The Rise Of Platform Engineering, Kubernetes Data Plane Services

Seal Beach, CA – December 16: A person looks out over the ocean with a view of oil platform Esther … [+] and container ships off the coast of Seal Beach, CA on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In the cloud, infrastructure is everything. If there is one theme coming out of the cloud computing industry right now it is the need to provide controls that manage more complex infrastructure base layer functions. As we build the new era of cloud-native computing systems, we are now gravitating towards technologies that enable us to change the way the very kernel of the cloud backbone actually operates.

Development of technologies like eBPF and Cilium are giving rise to a new era of so-called ‘platform teams’ that don’t just program software application development tasks or look after operations, they perform platform engineering functions to change the very instrumentation of cloud-native systems.

Self-service engineering

Parallel to this renewed focus on the base layer (spoiler alert, the cloud is not above us, it’s below us in the datacenter and at the inner core we find storage, networking and infrastructure services) are efforts to provide self-service technologies i.e. those functions and services that engineers need, but now delivered -as-a-Service in and of themselves inside cloud layers.

So what is platform engineering, who is doing it and what does it involve?

This sector of information technology is focussed on the ability to tune, develop and change the way the compute kernel works inside any given system – we are talking about serverless computing and automated provisioning – we are talking about programmable infrastructures and Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) and we are talking about creating software application development environments that are container-ready and aligned for the advantages of Kubernetes orchestration.

Working at this lower substrate layer of cloud enablement and enlightenment is Mountain View headquartered Pure Storage.

Kubernetes-ready data plane

The company has now come forward with a new fully managed service for Portworx Enterprise (a multi-cloud ready Kubernetes data services and storage platform with elastic scalability) to bring a Kubernetes-ready data plane (the part of any network where information is located, transferred from and so becomes ‘traffic’, part of the management plane & control plane triumvirate) to every developer that works on containerised applications.

With Portworx Enterprise 3.0 as the underlying platform for this managed service (note that Portworx was acquired by Pure Storage in September 2020 and now operates as the cloud-native business unit within Pure Storage), DevOps teams are said to be able to run mission-critical Kubernetes apps in production with good scalability and ‘unmatched’ availability ratings.

Now the full suite of Portworx offerings can be consumed as a fully managed service by users of Amazon EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service), RedHat OpenShift and any other Kubernetes services (fully managed or upstream distributions).

… and again, in plain English

To attempt to put all that in simple language (just in case the CEO or marketing manager asks), this is a technology to provide software developers with an orchestrated cloud container data service, as-a-Service. So then, an arguably key platform engineering accelerator for getting high-performing cloud app infrastructures up and running more easily.

“The mission of Portworx has always been to help platform engineering teams offer their developers an enterprise-grade Kubernetes-ready data platform with speed, simplicity and scale. By delivering the fully managed service for the Portworx Kubernetes data platform, we are bringing the cloud experience, on any storage infrastructure, to the fingertips of any developer who wants to work with Kubernetes apps in production,” said Murli Thirumale, VP & GM of the cloud-native business unit, Pure Storage.

Stripping this development back again, we can say that this is a managed service to deploy Kubernetes data on any cloud.

By any cloud we (obviously) mean on-premises private cloud, public cloud services and the hybrid bridging services that traverse both deployment models. This is meant to allow developers, but perhaps more specifically DevOps teams looking to straddle both software engineering and sysadmin/database etc. operations responsibilities, to operate and scale containerised cloud apps into production – and it all happens in seconds, says Pure.

“Red Hat OpenShift is the industry’s leading enterprise Kubernetes platform, providing a consistent foundation for developers to build, deploy, manage and scale containerised applications faster across hybrid and multi-cloud environments all the way to the Edge. Portworx data management and data protection offerings help unlock key use cases for Red Hat OpenShift workloads in production,” said Chris Gray, vice president, North America partner ecosystem, Red Hat.

Gray suggests that this latest managed cloud service offering from Portworx by Pure Storage addresses increased customer interest in building a single platform to offer storage, migration and data management-as-a-service to developers. In this case (or the ones he is most interested in), on top of Red Hat OpenShift.

Loving low-latency

With the 3.0 release of Portworx Enterprise, Pure Storage says that Portworx has a new PX-Fast capability that provides performance for low-latency data services such as Kafka, Elastic and MongoDB with fast ingestion needs. It is also said to suit high throughput for online transaction processing (OLTP), online analytical processing (OLAP) and machine learning (ML) workloads.

PX-Fast makes Kubernetes data storage look like local storage for containerised apps and data, says Pure. Customers are able to harness the power of petabytes of data generated from apps such as video-on-demand, VoIP etc. with a close-to-zero failure rate.

What we have here then is platform engineering, but with a definite and defined skew towards Kubernetes and its data plane requirements.

Data storage technologies sometimes get a bad press among technologists who consign this tier of the modern IT stack to the domain of infrastructure provisioning grease monkeys who populate the Ops operations quotient in the DevOps mix.

But that time could be about to change. Largely because this is the era of infrastructure, this is the era of cloud backbone and this is the era of upper tier application user interface requirements demanding an always-on data pipe beneath to satiate modern use case requirements.

Oh no, said anyone… anyone at all, WhatsApp is down for six minutes, Gmail went down for a whole hour yesterday and Facebook looks flaky right now, what’s going on? Maybe we should all care about the platform engineering intelligence, automation and acceleration going on beneath just that little bit more.

You might even ‘like’ storage, after all, it’s complicated.

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