Containers made simple

Fully Automated

It's All About the Money

Portainer offers cause for criticism in another area: the pricing and licensing model. You have to choose between the Community Edition and the Business Edition of the tool. The Community Edition remains free of charge in principle, and the Business Edition can also be operated free of charge, provided you use no more than five target nodes. However, this will not be enough for most production container environments, which leaves you faced with the decision of using either the open source Community Edition or the commerical Business Edition.

The pricing model comes in three parts: 15 nodes a year costs $149 under a Home & Student license. The Professional Edition costs $3,900 per year, but grotesquely does not include any additional nodes – they have to be purchased separately. The manufacturer does not reveal how much this costs on its website, but node prices of $30 to $40 are quite common. In return, you get 9x5 support and help with installation. Finally, the pricing policy for the Enterprise Edition, which includes a dedicated Customer Success Engineer and prioritized support, is exclusively volume-based. Here, too, individual nodes have to be booked additionally, so the base price is essentially a kind of fee.

What can quickly push up your blood pressure is that many features exclusively available in the business version are practically must-haves for everyday use. For example, the ability to connect to a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) service and the option to implement a role-based access (RBAC) system in Portainer or to connect the tool to the company's internal authentication setup with OAuth. If you want to use Portainer for more than simple experiments, you cannot avoid purchasing the business version, which puts the software firmly on the inglorious list of not-actually-open-source solutions.


Portainer largely delivers what the manufacturer promises. It provides a quick and uncomplicated introduction to deploying containers and offers many practical options left and right of the track in everyday use. It is easy to set up. Updates are not a challenge, either, because the running containers can be replaced easily at any time. The tool definitely impresses in terms of its feature set and handling.

However, points are deducted for the license model, which practically always requires corporations to invest in the Business Edition for commercial operations. On top of that, you need to be aware that Portainer doesn't field every problem in containers or the supported orchestrations – besides Kubernetes, it can also control Docker Swarm. If you don't want to be stuck if something goes wrong, you will also need knowledge of the components you use and their interactions with the Portainer deployment. This avoids unpleasant surprises should worst come to worst.


  1. Portainer:

The Author

Freelance journalist Martin Gerhard Loschwitz focuses primarily on topics such as OpenStack, Kubernetes, and Chef.

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