can then analyze to detect problems like failed nodes or Pods.

Related: 5 Simple Ways to Reduce Kubernetes Costs

But if you're looking for a simpler (albeit less sophisticated) way to monitor core parts of your Kubernetes cluster, Kubewatch comes in handy. It's a simple open source tool that lets you define Kubernetes resources, like Pods or Services, that you want to monitor. When their state changes, it publishes notifications to a Slack channel.

Kubewatch isn't a substitute for full-blown Kubernetes monitoring and observability, but it is a handy way to keep track of major changes to core Kubernetes resources.

6. Kamus for Kubernetes Secrets Management

Working with secrets — which are passwords, encryption keys, and other sensitive data that applications and services use for authentication purposes — in Kubernetes is complex. Although you can manage secrets using plain text in most cases, doing so is highly insecure. The alternative is to encode secrets and configure them to be available to your Kubernetes resources, which is a somewhat tedious process.

Kamus makes this process simpler. It's an open source tool that can encrypt and decrypt secrets with the help of an external secrets vault (which is a secure location for storing secrets data).

7. OpenCost, a Kubernetes Cost Management Solution

Kubernetes is a complex platform, to put it mildly, and figuring out which configuration results in the lowest operating cost can be tricky.

OpenCost is an open source tool designed to tackle this challenge. It provides visibility into Kubernetes spending. It doesn't optimize your Kubernetes costs, but it provides some of the insights you'll need to figure out where you are overspending or where savings opportunities may lie.

8. Velero, a Kubernetes Backup Tool

Backing up Kubernetes can be challenging because it includes so many distinct components, and each of them must be backed up in a different way. If you want to protect your cluster against disaster, you need to back up the nodes, Pod configurations, Etcd stores, and so on.

To simplify this process, you can take advantage of an open source backup tool like Velero. It's one of the few backup and disaster recovery solutions designed specifically for Kubernetes.


We could go on — we've touched here only on some of the most popular open source tools for Kubernetes, and this list is by no means exhaustive. But if you were constructing a basic set of core open source tools to make Kubernetes administration, security, and cost management simpler, these would be excellent solutions to start with.

About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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