Mark Stratmann heads a team who’ve developed a cloud-native Kubernetes based email archiving solution for large cloud providers. People ask him a lot of questions about it, and he’s kindly spared us a few minutes to answer some of them.
Amy: Mark, from a tech view, what’s exciting about Solar Archive?
Mark: That it’s delivered as a Kubernetes cluster, easily scalable and because Kubernetes is self-healing.
Amy: Why is that special?
Mark: We needed to turn our existing Cryoserver email archiving software into a highly available multi-tenant solution for big cloud providers. Kubernetes enabled us to do this.
Amy: Tell us a little about how you’ve developed Solar Archive?
Mark: We’ve taken the software and efficiently deployed it to a vast fleet of computers that are geographically distributed, and then provided it as a service. The cool way to organise a computer system that’s made up of lots of chunks is to put those chunks in Docker containers. This is something we know how to do well.
Now, once you’ve got a lot of Docker containers, you need to orchestrate them so that they all communicate with each other securely, and if one fails, it’s replaced by a good one. And there are a number of technologies to do that, and Kubernetes is the hottest of those technologies, open-source and free to use. So, when we say we deliver Solar Archive in a Kubernetes cluster, it means everything is in Docker, which is great, and also, technically very sound.
Amy: What questions do your CTO counterparts at cloud service providers ask you about Solar Archive?
Mark: There are several: How it is deployed? Where can we deploy it? What do we do about storage? How do we operate it? What’s the cost? What are the technical difficulties around actual storage?
I answer those questions and basically demonstrate to CTOs that we’re using the newest and the best technology to deal with those problems. So, you know, if they say, ‘Well we don’t really have a storage system’, there’s one that we recommend for them called Ceph. It’s free and it outperforms all the ones you can pay for. We’ve got the knowledge to help people deploy it. If their IT isn’t that responsive, then we can get them into AWS or Azure or our own cloud very quickly and that’s what they want to hear from me.
Amy: What do CTOs say about the Kubernetes aspect?
Mark: When I say we deliver Solar Archive as a Kubernetes cluster, the CTO will either say, ‘We can do that straight away, I’m totally fine with that’, or ‘Oh wow, we’ve been trying to work out how we can get into that for the past few months’, and they immediately see taking the software as an opportunity to also grab expertise in these cutting-edge areas for their own purposes.
Amy: Can you go through some of Solar Archive’s other tech features and benefits?
Mark: The system, any of its components, will automatically repair themselves. The system can handle multiple failures of individual components without interruption to the service. It has 99.999 percent availability. That’s why Kubernetes is a good selling point because if somebody says, ‘how do you achieve five nines availability?’ I say Kubernetes does it for us because that’s what it does – and that’s why we chose it. And it’s free.
In addition to all that, Solar Archive provides its actual deliverable – the archiving of emails – in a very cost-effective way. It uses small amounts of CPUs to do the job, small amounts of memory, small amounts of storage. It’s very efficient at giving you its deliverables.
Now, a good example of that is at a new U.S. partner of ours. Last week we delivered the software, setting it up in a production environment for a cloud provider. They’re going to be running our software, and they’ll sell email archiving to customers for, I think, several dollars per user per month, but it will only cost them about five cents per user per month running it on Amazon.
Amy: If readers have any other tech questions about Solar Archive, can they ask you?
Mark: They’re welcome to do that – if they don’t mind waiting a bit for a reply. Just tell them to Ask Me Anything.