This content is part of the Conference Coverage: KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2021 news coverage

Dell EMC Container Storage Modules hit general availability

Dell EMC announced the general availability of its six Container Storage Modules that are designed to make legacy storage container-ready. Dell also announced a unified CSI driver.

Dell Technologies made its Dell EMC Container Storage Modules generally available during KubeCon this week. The six open source Container Storage Modules are plug-ins designed to ease storage management with Kubernetes, going beyond basic Container Storage Interface functionality.

While containers and, by extension, Kubernetes have grown in popularity, Itzik Reich, vice president of technologists for the infrastructure strategy group at Dell EMC, said storage admins have shown less enthusiasm for the open source container orchestration platform. They have expressed concerns about running out of storage capacity on their arrays due to lack of visibility. They are also concerned about Kubernetes failing to access an array unbeknownst to storage admins until an issue arises.

Those are two problems Dell's Container Storage Modules (CSMs) are looking to fix by adding visibility and simplicity, according to Reich.

Scott Sinclair, a storage analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, expanded on why some users -- especially those at larger enterprises -- have been slow to warm up to Kubernetes.

"Kubernetes are complex, especially at scale," Sinclair said. Containers and Kubernetes were designed around stateless programming, but programmers want stateful applications to store data and expand it to production applications; the complexity comes from delivering all the capabilities wanted at the right level of scale, he said.

Looking back to address current issues

To address that complexity, Dell focused on the Container Storage Interface (CSI) standard and plugin originally developed by Google. CSI, an industry standard supported by all the major storage vendors, is used for block and file-based storage in external storage systems with container-based workloads managed by container orchestration systems like Kubernetes, according to Eric Burgener, an IDC analyst. CSI plug-ins are customized to provide a driver that works with a specific vendor's storage system such as Dell EMC.

Reich said the CSI driver typically aids in performing tasks such as provisioning, deleting, mapping and unmapping volumes of data. But, he said, the basic CSI driver doesn't go far enough for Dell's enterprise customers, who are looking for automation, better control and simplicity.

While the CSI driver provides basic tasks, Dell customers can now utilize six CSMs to access storage array features to which they normally wouldn't have access. The CSMs come in a series of six plug-ins with specific functionalities or data services, including observability, high availability, automation and data protection.

Dell's approach here leverages those features directly from the underlying storage array.
Eric BurgenerAnalyst, IDC

Dell's CSMs enable customers to make their existing storage container-ready by providing access to data features on Dell's storage arrays rather than using additional software from, say, Portworx or Rancher to access those features, according to Burgener.

"Dell's approach here leverages those features directly from the underlying storage array, and they're claiming that this means customers are using more mature, more scalable and more proven data services features that have been shipping in their platforms for, in some cases, decades," Burgener said.

Dell Unified CSI Driver also announced

In a smaller announcement, Dell also made its unified CSI driver generally available. The CSI installer is now common across Dell EMC's storage product portfolio, which "makes life simpler" for IT organizations, Sinclair said.

All six CSM modules, along with Dell's unified CSI driver, are available for download today.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

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