When NOT to choose Amazon MSK Serverless for Apache Kafka?

Kai Waehner
14 min readDec 2, 2022

Apache Kafka became the de facto standard for data streaming. Various cloud offerings emerged and improved in the last years. Amazon MSK Serverless is the latest Kafka product from AWS. This blog post looks at its capabilities to explore how it relates to “the normal” partially managed Amazon MSK, when the serverless version is a good choice, and when other fully-managed cloud services like Confluent Cloud are the better option.

Disclaimer: I work for Confluent. While AWS is a strong strategic partner, it also offers the competitive offering Amazon MSK. This post is not about comparing every feature but explaining the concepts behind the alternatives. Read articles and docs from the different vendors to make your own evaluation and decision. View this post as a list of criteria to not forget important aspects in your cloud service selection.

(Originally posted on Kai Waehner’s blog: “When NOT to choose Amazon MSK Serverless for Apache Kafka?”… Stay informed about new blog posts by subscribing to my newsletter)

What is a fully-managed Kafka cloud offering?

Before we get started looking at Kafka cloud services like Amazon MSK and Confluent Cloud, it is important to understand what fully managed means actually:

Make sure to evaluate the technical solution. Most Kafka cloud solutions market their offering as “fully managed”. However, almost all Kafka cloud offerings are only partially managed! In most cases, the customer must operate the Kafka infrastructure, fix bugs, and optimize scalability and performance.

Cloud-native Apache Kafka re-engineered for the cloud

Operating Apache Kafka as a fully-managed offering in the cloud requires several additional components to the core of open-source Kafka. A cloud-native Kafka SaaS has features like:

  • The latest stable version with non-disruptive rolling upgrades
  • Elastic scale (up and down!)
  • Self-balancing clusters that take over…
Kai Waehner

Technology Evangelist — www.kai-waehner.de → Big Data Analytics, Data Streaming, Apache Kafka, Middleware, Microservices => linkedin.com/in/kaiwaehner