As more containers head into production environments, interest in reference architectures for creating the IT infrastructure on which those containers will be deployed is starting to build.
Intel has been working with Portworx, a provider of software that enables containers to access persistent storage, to make it simpler for IT organizations to deploy IT infrastructure optimized for containers.
Venkat Ramakrishnan, vice president of engineering for Portworx, says Intel has taken an interest in developing reference architectures for containers regardless of whether they are deployed on virtual machine or bare-metal servers. Use of both memory and the characteristics of I/O traffic is different enough to warrant a separate reference architecture, says Ramakrishnan.
The reference architecture Intel developed in collaboration with Portworx is based on the Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 family, Intel Solid State Drives (Intel SSD) and Intel Ethernet Converged Network Adapters.
Ramakrishnan says the reference architecture is ideally suited for running stateful container applications accessing persistent storage using Portworx PX-Enterprise software either in a public cloud or on-premises. Portworx most recently updated that software to provide native support for Kubernetes container orchestration software.
While the first wave of containerized applications tended to be largely stateless, more stateful applications based on containers are finding their way into production environments. Ramakrishnan says to optimize the performance of those applications, IT architects have been requesting access to reference architectures they can employ to optimally run these applications. Existing systems are optimized largely for virtual machines hosting a finite number of applications running on guest operating systems. Containers, conversely, tend to scale out, as more functions over time start to generate I/O request that are harder to predict.
Survey after survey suggests there will be a massive increase in the number of stateful applications based on containers. In fact, anticipation of those workloads is driving a number of recent alliances with Portworx, including most recently one with Red Hat under which the Red Hat OpenShift platform based on Kubernetes has been certified compatible with Portworx PX-Enterprise.
Less clear, however, is the number of stateful containerized applications there are that will be deployed on-premises versus in the cloud. Many containerized applications are being developed on top of virtual machines. But when it comes time to deploy them on in a production environment, many IT organizations likely will want to eliminate the overhead created by virtual machines to maximize application performance. In fact, many IT organizations may opt to rely on Kubernetes clusters to unify the management of compute, storage and networking, depending on their level of comfort with what amounts to a new enterprise platform. Others may simply decide the path of least resistance is to continue to deploy containers and Kubernetes on top of traditional hypervisors or emerging lighter-weight hypervisors. That approach enables them to use their existing tooling without having to invest in new management platforms.
Regardless of the path chosen, the one thing that is for certain is containers will transform storage in ways most storage administrators have yet to appreciate fully.