Containers and Microservices Spark a Search for Better File Systems

Jonathan MathewsPublic

File systems usually stay low, both at the operating system level and in tech discussions. Red Hat’s recent deprecation of the Btrfs file system from its platform ignited some interest in the role of file systems in containerized environments.

As Linux distributions container-based operations microservices, they come across new file-system related challenges. Linux vendors, including Red Hat, SUSE and Canonical, are major players in the container space. In addition to their traditional OSes, these companies have also built container as service platforms to handle containerized workloads and microservices. Following the footsteps of CoreOS’s Container LinuxRed Hat has created Project Atomic; Canonical came out with Ubuntu Core and SUSE released SUSE CaaS Platformand Kubic.

Namespaces, Dedup, Scheduling

“One of the biggest challenges that the containers ecosystem faces is that file systems are not currently namespace aware,” said Ben Breard, Red Hat senior technology product manager for Linux containers. Though there are several concepts to create a namespace of sorts with existing file systems, this current limitation creates challenges, particularly around security and usability, for things like user namespaces.

Raj Meel, SUSE global product and solution marketing manager considers “dedupe” (deduplication) as one of the modern challenges.

Since SUSE supports multiple file systems, the dedupe problem can be solved by an existing filesystem like XFS and Btrfs. But that creates new challenges. You can have “perfect” dedupe such that no space is ever “wasted” on duplicate data, but it comes with a pretty hefty performance penalty that must be incurred all the time, regardless of how related data is, said Meel.

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