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The container landscape

With the popularity of containers on the rise, many customers are transitioning to a hybrid cloud approach for their key applications. A recent survey showed that most enterprise customers are now using Kubernetes in production, and over half of those are running at least five containerized applications in Kubernetes. Kubernetes is widely used in cloud-native application development and has become the standard for container orchestration.

Today, over half of existing containers are using persistent storage in the cloud. As customers work to curb rising cloud expenses, the current trend is to bring these containerized applications back in-house. As containers are moved from the cloud to on-premises environments, it is common for customers to provide persistent volumes to their containers by using existing storage solutions with available capacity. This approach has some significant limitations, which is where container-native storage comes in.

Container-native storage

Using traditional storage for containers can limit development speed and complicate data management due to the lack of true integration with Kubernetes. This has led to the next generation of storage for containers, aptly named container-native storage (CNS). CNS is software-defined storage that is presented natively within Kubernetes, which enables tighter integration and data mobility across environments, and advanced features such as data protection policies and data security.

Based on market share, Red Hat's OpenShift Data Foundation (ODF) offering is the current leader for CNS. ODF includes block, file and object storage capability and integrates key features such as disaster recovery and encryption functionality. But container-native storage still relies heavily on local expertise for the integration and management of the overall OpenShift environment. As more enterprise applications move into containers, customers now need a pre-integrated enterprise-class container management solution.

What is IBM Storage Fusion?

IBM Storage Fusion integrates the management and support of containerized environments into a single hybrid cloud platform. The software implementation of Storage Fusion can be deployed on bare metal, in the cloud or on VMware. For customers looking for a turnkey container management platform, Fusion HCI is a fully integrated compute, storage and software solution with a single support structure that is application-ready from the factory. The HCI solution can scale from six nodes to 20 in a single cluster. In addition, customers can configure Fusion with integrated NVIDIA A100 GPU servers to enhance AI workloads within OpenShift. 

WWT has had the software version of IBM Storage Fusion deployed in our Advanced Technology Center since September 2022. In our testing, we have been able to deploy containers, set up integrated snapshots, perform backup and restore operations on containers, and perform software upgrades to the platform. For external storage, we were able to connect capacity from both our IBM Storage Scale System 3200 and cloud-based S3 storage for offsite backups. In the example shown below, the environment is being backed up nightly via in-place snapshots, with weekly backups to the cloud. 

Container Backup

Storage Fusion differentiates itself from standard OpenShift deployments in several key ways. The current version offers data-at-rest encryption via an external encryption key manager, as well as application-consistent backups. Once backed up, containerized applications can be restored to other containers, either in the cloud or on-premises. Perhaps one of the more compelling differentiators is Fusion's Global Data Access capability, based on IBM Storage Scale. This allows application data to be made globally available, and for local applications to access and share data from remote locations as if it were a local file system. 

By integrating capabilities from multiple existing products, IBM has built a best-of-breed hybrid cloud container solution that offers customers the fastest way to deploy an enterprise-class OpenShift platform. If you would like to learn more or schedule a live demonstration of the IBM Storage Fusion environment, contact us at the link below.

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