Kubernetes Development Environments — A Comparison

Loft Labs
14 min readFeb 24, 2021


by Daniel Thiry

Kubernetes has left the state when it was mostly an ops technology behind and now is also very relevant for many developers. As I wrote in my blog post about the Kubernetes workflow, the first step for every developer who starts to directly work with Kubernetes is to set up/get access to a Kubernetes development environment.

A Kubernetes work environment is not only the first step but also a basic requirement to be able to work with Kubernetes at all. Still, access to such an environment is often a problem: A VMware study even found out that “access to infrastructure is the biggest impediment to developer productivity”. For this, Kubernetes development environments should have a high priority for every team that plans to use the technology.

In this article, I will describe and compare four different Kubernetes development environments and explain when to use which dev environment.

  1. Local Kubernetes Clusters
  2. Individual Cloud-Based Clusters
  3. Self-Service Namespaces
  4. Self-Service Virtual Clusters

6 Evaluation Criteria For Dev Environments

To make the different Kubernetes dev environments comparable, it makes sense to first define the evaluation criteria used. I will rate every environment using the following criteria:

Developer Experience: How easy is it for developers to get started with and to use the environment? This includes factors such as the speed of setup, the ease of use, and the required knowledge by the developers.

Admin Experience: How easy is it for admins to manage the environments and to manage the system? Here, I will consider the complexity of the system, the effort to manage it, and to add additional users.

Flexibility/Realism: How realistic is the dev environment compared to the production environment and how flexible is it for different use cases? A good development environment should be very similar to the production environment to avoid “it works on my machine”-problems and it should also be freely configurable and useable for many different use cases (e.g. coding, testing,…).



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