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Dell Technologies Optimizes Persistent Storage for Kubernetes

By Scott Sinclair, Practice Director; and Monya Keane, Senior Research Analyst
MARCH 2022


Storage admins want to embrace Kubernetes to accelerate application development, but they are afraid to lose control of their storage arrays. Fortunately, there is a way to overcome this problem through modernizing the infrastructure. Dell Container Storage Modules bring powerful enterprise storage features and functionality to Kubernetes for easier adoption of cloud-native workloads, improved productivity, and more scalable operations.


Adoption of containers and microservices architectures is rising dramatically. This adoption is part of a larger effort by organizations to increase their investments in application development to improve operations, boost customer engagement, and increase revenue opportunities.
According to ESG research, 68% of organizations currently leverage containers to support their production applications. Another 26% expect to start using them for production applications in the next 12 months. In other words, almost all organizations (94%) are already or will imminently be taking advantage of this technology and enjoying the benefits that microservices-based architectures offer to application development teams and the business as a whole.
As part of a study focused on organizations currently developing or planning to develop cloud-native applications, ESG asked respondents to identify the biggest benefits their organizations have realized from using a microservices architecture. The most commonly reported positive result was rapid application development/increased developer velocity (48%).
Containers enable developers to roll out applications faster, more granularly, and more cost-effectively—and that advantage translates into delivering digital innovations to end-users more consistently and efficiently. For example, developers employed by a movie-streaming platform may leverage cloud-native container microservices to design applications that will ensure subscribers enjoy seamless performance and remain loyal customers of the site. Each action performed by users—logging on, skipping opening credits, tagging shows to watch later—is reliably supported through a microservice running in a container.
The role of Kubernetes in a case like that one is to manage multiple containers together at scale. However, Kubernetes does place a lot of requirements on an IT infrastructure. Many production use cases demand significant resources—i.e., large-scale, highly distributed systems running across multiple cloud and on-prem servers/storage—to support the applications with sufficient performance and availability. To keep pace, therefore, organizations must take specific steps to ensure their infrastructures as a whole are sufficiently modernized.
Fortunately, Dell Technologies, a leader in IT, has now augmented its enterprise data storage portfolio with Dell Container Storage Modules. This new technology is designed to meet and even exceed the extensive requirements placed on persistent storage by container-based application development. With Dell Container Storage Modules, Dell delivers the enterprise storage capabilities necessary to support production applications while reducing the burden on IT—helping accelerate IT operations to keep up with or exceed the pace of developers who are creating mission-critical applications.

Modernizing Infrastructure to Empower Kubernetes Adoption

ESG research can provide deeper context into the importance of modernizing IT infrastructure to meet the demands of container-based applications and the teams developing them. When ESG asked organizations that leverage container-based applications what impacts adoption of containers has had on their infrastructure strategy:
44% said container deployment increased their adoption of infrastructure solutions that span multiple sites.
31% said that container adoption has fueled increased investments in scaling up infrastructure resources to support resource demands.
28% said that container adoption has forced them to accelerate provisioning/allocating of infrastructure resources.
As mentioned, container adoption increases IT complexity in multiple areas. For example, adoption of containers can increase the number of disparate sites an organization must manage. It also increases the pressure placed on IT organizations to accelerate provisioning. Container-based applications demand greater scale from the infrastructure in terms of both performance and capacity. With those facts in mind, sticking with traditional technology and processes is going to be a losing strategy.
As shown in Figure 1, organizations are encountering multiple challenges related to the persistent storage they are using to support their container-based environments. The most commonly reported challenge, managing the overall quality of service experienced by users, reflects how difficult it can be to ensure that container-based applications get all the resources they need. Another challenge centers purely on speed: 33% of organizations reported having challenges tied to storage performance. Any activity in the data path not related to transfers of data will interfere with IOPS, bandwidth, and latency performance in a busy environment.
The complexity of managing storage across hybrid cloud environments (cited as a challenge by 39%) reinforces the difficulty IT faces when application portability spans multiple sites. For example, although public cloud services from hyperscale providers all use similar technologies, they’re architected differently. Each cloud provider takes a different approach to configuration with its own set of processes for spinning up container instances.
Dell Container Storage Modules for Performance
Notably, Dell Container Storage Modules do not sit anywhere in the data path, so there is no traffic on the data carrying links.
Dell has also implemented CSI drivers for every member of its storage portfolio: For multi-storage system environments, these drivers allow developers to leverage the right storage systems for the job through their config files.
Another performance-related differentiator of Dell Container Storage Modules is that users get to leverage the performance and features of a leading storage portfolio via pass-through capabilities.
Similarly, speed-of-provisioning challenges (cited by 36%) again highlights the pressure that IT organizations are under to keep pace with developers. Developers and DevOps teams demand resources at a fast pace, and those teams often have only limited visibility into the demands they are placing on the infrastructure. Container-based production apps must have great scale and fast operations (good quality of service) without compromising availability and resiliency.
Figure 1. Top Challenges with Persistent Storage for Container-based Environments

