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Persistent storage options

What is an in-tree vs. out-of-tree volume plugin?

Before the introduction of the Container Storage Interface (CSI), all volume plugins were in-tree meaning they were built, linked, compiled, and shipped with the core Kubernetes binaries and extend the core Kubernetes API. This meant that adding a new storage system to Kubernetes (a volume plugin) required checking code into the core Kubernetes code repository.

Out-of-tree volume plugins are developed independently of the Kubernetes code base, and are deployed (installed) on Kubernetes clusters as extensions. This gives vendors the ability to update drivers out-of-band, i.e. separately from the Kubernetes release cycle. This is largely possible because Kubernetes has created a storage interface or CSI that provides vendors a standard way of interfacing with k8s.

You can check more about Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Services (EKS) storage classes and CSI Drivers on https://docs.aws.amazon.com/eks/latest/userguide/storage.html

In-tree Volume Plugin for Windows

Kubernetes volumes enable applications, with data persistence requirements, to be deployed on Kubernetes. The management of persistent volumes consists of provisioning/de-provisioning/resizing of volumes, attaching/detaching a volume to/from a Kubernetes node, and mounting/dismounting a volume to/from individual containers in a pod. The code for implementing these volume management actions for a specific storage back-end or protocol is shipped in the form of a Kubernetes volume plugin (In-tree Volume Plugins). On Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Services (EKS) the following class of Kubernetes volume plugins are supported on Windows:

In-tree Volume Plugin: awsElasticBlockStore

In order to use In-tree volume plugin on Windows nodes, it is necessary to create an additional StorageClass to use NTFS as the fsType. On EKS, the default StorageClass uses ext4 as the default fsType.

A StorageClass provides a way for administrators to describe the "classes" of storage they offer. Different classes might map to quality-of-service levels, backup policies, or arbitrary policies determined by the cluster administrators. Kubernetes is unopinionated about what classes represent. This concept is sometimes called "profiles" in other storage systems.

You can check it by running the following command:

kubectl describe storageclasse gp2

Output:

Name:            gp2
IsDefaultClass:  Yes
Annotations:     kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration={"apiVersion":"storage.k8s.io/v1","kind":"StorageClas
","metadata":{"annotations":{"storageclass.kubernetes.io/is-default-class":"true"},"name":"gp2"},"parameters":{"fsType"
"ext4","type":"gp2"},"provisioner":"kubernetes.io/aws-ebs","volumeBindingMode":"WaitForFirstConsumer"}
,storageclass.kubernetes.io/is-default-class=true
Provisioner:           kubernetes.io/aws-ebs
Parameters:            fsType=ext4,type=gp2
AllowVolumeExpansion:  <unset>
MountOptions:          <none>
ReclaimPolicy:         Delete
VolumeBindingMode:     WaitForFirstConsumer
Events:                <none>

To create the new StorageClass to support NTFS, use the following manifest:

kind: StorageClass
apiVersion: storage.k8s.io/v1
metadata:
  name: gp2-windows
provisioner: kubernetes.io/aws-ebs
parameters:
  type: gp2
  fsType: ntfs
volumeBindingMode: WaitForFirstConsumer

Create the StorageClass by running the following command:

kubectl apply -f NTFSStorageClass.yaml

The next step is to create a Persistent Volume Claim (PVC).

A PersistentVolume (PV) is a piece of storage in the cluster that has been provisioned by an administrator or dynamically provisioned using PVC. It is a resource in the cluster just like a node is a cluster resource. This API object captures the details of the implementation of the storage, be that NFS, iSCSI, or a cloud-provider-specific storage system.

A PersistentVolumeClaim (PVC) is a request for storage by a user. Claims can request specific size and access modes (e.g., they can be mounted ReadWriteOnce, ReadOnlyMany or ReadWriteMany).

Users need PersistentVolumes with different attributes, such as performance, for different use cases. Cluster administrators need to be able to offer a variety of PersistentVolumes that differ in more ways than just size and access modes, without exposing users to the details of how those volumes are implemented. For these needs, there is the StorageClass resource.

