# How It Works

# Overview

Storidge volumes are hyper-converged. The volumes created by Storidge draw from storage resources on the same hosts where the application containers are running. These storage resources can be local attached (e.g. physical disks on host, ephemeral drives on AWS) or networked attached (e.g. LUN from a SAN, EBS volumes). The storage resources that Storidge consumes are block devices that shows in /dev without partitions or file systems.

During intialization of a cluster, the Container I/O (CIO) software will automatically discover, add and organize drive types (hard disks, SSDs, NVMe devices) it finds in /dev into separate storage groups. A mix of drive types is supported to have different classes of performance and media costs.

Within a cluster, each node has the CIO software and the Docker daemon. The CIO software pools storage resources from each host to form a persistent storage layer (Container IO Distributed Storage below) from which applications can programmatically consume block, file and object storage. This virtualization layer provide not just storage capacity but also data management capabilities to protect data and keep it highly available. Just as an Orchestration System provides management across a cluster for application containers, Storidge plays a parallel role to provide storage orchestration and data management services for stateful applications in the cluster.

cio swarm cluster

Storidge integrates with orchestration systems through a plugin API. Our volume plugin and CIO software is installed on every member node of a cluster and enables storage to be natively provisioned from within a Docker environment. Application containers consume Storidge volumes by passing requests through the Orchestration System. Requests for Docker storage are forwarded through the CIO volume plugin and processed by the Container IO Distributed Storage layer which manages the lifecycle of the virtual volumes.

# Why Storidge Abstraction Layer?

Storidge adds the capabilities below to a container cluster:

  • surpass limitations of static infrastructure
  • automated volume management and storage operations
  • automatic data locality
  • data redundancy with network RAID
  • effortless high availability for applications
  • efficient shared capacity
  • auto capacity expansion for stateful apps
  • pooled performance from storage aggregation

Storidge abstraction layer

Why add a persistent storage layer when volumes can be attached to instances on the cloud or from traditional storage in a private cloud? The following sections step through what happens when no abstraction layer exists, and how life improves with a persistent storage layer.

# Surpass Infrastructure Limitations

You can run multiple containers in a cloud instance. Using AWS as an example, EBS volumes can be provisioned, attached to the instance and passed to each container through a bind mount directory after formatting a file system and mounting the volume. This works well for single instance configurations but does not deliver the benefits of availability and scalability that comes with an orchestrated cluster of nodes.

With a cluster the same approach can be taken to provision multiple EBS volumes, sized to each application container. When a node fails or if the container is rescheduled, the container restarts on a new node and the volume for the container has to be detached and remounted to the new node. Moving the volume takes a long time, requires scripting to cloud APIs and is sometimes inconsistent. When a volume cannot be successfully remounted to an operational node, the application container cannot be restarted. Similar remounting issues happen in a private cloud with LUNs that are moved between virtual servers, using protocols such as iSCSI that were designed for static environments instead of dynamic, short lived, mobile containers.

With a persistent storage layer, provisioning a volume is as simple as running

docker service create \
--mount source=mysql-data,target=/var/lib/mysql,volume-driver=cio,volume-opt=profile=MYSQL \
--replicas 1 \
--detach=false \
--name mysql \

The --mount flag calls the cio volume plugin to create a virtual volume 'mysql-data' for the MySQL container. This virtual volume is provisioned within a Docker environment and the capacity for the volume is allocated from the persistent storage layer. This removes the need to write scripts for provisioning and managing volumes individually through cloud APIs.

When the mysql container is rescheduled, the mysql-data volume automatically moves to the new node, remounts to the same directory path and attaches to the restarted container. Since the container interacts with a virtual volume, there is no need to detach and remount cloud volumes or LUNs through cloud provider APIs. The reason is because a virtualization layer exists which removes the need for containers to operate directly with cloud volumes. This greatly simplifies operations and eliminates the need to write and maintain scripts which create platform lock-in.

The Container IO abstraction layer also provides the benefit of a consistent interface and application environment. Since the Storidge CIO software runs on virtual machines, cloud instances and bare metal servers, the APIs, commands and user experience does not change. This enables the same Docker compose files and manifests to be used on any compute platform without having to edit for platform differences.

