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Key Criteria for Evaluating Data Storage for Kubernetes v1.0

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Kubernetes Data Storage Primer
  3. Evaluation Criteria
  4. Table Stakes
  5. Key Criteria
  6. Evaluation Metrics
  7. Critical Features: Impact Analysis
  8. Near-Term Game-Changing Technology
  9. Conclusion
  10. About Enrico Signoretti


Enterprises of all sizes are embracing hybrid cloud strategies that are becoming more complex and structured. We are quickly moving from a first adoption phase where data and applications are distributed manually and statically in different on-premises and cloud environments, to a new paradigm in which data and application mobility is the key for flexibility and agility. Now, organizations want the freedom to choose where applications and data should run dynamically, depending on several business, technical, and financial factors. Kubernetes is instrumental in executing this vision, but it needs the right integration with infrastructure layers, such as storage, to make it happen.

Persistent and reliable data storage, alongside data management and security, are key factors to consider when evaluating Kubernetes deployments in enterprise environments today. This expands the scope of the orchestrator to a broader set of applications and use cases across different types of on-premises and cloud infrastructures. The goal is to provide a common data storage layer that is abstracted from physical and cloud resources, with a standard set of functionalities, services, protection, security, and management.

Figure 1. Data Storage for Kubernetes

Kubernetes adoption is quickly accelerating and enterprises are now in a transition phase. In the last few years, we have seen increasing interest in container-based application development. As a result, IT organizations started to implement proof of concepts and laboratories, which moved later to development and test platforms. In this period the entire industry has matured, both in terms of the core technology (container formats and development tools) and orchestrators, with several companies trying to push their solutions (i.e., Docker Swarm, Mesos DC/OS, Google Kubernetes, and others).

Now that Kubernetes is the clear winner, the number of organizations moving to the production phase is finally growing as well. In most cases, Kubernetes infrastructures are still relatively small, and applications running on them are fairly simple, with limited data storage needs. On the other hand, more and more stateful applications are migrating to these platforms, requiring additional resources and performance.

Even more so, enterprises want to avoid lock-ins while keeping similar feature sets across different on-premises and cloud infrastructures. They choose the public cloud for its flexibility and agility, while on-premises infrastructures are still a better option from efficiency, cost and reliability perspectives. In this scenario, it is highly likely that development and testing are made on the public cloud while production could be on-prem, in the cloud, or both, depending on the business, regulatory, economic and technical needs of the particular enterprise.

Report Methodology

A Key Criteria report analyzes the most important features of a technology category to understand how they impact an enterprise and its IT organization. Features are grouped into three categories:

  1. Table Stakes
  2. Key Criteria
  3. Critical Impact of features on the Metrics
  4. Near-term game-changing technology

The goal is to help organizations assess capabilities and build a mid-to-long-term infrastructure strategy. In a mature technology, the solutions are divided into three target market categories: enterprise, high-performance, and specialized solutions. In a mature market, these differ in their characteristics and how they integrate with existing infrastructures. That said, the assessment is more dependent on the specific user’s needs and not solely on the organization’s vertical.

Table Stakes

Table stakes are system characteristics and features that are important when choosing the right solution. They include architectural choices that depend on the size of the organization, their requirements, the expected growth over time, and the types of workloads. Table stakes are mature, and the implementation of these features will not add any business advantage nor significantly change the TCO or ROI of the infrastructure.

Key Criteria

Key Criteria features differentiate one solution from another. Depending on real user needs, they have a positive impact on one or more of the metrics mentioned. Therefore, implementation details are essential to understanding the benefits relative to the infrastructure, processes, or business. 
Following table stakes and key criteria, aspects like architectural design and implementation regain importance and need to be analyzed in great detail.

In some cases, the features described in the Key Criteria section are the core solution, and the rest of the system is designed around them. This could be a crucial benefit for organizations that see them as a real practical advantage, but it also poses some risks in the long term. In fact, over time, the differentiation introduced by a feature becomes less relevant. It falls into the ‘table stakes’ group, while new system capabilities add new benefits or address new needs, with a positive impact on the metrics like efficiency, manageability, flexibility, and so on.

Key Criteria brings several benefits to organizations of all sizes with different business needs. It is organized to give the reader a brief description of the specific functionality or technology, its benefits in general terms, and what to expect from a good implementation. To provide a complete picture, we also include examples of the most interesting implementations currently available in the market.

Critical Impact of Features on the Metrics

Technology, functionality, and architecture designs that have demonstrated their value are adopted by other vendors, become a standard, and then lose their status as a differentiator. Initially, the implementation of these key criteria was crucial for delivering real value, perhaps with some trade-offs. The most important metrics for the evaluation of a technology solution include:

  • Architecture
  • Scalability
  • Flexibility
  • Efficiency
  • Manageability and ease of use
  • Ecosystem

This section provides the impact individual features have on the metrics at the moment of the report’s publication. Each feature is scored from 1 to 5, with a score of 5 indicating the most impact on an enterprise. These impacts are not absolute and should always be verified with the organization’s requirements and use case. Strategic decisions can then be based on the impact each metric can have on the infrastructure, system management, and IT processes already in place with particular emphasis on ROI and TCO.

Near-term Game-changing Technology

In this report section, we will be analyzing the most exciting technologies on the horizon over the next 12 to 18 months. Some are already present in some form but usually as part of niche products or for addressing very specific use cases. In either case, at this stage, the implementations available are not mature enough to be grouped in Key Criteria. Yet when implemented correctly and efficiently, this technology can make a difference to the metrics.

Over time, game-changing features become key criteria and the cycle repeats. Therefore, to get the best ROI, it is important to check up on what vendors are offering today and what they plan to release in the near future.

Companion reports

The Key Criteria report is part of a series of documents aimed at giving the reader the tools to understand a technology more fully, evaluate it, and explore the market to find the best solutions for their organization.

In this context, and in order to get a complete view of the state of the solutions available in the market, the reader should consider the following documents:

  • This report, Key Criteria for Evaluating Data Storage for Kubernetes, is an introduction to the technology. It defines the necessary evaluation metrics, the key criteria that may be used to evaluate new solutions, and the impact of the latter on the former. It is dedicated to those end users that are approaching a new technology for the first time, or want an update on the latest evolution.
  • Vendor Profiles for Key Criteria, are easy-to-read deep dive documents that cover a single vendor regarding the solutions described in the other reports. They provide more details on the solution, how the vendor approached the key criteria, and the impact that its solutions have on the evaluation metrics. This document helps end users to get a quick but complete evaluation about single vendors.

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