NetApp, Kubernetes and Containerisation: Delivering High-Performing Cloud-Based, Data-Driven Applications in Malaysia and Beyond

The economic recovery of many organisations today relies on how they leverage their cloud strategies. This is because the cloud allows them to deliver services across the business landscape where flexibility and scalability are some of the competitive advantages.

Organisations can do this through containerisation, which provides them with the capabilities to deploy anything from a small microservice or software process to a larger application on multiple environments.

Talking about the benefits of containerisation, Azrin Shukor, Country Manager, Malaysia & Brunei, NetApp said in an interview with DSA that cloud-based, data-driven applications contributed to Malaysia’s economic recovery as the country fights against COVID-19 in two ways.

First, it enabled local businesses to maintain business continuity. “For example, ride-hailing and food delivery applications that are born in the cloud have been pivotal in supporting the Malaysian gig economy by scaling their platforms quickly to provide riders job opportunities and create additional channels for restaurants to reach customers during lockdowns,” explained Azrin.

Why Companies Are Embracing the Kubernetes Movement

Cloud-based applications driven by containerisation objectives also empower productivity, as various software and tools are readily available for the employees to use. Azrin added that it is with cloud technology that applications are able to quickly scale for data storage, with guaranteed availability that ensures the business is able to meet the demands from customers.

This is why companies are prioritising the development and deployment of these applications into containerised platforms. For Azrin, containers are becoming a must-have platform in the IT architecture, as they offer benefits of immutable infrastructure with predictable, repeatable, and faster development and deployments.

In fact, he shared that more than 75 per cent of global organisations will be running containerised applications in production by 2022, up from less than 30 per cent in 2020, according to Gartner.

However, he added that while it is easy to create lots of containers across your applications, several questions come into play: How do you manage when the scale is at tens of thousands of these containers when the containers have lifetimes of a few seconds to minutes? And how do you optimise resource utilisation in a large-scale containerised environment?

And this is where Kubernetes comes in.

“Kubernetes makes it possible to automate the deployment, scaling and management of containerised applications. This enables developers to define how the applications should run and the ways they should interact with other applications or in hybrid cloud environments,” said Azrin.

Kubernetes makes applications more resilient and portable, so IT can move them easily between different cloud and on-premises environments. This leads to faster time to markets, IT cost optimisation, improved scalability and availability, multi-cloud/hybrid cloud flexibility, and effective migration to the cloud. As such, NetApp believes that containers and Kubernetes are the future of computing for modern cloud-based, data-driven applications. Azrin views Kubernetes as the next-generation cluster operating system that will run all workloads, both modern and traditional, over time.

Closing the Gap Between Stateless and Stateful Containers

Unfortunately, the lack of enterprise-grade persistence and data management services such as data protection and disaster recovery in Kubernetes is forcing many organisations to make sub-optimal choices regarding their stateful Kubernetes workloads. For example, they may run their stateful applications outside of Kubernetes clusters and manage them separately, while running only stateless applications inside Kubernetes that depend on external services for storing their state and data.

Azrin then explained the vital difference between ‘stateless’ and ‘stateful’ applications on Kubernetes, and why the latter is much harder to accomplish – especially from a data management perspective.

According to him, stateless applications do not store knowledge of or reference past transactions. An example of a stateless transaction would be that after entering a search online today, you would still need to type in the same keywords again if you want to revisit the same search results the next day. In contrast, stateful applications are performed with the context of previous transactions, such as online streaming services that are able to remember where you left off when you last watched a show.

Most of the popular applications that we depend on today, including the popular ride-hailing and food delivery applications, are stateful applications.

When it comes to Kubernetes, it has always supported stateless applications, which are horizontally scalable due to the interchangeability of each pod that a set of containers deployed and scaled together. On the other hand, stateful applications require stronger guarantees for the storage they use, as they are recording business-critical information that requires persistent storage with an independent lifetime.

What’s more, another critical gap in Kubernetes is the need to unify application and data management once a volume is set. Many organisations that adopt Kubernetes have been able to achieve application portability but they have also realised that the associated data and data services, including storing, governing, protecting, and replicating data are not easy to consume and not portable.

Until recently, organisations had to do it manually or in multiple piecemeal steps at the infrastructure or application level, which adds complexity and inefficiency. Azrin added that it is not until NetApp developed solutions to address it in a Kubernetes-native way that stateful applications on Kubernetes became easier to manage.

Unleashing the Power of Data

NetApp saw the promise that Kubernetes held for stateful enterprise workloads early on, which led them to develop NetApp Trident, a dynamic, open-source external storage orchestrator. According to Azrin, it enables organisations to easily consume persistent storage from NetApp’s storage portfolio, both on-premises and in the cloud, and is today used as a persistent storage provider to back thousands of Kubernetes applications.

Such capabilities are important for organisations looking towards the management and improvement of both their stateless applications, which Kubernetes has always supported and stateful applications, which require stronger guarantees for the storage.

As a testament to their capabilities, NetApp has partnered with AstraZeneca to aid its Covid-19 vaccine development and roll-out. AstraZeneca needed to ensure that data managed by all four of their hyperscalers is available whenever and wherever the research and development team needs it, and this is where NetApp comes in.

NetApp is being used to help AstraZeneca collate the data across the four hyperscalers it works with, facilitate the data with partners and research institutes, and to inform the development of other COVID-19 treatments and therapies. This creates a data fabric so that relevant personnel can access data in multiple environments.

Azrin ended by saying that NetApp’s data fabric ultimately helps organisations unleash the power of data to meet demands and gain a competitive edge and allows IT to better harness the power of the hybrid cloud, build a hybrid multi-cloud experience and modernise storage through data management.

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