Cloud native data plane on Kubernetes

MayaData announced the availability of Kubera this week. Kubera brings the OpenEBS Enterprise Edition, Litmus, and what we sometimes call Director, and available 24/7 support for the same, under one product to help you run your workloads on Kubernetes.  And it is SaaS and easy to adopt as you may have heard.

Cloud native data plane on Kubernetes

How did we get here?

This is the beginning of a technical blog series. Please bear with me for a paragraph or so - first, I'd like to share my "Infrastructure evolution lessons learned in the last 20 years". I will explain why the cloud-native data plane on Kubernetes is historically such an exciting and important milestone.

To be clear, I’m Intel_8086 & 💾 years old, but I have missed the punch cards. Twenty five years ago, Storage Administrator was not a job description. Most of my early career was spent locked up in dark and cold datacenters, hacking my way out either punching cables or dealing with networking issues via the Cisco IOS shell. Performance improvement meant replacing failed drives with a back-then my favorite two-platter SCSI Quantum Fireball 1.2GB drives.

First WWW server located at CERNFirst WWW server located at CERN with its original sticker that says: "This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!" 
hoto Credit: Binary Koala

Most software developers didn’t know what a server looked like (like the above image of a web server at CERN). A few of us knew SCSI cabling and putting the right pins in place on ATA/SCSI drives. The summary is Servers & Networking & Storage hardware were the king and queens of the infrastructure. If you knew how to configure proprietary HW like Cisco, Quantum, IBM (maybe NetApp - it was a new cool startup) - you were a part of the elite-IT and high-paid group.  

Then we met consumer-grade hypervisors. Virtualization is older than me and existed since the mainframe days from the late 1960s. With the increasing commercial success of ESXi,  KVM, XEN and Hyper-V, we all started dealing with hypervisors; and hardware vendors had deep integration with hypervisor APIs. VMware Certified Professionals (VCP) replaced the proud hardware folks on job boards. First, we virtualized the compute, then networking (vSwitches, NSX, firewalls), and finally, storage (vSAN) completed the trio (Compute & Network & Storage - again). Hypervisor was the king of the infrastructure. HCI startups offering a combined software-defined (SDx) solutions got the attention of legacy hardware vendors. HW slowly became a commodity. You would take an off-the-shelf server box, add off-the-shelf parts + hypervisor and 💥 you got a new 🔥 solution everyone is looking for. Hardware vendors resisted, but hypervisors won 🥇.

Then our development cycles got faster; we met Agile, cloud, OpenStack, two-pizza teams, webscale & mobile applications, and DevOps. Developers and support teams didn’t want to deal with hardware or installing and maintaining hypervisors either. Simplicity and speed to getting into production have made hypervisors a commodity. We all started consuming cloud VM instances. We wrote our software to talk to cloud vendor APIs. Practically hypervisors became a commodity, making the cloud the king of the infrastructure. Cloud certified IT folks & SREs replaced the hypervisor certified professionals on the chart. Major cloud vendors AWS, GCP, Azure and DO became a provider of the famous trio and more (Compute & Network & Storage & other 5654 SDx solutions - again). Hypervisor vendors resisted, but cloud won 🥇.

Kubernetes, crossing the chasm (aka Graduating), is the new "👸/🤴", and you can’t resist it for long - You got my point. History repeats itself; first, we got cloud native application, then cloud native networking and cloud native dataplane is the last piece of the puzzle completing the famous trio to run both stateless and stateful applications natively without the weight and dependencies of old-generation stack.

Finally, we can fully take advantage of loosely coupled cloud-native APIs and accelerate the application rollout cycle with CI/CD - the way they are meant to be. We can learn from previous patterns and let cloud vendors become a commodity by consuming Kubernetes APIs and abstract all our dependencies. 

TL;DR - Kubera is SaaS that makes it easy to use Kubernetes itself as your data layer.  It is free forever for individual use.  Get started ➡️

MayaData built Kubera to help you to bring your data layer to your Kubernetes platform and abstract data dependencies on any cloud or onprem. Now, let’s get to the technical talk 👨‍💻. 

Before Starting

All you need is a Kubernetes cluster and Kubera account to start with. Kubernetes provide platform abstraction, cloud native software runs and behaves the same whether it is on a hosted Kubernetes service like AWS EKS, Google Cloud GKE, Microsoft AKS, DigitalOcean Kubernetes Service or self managed distributions based on Red Hat OpenShift and Rancher. I don’t need to mention here that you can also use your favorite Certified Kubernetes Installer like kubeadm, kops, kubespray, minikube,etc. 

Since you made it here, we assume you already have one configured. MayaData team has proudly over 50 CKAs, years of experience in building for enterprises and running Kubernetes in production. If you need professional help to decide, we can connect you with one of our trusted partners. In case you want to learn more, just schedule a call with us and I will send you a copy of my newly published book Kubernetes - A Complete DevOps Cookbook.

