DevOps / Kubernetes / Storage / Sponsored / Contributed

Data Protection in the Age of DevOps

16 Jul 2020 7:57am, by

Dell Technologies sponsored this post.

Nivas Iyer
Nivas is a Dell Technologies product manager and strategic partnerships leader known for delivering innovative products. He is passionate about understanding customer needs and delivering solutions that address them. With exceptional market insight, Nivas is able to extract key information and quickly develop precise product responses.

As organizations started embracing digital transformation — by improving analytics, automating business processes, or creating new business models — this required a radical transformation in the way applications are developed, by adopting microservices architecture and using Agile methodologies. By decoupling the development teams, IT teams achieved amazing agility. We are now seeing a number of companies releasing applications in monthly (or even more frequent) builds.

However, this required a very different system operating in a very different way than the risk-averse traditional IT operation. DevOps is a cultural mindset that has helped organizations achieve this, by having each development team be responsible for their own code deployment and recovery in case of failures. To accommodate this rapid pace of change, each build check-in includes a combination of application code version, application data schema changes, and associated application definition and configuration.

Kubernetes has emerged as the sole system that can achieve all of these objectives. Therefore most organizations have adopted Kubernetes as the standard to achieve their digital transformation goals.

To understand what lies beneath a flexible environment, let’s discuss how the storage layer has evolved in the Kubernetes era.

Containers allow abstractions. However, at some point, the environment needs to talk to the storage system, which could be an external storage or a hyper-converged storage system. The way this was done in the early days of Kubernetes was that the environment needed to interface with each storage system differently. It became very proprietary and unwieldy for those with multiple storage system options.

The Kubernetes community came up with something called CSI (Container Storage Interface), an interface that enables the environment to talk to all these different storage systems in a uniform way — for automating the provisioning, attaching and mounting of block and file storage. In addition, Kubernetes storage interest groups identified snapshot operations as critical functionality for many stateful workloads, as it enables tools to back up the data.

Kubernetes volume snapshot — beta 1.17 was introduced to navigate this challenge. It’s a feature now enabled by default for standard Kubernetes deployments and is becoming widely viable across multiple OEM and 3rd party distributions — such as Openshift, Diamante, Anthos and TKG. As Kubernetes 1.17 is gradually adopted for taking snapshots at the file-level system, this enhances a data protection solution that integrates with the CSI driver.

This is great for many enterprises, who are finally able to extend their enterprise-grade data protection solution to Kubernetes environments.

In this rapid pace of change, the probability of failure is high and having a good data protection solution is essential to ensure an equally fast recovery to a stable state.

However, most data protection solutions focus primarily on the application data; and these lead to configuration drifts during rollbacks. It is important to protect the associated environment configuration spread across various Kubernetes objects, including ConfigMaps, Secrets, etc.

In addition, it is important to have the data protection solutions be available in a self-service mode, so that DevOps and application owners can manage their own rollbacks and data protection policies for the Kubernetes environments. The IT systems admin would still retain full access using a common interface that manages the entire infrastructure — including bare metal, virtualized and containerized environments — to help with broader systemic failures.

In summary, Kubernetes environments are being adopted widely across organizations as they move to a microservices, agile and DevOps culture to help with rapid transformations. The benefits are being realized across both the companies creating these environments as well as the end users, who have a better experience. With Kubernetes 1.17 and CSI standards maturing, now is the time for enterprises to adopt them, and look for an enterprise-grade data protection solution to help with protecting these environments.

Feature image via Pixabay

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