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What Is Container-native Storage?

When most people hear the word “container,” they tend to think of food storage or metal boxes on a cargo ship. This isn’t a bad way to think of containers in the software world, either. Containers make it easier to run applications across different environments by breaking their software code into portable packages.

As containerization becomes the standard for deploying and managing applications, the need for storage solutions that align with container principles and technology has increased.

Enter container-native storage, which allows organizations to manage their storage resources more effectively as their containerized workloads grow.

This article explores what container-native storage is; its key attributes, benefits, and use cases; top container-native storage solutions; and considerations for choosing container-native storage. 

What Is Container-native Storage?

Container-native storage refers to storage solutions that are specifically designed and optimized for containerized environments.

The shift toward running stateful applications (i.e., those that maintain data or state between transactions or interactions, such as databases, message queues, or file systems), as opposed to stateless applications, has driven the demand for storage solutions capable of handling persistent data.

Stateful applications are designed to run on long-lived virtual machines or physical servers where the state can persist. Containers, by design, are meant to be ephemeral and stateless, making them less suitable for stateful applications.

That’s where container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes come into play; they provide features such as Persistent Volumes (PVs) and StatefulSets that enable containers to have persistent storage and stable network identifiers.

Thus, the shift toward stateful applications has increased the value of having storage solutions that can seamlessly integrate with container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes.

Key characteristics of container-native storage include:

  • Dynamic provisioning: Container-native storage allows for dynamic provisioning of storage resources based on the needs of containerized applications. This enables efficient resource utilization and reduces the manual overhead of managing storage.
  • Integration with orchestration platforms: As previously mentioned, container-native storage solutions can tightly integrate with container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes. They leverage the features and benefits provided by these platforms, such as automated scaling, high availability, and seamless deployment.
  • Microservices architecture support: Container-native storage is well-suited for microservices architectures, where applications are composed of small, independent services. It allows each microservice to have its own storage, ensuring isolation and flexibility.
  • Portability and consistency: Container-native storage solutions aim to provide consistent storage services across various cloud and on-premises environments. This enhances the portability of containerized applications, allowing them to run seamlessly across different infrastructures.

Benefits of Container-native Storage

Here are the key benefits of container-native storage:

Improved Scalability
Container-native storage allows for on-the-fly allocation and deallocation of storage based on the changing needs of containerized applications. This supports efficient scaling, ensuring that storage resources can seamlessly adapt to the ever-changing demands of growing, containerized workloads.

Enhanced Performance
Container-native storage solutions are designed and optimized specifically for containerized environments. This specialization ensures that storage services are fine-tuned for the characteristics and requirements of containerized applications, resulting in improved performance compared to traditional storage systems.

Efficient Resource Utilization
Container-native storage minimizes resource overhead by providing storage services that are closely aligned with the needs of containers. This efficiency translates into better overall system performance and responsiveness.

Effective Data Management
Container-native storage often includes features like snapshotting and cloning, allowing for efficient data management. These features enable the creation of point-in-time copies of data, which can be crucial for data protection, testing, and development processes.

Data Replication
Many container-native storage solutions offer data replication capabilities to enhance data durability and availability. This is particularly important for ensuring the resilience of stateful applications running in containers.

Data Retention
Container-native storage ensures that data persists beyond the lifespan of individual containers. When containers are replaced or scaled, the underlying storage infrastructure ensures that data remains intact, allowing stateful applications to maintain their consistency.

Flexibility and Portability
Container-native storage solutions often provide flexibility in terms of deployment across different cloud providers or on-premises environments. This flexibility is valuable for organizations adopting multi-cloud or hybrid cloud strategies, allowing them to move containerized workloads seamlessly across diverse infrastructures.

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Use Cases of Container-native Storage

In addition to the already-mentioned stateful applications, here are some other key use cases where container-native storage proves beneficial:

Organizations running containerized databases, such as MongoDB, MySQL, or PostgreSQL, can benefit from container-native storage. These databases often require persistent storage for their data files, and container-native storage ensures that the data is retained even if the database container is redeployed or moved to a different host. This makes it easier to manage and scale database workloads in a containerized environment.

Big Data Workloads
Big data applications like Apache Hadoop or Apache Spark often deal with massive data sets that need to be stored and processed efficiently. Container-native storage solutions enable these applications to have scalable and persistent storage that can be easily managed and orchestrated alongside containerized workloads. This simplifies the deployment and scaling of big data clusters.

Microservices Architectures
Organizations adopting microservices architectures often deploy numerous containerized services that need to communicate and share data. Container-native storage provides a unified storage solution that can be shared across multiple microservices, facilitating data sharing and communication between containers. This is particularly valuable in scenarios where microservices need access to shared configuration data or shared data sets.

