Aiming to address one of the biggest pain points of running applications in Docker containers in production, a startup called Portworx came out of stealth today with a technology that automates provisioning of storage resources for containerized applications.
The startup has raised $8.5 million from the venture capital firm Mayfield Fund, with additional investment from Michael Dell, founder and CEO of the IT giant. It made the announcement in conjunction with this week's DockerCon in San Francisco.
While developers like the way Docker containers simplify the application development lifecycle, from coding to staging to production in the data center, provisioning infrastructure for multi-container applications remains a complex, tedious process that often leads to unintended consequences, Gou Rao, Portworx co-founder and CTO, said.
“Containers are just not production-ready,” he said. And the problems are predominantly with storage and networking.
Portworx is not the first startup for Rao and his co-founder Murli Thirumale, the company’s CEO. The two were also co-founders of Ocarina Networks, a storage-optimization company Dell acquired in 2010. Prior to that they founded Net6, an application-delivery solutions firm they sold to Citrix in 2007.
Data center infrastructure is generally not container-aware, which is what Portworx is trying to change. Today, infrastructure provisioning is done separately, outside of the application. You specify what infrastructure resources the application will need, provision them, and then deploy the application.
Portworx’ software solution caters to infrastructure necessities of the containerized application natively, while understanding “data center genetics,” Rao explained. By understanding data center genetics he means software that knows which servers have more flash, which have more SATA drives, which of them are dense with CPU cores or with memory.
The company’s software installs on commodity servers. It clusters storage and carves out virtual storage volumes for a container wherever it is scheduled to run.
As the container writes data to the volume, the software replicates the data synchronously for high availability. It also provides storage functionality like snapshots and cloning.
“It automates storage provisioning, and it actually provides storage implementation as well,” Rao said. “Our focus is on VMware type of experience to the customer, as opposed to do-it-yourself OpenStack kind of experience.”
Portworx plans to have a “developer playground” for its solution available in July. The company is also working with several beta customers. It plans the first full release over the next six to nine months.
The company will use a subscription model, and the solution will be available for both on-premise deployments on commodity bare-metal x86 hardware and on Amazon’s EC2 cloud.