Container technology remains very big news, and if you bring up the topic almost everyone immediately thinks of Docker. But, there are other tools that can compete with Docker, and tools that can extend it and make it more flexible. CoreOS’s Rkt, for example, is a command-line tool for running app containers. And, ClusterHQ has an open source project called Flocker that allows developers to run their databases inside Docker containers, leveraging persistent storage, and making data highly portable.
Each of the emerging tools in the container space has unique appeal. ClusterHQ’s Flocker is especially interesting because it marries scalable, enterprise-grade container functionality with persistent storage. Many organizations working with containers are discovering that they need dependable, scalable storage solutions to work in tandem with their applications.
“At ClusterHQ we are building the data layer for containers, enabling developers and operations teams to run not just their stateless applications in containers, but their databases, queues and key-value stores as well,” the company’s CEO Mark Davis has said.
We caught up with ClusterHQ’s Vice President of Products Mohit Bhatnagar for an interview, and he notes that containers don’t handle data very well, and that companies need to run their critical data services inside containers so they can realize the full speed and quality benefits of a fully containerized architecture. He also weighed in on the prominence that open source software is gaining relative to proprietary tools.
“We are working on expanding the capabilities of Flocker to support our growing user base for sure, but we’re also expanding beyond just production operations of stateful containers,” Bhatnagar said. “We’ve heard from our users that they want to be able to manage their Docker volumes as easily on their laptop as they can in production with Flocker. To serve these needs, we’re working on creating ‘git-for-data,’ where a user can version control their data and push and pull it to a centralized Volume Hub. As they say, watch this space.”
Modern applications are being built from both stateless and stateful microservices and Flocker makes it practical for entire applications, including their state, to be containerized in order to take leverage the portability and massive per-server density benefits inherent in containers.
“Flocker is the leading volume manager for Docker because it is the most advanced technically and has the broadest integrations,” Bhatnagar added. “Flocker is used at scale from enterprises such as Swisscom to innovative startups disrupting their spaces. Our customers love Flocker because it works with all the major container managers like Docker Swarm, Kubernetes and Mesos, and integrates with all the major storage systems including Amazon, Google, EMC, NetApp, Dell, HPE, VMware, Ceph, Hedvig, Pure and more.”
Bhatnagar also discussed increasing competition in the container space. “As always, competition is great for consumers,” he said. “It leads to more choice and better products. We are excited to see standardization projects like OCI bring together Docker and CoreOS, and CNCF bring together Docker and Google Kubernetes to make sure that this competition doesn’t lead to a situation where differing standards hinder adoption.”
The Rise of Open Source
One topic that Bhatnagar is passionate about is the steady rise of open source, and its increasing popularity relative to proprietary technology.
“The open source stack and all that it engenders is driving the closed source, or proprietary, stack to be less relevant and economically feasible,” he notes. “Take, for example, the great success of Docker with containers and its resulting ecosystem. Its popularity isn’t simply due to the fact that it’s a cool company. After all, in Silicon Valley there are lots of cool companies. It is, rather, largely a result of its open source model that reflects the ascendance of software engineers in the creation and deployment of software. And open source Docker is giving closed source VMware a headache as a result.”
“For the first time in our information technology age, we can now build an entire infrastructure stack composed of x86 architecture, commodity components and an open source stack,” he added. “The fastest growth, as we know, is happening among open source companies. Developers today play a far more influential role in application development as the monolithic architectures break down. Demand for microservices, developer-centric workflows, containers, open source, big data are all part of the larger current driving information technology today.”