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The rise of Kubernetes and the growing challenge around data protection

Florian Malecki – International Product Marketing Senior Director

Johannesburg, 02 Mar 2021

While containers have been around since the 1970s, their popularity exploded with Docker in 2013. Now, container-orchestration tools like Kubernetes are rapidly transforming how applications are developed and deployed. They're doing it by enabling developers to focus exclusively on building software and delivering value. It's not an overstatement to say that containers are sparking a revolution in software development.

But if you're going to embrace containers, you must also get your arms around the issue of data protection.

To explain why, we must first define what, exactly, a container is. It's an application that bundles all its dependencies, libraries and configuration files into a single package. This bundling makes it easier to spin up new container instances and seamlessly move containers from one computing environment to another.

That's a significant advantage in a lot of ways. For instance, containers are typically used when developers want to move an application from a testing environment, such as their laptop, to a live production environment. The use of containers is also common when migrating from a physical machine to a cloud-based virtual machine.

Containers are highly beneficial in many different scenarios because they are not slowed down by differences in operating systems, software versions, etc. Indeed, containers are extremely flexible and portable, making them a natural fit for many cloud applications. As computing and storage rapidly move to the cloud, containers will likely become a vital technology for every modern organisation.

However, while container orchestration tools like Kubernetes are convenient due to their scalability and portability, they can fall short for data protection.

Why is data protection for Kubernetes so tricky? Well, for starters, a Kubernetes architecture is exceptionally fluid and dynamic. Containers are rapidly spun up and just as quickly torn down, depending on the developers' goals and specifications. That means containers are essentially temporary and have a relatively short lifespan.

What does this mean for data protection? It means that as more enterprises adopt containers, data protection will become an increasingly important issue. The growing number of organisations now using containers in their testing environment before deploying new applications are discovering that unexpected things can happen to the data during that migration and deployment.

The takeaway: properly backing up your data is particularly important – and will only become more critical in the months and years ahead.

As organisations use more containers, they will create more and more data that will need to be backed up and stored. As noted above, because containers tend to be used for testing and development, the lifespan of the containers themselves is usually shorter than the data they create. But, for compliance and other reasons, that data needs to be stored and protected long after a particular container is decommissioned or destroyed.

It's also important to note that backing up container data is not a time-based process, with data backed up every few minutes or hours. With containers, backup is more event-driven. For example, if you create a new container and you don't get the result you're hoping for, you want the ability to return to the previous state quickly. So, you need a backup at that point.

It's for all these reasons that container backup is increasingly a front-burner issue. Even though containers, by their nature, are designed for existing only when needed, organisations are realising that container data needs to last longer and must ultimately be protected.

So, what's the solution? There are several steps companies can take to ensure that their container data is stored successfully. For starters, it's vital to assess the data requirements for each containerised application. Companies should also ensure that there are protocols in place to stop container data from being needlessly overwritten. Further, companies must be aware of every container's security and access requirements in their environment.

Containerisation has provided a significant boost to application development. But organisations need to give serious consideration to storing, backing up and protecting their containerised data. By tackling the data protection issue head-on, organisations can truly reap the many benefits of container-based development and move confidently into the future.