As interest in Docker containers continues to soar, IT operations teams will soon be looking for ways to make containers and virtual machines interact with the same sets of data as smoothly as possible. After all, even though containers may be the cool new technology being deployed on servers, it’s not like virtual machines are going away any time soon.
To help solve that problem, ClusterHQ, provider of the data management software for Docker containers known as Flocker, announced at the VMworld 2015 conference an alliance with VMware under which storage systems will be able to simultaneously support applications running on both Docker containers and VMware vSphere.
ClusterHQ CEO Mark Davis says that IT organizations should not be required to duplicate the investments in data storage they have already made just to support Docker. If anything, requiring IT organizations to deploy separate storage systems for Docker containers would only slow its adoption in production environments.
Under terms of the deal, a driver has been created to enable Docker container applications to have direct access to VMware vSphere-based storage, including VMware Virtual SAN and VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes. The end result should make it simpler to run stateful Docker applications directly on top of VMware vSphere. This means that Docker containers can make use of Flocker to migrate between virtual servers. Flocker, says Davis, makes it simple and practical for entire applications, including their data, to be containerized to achieve true portability between development, staging and production environments.
At the moment, there is some debate as to where best to deploy Docker containers. Some Docker proponents prefer to deploy Docker containers directly on top of bare-metal servers as an alternative to virtual machines that they argue become bloated over time. This is because IT virtual machines don’t make as efficient use of memory, while Docker containers drive higher server utilization rates. Virtual machine proponents conversely argue that virtual machines provide higher levels of security and an existing management framework around which containers can be more easily managed.
The alliance between ClusterHQ and VMware addresses IT scenarios where Docker containers are deployed on top of VMware virtual machines and it is a natural outgrowth of an existing relationship between ClusterHQ and EMC, the parent company of VMware. Earlier this year, EMC agreed to resell Flocker. Last week, NetApp, Huawei, ConvergeIO, Nexenta, Hedvig and Saratoga Speed also all added support for Flocker.
At this juncture, storage vendors are getting pretty serious about Docker containers, which should serve as an indicator that containers are heading into production environments in data centers sooner than most IT operations teams today are prepared to admit.