In general, what would you say are your organization’s biggest challenges with persistent storage for its container-based environment? (Percent of respondents, N=288, multiple responses accepted)

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Dell Technologies Augments Container-based Infrastructures with Container Storage Modules

With its Dell Container Storage Modules, Dell Technologies offers considerable value for Kubernetes environments. Much of that value boils down to Dell’s use of Container Storage Interface (CSI) drivers. A CSI driver is a common, traditional means of supporting persistent storage for Kubernetes-based container applications. Kubernetes CSI is an implementation of the Container Storage Interface specification, which offers a standardized mechanism for establishing connectivity between container orchestration tools and storage systems.
Dell offers CSI drivers for multiple systems in its storage portfolio, including high-end enterprise storage, midrange enterprise storage, software-defined storage, and scale-out NAS.
However, Dell Container Storage Modules go well beyond the capabilities of traditional CSI drivers. These new modules are designed to deliver all the enterprise-level storage capabilities that production applications require, including offering automation and developer-self-service access (see Figure 2). These advancements are designed to empower developer teams, rather than impede them.
Figure 2. The Capabilities of Dell Technologies Container Storage Modules

Source: ESG, a division of TechTarget, Inc.

Dell Storage Container Modules’ capabilities span observability, replication, authorization, resiliency, volume placement, and volume group snapshots. They also come with the Dell Operator, which enables deployment of CSI drivers and Dell Container Storage Modules from a single installer—providing greater ease of use for Kubernetes and storage engineers. Dell makes all this functionality accessible to Kubernetes users, reducing the burden on IT. That advantage in turn accelerates IT operations and development activities, while simplifying the process of ensuring that containerized applications get the infrastructure resources they require.

Simplify Kubernetes at Scale with Accelerated IT and Developer Operations

As stated, Dell Container Storage Modules deliver benefits to IT, to application development teams and, by extension, to the entire business. When access to enterprise storage capabilities becomes simpler, not only can production container-based applications better leverage necessary storage functionality (i.e., replication, resiliency, and availability), but developers also can operate faster and depend less on the overburdened IT organization.
The high-level benefits of Dell Container Storage Modules include:
• Accelerated Application Development—These modules empower developers rather than constrain their efforts by more easily extending data services such as replication, protection, and recovery. The modules also offer better observability with a high-level view of storage capacity and performance usage via Grafana dashboards into the Kubernetes infrastructure environment.
• Better protected, more resilient container-based production applications—By allowing developers visibility and control, these modules help ensure that the applications will get the protection they require.
• Better IT control over resources—The modules allow Kubernetes developers and administrators to allocate storage resources according to preauthorized storage access parameters, reducing the likelihood of applications being deployed on what is convenient, rather than what is best.
• Automated placement and optimization—Dell Container Storage Modules reduce the burden of ensuring that applications are on the right infrastructure by analyzing capacity and automating volume placement for Kubernetes workloads.

The Bigger Truth

In the Kubernetes space, every vendor is trying to generate buzz and show industry leadership by repackaging existing functionality to make it sound cool and different. This Dell technology, however, genuinely has particular features that differentiate it from the competition.
As a leading enterprise IT vendor, Dell certainly understands the value of a solid storage infrastructure but it also appreciates the needs of developers and DevOps teams. As a result, Dell has come up with an offering that a developer can look at and say, “This gets me what I need.” Just as importantly, the IT Ops manager will say, “This is what our developers need.” They all want to know the way that persistent storage on the backend is being set up with the Kubernetes clusters—how key considerations such as high availability, resiliency, and backend replication have been met.
Dell wants to make both sides happy, and it has done a good job of threading the needle here.

This ESG Showcase was commissioned by Dell Technologies and is distributed under license from TechTarget, Inc.

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