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Startup Diamanti Offers Combined Container Networking, Storage

Diamanti, a startup founded by Cisco UCS veterans, has built an appliance for automated container deployments with preconfigured networking and storage. The firm is just out of stealth mode.
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Diamanti, a startup previously in stealth, has announced April 19 an appliance that handles the I/O needs of a Docker container automatically upon deployment for both storage and networking.

Jeff Chou, cofounder and CEO of Diamanti, is a Cisco veteran. Before creating Diamanti, Cho worked as Cisco's senior director of engineering from 2005 to 2012 and was a leader in Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS).

Chou, along with several other Cisco veterans now at Diamanti, helped design UCS servers and Nexus switches for Cisco.

Launched in 2009, Cisco's UCS combined virtualized server hardware with Cisco networking. The move offloaded virtual machine-switching traffic from a bottleneck -- the software switch in VMware's ESX hypervisor -- to a hardware switch. This move led to Cisco to become one of the top server manufactures in the IT hardware market.

(Greek appears to be emerging as the language of choice for container products, with Google's Kubernetes container orchestrator leading the way. Kubernetes means "helmsman." Diamanti in Greek means "diamond-like.")

[Want to learn more about Kubernetes orchestration? Read Kubernetes Yields Operations Dividend, Still Working On Scalability.]

Chou said that containers are a broadly disruptive technology in the enterprise, and that Diamanti is aiming for a marketplace-changing product similar to UCS for Linux containers by combining networking and storage I/O in a single container appliance.

Putting code in containers is relatively easy.

Thousands of developers are doing it, which enables them to move software around and push it forward into testing and quality assurance. But preparing that container for deployment to production with adequate I/O provided for continues to be a headache.

Developers can do that as well, but they need to decide what network and storage interfaces to summon, what storage and network resources to request, and to figure out how to mesh the I/O with other containers on a server.

"There's no coherent network model for containers. You have all these options… Every time it's a one-off deployment. The same goes for storage," Chou told InformationWeek in advance of today's release.

"If you Google 'container I/O,' you'll see problems with storage and networking near the top," Chou said. One example of what he means can be found at LWN.net.

The Diamanti appliance core is a PCIe server card that contains interfaces to multiple Ethernet networks and storage systems.

The card acts as both a storage and networking controller that can guide traffic toward its correct destination, even though networking and storage traffic will be flowing into the card together.

Furthermore, the controller cards will communicate with each other and form "a distributed traffic management system," Chou said, which can apply some intelligence to the contention that will inevitably occur as servers host more and more containers. Chou said the cards form a collective intelligence about the container traffic on a cluster, but he wasn't ready to speak more precisely to what that intelligence could and couldn't do.

The appliance at this point is in beta release with general availability and pricing still unannounced. The choices in server hardware on which it will run will be known when it becomes generally available.

As the use of containers grows, "developers and IT operations need predictable I/O to deploy containers into production." Once the process is underway, "it's difficult to know how well they will scale," said Chou. Containers hold the promise of three to five times the density of computing, versus virtual machines, since so many can occupy a single server. But as density goes up, predictable I/O goes down.

"Customers solve this by overprovisioning, which defeats the purpose of moving to containers," Chou said.

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No further technical details were offered on the characteristics of the appliance, other than the observation that every container I/O will move across the PCIe card that Diamanti is producing. The card will be packaged on a commodity x86 server with Kubernetes open source container orchestration and other software.

Diamanti is a contributor to Kubernetes, including the recently adopted FlexVolume process in which a developer can supply user-defined deployment requirements and Kubernetes can adopt them in the configuration of a container.

Chou's cofounder on Diamanti was Gopal Sharma, CTO, and former distinguished engineer at the Cisco UCS project. A third cofounder, Amitava Guha, was a principal engineer on Cisco UCS. The startup's VP of products is Mark Balch, former director of product management at Cisco.

Diamanti also announced on Tuesday that it has received $12.5 million in a Series A funding round from CRV, DFJ Venture, GSR Ventures, and Goldman Sachs.

Diamanti was formerly named Datawise.io, but Chou said the company had difficulty trademarking the name, and turned to a name in Greek that was less likely to run into trademark contention.

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