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Data / Kubernetes / Security

K8s Backup and Disaster Recovery Is More Important Than Ever

Here are some considerations of a successful Kubernetes data protection strategy.
Oct 24th, 2022 7:00am by
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While data protection has always been important, it’s becoming a critical issue for organizations building and deploying applications in Kubernetes environments.

The threat of data loss and ransomware in these distributed, dynamic cloud native environments is pushing organizations to pursue more comprehensive strategies not only to back up the Kubernetes applications but also to employ disaster recovery (DR) across regions.

Make no mistake: People are worried. According to Veeam’s 2022 Data Protection Trends Report, 89% of IT leaders see a “protection gap” between tolerable data loss and how to protect their data. Virtually all these cloud native leaders are on board with containers; 91% are either using containers in production or are planning to.

While Kubernetes’ scalability and portability makes development and deployment more convenient, it falls short in terms of data protection. The problem is that on one hand, stateful workloads with critical business data have become the most popular workload in Kubernetes production environments.

On the other hand, legacy backup tools that considered virtual machines (VMs) or physical servers as the operating unit for backups/DR do not work in a Kubernetes environment. In a Kubernetes environment, there has been a paradigm shift. We now need to protect applications composed of microservices that are continuously being rescheduled and scaled on different servers and regions.

Additionally, it is a common development pattern for these cloud native applications to use multiple data services under the covers — both SQL and NoSQL databases such as PostgreSQL, MongoDB, etc. However, applications have different backup consistency needs.

Some applications can tolerate data loss and a backup approach that exercises the storage layer snapshot could be fine. However, this approach is a non-starter for some applications (think of your financial transactions) that need to also capture the data that might not have been flushed to disk. Hence backup and recovery solutions, in addition to storage-layer integrations also need to operate at the logical database layer by exercising database-specific functions like pgdump.

Given the skills gap and the risks, catastrophic data loss poses for an organization, implementing backups that serve as your last line of defense, is a non-option. Here are some considerations of a successful Kubernetes data protection strategy.

  1. Focus on the application as a whole. Kubernetes deployments and operations are application-centric, so a Kubernetes-native backup that treats the application as the unit of atomicity is essential. Attempting to use traditional, infrastructure-focused backup methods put you at risk of data loss or corruption during recovery. Legacy solutions fail to capture the application as a whole, including the application data and Kubernetes resources (configuration. secrets, etc.). Also, ensure that your backup solution doesn’t throttle your organization’s ability to develop and innovate by limiting backups only to a small number of databases or vendor-specific Kubernetes infrastructure environments.
  1. Automate application discovery and scale dynamically. A Kubernetes-native backup solution will automatically discover all the applications and the underlying components running on a cluster. The solution should also work within the Kubernetes context to ensure that any changes to the cluster (for instance, adding a new application) are immediately recognized. From a scale and cost perspective, it’s important that your backup solution can incorporate parallelism and scale up automatically and scale down to zero when not in use
  2. Secure your backups. You must have the flexibility to choose the consistency requirements, backup frequency and the destination for your backups. Follow the timeless 3-2-1 rule: Keep at least three copies of the data stored on two different media, and one copy should be offsite. Ensure that your solution can maintain the integrity of your backups by storing them as immutable objects. Confirm that your backups are encrypted, and you can manage the encryption keys.
  1. Ensure flexible recoverability. Your backups are only as good as the recovery. Make sure your backup plans allow you the portability that Kubernetes has promised with recovery into different clusters, regions or Kubernetes distributions. A good solution will give you a granular control to restore all or parts of the application that enable dynamic transformations of attributes such as storage classes when rehydrating an application. Also, ensure that the solution sequences the order of restore operations intelligently so that any application dependencies are honored.
  1. Operate simply and securely. You should be able to operate your data protection with simplicity even when working at scale across a growing number of applications and deployment patterns. A good backup solution will provide operations teams with a streamlined workflow to leverage Kubernetes-native CLI (kubectl) as well as provide cloud native tooling integration that augments your workforce, which may be short-skilled. Developers should have self-service capabilities while integrating with Kubernetes and cloud native identity and access management (IAM) and role-based access control (RBAC).

Finally, it’s also worth remembering that replication capabilities provided by the underlying Kubernetes can protect you against some infrastructure failures. However, replication does not protect you against data corruption or loss because of a human error or a malicious attack. With the growing threat landscape, get your Kubernetes-native backup and disaster recovery in place today.

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Kasten, Pragma.
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