In the example below, the PVC has been created within the namespace windows.

apiVersion: v1
kind: PersistentVolumeClaim
metadata:
  name: ebs-windows-pv-claim
  namespace: windows
spec: 
  accessModes:
    - ReadWriteOnce
  storageClassName: gp2-windows
  resources: 
    requests:
      storage: 1Gi

Create the PVC by running the following command:

kubectl apply -f persistent-volume-claim.yaml

The following manifest creates a Windows Pod, setup the VolumeMount as C:\Data and uses the PVC as the attached storage on C:\Data.

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: windows-server-ltsc2019
  namespace: windows
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: windows-server-ltsc2019
      tier: backend
      track: stable
  replicas: 1
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: windows-server-ltsc2019
        tier: backend
        track: stable
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: windows-server-ltsc2019
        image: mcr.microsoft.com/windows/servercore:ltsc2019
        ports:
        - name: http
          containerPort: 80
        imagePullPolicy: IfNotPresent
        volumeMounts:
        - mountPath: "C:\\data"
          name: test-volume
      volumes:
        - name: test-volume
          persistentVolumeClaim:
            claimName: ebs-windows-pv-claim
      nodeSelector:
        kubernetes.io/os: windows
        node.kubernetes.io/windows-build: '10.0.17763'

Test the results by accessing the Windows pod via PowerShell:

kubectl exec -it podname powershell -n windows

Inside the Windows Pod, run: ls

Output:

PS C:\> ls


    Directory: C:\


Mode                 LastWriteTime         Length Name
----                 -------------         ------ ----
d-----          3/8/2021   1:54 PM                data
d-----          3/8/2021   3:37 PM                inetpub
d-r---          1/9/2021   7:26 AM                Program Files
d-----          1/9/2021   7:18 AM                Program Files (x86)
d-r---          1/9/2021   7:28 AM                Users
d-----          3/8/2021   3:36 PM                var
d-----          3/8/2021   3:36 PM                Windows
-a----         12/7/2019   4:20 AM           5510 License.txt

The data directory is provided by the EBS volume.

Out-of-tree for Windows

Code associated with CSI plugins ship as out-of-tree scripts and binaries that are typically distributed as container images and deployed using standard Kubernetes constructs like DaemonSets and StatefulSets. CSI plugins handle a wide range of volume management actions in Kubernetes. CSI plugins typically consist of node plugins (that run on each node as a DaemonSet) and controller plugins.

CSI node plugins (especially those associated with persistent volumes exposed as either block devices or over a shared file-system) need to perform various privileged operations like scanning of disk devices, mounting of file systems, etc. These operations differ for each host operating system. For Linux worker nodes, containerized CSI node plugins are typically deployed as privileged containers. For Windows worker nodes, privileged operations for containerized CSI node plugins is supported using csi-proxy, a community-managed, stand-alone binary that needs to be pre-installed on each Windows node. The Amazon EKS Optimized Windows AMI does not contain the CSI-Proxy executable by default.

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server

An option is to use Amazon FSx for Windows File Server through an SMB feature called SMB Global Mapping which makes it possible to mount a SMB share on the host, then pass directories on that share into a container. The container doesn't need to be configured with a specific server, share, username or password - that's all handled on the host instead. The container will work the same as if it had local storage.

The SMB Global Mapping is transparent to the orchestrator, and it is mounted through HostPath which can imply in secure concerns.

In the example below, the path G:\Directory\app-state is an SMB share on the Windows Node.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: test-fsx
spec:
  containers:
  - name: test-fsx
    image: mcr.microsoft.com/windows/servercore:ltsc2019
    command:
      - powershell.exe
      - -command
      - "Add-WindowsFeature Web-Server; Invoke-WebRequest -UseBasicParsing -Uri 'https://dotnetbinaries.blob.core.windows.net/servicemonitor/2.0.1.6/ServiceMonitor.exe' -OutFile 'C:\\ServiceMonitor.exe'; echo '<html><body><br/><br/><marquee><H1>Hello EKS!!!<H1><marquee></body><html>' > C:\\inetpub\\wwwroot\\default.html; C:\\ServiceMonitor.exe 'w3svc'; "
    volumeMounts:
      - mountPath: C:\dotnetapp\app-state
        name: test-mount
  volumes:
    - name: test-mount
      hostPath: 
        path: G:\Directory\app-state
        type: Directory
  nodeSelector:
      beta.kubernetes.io/os: windows
      beta.kubernetes.io/arch: amd64

The following blog has implementation details on how to setup Amazon FSx for Windows File Server as a persistent storage for Windows Pods.