UPDATED 08:00 EDT / MARCH 10 2021

BIG DATA

NetApp brings data portability to Kubernetes apps with Astra

Data storage giant NetApp Inc. is delivering on its vision of Kubernetes application portability with the launch of a new service in general availability today.

The company is billing NetApp Astra as a fully managed, application-aware data management service for Kubernetes-based apps. It’s aimed at helping enterprises protect, recover and move their applications deployed on Kubernetes without needing to download, install, manage or upgrade any software.

Kubernetes is an open-source tool that’s used to orchestrate large clusters of software containers, which host the components of modern applications that can run on any kind of computing infrastructure. The technology has seen rapid adoption over the past few years, but it still causes a lot of problems for companies because of what analysts say is a dearth of persistent storage capabilities that containerized applications need to perform at their best.

Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Steve McDowell told SiliconANGLE the problem is that software containers do not pair well with traditional enterprise storage. He explained that the ephemeral nature of container-based workloads requires an order of magnitude increase in storage management operations that goes beyond what bare-metal and virtualized environments provide.

In addition, container apps require an abstraction layer on top of this for data to be stored. McDowell said the lack of these storage capabilities leads to some very awkward IT management practices.

“Containers also generate their own data that needs to be stored and managed,” McDowell said. “This ranges from container images, to Kubernetes state information, to configuration data. It’s an explosion of data.”

This explosion of data is what NetApp is attempting to contain with NetApp Astra. The product is the result of its Project Astra initiative that was announced last year and brings new data management capabilities to Kubernetes workloads for the first time, the company said. They include the ability to protect data with regular snapshots, so users can revert a Kubernetes cluster back to a previous snapshot in the event that data is accidentally deleted or corrupted.

NetApp Astra also enables disaster recovery through remote backups. So teams can take a full backup of an application and its current state and use this to restore the app with its data to a different Kubernetes cluster in a separate region to address their data recovery needs.

Finally, NetApp said, the new service enables simplified application portability and migration through “active clones.” That means entire apps, together with their data, can be moved from one Kubernetes cluster to another regardless of where they’re located.

McDowell said NetApp was one of the first storage companies to identify the cloud-native data management problem and that it has been trying to address it for quite a while. That’s evident from some of its recent acquisitions, such as Talon Storage Solutions Inc. and Spot, which gave the company some excellent capabilities to draw on, the analyst said. And although the company has had a few false starts in addressing the market, McDowell said those endeavors have given it a good insight into what works and what doesn’t work.

“NetApp has taken a very measured, customer-validated approach in bringing Astra to market,” McDowell said. “Astra delivers the capabilities that IT shops deploying container-based workloads need. Astra provides an integrated management experience, one that makes storage and Kubernetes aware of each other. I think NetApp customers who deploy Astra will be very happy.”

Eric Han, vice president of product management for Public Cloud Services at NetApp, echoed those thoughts, saying that backup, cloning, disaster recovery, data lifecycle operations, data optimization, compliance and security are all critical capabilities for companies that run Kubernetes apps.

“Taken together, these challenges increase complexity,” Han said. “That’s directly at odds with Kubernetes’ goal of simpler, faster and more flexible application development and deployment, which is a vision that NetApp Astra will help to realize.”

McDowell said the launch of NetApp Astra makes the company a leader in the cloud-native storage market alongside its rival Pure Storage Inc., which addressed the same needs through its acquisition of Portworx Inc. last year. But he said both companies will need to make the most of that lead because others are likely to come up with their own solutions in the next few months.

“Everyone in this market will have to have a solution to the container data management problem,” McDowell said. “It’s going to become table stakes. I expect it’s going to be a busy year as the market scrambles to address the need.”

Constellation Research Inc.’s Holger Mueller said that he too expects more solutions to tackle this problem. “The dirty secret of portability is that the devil is in the data, which cannot be move as easily, fast and often,” Mueller said. “It is a sign of the ecosystem maturing quickly with former storage vendors like NetApp tackling the issue of data portability for Kubernetes workloads.”

NetApp said that NetApp Astra is available now on Google Cloud, with support for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and on-premises environments to be added “soon.”

Photo: NetApp

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