Installing dataplane using Kubera

We will be using a Kubernetes cluster deployed on AWS during this guide. This guide will help you to add your cluster to Kubera, install OpenEBS Enterprise Edition and create a storage pool to be consumed by your workload. Let’s review our setup used for the configuration:

  • 3 Nodes in AWS (3x m5a.large)
  • 2 vCPUs / node 
  • 8 GiB memory / node
  • 2x 100 GiB volumes / node

Before you start, make sure iSCSI client (initiator) packages (open-iscsi or iscsi-initiator-utils). If you are going to deploy RWX volumes also make sure NFS client binaries (nfs-common) required for nfs-provisioner are installed on your worker nodes. 

Login to your free Kubera account:

Turn Kubernetes into data plane
  1. Follow the instructions to connect your cluster to your Kubera account:
    Connect to your Kubernetes cluster
  2. Copy and execute the command on your own Kubernetes cluster:
    Connect to Director by applying single YAML file
    One important component Kubera introduces is the enterprise hardened, platform validated and long-term enterprise-support backed edition of OpenEBS called OpenEBS Enterprise Edition. It is based on the same 100% open source code. MayaData built extensive list of E2E and platform validation to make sure a release is compliant with your platform or naturally evolving Kubernetes APIs.

  3. Now, follow the basic installation setup to install OpenEBS Enterprise Edition on your cluster:
    Install OpenEBS Enterprise Edition
  4. The installation will complete the deployment of OpenEBS Enterprise Edition components shortly:OpenEBS Enterprise Edition components are validated
  5. Once complete, you will see OpenEBS control-plane enabled on your cluster:OpenEBS control-plane enabled on your cluster

Attaching disks to nodes

Now we will add two additional devices to each node. Disks will be later consumed in your first cloud-native storage pool. This step can be done through your cloud vendor's web user interface, or if you are running in a VM, you can use your hypervisor to add two additional virtual devices to each node. In this example, we have used AWS and added the disks using the AWS CLI tool.

Get list of InstanceId:
$ aws ec2 describe-instances --region us-east-1 --instance-ids |grep InstanceId
                	"InstanceId": "i-0cd445e7ca521fc37",
                	"InstanceId": "i-0977304f66206fc2e",
                	"InstanceId": "i-0fa3e88de9b48cde1",
Repeat the step below to create six 100 GiB volumes.
$ aws ec2 create-volume --volume-type gp2 --size 100 --region us-east-1 --availability-zone us-east-1a
    "AvailabilityZone": "us-east-1a",
    "CreateTime": "2020-05-20T21:23:08.000Z",
    "Encrypted": false,
    "Size": 100,
    "SnapshotId": "",
    "State": "creating",
    "VolumeId": "vol-064eb8e0dbb8ce05b",
    "Iops": 300,
    "Tags": [],
    "VolumeType": "gp2"
Repeat the comment below for each devices created and attach two devices to each node:
# Disk 1 to worker node 1
$ aws ec2 attach-volume --volume-id vol-064eb8e0dbb8ce05b --instance-id i-0977304f66206fc2e --device /dev/sdf
# Disk 2 to worker node 1
$ aws ec2 attach-volume --volume-id vol-0c14266e24b98c637 --instance-id i-0977304f66206fc2e --device /dev/sdg
# Disk 3 to worker node 2
$ aws ec2 attach-volume --volume-id vol-00bac9f9d7a623fc7 --instance-id i-0fa3e88de9b48cde1 --device /dev/sdf
# Disk 4 to worker node 2
$ aws ec2 attach-volume --volume-id vol-06adf03dc10d30e42 --instance-id i-0fa3e88de9b48cde1 --device /dev/sdg
# Disk 5 to worker node 3
$ aws ec2 attach-volume --volume-id vol-034975e2be74e83f7 --instance-id i-01625c00d97cbbc89 --device /dev/sdf
# Disk 6 to worker node 3
$ aws ec2 attach-volume --volume-id vol-00549c87fd774d0b8 --instance-id i-01625c00d97cbbc89 --device /dev/sdg

Creating storage pools using Kubera

In this section we will create a storage pool for your stateful workloads. OpenEBS is granular storage solution with a few storage engine options. You can read about the difference between Jiva, cStor and Dynamic Local PV here. In this guide, we will use cStor since we are taking advantage of disk pooling capabilities and later in the series we will talk about block-based scheduled backup functionality. 

You can create cStor pool direct from Kubera interface under Management > Storage Pools menu.

