NetApp unveils Project Astra for Kubernetes love-in

NetApp today launched Project Astra, an initiative aimed at developing application data lifecycle management for Kubernetes-orchestrated containerised applications.

This is to be NetApp’s replacement for the now-cancelled NetApp Kubernetes Service (NKS), which did not support other Kubernetes distributions or provide data lifecycle services.

Anthony Lye, head of NetApp cloud data services, said: “Project Astra will provide a software-defined architecture and set of tools that can plug into any Kubernetes distribution and management environment.” 

That means containerised data creation, protection, re-use, archiving and deletion. Astra is based on the conviction that a stateful micro-services application and its data are a single entity and must be managed accordingly. For NetApp, container portability across environments really means container and data portability.

Astra is a work in progress and is conceived of as a cloud-delivered service. It has a managing element called the Astra control tower, which discovers applications and their data orchestrated by any Kubernetes distribution in public clouds or on-premises. 

The Astra control tower then optimises storage for performance and cost, unifies or binds the application with data management and provides backup and restore facilities for the containerised app and data entity.

The apps are conceived of as using data sources and generators such as Cassandra, Kafka, PostgreSQL and TensorFlow. Their data is stored on NetApp storage in AWS, Azure, GCP or on-premises ONTAP arrays. That means Cloud Volumes Service for AWS and GCP, and Azure NetApp Files. Astra provides authorisation and access control, storage provisioning, catalogs and app-data lifecycle tracking.

Astra’s control tower also handles portability, moving the app and its data between public clouds and the on-premises ONTAP world.

Project Astra sees NetApp collaborating with developers and operations managers to extend the capabilities of Kubernetes to stateful, data-rich workloads. NetApp intends to offer Astra as a service or as built-in code.

Eric Han.

Eric Han, NetApp’s Project Astra lead, was the first product manager for Kubernetes at Google in 2014. He said in today’s press release: “With Project Astra, NetApp is delivering on the true promise of portability that professionals working with Kubernetes require today and is working in parallel with the community and our customers to make all data managed, protected, and portable, wherever it exists.” 


NetApp is competing with Portworx, which aims to help Kubernetes manage containerised apps and infrastructure for all workloads. A containerised app lifecycle will be managed by Kubernetes with high-availability, disaster recovery, backup and compliance extensions. In a sense Portworx aims to be an orchestrator of storage services for containers while NetApp intends to be both an orchestrator and supplier of such storage services.