Docker and persistent Open vStorage volumes

Docker, the open-source container platform, is currently one of the hottest projects in the IT infrastructure business. With support of some of the world’s leading companies such as PayPal, Ebay, General Electric and many more, it is quickly becoming a cornerstone of any large deployment. Next, it also introduces a paradigm shift in how administrators see servers and applications.

Pets vs. cattle

In the past servers were treated like dogs and cats or any family pet: you give it a cute name, make sure it is in optimal condition, take care of it when it is sick, … With VMs a shift already occurred: names became more general like WebServer012 but keeping the VM healthy was still a priority for administrators. With Docker, VMs are decomposed into a sprawl of individual, clearly, well-defined applications. Sometimes there can even be multiple instances of the same application running at the same time. With thousands of containerized applications running on a single platform, it becomes impossible to treat these applications as pets but instead they are treated as cattle: they get an ID, when having issues they are taken off-line, terminated, and replaced.

Docker Storage

The original idea behind Docker was that containers would be stateless and hence didn’t need persistent storage. But over the years the insight has grown that also some applications and hence containers require persistent storage. Since the Docker platforms at large companies are housing thousands of containers, the required storage is also significant. Typically these platforms also span multiple locations or even clouds. Storage across locations and clouds is the sweet spot of the Open vStorage feature set. In order to offer distributed, persistent storage to containers, the Open vStorage team created a Docker plugin on top of the Open vStorage Edge, our lightweight block device. Note that the Docker plugin is part of the Open vStorage Enterprise Edition.

Open vStorage and Docker

Using Open vStorage to provision volumes for Docker is easy and straightforward thanks to Docker’s volume plugin system. To show how easy it is to create a volume for a container, I will give you the steps to run Minio, a minimal , open-source object store, on top of a vDisk.

First install the Open vStorage Docker plugin and the necessary packages on the compute host running Docker:
apt-get install libovsvolumedriver-ee blktap-openvstorage-ee-utils blktap-dkms volumedriver-ee-docker-plugin

Configure the configuration of the plugin by updating /etc/volumedriver-ee-docker-plugin/config.toml

[volumedriver]
hostname="IP"
port=26203
protocol="tcp"
username="root"
password="rooter"

Change the IP and port to the IP on which the vPool is exposed on the Storage Router you want to connect to (see Storage Router detail page).

Start the plugin service
systemctl start volumedriver-ee-docker-plugin.service

Create the Minio container and attach a disk for the data (minio_export) and one for the config (minio_config)

docker run --volume-driver=ovs-volumedriver-ee -p 9000:9000 --name minio \
-v minio_export:/export \
-v minio_config:/root/.minio \
minio/minio server /export

That is it. You now have a Minio object store running which stores its data on Open vStorage.

PS. Want to see more? Check the “Docker fun across Amazon Google and Packet.net”-video

2015, the Open vStorage predictions

New Year Wallpaper.The end of 2014 is near so it is time to look forward and see what 2015 will have to offer. Some people say there’s no point in making predictions and that it’s not worth speculating because nothing is set in stone and things change all the time in storage land. Allow us to prove these people wrong by sharing our 2015 storage predictions*:

Acceleration of (hyper-)converged platforms
Converged platforms are here to stay. Converged solutions are even the fastest growing segment for large storage vendors. But it will be players like Open vStorage who will really break through in 2015. Hyperconverged solutions showed that there is an alternative to expensive SAN or all-flash solutions by adding a software based caching layer to the host. Alas, these overhyped hyperconverged solutions are even more expensive per TB storage than an already expensive all-flash array. In 2015 we will see more solutions which unite the good of the hyperconverged appliance and the converged platform but at a significantly lower cost. Storage solutions that will be extremely hot and prove to be future proof will have to have following characteristics:

  • Caching inside the (hypervisor) host: caching on SSD or PCIe flash should be done inside the host and not a couple of hops down the network.
  • Scalability: all-flash will continue to be a waste of money due to the huge cost of flash. It is better to go for a Tiered solution: Tier 1 on flash, Tier 2 on scalable, cheap (object) storage. In case the Tier 1 and Tier 2 storage are inside the same appliance (hyperconverged), your scalability and flexibility will be limited. A much better solution is to keep the 2 Tiers completely separate in a different set of appliances but managed by the same software layer.
  • Open and programmatically: storage silo’s should in 2015 be something of the past. Integration and openness should be key. Automation will be one of the hottest and most important features of a storage solution.

It should not come as a surprise that Open vStorage checks all of the above requirements.

OpenStack will dominate the cloud in 2015
This is probably the most evident prediction. During the OpenStack conference in Paris it was very clear that OpenStack will dominate the cloud the next few years. In 2014 some new kids showed support for OpenStack such as VMware (they understand that hypervisor software is now a commodity and that the data center control plane has become the high-margin battle arena). With VMware releasing their own OpenStack distribution the OpenStack distribution battlefield will be crowded in 2015. We have RedHat, Ubuntu, Mirantis, HP, VMware and many more so it is safe to say that some consolidation will happen in this area.
A new OpenStack battlefield that will emerge in 2015 will be around OpenStack storage. Currently this area is being dominated by the traditional arrays but as the software-defined storage solutions gain traction, solutions such as Open vStorage will grab a huge market share from these traditional vendors. They can compete with these SANs and all-flash arrays as they offer the same features and have the benefit of a much lower cost and TCO. While they maybe not top the total revenue achieved by the big vendors, they will definitely seize a large share of the OpenStack storage market.
If we add the fact that the Chinese government is promoting OpenStack and open-source in general, you can bet your Christmas bonus on the fact that open-source (OpenStack) storage projects (Swift, Open vStorage, …) will be booming next year. These projects will get a lot of support from Chinese companies both in adoption and development. It will be essential for traditional high-tech companies and countries not to miss the boat as once it has left the harbor it will be very hard to catch up.