  1. Click on Create a new pool button to start:

  2. Choose the CStor storage pool type:

  3. Name your cStor pool cluster cstorpool and select a RAID level (Mirror, since we have added only two devices to each node in our example). RAID level selection here applies at node-level, replication is defined in the storage class definition. For example, you can choose Stripe, continue to add additional disks later to increase pool size and still have high availability by choosing 3-way replication at cluster-level:

  4. Scroll down, use all capacity and select all worker nodes detected with 2 devices. Finally, click on the Generate Cluster config button:

  5. Once the cluster config YAML is generated click on Create to apply changes:
  6. When a new storage pool is created you will see the summary and available capacity under Storage Pools menu:

Create a Storage Class

Replace the cstorPoolCluster value below with your pool name and run the command below to create a Storage Class that we will later use to create 3-way replicated persistent volumes (PV):

$ cat EOF | kubectl apply -f -
kind: StorageClass
  name: openebs-csi-cstor-disk
allowVolumeExpansion: true
  cas-type: cstor
  replicaCount: "3"
  cstorPoolCluster: cstorpool

Setting OpenEBS Storage Class as default

Change the default storage class from your current setting to OpenEBS. For example, in our case, using AWS default storage class is set to gp2.

  1. Unset the default gp2 storage class:
    $ kubectl patch storageclass gp2 -p '{"metadata":{"annotations":{"":"false"}}}'
  2. Now define openebs-csi-cstor-disk as the default StorageClass:
    $ kubectl patch storageclass openebs-csi-cstor-disk -p '{"metadata":{"annotations":{"":"true"}}}'

Verify default Storage Class

List the storage classes and verify openebs-csi-cstor-disk is set to default:

$ kubectl get sc
NAME                           	PROVISIONER                                            	AGE
default                                                 	19m
gp2                                                     	19m
openebs-csi-cstor-disk (default)                                   	29s
openebs-device                                               	7m4s
openebs-hostpath                                             	7m4s
openebs-jiva-default                             	7m6s
openebs-snapshot-promoter   7m5s

Optional: Deploy NFS Provisioner for RWX mode

This is an optional step, in case you are going to deploy workloads like Wordpress or Magento that can take advantage of ReadWriteMany (RWX) mode persistent volumes. 

Create a namespace, in our example nfs-workloadname.
$ kubectl create ns nfs-workloadname
Deploy NFS server provisioner using Helm.
$ helm install stable/nfs-server-provisioner --namespace=nfs-workloadname --name=openebs-nfs-magento --set=persistence.enabled=true,persistence.storageClass=openebs-csi-cstor-disk,persistence.size=50Gi,,
A storage class named nfs-sc1 has now been created and is available to provision dynamic volumes.

This will create a storage class for creating your PersistentVolumeClaim (PVC) with the correct storageClassName attribute. For example:

kind: PersistentVolumeClaim
apiVersion: v1
  name: test-dynamic-volume-claim
  storageClassName: "nfs-sc1"
    - ReadWriteOnce
      storage: 100Mi
Verify NFS Storage Class:
$ kubectl get sc
NAME                               PROVISIONER                                                AGE
default                                                        13h
gp2                                                            13h
Nfs-sc1                                                               44s
openebs-csi-cstor-disk (default)                                       6m45s
openebs-device                                                      3h1m
openebs-hostpath                                                    3h1m
openebs-jiva-default                                    3h1m
openebs-snapshot-promoter   3h1m

Deploy your application

Now either use your preferred method (aka the YAML or Helm way) providing the storage class you have created above or follow one of our step-by-step stateful workload deployment guides listed below to get your applications up and running. 

What is Next? 

Next in the Easy way with Kubera series, we will discuss the topics below:

  • Planning your K8s Backup & DR Strategy 
  • Getting workload metrics on K8s should be easier
  • Using live support and knowledge base to address stateful workload questions
  • Troubleshooting Service Mesh health
  • Using Kubera off-cluster logs archives 

Some Useful Links:

Blog - Announcing Kubera
Sign up for Kubera
MayaData Resources
Kubera Help Center

Kumar Indrajeet
Kumar has 10 years' experience in the design, implementation, management of enterprise distributed systems, and highly available clustered solutions. Expert in Architecting Cloud infrastructure, migration to containers, cost optimization, security enhancements, and predictive monitoring. Certified Professional with expertise in AWS, Openstack, Linux, and DevOps concepts. Persuasive communicator with good analytical, logical, and multitasking skills. Adroit at analyzing and understanding organizational requirements.
Niladri is a CSAT Solutions / Support Engineer at MayaData. He works with Kubernetes, Docker, and the rest of the stack down below.
Kiran Mova
Kiran Mova is a Passionate Technologist with 17 years of extensive experience working for product companies like Cisco, Lucent, Novell. Kiran has led efforts in performance engineering, simplifying the products in terms of usability, operation and deployment complexities, introducing multi-tenancy and enabling SAAS services in domains like IP/Optical Networks, Storage and Access Management. At MayaData, Kiran leads overall architecture and is responsible for architecting, solution design and customer adoption of OpenEBS and related software. Kiran evangelizes open culture and open source execution models and is a lead maintainer and contributor to the OpenEBS project Passionate about Storage Orchestration. Contributor and Maintainer OpenEBS projects. Chief Architect MayaData Inc. Open Source Dreamer