# Automated Volume Management

Just as LVM (opens new window) provides volume management within an instance or host, Storidge's persistent storage layer provides volume management for a cluster of nodes.

The CIO software automates volume and storage operations to greatly simplify storage management. In the event of hardware failures, data and node recovery completes without operator intervention. When containers are rescheduled, storage orchestration and automatic data locality ensure consistent application performance with no operator effort.

The following section steps through a simple example of volume provisioning. When a volume creation request is received from Docker, the CIO software instantiates a local block device with a virtual disk ID at /dev/vdisk. This block device is created on the same node where the container will be running. Since containers consume storage through a file system, the block device is auto-formatted, mounted at the specified directory and passed to the container through a propagated mount in a Docker managed directory.

Using docker service create as an example

$ docker service create \
--mount source=mysql-data,target=/var/lib/mysql,volume-driver=cio,volume-opt=profile=MYSQL \
--replicas 1 \
--detach=false \
--name mysql \

This command calls the CIO volume plugin to create a volume named 'mysql-data'. The --mount flag uses profile (opens new window) MYSQL to create the volume.

The profile is a YAML (opens new window) formatted file used to specify an application’s storage requirements in terms of resources, data protection, access methods and placement. The following sample MYSQL profile comes with the CIO software installation. This profile should be edited to fit operational needs.

capacity: 10
directory: /cio/mysql
  min: 1000
  max: 5000
level: 3
local: no
provision: thin
type: ssd
  compression: no
  dedupe: no
    enabled: no
    enabled: no
    destination: none
    interval: 120
    type: synchronous
    enabled: no
    interval: 60
    max: 10

In this example, the path to mount the virtual disk is defined in the profile as /cio/mysql. The result is a named volume 'mysql-data' with a unique virtual disk ID 'vd2' mounted at /cio/mysql/vd2.

$ docker volume ls
cio:latest          mysql

$ mount | grep vd2
/dev/vdisk/vd2 on /cio/mysql/vd2 type xfs (rw,relatime,attr2,inode64,noquota)

Per the MYSQL profile, the mysql-data volume is thin provisioned, using capacity only as the application consumes it. This volume is replicated and striped across the cluster nodes and drives to ensure data redundancy and availability.

mysql volume

From the application point of view:

  • The MySQL application is unchanged. Data continues to be written to /var/lib/mysql
  • The MySQL data is written to a virtual volume on the persistent storage layer managed by Storidge
  • The MySQL data is protected with redundancy and data services provided at the persistent storage layer
  • The MySQL application is highly available as Storidge ensures the data is always accessible even in the event of drive and node failures

# Automatic Data Locality

For containers, having local storage access reduces latency and improves applications’ response times. An example would be databases where having low latency performance ensures the ability to deliver consistent transaction processing. For this reason, it is ideal to schedule containers and pods on nodes where its data is located. However containers can be rescheduled at any time to new nodes for different reasons. This makes ensuring data locality very difficult.

Enter automatic data locality. When a container is rescheduled to a new node, CIO's storage orchestrator moves the volume to the container on the new node. As host I/O requests are received, locality rebuild is triggered if data is not found locally. During locality rebuild, a storage extent is allocated and a copy of data is copied into the storage extent, i.e. data is rebuilt locally. A copy of the data on another node will be deallocated.

With data locality, optimizing data placement for local node access happens automatically, requires no configuration by operations and works with any application. No operational effort is required to deliver consistent high performance and low latency for applications.

# Data Redundancy

While cloud volumes can be provisioned for each container running in an instance, they represent single points of failures. If a volume is detached and cannot be remounted, or when access to the cloud volume is lost, the application container cannot run.

Storidge's CIO software implements distributed block storage with network RAID to ensure containers have continuous access to their data even when there are hardware failures. After a virtual volume is created, as the application container writes to the volume, it's data is replicated synchronously to other nodes for redundancy. Writes are strictly consistent and all copies are written before acknowledgement is returned.

Metadata in a Storidge cluster is fully distributed. Each node manages three copies of the metadata for volumes that it owns. Since the metadata is in the data path, this approach reduces latency by not having to reference a “master”. In addition, the size of the failure domain is reduced since there is no single point of failure.

