3 Miniaturized Kubernetes Distros to Manage Compact Containers

By now, you are likely well aware of Kubernetes, the comprehensive container orchestration platform. Although many people think the platform is overly complex and not beginner-friendly, this is not necessarily true.

Miniaturized Kubernetes distributions (distros) make the platform much more accessible as they do not require a wide range of additional tools and are not overloaded with features like many standard distros. 

This article will discuss the three most popular miniaturized Kubernetes distros, minikube, k3s and k0s. We’ll look at their differences and explain how they can help you manage compact containers easily. 

A Brief Introduction to Kubernetes

Kubernetes (often shortened to just K8s or Kube) is an open source container orchestration platform that allows many manual processes to be fully automated. These processes include the deployment, management, and scaling of containerized applications. The platform is very popular for hosting cloud-native applications because it offers good cloud app security and is flexibile and scalable.

Kubernetes clusters allow developers to group numerous hosts that run Linux containers, which are managed within the Kubernetes platform. The key benefit of using Kubernetes in your development environment is that you can schedule and run containers on either physical or virtual machines (VM) clusters, allowing you to implement a fully containerized infrastructure. 

What are Kubernetes Distributions?

Kubernetes distributions (distros) are software packages that can help Kubernetes users easily orchestrate their compact containerized applications. They are effectively pre-built, fully-configured versions of Kubernetes that make the installation and setup process as simple and quick as possible. Many distros also come with software integrations to help with tasks such as monitoring and security. 

A good comparison would be pre-built versions of Linux that can be installed on a person’s PC, allowing people to use the operating system with little to no configuration. 

Kubernetes distributions help to avoid issues such as:

  • Significant time and effort spent on containerized development projects
  • The management of the multiple components within the Kubernetes platform
  • The complex configuration requirements of individual components within K8s 

3 Miniaturized Kubernetes Distros to Help Manage Compact Containers

Kubernetes is a complex and powerful platform with many different components that need to be configured correctly. This can be a painstaking process for anyone new to developing containerized applications. This is why miniaturized Kubernetes distros were created; a simplified version of Kubernetes that is stripped of some of the tools and features that may not be required.

Mini distros are perfect for anyone lacking the technical expertise to configure and customize Kubernetes fully or who doesn’t have the time. This section will examine the three most popular miniaturized K8s distros, minikube, K3s and K0s. 


This is the “official” miniaturized distribution of Kubernetes. It is a localized version of the platform that is heavily condensed and can be installed and used on a notebook. This version requires just 2GB of memory, 2 CPUs, 20GB of storage and a container or virtual machine management tool. Popular tools include Docker and Parallels. 

Minikube clusters can be created and deployed in no time at all. Simply install the minikube runtime, type the command “minikube start,” and you are ready to go. The cluster will be controlled using kubectl, the standard Kubernetes command line tool.

This distro also provides a web-based Kubernetes dashboard to conveniently monitor your cluster, launch sample applications using streamlined commands and even use load balancing for new deployments. 

Minikube is often used to manage clusters created for personal development projects, making it a great addition to any developer’s portfolio looking to show off their coding skills.


The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project K3s is described as a “lightweight Kubernetes” and is perfect for environments that do not have abundant resources. Available in ARM64 and ARMv7 builds, even a device as small as a Raspberry Pi can run this distro in some way. However, the platform is limited to only running on Linux or Raspberry Pi OS, not Microsoft Windows or MacOS. 

K3s is more of a tiny distribution than a mini one, allowing developers to make small adjustments to clusters, test embedded scenarios and enable Kubernetes to be used in edge computing environments. 

The K3s distro is much more lightweight than minikube, requiring just 512MB, 1GB RAM, 1 CPU and a minimum of 4GB of disk space. K3s uses SQLite for its internal cluster database as default, but this can be changed to MySQL, Postgres or the Kubernetes default Etcd. 

Packaged with straightforward default settings and a single binary runtime, this distro can be set up with a single-shell command that downloads and installs K3s. However, K3s can also be run locally without being installed.

As an extremely lightweight version of Kubernetes, some features may need to be added manually or by using the command line tool. Fortunately, K3s has in-depth documentation that covers a large number of tasks, including adding additional features to the dashboard.


Developed by Mirantis, K0s also comes in a single binary deployment and requires minimal resources to run—just 1 CPU and 1GB RAM per node. K0s can be run as a cluster, a single node, within the Docker management tool or as an air-gapped configuration. 

Using the K0s default binary, you can set up this mini version of Kubernetes as a service very quickly. Or, using the K0sctl installation tool, multiple nodes can be grouped into a cluster. This version also features auto-updating, allowing users to create a plan to schedule cluster updates while safeguarding against any broken upgrades.

Unlike K3s, K0s can run on Microsoft Windows, but it is still in its experimental stage. It is best used for personal development projects and for initial deployments that can be improved at a later date using a more comprehensive version of Kubernetes.

K0s also has fantastic support and detailed documentation to help users customize their miniaturized Kubernetes distro. An example of this is running clusters in air-gapped mode, with full instructions on how to set this up, manage it and even update clusters with only partial internet access. The documentation also describes how to add features such as load balancing and Ingress controllers.


Miniaturized Kubernetes distributions (distros) are the perfect choice for anyone who may lack the necessary expertise to successfully navigate the full version of Kubernetes or for anyone looking to deploy clusters quickly.

These lightweight versions of Kubernetes are stripped of features that may not be required to deploy small-scale, personal projects, but detailed documentation can help users add extra functionality if required.

The most popular mini distros are minikube, K3s, and K0s, with the latter two able to run on relatively low-spec notebooks and other devices.

Image Source: Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash 

Nahla Davies

Nahla Davies is a technical copywriter and former software specialist and lead programmer at several major technology companies whose clients include Collibra, UpGuard and Netflix. Since 2015 Davies has worked with enterprise clients around the world developing RegTech protocols and best practices. She worked both enterprise side and with sovereign governments acting as a key contributor for notable public projects like DCOM. Since 2020 Davies has taken a less active role in compliance consulting and started sharing my insights as a technical copywriter. Visit https://nahlawrites.com to learn more.

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