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Rancher launches Docker management with storage services

Nearly 2,500 customers participated in Rancher Labs' beta for its container management software that is now generally available. The application includes storage services.

Rancher Labs this week made its Rancher 1.0 open source container management software generally available. The software allows developers to deploy and manage containers in production environments.

Rancher uses a lightweight Linux-based operating system, called RancherOS, to run Docker containers. The Rancher 1.0 stack also includes persistent storage services, along with the Docker management platform to run applications in containers. The platform gives developers the ability to deploy storage with containerized applications.

Shannon Williams, Rancher Labs' founder, and vice president of sales and marketing, said the company had approximately 2,500 companies participating in its beta program that began in June 2015.

"We've gone through a nine-month process, and we got so much feedback from users. The whole cloud platform is [generally available] now, and storage plays a key role," Williams said. "You can deploy applications on all different kinds of storage."

Rancher runs virtual machines inside Docker containers, allowing customers to use the same tools for Docker management and running VMs. Rancher's persistent storage services are built on Docker 1.9 volume plug-in capabilities, so storage services run directly on container hosts.

The service can create and mount persistent Docker volumes for applications and offer vendor-specific storage capabilities, such as snapshots, backup, remote replication and data analytics. The Rancher platform runs NexentaEdge, Gluster and Ceph on a hyper-converged platform.

The hyper-converged infrastructure for Docker data containers uses Intel x86-based servers and solid-state drives. Developers can use the native Docker command-line interface and API, and expand capacity by registering instances in public clouds as computing resources. It supports other Docker management tools, Compose, Swarm and Google Kubernetes.

Docker management tools are popping up as the technology gains traction. Docker released its own management application, called Docker Datacenter, in February.

Dan MacDonald, chief architect at NuArch in Pound Ridge, N.Y., is using Rancher software and Docker for DevOps at a customer site, and Rancher's Docker management gives his team greater control over application development.

"Every time we needed a new mount point on the SAN, we needed to go through a six-month evaluation, with different levels of approval," he said. "We didn't have any operational control to get servers and storage resources for DevOps purposes. We had problems and we needed resources; the developers faced a lengthy process. It was too many layers. From an operational perspective, we get control over this again."

The containers and Docker management features allow MacDonald and his team to own a VM, and control all the resources inside the Docker image. They can set up a compute node and a node for persistent storage that has mount points to the SAN and NFS. The Docker container can plug in the storage, and can seamlessly do backup and snapshots.

"We get a bundle of nodes and string them in the environment in Rancher, and use connectors to abstract the storage for us," he said. "We can solve the problem, and it gives us a lot more freedom. We can request a virtual machine and different backup policies. Instead of putting in a ticket, we can do it ourselves."

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