High-performance Computing
Scientific and research organizations running high-performance computing (HPC) workloads in containers require fast and reliable storage solutions. Container-native storage can be utilized to provide high-throughput, low-latency storage for HPC applications, ensuring that the storage infrastructure can keep up with the computational demands of containerized workloads.

Multi-cloud and Hybrid Cloud Deployments
Organizations with multi-cloud or hybrid cloud strategies can leverage container-native storage to ensure consistent storage across different cloud providers or on-premises environments. This portability allows containers to seamlessly move between different infrastructure environments without worrying about data inconsistencies or storage compatibility issues.

Top Container-native Storage Solutions

These are the most commonly used container-native storage solutions:

Kubernetes with Rook
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s Rook project provides container-native storage for Kubernetes clusters. Rook supports various storage backends, including Ceph, EdgeFS, and NFS, enabling organizations to choose the right storage solution for their specific needs.

OpenShift Container Storage
OpenShift Container Storage is a solution designed to provide container-native storage for Red Hat OpenShift clusters. It integrates with Kubernetes and offers features like dynamic provisioning, snapshotting, and encryption, making it suitable for various containerized workloads.

Portworx by Pure Storage
Portworx® is a container-native storage platform that provides data services for containerized applications. It is designed to work seamlessly with container orchestrators like Kubernetes and is used by organizations to manage and scale stateful applications with persistent storage requirements.

Considerations for Choosing Container-native Storage

Choosing the right container-native storage solution is critical for the success of containerized applications. Here are the key factors to consider when evaluating your options:

Compatibility with Container Orchestration Platforms
Ensure that the container-native storage solution is compatible with the container orchestration platform you’re using, such as Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, or OpenShift. The storage solution should seamlessly integrate with the orchestration platform's storage management features and provide native support for containerized environments.

Evaluate the scalability of the storage solution to accommodate the growing needs of your containerized applications. Consider factors such as the ability to dynamically provision storage, handle a large number of containers, and scale horizontally to meet increased storage demands. The solution should support the scalability requirements of your applications and workloads.

Assess the performance characteristics of the container-native storage solution, including read and write speeds, latency, and IOPS. Consider whether the solution provides features like caching, load balancing, and optimizations for specific storage workloads, such as databases or big data processing.

Data Management Features
Look for essential data management features, such as snapshotting, backup, and recovery capabilities. These features are crucial for ensuring data integrity, facilitating disaster recovery, and maintaining compliance with data protection regulations. A robust storage solution should provide mechanisms for data consistency and durability.

Storage Provisioning and Automation
Evaluate how easily the storage solution can be provisioned and automated within your containerized environment. Dynamic provisioning and automation capabilities contribute to the agility and efficiency of managing storage resources for containers. The solution should support storage provisioning based on application requirements and integrate with container orchestration tools for seamless automation.

Persistent Storage Support for Stateful Applications
Consider the support for persistent storage and how effectively the storage solution handles the requirements of stateful applications. Check if the solution provides features like storage classes, dynamic volume provisioning, and data persistence across container restarts. It should allow stateful applications, such as databases, to store and retrieve data reliably.

Multi-cloud and Hybrid Cloud Compatibility
Assess whether the container-native storage solution supports multi-cloud or hybrid cloud deployments. This is important for organizations with diverse infrastructure needs. The ability to seamlessly move containers and associated storage across different cloud environments enhances flexibility and avoids vendor lock-in.

Security and Compliance
Ensure that the storage solution meets security and compliance standards relevant to your organization. Look for features such as encryption at rest, access controls, and integration with identity and access management systems. Compliance with industry regulations, such as GDPR or HIPAA, is crucial for data protection and governance.

Community and Vendor Support
Consider the level of community support and vendor backing for the container-native storage solution. A strong community and vendor support contribute to the ongoing development, maintenance, and troubleshooting of the storage solution. This support is essential for addressing issues and staying updated with new features and enhancements.

Evaluate the total cost of ownership for the container-native storage solution, taking into account licensing fees, hardware requirements, and ongoing operational costs. Consider whether the solution aligns with your budget constraints and provides value for the features and scalability it offers.

Why Pure for Container-native Storage

The data storage world is always evolving, and the only way to keep up is to adopt a data storage infrastructure designed for innovation and sustainability.

Portworx by Pure Storage is a fully integrated solution for persistent storage, data protection, disaster recovery, data security, cross-cloud and data migrations, and automated capacity management for applications running on Kubernetes.

Portworx has various features and capabilities, including:

  • Portworx Enterprise: A cloud-native, software-defined storage solution for Kubernetes
  • Portworx Backup: A Kubernetes-aware data protection suite
  • Portworx Data Services: A database platform as a service (DBPaaS) for self-service deployment of common modern data services
Unlock the Value of Kubernetes Data with Portworx
Portworx provides a fully integrated container data management platform to accelerate time to revenue, deliver data resiliency, and empower agility at enterprise scale.
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