If there is one technology that characterizes the change we are currently experiencing in IT, it is the containerization of applications.
The change we’re referring to here is digital transformation, and encompasses almost everything about how organizations build, deliver, and support apps.
Containerization – typically delivered through the Kubernetes orchestration platform – is typical of digital transformation as it encapsulates the continuous development of the microservices that constitute a rapidly scalable application landscape across the data center and cloud.
But a huge challenge with Kubernetes is providing persistent storage and data protection to applications that are highly dynamically variable in terms of lifecycles and scalability.
In this article, we’ll see how leading storage vendors are bringing Kubernetes data protection and storage management to market.
Container Management Platforms: Where Do They Fit?
Containers are a form of virtualization that runs directly on the host operating system, and without the hypervisor layer of virtual server environments. Containers are actually a small, lightweight virtual machine (VM) that often provides discrete components of a larger application that are connected by code.
Kubernetes provides this orchestration intelligence for clusters and container pods. It organizes the execution of containers – with their code, Durationdependencies and resource calls – in pods and above them in Kubernetes clusters.
But this orchestration layer also requires management, including managing storage provisioning and management, data protection, backup, snapshots, replication, high availability (HA), and disaster recovery.
The requirements that arise here range from configuring resources based on the storage profile required by specific applications, as well as the source and target of backups and other data protection features, all of which can scale rapidly.
Big Six Storage Vendors Kubernetes Management Platforms
The big six storage vendors all have a set of container management that handles these tasks, and often more. It is an area of business that offers great benefits and the ability to tame a potential infrastructure headache that should not be left unmanaged.
Thus, Dell EMC, IBM, HPE, Hitachi, NetApp and Pure Storage all have container management platforms. Some are container-native in that they provide storage and data protection services through containers, making them just as flexible and scalable as any container service.
They make it easier for developers to write data storage and protection requirements into their code while allowing traditional IT functions to ensure, for example, that data protection is covered.
All use Container Storage Initiative (CSI) drivers in one form or another to provide provisioning and management of storage and backup in their own storage environment and, in some cases, in any any storage environment, including those in the cloud.
Dell EMC/VMware Tanzu
The infrastructure giant’s main objective is to weigh in with Tanzu from its VMware subsidiary to provision and manage container storage and backup on the vSphere platform.
Tanzu does much more than that, however, and is a portfolio of products that enable customers to deploy, run, and manage Kubernetes container-based applications.
Tanzu was created from acquisitions such as Bitnami, Heptio, and Pivotal, which together brought the technology to package and deliver Kubernetes applications, as well as a number of VMware initiatives to run containers from vSphere.
To provision persistent Kubernetes storage for workloads, Tanzu integrates with Cloud Native Storage (CNS), a vCenter Server component that manages persistent volumes via CSI drivers.
Dynamic volume provisioning can be created on demand, with DevOps engineers issuing a persistent volume request that references an available storage class in the namespace, which vSphere automatically provisions.
You can back up and restore workloads to vSphere Modules and Tanzu Kubernetes clusters by installing the Velero plugin for vSphere on this cluster.
Dell EMC marketing efforts are focused on offering reference architectures with Dell EMC hardware and/or VMware VxRail HCI and Tanzu.
IBM’s monstrous $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat in 2018 gave it the OpenShift Walletwhich is the main site of its containerization management efforts.
OpenShift uses Kubernetes Persistent Volume Claims (PVC) through CSI drivers to allow developers to request storage resources. PVCs can access persistent volumes from anywhere on the OpenShift platform.
The OpenShift container platform supports many popular on-premises and cloud PV plugins, including Amazon EBS, Azure Files, Azure Managed Disks, Google Cloud Persistent Disk, Cinder, iSCSI, Local Volume, NFS, and VMware vSphere.
The move to OpenShift appears to replace IBM’s previous bite – Storage Enabler for Containers – which allowed vendor storage to be used as persistent volumes for Kubernetes clusters and was part of IBM’s Spectrum Connect storage and backup software offerings. IBM.
OpenShift can be deployed more widely than on IBM, with hyperconverged infrastructure provider Nutanix also using it as a container deployment platform.
HPE, as a large, full-spectrum vendor, obviously wants you to deploy container services in concert with its own hardware, software, and services. In this context, it has developed its own Kubernetes management platform, HPE Ezmeral Runtime, which can be deployed on its Synergy system hardware.
Ezmeral is a software platform designed to deploy cloud native and non-native applications using Kubernetes and can run on bare-metal or virtualized infrastructure, on-premises or in any cloud. However, it goes beyond just deploying applications, with managing data, including up to the edge, and also includes machine learning and operations configuration.
Ezmeral provides persistent container storage and configuration automation to configure container high availability, backup and recovery, security validation, and monitoring to minimize manual administrative tasks.
Hitachi Kubernetes Service
In 2021, Hitachi joined the Kubernetes storage fray with Hitachi Kubernetes Service (HKS)that allow customers to manage container storage in on-premises data centers and the three major public clouds.
HKS was built from Containership-owned IP in 2019. HKS enables the deployment of Hitachi Unified Compute Platform as a Kubernetes-managed private cloud in on-premises and hybrid cloud environments.
HKS uses CSI drivers to manage persistent volumes directly on Kubernetes nodes, which sets it apart from container-native offerings from other vendors.
NetApp Astra Data Store
In October 2021, NetApp announced Astra Data Store, which uses standard network filesystems via CSI as a unified data store and resource pool for containers and virtual machines, which is an interesting variant on this type of product. NetApp says this is because many customers will continue to use virtual machines even as container usage increases, and being able to access the same storage for both is a benefit.
Astra Data Store works with standard NAS clients, including those using NetApp’s OnTap operating system, but also those from cloud hyperscalers.
Astra Data Store complements NetApp’s two other Kubernetes services, Astra Control Service – a cloud-based service for Kubernetes clusters – and Astra Control Center, which targets customer-managed on-premises storage.
Pure Storage Portworx
Portworx was a whopping $370 million buy for Pure Storage, and gives it container-native provisioning, connectivity, and performance configuration for Kubernetes clusters. It can discover storage, provision it, and manage it on the fly to provide persistent capacity for enterprise applications with access to block, file, and object storage, as well as cloud storage.
portworx allows customers to create storage pools, manage its provisioning, and provide advanced storage features—including backup, disaster recovery, security, autoscaling, and migration—on storage local to Kubernetes cluster servers, external storage arrays and capacity from major cloud providers, AWS, Azure and GCP.