Containers Are Temporary, But Container Data Is Not

Containers are maturing and becoming an essential technology for organisations as they implement an application-modernisation strategy.

With all their code consolidated into a single package, containers can be spun up quickly and seamlessly moved from one computing environment to another. They can also be spun down when their work is complete, so they don't consume resources while sitting idle.

That's a massive bonus for developers. With containers, it is now feasible to move an application from a testing environment to a live production environment - or migrate from a physical machine to a virtual machine in the cloud.

Containers also enable developers to reuse code as they focus on building high-value software. That is one reason why it is projected that as much as 80% of workloads will shift to containers by 2023.

Despite all their upsides, one big challenge comes with containers: data storage and protection. Containers are temporary by nature. But storage, by its nature, is permanent. As they quickly spin up and take down containers, organisations find that containers' lifespan is often shorter than the data they create.

Data storage can't live by the same rules as containers: continuous creation and destruction. Instead, container data must be backed up and stored to protect against such risks as system outages and the data loss that can happen during the migration and deployment of new applications.

As companies look to ramp up their container strategy, most fail to understand that a robust and reliable data backup and recovery plan is a necessary part of that strategy. After all, if a company loses any mission-critical data during any stage of the container's development, it could potentially put its investments at risk.

Containers and containerised applications need a place to store and secure their historical data. Why? Because that data holds essential value to the organisation. For compliance or other reasons, container data needs to be stored and protected long after the container has been spun down.

Data Protection Is On You

One misunderstanding is that if containers are stored in a cloud service, data is automatically protected, and a complete recovery plan is in place. It is simply not the case. Cloud providers offer a baseline service for running containers and orchestrating their operations. But it's still your data, so you need internal policies to protect that data and recover it with minimal loss in the event of an incident.

It's important to remember that data consumed by containers is not a time-based process, with scheduled backups every few minutes or hours. Instead, it is event-driven. For instance, if you modify a container but don't get the results you anticipated, you'll probably want to revert that container to the previous state. But to do that, you need a proper backup of that previous state. These scenarios now make data storage a front-burner issue for IT developer teams.

So how can you ensure that your data is securely stored and backed up when using containers?

  • First and foremost, don't assume containers are immune to disasters or threats. All container applications and data should be part of your overall data resilience and protection strategy. The onus is on you to adequately secure every container in your environment.
  • You must also ensure that you protect the place where the data is stored, including the systems, the storage devices, and databases housing copies of your data. And as you expand your containerisation efforts, you must ensure your overall disaster recovery strategy can evolve to accommodate new data generated by emerging technologies and next-generation applications.

The Time To Tackle Backup Is Now

The bottom line is that properly backing up your data is still critically important and will only grow in importance in the days, months, and years ahead. As more organisations continue to embrace containers, they will create more data that needs to be backed up, stored, and protected.

Yes, containerisation brings a lot of new benefits to application development. But it also brings new challenges to data backup and recovery.

For this reason, organisations must pay serious attention to storing and securing their data processed by containers. If they do it now and do it right, they can enjoy the many advantages containers offer and move forward with confidence that their data is safe.

Florian Malecki is Executive Vice President of Marketing at Arcserve

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