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Three men and a container engine: Let's commoditise this baby

Bright backgrounds for dark arts of Portworx containerised storage

Backgrounder Portworx Enterprise hits general availability in July to provide containerised storage for containers. The software runs on commodity servers, captures and aggregates their storage into a virtual SAN providing scale-out block storage, then provides storage for containers, at container granularity, and with a global namespace.

The software creates virtual volumes, which are visible across a cluster of Portworx servers

It features:

  • Container-granular snapshots and replication,
  • Multi-cluster visibility and management,
  • Predictive capacity management,
  • Global file namespace,
  • and enables storage policies such as container-level class of service (low, medium, high), IOPS, replication, and availability.

Storage is deployed in seconds, runs at bare-metal speeds, and is said to scale and burst to hundreds of containers. Portworx can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud.

There are three Portworx founders:

  • Murli Thirumale - CEO and previously co-founder and CEO of Ocarina, which was bought by Dell;
  • Goutham (Gou) Rao - CTO and previously a co-founder at Ocarina;
  • and Eric Han - senior director of Product Management and ex-Product Manager for Container Engine and Kubernetes at Google.

Murli Thirumale

With containers spinning up and down quickly, provisioned storage can easily be lost and left stranded. Co-founder and product director Eric Ran said: “When you give people a tool like this they can get sloppy - and the Amazon bill creeps up.”

There is a lot of metadata and this can be queried to find, for example, dead volumes or old volumes, and remove them in a scripted way. It also has the ability to audit.”

Co-founder and CTO Gou Rao says: “Ultimately, what a container wants is a file system. We provide block storage and a global name system.”

Portworx provides the persistent storage that containers need with the quickness, speed and simplicity that they need as well. This new world of micro-services delivered from containerised commodity servers is coming towards us at lightning speed.


Goutham Rao

Naturally the incumbent storage players with their legacy architectures are responding to the containerisation way. Rao says that Docker plugins for StoreServ, SolidFire, EMC, etc, are not as agile and as integrated with (Docker) scheduler as Portworx. If these legacy architecture players were to start from a fresh slate then that would be competitive.

He says there is a cultural chasm between old school legacy suppliers and Docker era people. Cloud-native is a breath of fresh air. DevOps people recoil when they hear talk of old-school storage firms.

Han’s view is that if you have to have specific hardware for containerisation you're already started in the wrong direction. It has to be COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) hardware for cost-efficiency and other reasons.

Eric Han

Eric Han

How fast things move. Server-centric and software-defined storage is the new normal with physical SANs and filers old school. The main benefits of containerisation are cost, server-efficiency and application development speed.

Portworx, Hedvig, StorageOS and other containerised storage startups see themselves bringing storage into the modern age, seizing an opportunity to get plugged into the container movement and make a storage land-grab so the incumbents are kept out.

It will be fun seeing if their claims are true, and whether legacy storage container plug-ins really are lipstick on pigs.

There are three pricing models for Portworx Enterprise, all per server node, and they are for cloud, technical computing and larger servers. Get a Portworx Enterprise datasheet here (pdf) and the free Portworx Developer version datasheet here (pdf). ®

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