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Collins Adom Baffour
Collins Adom Baffour

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Amazon MSK (Managed) vs Apache Kafka (Self -Managed)


In the world of real-time data processing, Apache Kafka has long reigned as the go-to solution for building robust and scalable streaming platforms. However, with the rise of managed services like Amazon Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka (Amazon MSK), businesses face a choice: stick with the tried and true self-managed Kafka or embrace the convenience of a managed service. In this blog, we'll delve into the key differences, pros, and cons of Amazon MSK versus Kafka, helping you make an informed decision for your streaming needs.

Understanding the Basics

Apache Kafka:

Apache Kafka, developed by LinkedIn, is an open-source distributed event streaming platform used for building real-time data pipelines and streaming applications. It is designed for high throughput, fault tolerance, and horizontal scalability. Kafka operates on a distributed architecture consisting of brokers, topics, producers, and consumers. While powerful, Kafka requires manual provisioning, configuration, and maintenance, which can be complex and resource-intensive.

Amazon MSK:

Amazon Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka (Amazon MSK) is a fully managed service that simplifies the deployment, management, and scaling of Apache Kafka clusters on AWS. With Amazon MSK, AWS handles infrastructure provisioning, software installation, maintenance, and monitoring, allowing users to focus on building applications rather than managing infrastructure.

Key Differences:

  1. Managed vs. Self-Managed: The most apparent difference between Amazon MSK and Kafka is the management approach. With Kafka, users are responsible for setting up and managing the infrastructure, including provisioning servers, configuring brokers, and ensuring high availability. In contrast, Amazon MSK abstracts away much of this complexity, providing a fully managed service where AWS handles cluster management, updates, and monitoring.

  2. Integration with AWS Ecosystem: Amazon MSK seamlessly integrates with other AWS services, such as Amazon CloudWatch, AWS CloudFormation, AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), and Amazon VPC, enabling users to leverage existing AWS tools and services for monitoring, security, and networking. While Kafka can also be deployed on AWS, integrating it with AWS services requires additional setup and configuration.

  3. Scalability and Elasticity: Both Amazon MSK and Kafka offer scalability and elasticity, allowing clusters to scale horizontally by adding or removing nodes to accommodate changes in workload. However, Amazon MSK simplifies the scaling process by automatically handling cluster resizing and rebalancing, whereas with Kafka, users must manually adjust cluster configuration and rebalance partitions.

  4. Cost Structure: The cost structure differs between Amazon MSK and self-managed Kafka. With Kafka, users pay for infrastructure resources (e.g., EC2 instances, storage, networking) based on usage and configuration. In contrast, Amazon MSK follows a pay-as-you-go pricing model, where users pay for the managed service based on cluster usage (e.g., broker-hours, storage, data transfer).

Pros and Cons:



  • Full control over infrastructure and configuration.

  • Flexibility to customize and optimize cluster performance.

  • No vendor lock-in, as Kafka is open-source and can be deployed on any infrastructure.


  • Requires expertise in deployment, configuration, and maintenance.

  • Time-consuming and resource-intensive management tasks.

  • Limited integration with AWS services out-of-the-box.

Amazon MSK:


  • Fully managed service reduces operational overhead and complexity.

  • Seamless integration with AWS ecosystem for monitoring, security, and networking.

  • Automated provisioning, scaling, and maintenance tasks.


  • Vendor lock-in to AWS ecosystem.

  • Limited flexibility for customizing cluster configuration and performance optimizations.

  • Potentially higher costs compared to self-managed Kafka, depending on usage patterns.


Choosing between Amazon MSK and Kafka depends on your organization's specific requirements, expertise, and preferences. While Kafka offers greater control and flexibility, it requires significant investment in management and maintenance. On the other hand, Amazon MSK provides convenience and simplicity, allowing users to focus on application development rather than infrastructure management. Ultimately, the decision boils down to striking the right balance between control, convenience, and cost-effectiveness for your streaming platform.

Further Reading

Top comments (5)

surebb profile image
Sarfo Baffour Bamfo

Insightful !!

collins224 profile image
Collins Adom Baffour

Thank you

katafrakt profile image
Paweł Świątkowski

The article is misleading, I'm afraid. MSK is Kafka, just managed by AWS. But the text makes it look like it's something different. The differences mentioned are basically differences between managed and self-hosted solutions.

And BTW I highly doubt MSK is cheaper with same loads.

nhanah_qwameh profile image

Great !!

lindaanima profile image
Linda Anima Ohene

Great article!!