Data redundancy is built around the concept of microdisks. Microdisks are small allocation units that are interchangeable horizontally across nodes and vertically across tiers of storage. A volume is composed of arrays of microdisks which are fully redundant. When a node fails, remaining operational nodes rebuild the volumes that it owns to restore data redundancy. Since microdisks are interchangeable, the recovery compute and IO workloads are distributed over all nodes and drives in a cluster. Recovery is fast as Storidge tracks and rebuilds only the microdisks with data written.

high availability

# Effortlesss High Availability

When a node fails, the Orchestration System will restart failed services on operational nodes. Storidge will automatically detach volumes from the failed node and mount it to the new node where the container is rescheduled. With redundant copies in the cluster, the restarted container has immediate access to data and continues running immediately on the new node. The rebuilding of the container's volume to restore data redundancy is non-blocking, and continues in the background while the containerized application is running. Failed nodes are completely removed from metadata in the cluster. This eliminates the possibility of a failed node rejoining the cluster and potentially corrupting data.

The data redundancy and availability provided by the persistent storage layer protects application containers that do not replicate their own data. This is useful for microservices and ported legacy apps that operate on the assumption of data persistence provided by underlying infrastructure.

# Efficient Capacity Sharing

Cloud volumes can be provisioned for each container running in a cloud instance. 1GB each for Grafana and Kibana, 10GB for Elasticsearch, 20GB for MySQL, etc. Each cloud volume is sized to the application and generally oversized to anticipate data growth and hopefully avoid service disruptions due to cloud volumes running out of capacity. This creates a need to monitor many individual cloud volumes, results in under utilization initially and creates the possibility of stranded capacity that is provisioned but never used.

With Storidge, storage resources from cloud volumes are aggregated into a shared pool. Virtual volumes are created on demand from the shared pool and can be thick or thin provisioned. Thin provisioned volumes starts at 32MB allocated capacity and grows as the application writes to the virtual volume. The thin provisioned volumes can be created with a capacity limit and expanded as needs grow.

Having a common storage pool allows for efficient capacity sharing as thin provisioned volumes are only allocated capacity when the application consumes it. It eliminates stranded capacity and the costs of overprovisioning for anticipated usage. Since Storidge supports 4095 virtual volumes per node, there is no practical limit to the number of application containers.

# Auto Capacity Expansion

A shared storage pool enables volume capacity for critical applications to be expanded automatically based on policy settings. The volume is expanded when a pre-defined capacity threshold is crossed at both the block and filesystem level. Since the expansion happens while the application is running, there is no disruption of services.

When auto capacity expansion is extended to all application volumes, it eliminates the need to monitor individual volumes for out of space conditions. Monitoring is greatly simplified since you only need to monitor the capacity of the storage pool.

# Pooled Performance

When cloud volumes are provisioned, the available performance is scaled to the size of the volume. Using EBS volumes as an example, the available performance is set by an initial IOPS budget, plus credits that accumulate based on the capacity of the volume. The available performance for the application is tightly coupled to that of the cloud volume. The inherent assumption that larger capacities require more performance is true for some but not all use cases.

Just as pooling cloud volumes results in higher capacity utilization and efficiency, a persistent storage layer enables performance to be pooled and shared. In using a microdisk concept to allocate storage for virtual volumes, Storidge decouples the link between capacity and performance. Storage for a virtual volume spans multiple nodes and cloud volumes, making the IOPS budget and accumulated credits of multiple cloud volumes available to a single virtual volume.

Combined with Storidge's QoS feature, this allows important databases to be provided guaranteed performance based on needs of the application. It eliminates the waste of provisioning larger capacities just to scale performance.

# Summary

Storidge's CIO software creates a very useful storage abstraction layer for stateful applications to persist, share and manage data on logical resources. This abstraction layer separates applications from underlying infrastructure, making applications more available and portable. Since the CIO software can be deployed on bare metal servers, virtual servers and multi clouds, it helps deliver applications faster because it enables uniformity across development, test and production environments.

From a business perspective, the abstraction layer is valuable because it breaks dependencies on expensive hardware refresh cycles, manual processes requiring trained experts, and practices that slows instead of helping accelerate organizational change. It also bridges a critical gap as enterprises progress on their digital transformation journey towards a more software defined data center. Modernizing storage is an important and neccessary component that any organizations must implement to fully realize IT and business transformation.

Last Updated: 9/26/2019, 2:26:13 AM