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VMware adds Docker storage container support

VMware adds Docker storage container support for ClusterHQ Flocker with a vSphere plug-in that lets customers use Virtual SAN as storage backend.

Startup ClusterHQ added VMware to its lineup of storage partners supporting its Flocker container data volume manager last week during VMworld 2015.

VMware combined with Cluster HQ to introduce a storage driver that supports persistent Docker storage container creation in VMware vSphere 6 and Virtual SAN (VSAN) software.

VMware integrated the open source ClusterHQ Flocker storage volume manager to allow customers to access and share vSphere-based Docker storage in the vCenter management console. The Flocker API works with VSAN and any legacy storage running under the vSphere hypervisor.

Docker Inc. developed Docker open source code for packaging a Linux application and its associated data with a shared operating system.

Adding Flocker to vSphere will hasten the use of persistent storage containers in production, said Narasimha Krishnakumar, a VMware director of product management. He said the Flocker API is available as a free download on GitHub.

"We have customers now that are running containers inside virtual machines as a way to provide resource isolation, as well as security," Krishnakumar said. "Developers are driving the adoption of containers in the enterprise. They are containerizing applications and segmenting them into multiple microservices, all of which necessitates the availability and persistence of data."

Startup ClusterHQ developed the Flocker software agent for moving containerized applications and their data across server nodes. The Flocker API gets loaded directly into a Docker storage container instance, redirecting storage volume management commands from Docker storage to the Flocker subsystem.

"We're excited to be able to take all the vSphere storage services and bring them into the Docker universe," said ClusterHQ CEO Mark Davis, who sold his former company, Virsto, to VMware in 2013. "A big part of what we're doing is enabling storage vendors to take part in what containers are capable of doing."

Storage vendors throw support behind containerized Docker storage

The Flocker-VMware integration is the latest in a series of moves by storage vendors designed to make containers viable for primary storage. VMware's parent, EMC, in June made Flocker APIs available for XtremIO and ScaleIO storage systems. 

In the storage world, there's been a move to do per-VM level storage services, where you have to carve out unique storage for each VM. With Flocker, we're letting customers set up different services and different data protection for each container.
Rob Whiteley, Hedvig vice president of marketing

Coho Data and Zadara Storage each rolled out services that enable Docker containers to run on their primary storage systems, although the two vendors are not ClusterHQ partners. In addition to EMC and VMware, ClusterHQ said NetApp, Huawei and startup Hedvig Inc. are also developing customized APIs with Flocker.

"Since we're software-defined storage, it makes sense for us to support Docker," said Rob Whiteley, Hedvig vice president of marketing. "In the storage world, there's been a move to do per-VM level storage services, where you have to carve out unique storage for each VM. With Flocker, we're letting customers set up different services and different data protection for each container."

Although vendors are taking notice of Docker storage containers, the technology does not yet easily support enterprise data protection and data reduction. Davis said that's the next challenge for his fledgling company.

"There's a lot of innovation to be done there," Davis said. "We want to solve these data management problems in a way that's container-native and container-optimized. However, the benefit of integrating with VMware is that all the data protection capabilities of vSphere are available to you with containers, so this is pretty good first step."

Next Steps

Examining data protection in Docker containers

VMware storage virtualization vs. containerization

ClusterHQ Flocker architecture overview

Dig Deeper on Storage virtualization

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How is your organization planning to deploy Docker storage containers?
Containers still have the issue with a lack of security and management tools. Until those are available, I don't know how much traction they'll get in enterprises.