Newbie container app data wrangling firm Kasten climbs mountain with K10

For anyone wanting to code a data protection app for containers, Kubernetes (K8s) is a great big help. Because it orchestrates container instantiation and operations, it knows everything about them that such an app needs to know. 

This theoretically puts three-year-old startup Kasten in a good position, as Kubernetes, a control plane for containers, is its gateway to container data protection. The firm uses Kubernetes to auto-discover containerised apps, and to list their components and their startup processes. K10, Kasten’s application, is a K8s data protection layer, using it and its interfaces to avoid having to have direct storage product system level integrations. 

K10 datasheet diagram.

K10 doesn’t need to understand specific array interfaces, using K8s CSI (Container Storage Interface) abstractions instead, for block interface and object interface storage devices. It works with any CSI-supporting storage system.

Migration and disaster recovery are covered as well because Kubernetes enables K10 to snapshot a container’s entire state, not just the data it needs protecting. That means the K10-protected container can be moved to a different system and instantiated there; migration, and also sent to a disaster recovery site and kept there until needed.

Incremental changes can be snapshotted at intervals and sent to the remote site to keep it up to date. The remote sites can be in public clouds or on-premises, as can the source site. Wherever K8s runs then Kasten’s K10 can run; it is itself a containerised application.

Trad backup apps can’t cut it

Tolia told Blocks & Files in a briefing that in the containerised world, the app is the operational unit for backup and not, for example, the virtual machine. He said that, with K8s and containers: “The software application monolith is blown up.”

K10’s application and storage supplier eco system.

Mentioning a Fortune 1000 customer with 106 K8s pods and 538 app components, he said: “Traditional backup software can’t protect this. Recovery is very hard [and] scripting is too complex.”

Kasten backgrounder

The company was started up in the Bay Area in 2017 by CEO Niraj Tolia and Engineering VP Vaibhav Kamra. It raised $17m in a A-round of VC funding from Insight Partners in summer last year and has set up a second office in Salt Lake City.

Kasten co-founders: CEO Niraj Tolia (left) and VP Vaibhav Kamra.

Tolia and Kamra were previously involved with cloud storage gateway business Maginatics which was bought by EMC in 2014. Its IP included a distributed scale-out filesystem.

The CEO was Maginatic’s VP of engineering and Kamra its engineering director. Both stayed with EMC until leaving to found Kasten.

Tolia calls K10 a data management facility for containerised apps; preferring that term to data protection, since it provides migration and DR on top of backup. To find out more detail, check out a K10 data sheet.

B&F view

Kasten is fresh in the market and in a good place, with K8s orchestration set to become a standard feature of enterprise IT.

But two factors make the startup’s mid- and long-term position vulnerable to future attack. One is that it backs up entire containerised apps which can be re-instantiated. In other words it does not write them in a proprietary backup format, making it non-sticky in a backup application sense.

Secondly its gateway to the world of containerised app information is K8s, and that is open source, meaning anybody else can use it too. 

Indeed Cohesity already does, and K8s-orchestrated container apps are just one of its backup source systems, which include multi-hypervisor VMs, physical server apps, such as relational and distributed databases, and the main public clouds, not available to Kasten. Cohesity can provide container app data protection, migration and disaster recovery too, like Kasten, but also file storage services, copy data management, archiving and more. 

Other data protection suppliers could build their own K8s-based on-ramp to container backup as well, or buy the technology by buying a supplier, such as Kasten. It is easier for them to do that than for Kasten, with its limited resources, to expand into generalised backup or data management and take them on in their own product areas. 

In B&F’s view, the ability to protect K8s-orchestrated apps will become table stakes for every data protection supplier in five or so years’ time. It will be a feature and not, as it is now for Kasten, a basis for a product. Time is short and Kasten has to move fast.

Footnote

For mountaineering wonks, K10 is a peak in the Karakoram range, otherwise known as Saltoro Kangri 1. It is the 31st highest mountain in the world.

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