Kubernetes Dashboard and Alternatives: Choosing the best option

Kubernetes Dashboard and Alternatives: Choosing the best option

Are you ready to plunge into the dynamic world of Kubernetes dashboards? These potent tools revolutionize how we manage, monitor, and troubleshoot applications and clusters, turning these tasks from burdens into breezes. But first, let’s understand the basics.

Kubernetes, often abbreviated to K8s, is an open-source platform aimed at automating the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It organizes containers that constitute an application into logical units for easy management and discovery. Here’s where dashboards step in. Picture visualizing all these operations in an easy-to-use interface. That’s the exact role of a Kubernetes dashboard.

In this blog post, we’ll journey through various Kubernetes dashboards, delve into their unique features, and discover how they can reshape your workflow. Whether you’re a seasoned K8s user or a novice, there’s something for you here. So, fasten your seatbelts, and let’s embark on this journey!

TL;DR: What is a Kubernetes Dashboard?

A Kubernetes dashboard is a user-friendly interface that allows you to visualize and interact with your Kubernetes cluster and its operations. It plays a pivotal role in managing applications and resources, providing a clear overview, and enabling modifications as needed. For more advanced methods, background, tips, and tricks on Kubernetes dashboards, continue reading the article.

For more information on all things Kubernetes, Docker, and containerization, check out our Ultimate Kubernetes Tutorial.

Delving into Kubernetes Dashboards

Kubernetes dashboards are not just aesthetically pleasing interfaces; they are robust tools that play a crucial role in managing applications and clusters. So, how do they accomplish this? Dashboards, through their user-friendly interface, allow you to interact with your Kubernetes cluster, providing a clear overview of your applications, and even enabling Kubernetes resources modification.

You might be curious about how the Kubernetes dashboard fits into the container world. Interestingly, the Kubernetes dashboard is a containerized application itself. It operates as a pod within the cluster, serving as a central hub from which you can monitor the state of your cluster resources and modify them as required.

Example of installing Kubernetes Dashboard:

kubectl apply -f https://raw.githubusercontent.com/kubernetes/dashboard/v2.0.0-beta8/aio/deploy/recommended.yaml

For more detailed installation instructions, see our article Kubernetes Dashboard Installation Guide.

Why use Kubernetes Dashboard?

So, what are the advantages of using Kubernetes dashboards? They offer a detailed overview of your applications for starters. You can effortlessly see the number of running pods, verify the health status of various nodes, and even deploy new applications with a few clicks. With advanced application deployment settings, you have control over every aspect of your deployment, right from the number of replicas to the use of specific Docker images.

Here’s an interesting fact: Kubernetes dashboards are not all created equal. Depending on your specific requirements, some dashboards may be more suited to your workflow than others. The trick is to strike a balance between simplicity and functionality that works for you. The right Kubernetes dashboard can significantly boost your productivity, enabling you to manage your applications and resources more efficiently.

Let’s zoom in on one of the key features of the Kubernetes dashboard: the cluster view. This feature provides a detailed rundown of each namespace in your cluster. It offers comprehensive information about each node, including its status, labels, resource limits, and memory/CPU requests. This all-inclusive view enables you to monitor the health and performance of your cluster easily, making it simpler to identify issues before they escalate into problems.

Alternative Kubernetes Dashboards

While the default Kubernetes Dashboard is a powerful tool, it’s not the only player in the game. There’s a vast array of alternative dashboards available, each offering unique features and capabilities. Some of these alternatives include Headlamp, Lens, Octant, and even SaaS solutions like Datadog and ContainIQ.

Headlamp, Lens, and Octant

Headlamp, Lens, and Octant are dashboards that offer both read and write access. This dual functionality allows you not only to view your cluster’s state but also to modify it. This feature is potent, but it also requires careful consideration. For instance, when you have write access, it’s essential to have proper Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and admissions controllers in place. These measures help manage changes effectively and prevent unauthorized access.

Accessing Kubernetes Dashboard Externally

If you’re looking to access your Kubernetes Dashboard externally, you can modify the service type. By changing the service type to LoadBalancer or NodePort, you can expose your dashboard to an external network, making it accessible from outside your cluster. However, ensure this is done carefully to avoid exposing your dashboard to potential threats.

Example of changing the service type to LoadBalancer:

kubectl patch svc kubernetes-dashboard -n kubernetes-dashboard -p '{"spec":{"type":"LoadBalancer"}}'

Dashboard Selection: Simplicity vs. Advanced Features

Selecting the right dashboard isn’t just about finding the most advanced or feature-rich option. It’s about striking a balance between simplicity and advanced features. A dashboard loaded with features might seem appealing, but if it’s too complex to use, it might hinder your productivity instead of enhancing it. Conversely, a simple dashboard might lack some advanced features but could be easier to use and understand.

Access Control

Access control is another crucial aspect when choosing a dashboard. Some dashboards, like Headlamp, allow the use of service accounts for broader access. This feature means you can use short-lived, user-specific authentication tokens in kubeconfig files to access your dashboard. This feature is particularly beneficial for teams as it allows each user to have their own access token, simplifying access management and changes tracking.

A Closer Look at Specific Dashboards

Having covered the basics, let’s delve deeper into some specific dashboards. Each of these dashboards offers unique features and benefits, and understanding these can help you choose the one that best suits your needs.


Headlamp is an open-source Kubernetes dashboard that provides a real-time view of your clusters. It offers a clean, intuitive interface that makes it easy to navigate your resources. One of the unique features of Headlamp is its ability to switch between contexts quickly, making it an excellent choice for managing multiple clusters.