New markets for object storage vendors
2015 will be the year where object storage will break out of its niche market of large video or object repositories. This has been said for many years now but 2015 will be THE year as many companies have started to realize which benefits they achieved by implementing their first object storage projects. The next target for these enterprises is to make better use of their current object storage solution. Changing all of their legacy code will not happen in 2015 as this might impact their business. Solutions where they don’t have to change their existing code base and still benefit from the cost saving of object storage will be selected. Open vStorage is one of those solutions but we are pretty sure other solutions like for example storage gateways to object storage will flourish in 2015.
Another reason why object storage vendors will enter new markets is because currently too many players are after the same customer base. This means that if they want to keep growing and provide ROI for the venture capital invested, new markets will definitely need to be addressed. The 15-25 billion dollar SAN market is a logical market to address. But entering this market will not be a bed of roses as object storage vendors have no experience in this highly-competitive market or sometimes not even the right sales competencies and knowledge. They will have to look for partnerships with companies such as CloudFounders who are seasoned in this area.

Seagate Kinetic drives
The Kinetic drives are the most exciting, fundamental change in the storage industry in several years. These drives went GA at the end of 2014 but in 2015 we will gradually see new applications and solutions who make use of this technology. With these IP drives, you will, for the first time, be able to manage storage as a scalable pool of disks. Open vStorage will support the Kinetic drives as Tier 2 backend. This means Virtual Machine will have their hot data inside the host on flash and their cold data on a pool of Kinetic drives.

* We will look back on this post at the end of 2015 to see how good we scored.

OpenStack Online Meetup on Swift, VM Storage and OpenvStorage

Wim Provoost, Product Manager of Open vStorage, was asked to host a live webinar for OpenStack Online Meetup. OpenStack Online Meetup is the #1 online community for OpenStack contributors and users. During their weekly Google Hangout sessions they feature various OpenStack speakers. The sessions are intended for technical OpenStackers and tend to deep-dive into technology.

The Open vStorage talk discusses how you can use OpenStack Swift, the Object Storage project within OpenStack, as primary storage for a Virtual Machine environment. In case you missed the live session, you can watch the recorded version below.

The Open vStorage future looks bright

Jason Ader, analyst at the William Blair & Company, released a new research document: The State of Storage – a 2014 Update. In this detailed report, which is a must-read for everyone in the storage industry, he discusses the biggest short and long term headwinds for traditional storage vendors. Some of these headwinds are caused by newcomers in the storage industry. He estimates that these newcomers will grow with a rate of around 40%, which will cause the combined impact to reach almost 10% of industry sales in 2014. These headwinds can not be ignored in terms of revenue or growth so it is worthwhile to discuss these headwinds in more detail and explain where Open vStorage fits in.

  • Object-Based Storage gets a second wind as migration of data to the cloud (private or public) is on the rise. Use cases and applications adjusted for Object Stores are still limited but on the rise. With Open vStorage you can turn your Object Store (Swift, Cloudian, …) into a block device for Virtual Machines and turn it into a high performance, distributed, VM-centric storage platform.
  • Emergence of Flash-Centric Architectures: Open vStorage leverages flash inside the ESXi or KVM hosts to accelerate reads and writes. It brings together the benefits of storage local to the server and external scalable storage by leveraging SSDs and PCIe flash technology inside the server for acceleration.
  • Software-defined Storage (SDS) will, according to report, “have the largest impact on the storage market in the long term as it will drive ASPs down and push toward the commoditization of specialized storage hardware platforms.” This trend is clearly to be seen in the rise of open-source file systems such as GlusterFS and Ceph and VMware’s vSAN. Open vStorage is a software-defined storage layer which brings storage intelligence into software that runs closer to compute with the ability to use multiple storage back ends in a uniform way.

White Paper: Turning Object Storage into Virtual Machine Storage

In this White Paper “Turning Object Storage into Virtual Machine Storage” we discuss Object Storage as storage solution for Virtual Machines. Due to technical hurdles it is impossible to run Virtual Machines directly from an Object Store. The main issues are eventual consistency, performance and latency and different management paradigms. A distributed file system is also no fit for the job.

To turn Object Storage into primary storage for hypervisors, the solution must be especially designed for Virtual Machines and take a radical different approach compared to existing storage technologies. Open vStorage takes this different approach and is designed from the ground up with Virtual Machines and their performance requirements in mind. Open vStorage is the layer between the hypervisor and Object Store and turns the Object Store into a high performance, distributed, VM-centric storage platform.

You can download the full white paper here.