Backing up applications and data is a standard discipline in enterprise IT departments. And while Kubernetes helps to ensure high availability and scalability of your application services, these benefits don’t protect data. That’s why data management and backup of your Kubernetes applications are essential and should be incorporated into your standard operational procedures.
However, backing up Kubernetes applications requires a unique approach that differs substantially from traditional backup solutions. With Kubernetes, applications are deployed in multiple containers across nodes in a cluster. To back up the application, along with data and storage volumes, you need a solution that will take into consideration all of the various Kubernetes objects and configuration data. The solution must also accommodate high-velocity application development and deployment cycles, the DevOps “shift-left” philosophy, unique operator challenges, protection gaps, security requirements, and more.
Although backing up Kubernetes may seem like a daunting task given these unique requirements, there are steps you can take to simplify the process. Here are five best practices to follow:
1. Consider the Kubernetes Architecture
A typical Kubernetes application is made up of hundreds of components — pods, services, certificates, secrets and so on. Any Kubernetes backup solution must be able to not only backup and restore data, but also back up and restore all of these components. It’s critical that the solution automatically interacts with the Kubernetes control plane via API, so that it not only discovers Kubernetes apps running on the cluster, but integrates with the underlying compute, network and storage infrastructure.
Storage integration is also an important consideration and must be included in your backup plan. Just like application configuration data, Kubernetes storage — represented as persistent volumes made available to your app containers — contains important business data that needs to be protected.
Finally, determine where you will back up your storage. Will you keep it on local block storage or in the cloud? Flexibility and ease of use will be important characteristics of any secondary storage for backup data.
2. Have a Recovery Plan
Because of the distributed architecture of Kubernetes applications, restoring data has many steps. For example, you need to verify cluster dependencies, create new Kubernetes views of resorted data, and determine where to initiate the recovery. Then, you need to identify backup data sources and prepare the destination storage. Once you plan all that out, you have to update all the components to reflect the newly created storage resources. Creating a detailed plan ahead of time can help you navigate this complex process. Fortunately, there are Kubernetes backup solutions that can do this for you in an automated way, and you should look for one that supports this function.
But a solid execution plan is just the beginning. You should also make sure your backup platform can translate the various steps into relevant Kubernetes API calls. This ensures that the resources needed to complete the recovery function are available and that all components of your cloud native application are redeployed and configured properly.
3. Simplify Operations
If backups require code, packaging or deployment changes, there’s a risk that developers may avoid them. Their goal is rapid application development and deployment, and complicated backup processes can impede their progress.
As such, backups should be API-driven and seamless. Ensure your solution has automated backup policies that focus on the application rather than its individual components, as well as the ability to detect and back up new applications as they are deployed. Finally, make sure your backup solution offers simple workflows and enables your operations team to comply with any regulatory and monitoring requirements without hassle. Self-service capabilities — such as those that enable developers to restore applications or extend backup operations for their data services — are a plus.
4. Ensure Security
As with any data management function, security is critical. When performing a Kubernetes backup, implement controls for identity and access management, as well as role-based access management (RBAC) to ensure that only authorized users and groups can access the backup platform. This allows you to control who can perform tasks such as monitoring and verifying backups, performing restores, and so on, and enables you to grant permissions to developers for restoring apps from snapshots.
Your solution should integrate into the cloud provider’s authentication solution without any additional tools or APIs required. Finally, ensure that your data is encrypted — whether in transit or at rest.
5. Leverage Kubernetes Portability
To take advantage of Kubernetes portability features, your backup solution should be able to perform restores across various distributions and infrastructure configurations, and automatically transform the backup version of the application to run in the new environment. This enables a wide array of use cases. For example, backups should be usable across namespaces within clusters, storage systems, versions, and availability zones and regions. It’s important that the backup solution can translate all application dependencies to be compatible with the new environments.
As with recovery projects, it’s a good idea to plan ahead — a migration plan can help ensure success.
Kubernetes-Native Backups Are Your Best Bet
Whether your goal is to protect your Kubernetes applications from data loss and corruption, back up data for testing and development purposes, migrate applications to a new environment, or support your organization’s disaster recovery initiatives, backups are essential to efficient operations. Using a traditional solution rather than one designed specifically for a Kubernetes environment increases risk of accidental data loss and misconfigurations, and can’t provide the fine-grained, application-aware backup and recovery functions required to protect your application data. To adhere to backup and recovery best practices in a Kubernetes environment, a Kubernetes-native backup solution is the best approach.
Gaurav Rishi is the VP of Product at Kasten by Veeam. He is at the forefront of several Kubernetes ecosystem partnerships and has been a frequent speaker and author on cloud-native innovations. He previously led Strategy and Product Management for Cisco's Cloud Media Processing business. In addition to launching multiple products and growing them to >$100M in revenues, he was also instrumental in several M&A transactions. Gaurav is a computer science graduate and has an MBA from the Wharton School.