This content is part of the Conference Coverage: NetApp Insight 2021 conference news and coverage

NetApp adds Kubernetes storage with Astra Data Store

NetApp expands its container-focused Astra products with Astra Data Store, a new storage service offering persistent storage for Kubernetes and virtual machines.

NetApp expanded Astra, its Kubernetes data management products, with a new software-defined storage service specifically focused on Kubernetes containers.

The company introduced Astra Data Store, a scale-out, managed Kubernetes-native unified file service for containers and virtual machines (VMs) as part of its upcoming product lineup during KubeCon North America 2021 conference in October. The vendor further pitched the new service at its own Insight 2021 virtual conference the following week.

Astra Data Store uses a standard network file system as a unified data store and resource pool for both containers and VMs, enabling an enterprise to use both types of compute provisions with the same storage.

Support for VMs was an important feature for NetApp to include even as Kubernetes container storage remains a target audience for the service, said Eric Han, vice president of product management at NetApp.

"It was a consciously debated point," he said. "Customers are moving to containers, but they still have VMs. It's expensive to modernize." 

Astra Data Store complements NetApp's two other Kubernetes services, Astra Control Service and Astra Control Center, but will be available for purchase independently. Astra Control Service is a cloud-based service for Kubernetes clusters managed by NetApp. Astra Control Center is a Kubernetes cluster management service for on-premises storage managed by the customer.

Astra Data Store works with standard NAS clients, including those not part of NetApp's OnTap brand, and with the major cloud hyperscalers, according to Han. 

"We support the native clients you have and it's extensible," he said. "It's Kubernetes-built data fabric."

Compatibility between VMs and Kubernetes containers is a boon for enterprises that run applications in both environments, said Ray Lucchesi, president of Silverton Consulting.

"Now you can have your containers and VMs effectively accessing the same [storage]," Lucchesi said.

Although pricing wasn't immediately available, Han said the cost would remain "very competitive" with other storage-as-a-service products. A preview will be publicly available in the next several months with general availability targeted for the first half of 2022, according to NetApp.

The container port of call

The new storage service targets the growing market of users creating and maintaining container-based applications for frequent enterprise use, said Dave Raffo, senior analyst at Evaluator Group.

Astra is still the wild card.
Dave RaffoSenior Analyst, Evaluator Group

Services providing persistent storage for Kubernetes applications across on-premises and cloud environments are a continuously growing market, Raffo added, and can become an infrastructure headache for storage admins if left unmanaged.

"You want to let developers go in there and provision storage while they're provisioning applications, but you want traditional IT people to go in there and make sure the data is backed up properly," Raffo said.

Astra Data Store puts NetApp, an established storage vendor, into direct competition with vendors in the emerging container storage service field, which includes Pure Storage's Portworx, IBM's Spectrum Fusion and Robin.io's Cloud Native Storage.

The Astra portfolio, meanwhile, is still a relatively new addition to the Kubernetes landscape, and Data Store will need to establish itself during the public preview, Raffo said, despite the legacy of NetApp's other storage products.

"Astra is still the wild card," Raffo said. "That's where [NetApp is] still unproven. It's a new type of storage, but it's very early days for this stuff."

NetApp formally launched the Astra data management services into general availability in March as the vendor's first non-storage product.

Other companies offering managed storage services, especially those with a prior on-premises focus such as NetApp, will likely roll out container storage services for hybrid deployments soon enough, said Steve McDowell, senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

"I expect to see similar things from Dell and HPE moving forward," McDowell said. "NetApp has bet big on cloud-native. This is a natural progression."

Tim McCarthy is a journalist living in the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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