This means the company’s open source management platform, named Rancher, can work with software-defined storage from companies such as Nexenta, which got announced Thursday as Rancher Labs’ first storage partner. (Rancher is also supporting Gluster, the open-source cloud-storage project led by Red Hat.)
The addition of storage also gives Rancher Labs the opportunity to step into hyperconverged infrastructure — which it’s doing through another partnership, with systems integrator Redapt.
As hot a subject as Docker is, the infrastructure underneath Linux containers is “still an unexplored space,” says Rancher Labs CEO Sheng Liang. The Rancher platform, still in beta, faces competition from startup ContainerX and from the Photon platform out of VMware.
Founded in the fall of 2014, Rancher Labs attracted attention quickly because Liang and his founding team previously ran Cloud.com (now owned by Citrix) and were the creators of CloudStack. By June, their new company had raised a $10 million Series A.
Their plan was to provide the infrastructure staples for containers: security, DNS, networking, and now, storage. Rancher, the platform, taps into popular Docker orchestration tools such as Swarm, Compose, and Kubernetes.
The startup has also produced an extremely small (20 MB) Linux distribution, Rancher OS, that’s designed specifically for containers. The Rancher platform does not have to run with Rancher OS.
The newest piece for Rancher is a storage service that’s based on putting software-defined storage into containers.
“We start from these bare-metal servers, but instead of layering on top a distributed storage layer, we put Rancher and Rancher OS on first,” Liang says.
The result is that arbitrary software-defined storage services can then be orchestrated by Rancher. “It’s a more application-oriented view of doing storage,” Liang says.
Nexenta is the one software-defined storage partner that Rancher is announcing. But really, every software-defined storage vendor is putting its software into containers — who doesn’t want to be part of the Docker universe? — and Rancher is just taking advantage of that.
The idea is that developers can now launch software-defined storage from the likes of Nexenta just by launching a container. And the reason that matters is because it gives them some control: They know for certain which vendor’s storage management is being used, so they can take advantage of that vendor’s features and APIs, according to Liang.
The addition of storage gives Rancher Labs a play in hyperconverged infrastructure, which was the other part of Thursday’s announcement. The physical infrastructure (servers and storage) is being provided by Redapt, a systems integrator that worked with the Cloud.com crew back when. The hardware will run Rancher OS and the Rancher platform. As Liang noted in a blog entry, the whole package is meant to run virtual machines as well as containers.
The Rancher storage services are in beta. The Rancher platform itself is in beta, too, with general availability scheduled for the first quarter of 2016. That would be followed by general availability of Redapt’s hyperconverged infrastructure, sometime in the first half of the year.