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Kubernetes can run on various platforms: from your laptop, to VMs on a cloud provider, to a rack of bare metal servers. The effort required to set up a cluster varies from running a single command to crafting your own customized cluster.

If you just want to “kick the tires” on Kubernetes, use the local Docker-based solutions.

When you are ready to scale up to more machines and higher availability, a hosted solution is the easiest to create and maintain.

If you already have a way to configure hosting resources, use kubeadm to easily bring up a cluster with a single command per machine.

Custom solutions vary from step-by-step instructions to general advice for setting up a Kubernetes cluster from scratch.

1. Local-machine Solutions

You can create and test Kubernetes clusters without worrying about consuming cloud resources and quotas. You should pick a local solution if you want to:

  • Try or start learning about Kubernetes
  • Develop and test clusters locally

2. Hosted Solutions

They manage and operate your clusters so you don’t have to. You should pick a hosted solution if you:

  • Want a fully-managed solution
  • Want to focus on developing your apps or services
  • Don’t have dedicated site reliability engineering (SRE) team but want high availability
  • Don’t have resources to host and monitor your clusters

3. Turnkey – Cloud Solutions

These solutions allow you to create Kubernetes clusters with only a few commands and are actively developed and have active community support. You should pick a turnkey cloud solution if you:

  • Want more control over your clusters than the hosted solutions allow
  • Want to take on more operations ownership

4. Turnkey – On-Premises Solutions

You should pick a on-prem turnkey cloud solution if you:

  • Want to deploy clusters on your private cloud network
  • Have a dedicated SRE team
  • Have the resources to host and monitor your clusters

5. Custom Solutions

Custom solutions give you the most freedom over your clusters but require the most expertise.