UK Startup ClusterHQ Makes Docker Containers Data-Aware

Open source Flocker is a container management tool built to make data-backed containerized services easier to implement.

John Rath

August 13, 2014

3 Min Read

Riding the rising wave of popularity of application container technology, UK-based Hybrid Cluster renamed itself to ClusterHQ and put a focus on data portability in containers with the launch of Flocker.

Positioned as the 'data people for Docker,' ClusterHQ hopes to increase adoption of Platform-as-a-Service with its data-aware container approach. Flocker is an open source container management tool focused on the data, solving the operational challenges that come from running data-backed services inside containers. The company says Docker containers are not data-aware, which is a gap it aims to fill with Flocker 0.1, an open source volume manager for running databases, key-value stores and queues inside Docker containers.

Modern applications are distributed systems

ClusterHQ CEO Luke Marsden says that the company "will do for containers what vCenter did for VMs." The company is backed by industry veterans and Flocker is the result of more than five years of research, development and operational experience combining distributed storage with containers.

HybridCluster was a container management platform launched by the company two years ago to prove the resilience and scalability of the technology. The company estimates the burgeoning market of Linux containers to be at $1.7 billion by 2018, one-quarter of the overall $6.94 billion PaaS market.

Containers are an enabling technology for PaaS. Modern PaaS offerings are built to enable developers to build applications that can run on different kinds of infrastructure, be it a variety of cloud platforms or an on-premise environment, and Docker containers make that cross-platform portability possible.

Infrastructure as code

Flocker aims to solve some of the problems with the approach to PaaS and containers today by treating infrastructure as code, with the entire application being portable by managing stateful and stateless components. The company says Flocker will provide a lightweight volume and container manager that lets developers deploy their entire app, including its databases, to multiple hosts and then migrate them later as operations demands.

It lists three primary benefits for Flocker: to capture the entire application and data, to easily migrate databases, queues and key values with the rest of the application, and the support for deployment to and between any public, private or bare-metal clouds.

Colin Humphreys, CEO of CloudCredo, said, “Production-ready data-backed services represent the biggest challenge for PaaS adoption. Solving the data problem such that databases and other data-backed services can be run inside containers will unleash a massive amount of pent-up demand for containers and PaaS.”

Containers are in

Docker, a San Francisco startup, recently released its lightweight runtime offering for moving apps from one place to another. Docker 1.0 was supported by AWS, Google, Microsoft, Red Hat and others and the startup was recently reported to have closed on a funding round of more than $40 million.

Another major supporter is CenturyLink Technology Solutions, which yesterday announced Panamax, an open-source solution for multi-container application management.

Fueled by the success of containers ClusterHQ looks to make Docker a production-ready service for delivering modern applications.

Flocker is available on GitHub under an Apache 2.0 license. The 0.1 release is not quite ready for prime time, but the company hopes to gain some traction for the product with this release and have full functionality with a general availability launch later.

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