Example of installing Headlamp Dashboard:

git clone https://github.com/kinvolk/headlamp.git
cd headlamp/frontend
npm install
npm start


Skooner stands out for its simplicity among open-source Kubernetes dashboards. It provides a clear overview of your cluster and allows you to interact directly with your resources from the dashboard. Skooner also supports RBAC, making it a good choice for teams.

Weave Scope

Weave Scope is a visualization and monitoring tool for Docker and Kubernetes. It automatically generates a map of your application, simplifying the understanding and monitoring of your containers, services, and orchestration. Weave Scope also allows you to view logs, run shell commands, and scale your applications directly from the dashboard.


Lens, self-proclaimed as the ‘Kubernetes IDE,’ provides a comprehensive development environment. It includes an integrated terminal, real-time cluster state visualization, and multi-cluster management. Lens also supports a wide range of plugins, allowing you to customize the dashboard to your needs.

Example of installing Lens Dashboard:

snap install kontena-lens --classic


Octant, a developer-centric dashboard for Kubernetes, provides a comprehensive overview of your applications and includes a real-time log viewer. Octant also supports plugins and offers a variety of views, including a resource viewer that provides a graphical representation of your resources.

Example of installing Octant Dashboard:

brew install octant

Different dashboards cater to different needs. Some dashboards, like Lens, offer a detailed desktop view, while others, like Headlamp, are optimized for mobile use. The key is to understand your specific needs and choose a dashboard that caters to them.

One feature that deserves a special mention is the integrated logs viewer feature of the Kubernetes Dashboard. This feature allows you to inspect your application performance in detail. You can view logs for each pod, enabling you to quickly identify and resolve issues.

These dashboards have the potential to shape the future of Kubernetes operations. They not only make it easier to manage your applications and resources but also provide insights that can help you optimize your operations.

Lastly, let’s address a common issue you might encounter during Kubernetes Dashboard setup: the Forbidden 403 Error. This error typically occurs when the service account used to authenticate the dashboard does not have the necessary permissions. To resolve this, you can create a cluster role binding that grants the necessary permissions to the service account. Here’s how you can do it:

kubectl create clusterrolebinding kubernetes-dashboard --clusterrole=cluster-admin --serviceaccount=kube-system:kubernetes-dashboard
kubectl create clusterrolebinding

Exploring Other Dashboard Options

While we’ve explored some of the more prevalent Kubernetes dashboards, there are other options worth considering. These include Kube-Ops View, Prometheus, and Kubernator. Each of these dashboards offers unique features, but they also come with their own set of limitations. Let’s delve into these options.

Kube-Ops View

Kube-Ops View is a read-only dashboard for Kubernetes. It provides a high-level overview of your cluster, making it an excellent tool for monitoring. However, its read-only nature makes it unsuitable for managing your resources.

Example of installing Kube-Ops View Dashboard:

kubectl apply -f https://raw.githubusercontent.com/hjacobs/kube-ops-view/master/deploy/kube-ops-view.yaml


Prometheus is a potent monitoring and alerting toolkit. While it’s not a dedicated Kubernetes dashboard, it integrates well with Kubernetes and provides detailed insights into your cluster. However, setting up Prometheus can be complex, and it might be overkill if you’re merely looking for a simple dashboard.

Example of installing Prometheus Dashboard:

helm install stable/prometheus --name prometheus --namespace prometheus


Kubernator is an alternative Kubernetes UI. It offers a different approach to managing your resources, focusing on raw data instead of abstracting it away. This can be a powerful tool if you’re comfortable with Kubernetes’ internals, but it might be overwhelming for beginners.

Example of installing Kubernator Dashboard:

kubectl apply -f https://raw.githubusercontent.com/smpio/kubernator/master/manifests.yaml

When choosing a dashboard, there are several considerations to keep in mind. These include resource usage, long-term trend analysis, and the level of community support. For example, while Prometheus is a powerful tool, it’s also resource-intensive. If your cluster is already running close to capacity, adding Prometheus might not be the best option.

Community support is another crucial factor. Tools like Prometheus have a large and active community, which means you’ll have access to a wealth of resources and support. However, smaller tools might not have the same level of support, which could be a problem if you run into issues.

Remember, the goal is not to choose the most popular or advanced tool, but the right tool for your specific needs. A simple dashboard might be all you need to manage your cluster effectively. On the other hand, if you need detailed insights and advanced features, a more complex tool might be the better choice.

A word of caution: while the Kubernetes Dashboard is a robust tool, it’s not designed for production use due to authentication limitations and potential security risks. If you’re running a production cluster, it’s advisable to use a more secure alternative or restrict access to the dashboard.

Final Thoughts on Kubernetes Dashboards

The journey through the world of Kubernetes dashboards may seem intimidating at first, but armed with the right knowledge, it transforms into an exciting voyage of discovery. We’ve unpacked the concept of Kubernetes dashboards, delved into their functionality, and highlighted their benefits. We’ve also explored a range of dashboards, including the default Kubernetes Dashboard, Headlamp, Skooner, Weave Scope, Lens, Octant, and others, each offering unique features and benefits.

We’ve emphasized the importance of considering factors like simplicity, functionality, and access control when selecting a dashboard. We’ve also addressed potential pitfalls and security considerations, particularly when deploying dashboards in a production environment.

The key takeaway is that while there is a plethora of Kubernetes dashboards available, the best one for you hinges on your specific needs and circumstances. Whether you’re seeking a simple overview of your cluster, detailed insights, or advanced management features, there’s a Kubernetes dashboard out there tailored for you. So, dive in, explore your options, and find the dashboard that best complements your Kubernetes journey. Happy exploration!