NetApp Astra and the race for Kubernetes data supremacy

NetApp Astra is an enterprise-grade data management suite for Kubernetes workloads. This fully managed application-aware service is aimed at managing Kubernetes containers hosted across on-premises servers as well on all types of cloud environments.

With Astra, NetApp has unified application and data management capabilities in a single package. It enables data protection, disaster recovery, and workload migration by leveraging NetApp’s existing set of data management services, including snapshot-based data protection, remote backup and recovery options for applications, and application migration and portability using NetApp’s “active clones.”

Application-aware technology

NetApp Astra is an application-aware system, which means it could identify the boundaries of applications within the namespaces and also discover and map the applications across the entire environment. Astra comprises three key capabilities that add up together to make it an application-aware system. This includes snapshot-based data protection for workloads that can help switch over to the previous working version of applications in the same Kubernetes cluster in case of any accidental deletion or corruption. With the disaster recovery options, you can take remote backups of the applications and restore them to the same or different Kubernetes cluster whenever required. This also enables application migration and portability of stateful applications from one Kubernetes cluster to another.

Supported platforms

In its initial phase, NetApp Astra supports Kubernetes applications based on Google Kubernetes Engine, running on Google Cloud. It uses NetApp’s Cloud Volumes Service (CVS) for persistently storing data onto Google Cloud. The company is planning to extend this to additional platforms to imbibe the support for more persistent storage providers. Microsoft Azure supported version is expected to be released by spring, while versions for Amazon Web Services are expected to be out later this year. Support for on-premises environments is planned for this summer.
NetApp Astra

How does it work?

To get started, customers need to register their Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) clusters with Astra. Upon registration, Astra installs the NetApp Trident — the open-source Kubernetes storage orchestrator used for persistent storage volumes. It then creates a service account for itself and a storage bucket to store all backups of the registered clusters. The service can now scan and discover all the running applications and provisions the storage and storage classes for them.

NetApp Astra competitors

Portworx

Portworx is a data services platform that runs containers and microservices. It offers Portworx Enterprise Storage Platform, an integrated solution for running Kubernetes workloads with persistent storage. It offers additional layers of data and application management such as data protection, disaster recovery, automated capacity management, and data migration. It allows you to run stateful container applications across multiple physical hosts across different geographical locations. Portworx is used by several Global 2000 companies, including Comcast, T-Mobile, Lufthansa, GE Digital, and more. In September 2020, Portworx was acquired by Pure Storage in a $30 million cash deal.

Portworx’s architecture is based on its proprietary storage platform PX-Store, which supports cloud-native storage for container applications running in the cloud, on-premise, and hybrid-cloud environment. For the security of data, you can use PX-Secure, which enables capabilities such as cluster-wide encryption, role-based access control, and integration with Active Directory and LDAP via OpenID Connect (OIDC). PX-Migrate helps in the migration of applications across multiple clouds and clusters. Portworx also offers other add-on products for disaster recovery (PX-DR) and Capacity Management (PX-Autopilot). PX-Central — the centralized control panel – can be used for monitoring all the metrics across the platform.

MayaData

MayaData is a provider of data agility solutions, offering automation, data storage, management, and security-related solutions for Kubernetes applications. It is an active contributor to CNCF projects and sponsors two projects, namely OpenEBS and Litmus (Kubernetes native chaos engineering project). OpenEBS is a cloud-native storage solution that provides persistent storage for container environments. Litmus is a set of tools for orchestrating chaos on Kubernetes, helping developers find weaknesses in the deployment.

MayaData is also the creator of Kubera, a SaaS portal used for centralized monitoring and administration of Kubernetes clusters. MayaData Kubera provides several enhancements for OpenEBS, like a monitoring dashboard with performance benchmarking, auto checks, and configurations. Kubera Propel can be called an enterprise-level extension of OpenEBS, having a declarative data plane for persistent storage for stateful Kubernetes applications.

MayaData recently announced a partnership with Platform9 in an attempt to optimize the delivery of high-performance Kubernetes workloads. MayaData lists several global businesses as its clients, including Bloomberg, Comcast, Orange, Intuit, and others.

PlanetScale

PlanetScale is a provider of a cloud-native database-as-a-service (DBaaS). Its founder had developed Vitess, an open-source, scalable database based on MySQL. Vitess can be used to develop sharded distributed databases, along with capabilities to support cloud-based applications. Vitess was used by Google to serve YouTube traffic from 2011 till 2019. PlanetScaleDB is a cloud-native MySQL DB that implements Vitess to provide persistent storage for Kubernetes workloads.

PlanetScaleDB provides several enterprise-grade capabilities such as replication, horizontal sharding, and query handling. It also offers several data management capabilities, such as high-availability, disaster recovery, geo-replication of the workloads, allowing to absorb any failover incidents. It also offers audit logging, data encryption, and user access management.

You can deploy the PlanetScaleDB database either as a fully-managed database or a host-managed database across Kubernetes clusters. For a fully managed database, PlanetScaleDB is available on the three major cloud platforms — Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Several renowned companies like GitHub, Slack, and Square are using this platform in their production environment.

DataStax

DataStax is a data management company. It offers database-as-a-service based on the open-source NoSQL database Apache Cassandra. The company released DataStax Enterprise (DSE) as the first commercial distribution of the Cassandra, with support for real-time application performance and analytics. It also offers additional security controls, advanced search, and operational analytics.

The company offers Astra, a DBaaS for developing cloud-native Cassandra applications. It is a fully managed service, available with dynamic pay-as-you-go pricing. Furthermore, the company offers Astra streaming, a multicloud data and event streaming service based on Apache Pulsar. It supports event-driven application stacks with real-time data. It is a fully managed service, available with dynamic pay-as-you-go pricing. DataStax also offers Stargate, an open-source data API gateway with support for JSON, REST, and GraphQL. It also offers Luna Streaming, production-ready distribution of Apache Pulsar. Recently, DataStax also released K8ssandra, an open-source production-ready distribution of Cassandra on Kubernetes. Recently, DataStax introduced serverless as the new default for its Astra cloud service, making it the first company to offer Apache Cassandra-based serverless on all major public clouds.

Cloud-native apps: Planning is necessary

With the ever-growing ecosystem of cloud-native applications, persistent storage and application data management has grown a more vital factor. Organizations looking out for expansion into containerized applications must plan the reliability and durability of the underlying services and carefully decide on the appropriate tool that suits all their requirements. The products mentioned above cover several mature options available in the market. Still, due to the dynamically changing business scenarios and underlying requirements, you must keep exploring all options to find the optimal match for your environment. As seen from this list, the kind of use cases are varied, and each one excels at a different purpose. Despite them all operating in the same space, it’s not too difficult to decide which is the right one for your organization.

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