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Zadara VPSA gives Docker a spin

Zadara adds Docker containers and snapshot support inside Amazon Web Services for its VPSA storage as a service offering.

Cloud storage vendor Zadara today upgraded its Virtual Private Storage Array (VPSA) service, adding support for Docker containers and snapshot-based backup to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Zadara VPSA is OpenStack-based software that enables block and file storage on AWS and other clouds. It uses a storage as a service model where customers pay for different levels of compute and capacity. Zadara also has an on-premises option.

Docker is an open source program that enables a Linux application and its dependencies to be packaged as a container.

Zadara Container Services (ZCS) allow customers to run applications inside storage on AWS rather than running code in compute servers. The goal is to reduce latency and traffic between storage and servers.

Instead of running compute with storage inside, this is storage with compute inside the storage.
Noam ShendarCOO, Zadara

"We've integrated Docker container capability into storage," Zadara COO Noam Shendar said. "We're allowing customers to take arbitrary code or applications and run them inside storage. Think of this as hyper-convergence backwards. Instead of running compute with storage inside the compute, this is storage with compute inside the storage."

EMC last week said it would support Docker containers for XtremIO and ScaleIO storage platforms. Shendar said Zadara's Docker support was different than EMC's because Zadara is putting the Docker container inside the storage, while EMC is enabling its platforms to be used as persistent back-end storage for Docker applications.

"We run the Docker container platform inside a virtual machine," he said. "The trick is to do it with the right configuration and privileges without risking security or privacy."

Shendar said when Zadara demonstrated the Docker support last week at its annual customer and partner meetings, about one-third of the customers said they have an immediate need for it.

One of those was Rob "Bubba" Hines, vice president of IT at Signature Tech Studio based in Asheville, N.C. Hines said his company has used Zadara for three years to store a large number of small files. Signature Tech manages construction projects for clients and stores mainly blueprints.

Hines said Signature runs "a few thousand jobs a day on Docker containers. We might run 200 simultaneous jobs in Docker containers."

He said he is talking with his colleagues about what applications would be a good fit to run inside Zadara storage containers. One likely use case is Crashplan backup software.

"Crashplan has to poll for changes on the file system so it can back up files to our off-site offices," Hines said. "The latency is significant when you're talking about hundreds of thousands of files over the network. Being able to run Crashplan as a Docker container inside our storage lets us get rid of that latency, and we can turn off an instance that we're running and paying for in [Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud]. I think we'll see a lot finer-grained backups at a quicker pace running it inside a Docker container inside storage.

"We also run a lot of scheduled tasks as dedicated instances in Amazon," Hines continued, "and they also poll the file system looking for changes, and then update and modify directory structures. That will also run a lot smoother inside the storage container as opposed to an EC2 instance."

Hines added ZCS will allow him to implement features inside Zadara that the vendor does not support. "If there's a feature I wish I had in my VPSA, I can implement that myself," he said.

ZCS is a licensed feature available to all Zadara VPSA customers.

Zadara's Backup to Amazon S3 automatically takes snapshots of incremental backups from VPSA to S3 object storage. The backups can be restored to Amazon Elastic Block Storage or any vendor's storage hardware.

Zadara is also making higher capacity hardware options available for VPSA. Customers can now choose 800 GB solid-state drives (SSDs) and 6 TB SATA hard disk drives. The previous maximums were 200 GB SSDs and 5 TB hard drives.

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