Robin (Cloud Native Storage)

CNS (Cloud Native Storage) by Robin is a storage solution for stateful, persistent container applications. Various data protection capabilities, including as synchronous and asynchronous storage replication, as well as snapshot and backup functionality, are included in the product.

It works with a variety of cloud providers and distributions, including OpenShift, Rancher, EKS, AKS, GKE, and others. It is accessible as a SaaS from some cloud providers and through multiple application marketplaces, such as Google and OpenShift. VMware Tanzu, in particular, is not supported. Robin provides user-friendly, consumption-based per-node-hour pricing, similar to public cloud alternatives, with discounts for annual subscriptions.

Some capabilities, such as (a)synchronous replication, necessitate installing the storage solution on both the source and target clusters. While CNS can reduce RPO and RTO, it can only be used by applications that are unable to take advantage of the application-level resilience provided by microservice design approaches, while delivering enough business value to justify the additional cost and complexity of running an always-on Kubernetes cluster plus the Robin components. CNS also doesn’t safeguard any data that isn’t stored on its storage volumes, including RDS databases, which limits the usefulness of its data protection measures.

Robin’s full control and visibility of the Kubernetes objects and underlying storage is a fundamental feature of the storage layer.

To preserve and replicate all Kubernetes objects and constructs, the data protection capabilities directly incorporate Kubernetes metadata and settings. CNS provides scripts for common data services like MongoDB, Cassandra, MSSQL, MySQL, Oracle, DB2, and PostgreSQL, and the storage layer is CSI-compliant, making it easy to quiesce storage volumes during backups and snapshots.

CNS enables local and remote snapshots, backups to a different repository (local or remote), synchronous replication between storage volumes (across two Availability Zones utilizing a stretched-cluster arrangement), and multi-site asynchronous replication (with multi-cloud or replication across availability zones supported).

Robin excels in instances involving migrations across heterogeneous environments, such as migrations from on-premises to cloud or cloud-to-cloud. The replication features of the storage layer provide a clear benefit for migrations, making it simple to move a full application, including its storage, from on-premises to the public cloud. The same may be said for cloning applications for development and testing. Robin must be installed on the target cluster for these scenarios to work. Backups can also only be restored to Robin’s storage volumes.

The GUI provides a monitoring dashboard and troubleshooting tools, as well as mature Kubernetes-based RBAC for self-service and multi-tenancy with multi-cluster functionality.

At the application level, all backups are encrypted in-flight and at rest, with support for external key management. S3-compatible object storage platforms, public cloud storage services such as Google Cloud Storage and Microsoft Azure Blob, and on-premises storage solutions through NFS are also viable backup targets.

Many malware and security features are missing from CNS. While the solution supports immutable backups on WORM-compliant object storage, it lacks security scanning capabilities.

CNS is an attractive all-in-one alternative for storage and data security for edge use cases, such as air-gapped (or “black”) clusters for 5G-in-a-box use cases, when combined with other Robin products like MDCAP.

Strengths: End-to-end solution with a cost-effective pricing strategy that is nicely integrated with Kubernetes. Large companies who consider the data protection elements integrated into a storage system acceptable can benefit from multi-cluster and self-service capabilities. For those applications that require it, the (a)synchronous replication features provide minimal RTO and RPO capabilities. Low-downtime migration situations benefit from the storage layer’s flexibility. For users who are new to Kubernetes, the user-friendly GUI and CLI are extremely useful.

Challenges: Because data protection is not an independent product but rather a component of the Robin storage solution, it is limited to apps that run on Robin storage. Even though the pricing is competitive, some of the capabilities require CNS to operate on the target cluster, which increases the cost. The number of restores is restricted.

Restores are confined to Robin-based volumes, and security features are limited.