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Giant Swarm

Running storage inside containers: Giant Swarm leverages Quobyte’s unique software storage capabilities to run and automate a reliable and high-performance storage basis for their microservices infrastructure.

The Container Experts

Giant Swarm is an innovative microservice infrastructure provider based in Cologne. Feeling the growing pains when trying to scale a monolithic app during a former project, the three founders set out to find a way to handle the scalability problem: isolate problems into small services. Their resulting unopinionated solution for microservice infrastructures blends existing open-source components – choosing CoreOS as a basis – with custom-created software and third-party tools. Together, this makes for a unique framework for running microservices.

The company is currently expanding their portfolio after open-sourcing their technology stack to help businesses tailor container-based infrastructures to their needs. Serving enterprise clients on premise, equipping small and medium-sized businesses with a managed solution, and procuring the infrastructure in their own data centers, they provide fast and reliable services and help their clients set up a scalable and flexible container infrastructure.

Quobyte exceeded our already high expectations in terms of storage performance and we’re thrilled about how smooth it runs.

Flexible Storage for Containers

In order to find the right storage system that would fulfill all of Giant Swarm’s needs and provide a solid foundation for their microservices framework, the team decided to first evaluate various software storage systems. The guiding idea was to find a solution that just worked and would let them focus on developing their Container as a Service (CaaS) platform instead of adding overhead to managing the infrastructure. Early on, they focused on Ceph and Quobyte because the two had the most promising features that would fit their needs: a shared file storage interface and massive scalability.

Containerizing storage becomes a matter of plug-and-play

With both products checking those two features off the list, one distinguishing factor in Giant Swarm’s decision making was to find a reliable and scalable storage solution that could run inside containers. Containers have so far not always played well with storage: they are great for virtualizing stateless applications but when a containerized application requires file system access, it becomes a lot harder to move the container from one host to the next because the container’s data volume is tied to a specific server. As a distributed file system, Quobyte has the solution baked right into its core: It makes mounting a storage volume inside a container a matter of plug-and-play.

Seamlessly migrating containers within a live system

A related benefit was the possibility of live migrations: whenever you move a container to another host, its attached volume is already there. If a host fails and the container shuts down, you can fire it up on another host and reattach the storage volume.

Running a complete storage infrastructure inside a container

What made Quobyte uniquely valuable for Giant Swarm was the fact that Quobyte can be run inside a container. Giant Swarm thus benefits from a one-click agility: they could deploy the complete Quobyte storage infrastructure with the ease of deploying a container. “That’s when Quobyte really tipped the scales,” said Dennis Benkert, Lead Storage Administrator at Giant Swarm, “their product was the only one with the capability to run a complete storage infrastructure inside a container. That’s a whole new level when it comes to ease of deployment!”

Fitting in perfectly with the container ecosystem

No less important were the question of overall compatibility with the container ecosystem in general and the performance issue: is storage access fast and reliable enough for Giant Swarm’s needs? Quobyte came out strong again – in both respects. As far as integration with current tools go, Quobyte integrates perfectly with cutting-edge orchestration tools like Apache Mesos, Mesosphere’s DC/OS, and Kubernetes. And as for performance: the testers were thrilled with the IOPS Quobyte provided.

Giant Swarm helps companies transition to efficient and productive microservices.

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Support is more than a lip service

Giant Swarm decided to subscribe to Quobyte because of its simplicity, functionality, and high performance. But let’s not forget another important contributing factor: an important plus weighing in for Quobyte was that the developers at Giant Swarm could rely on Quobyte’s first-rate support. “I could call in and talk with a developer directly and have my problem taken care of asap. That also really set Quobyte apart and made the whole experience even more worthwhile,” Benkert said.

Playing well with Giant Swarm’s hyperconverged setup

Giant Swarm deployed Quobyte on their hyperconverged infrastructure and integrated the container lifecycle with Quobyte’s volume management. When customers start up a container, a corresponding Quobyte volume is created and attached to the container. Moving a container between hosts leaves the container-volume relation intact, completely with state.

Future expansion and scaling services without any downtime

With Quobyte, Giant Swarm deployed a drop-in file system that could readily be used with a very wide range of container workloads. Quobyte’s extensive API made the integration with their container lifecycle an easy task. In day-to-day operations, their Quobyte storage stays out of the way and transparently keeps storage up across server reboots and hardware failures – without any downtime.

Quobyte positions Giant Swarm optimally for future expansion. “Looking ahead, we’re all set for whatever our clients decide. Whether they want to switch from hard drives to SSDs or need to quickly scale out due to temporarily high traffic, we don’t have to go out of our way to make it happen,” Benkert says. “Also, thanks to Quobyte, we can now easily replace old machines without any downtime.”

Reflecting on the ongoing experience, Timo Derstappen, Giant Swarm’s Co-Founder and CTO, adds, “I really like Quobyte’s solution. It exceeds our already high expectations in terms of storage performance and we’re thrilled about how smooth it runs. In our case, it’s of course also a major benefit that we could seamlessly incorporate it into our microservices framework.”

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