Serverless and containers: Two great technologies that work better together

Cloud native models using containerized software in a continuous delivery approach could benefit from serverless computing where the cloud vendor generates the exact amount of resources required to run a workload on the fly. While the major cloud vendors have recognized this and are already creating products to abstract away the infrastructure, it may not work for every situation in spite of the benefits.

Cloud native put simply involves using containerized applications and Kubernetes to deliver software in small packages called microservices. This enables developers to build and deliver software faster and more efficiently in a continuous delivery model. In the cloud native world, you should be able to develop code once and run it anywhere, on prem or any public cloud, or at least that is the ideal.

Serverless is actually a bit of a misnomer. There are servers underlying the model, but instead of dedicated virtual machines, the cloud vendor delivers exactly the right number of resources to run a particular workload for the right amount of time and no more.

Nothing is perfect

Such an arrangement would seem to be perfectly suited to a continuous delivery model, and while vendors have recognized the beauty of such an approach, as one engineer pointed out, there is never a free lunch in processes that are this complex, and it won’t be a perfect solution for every situation.

Arpana Sinha, director of product management at Google says the Kubernetes community has really embraced the serveless idea, but she says that it is limited in its current implementation, delivered in the form of functions with products like AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Functions and Azure Functions.

“Actually, I think the functions concept is a limited concept. It is unfortunate that that is the only thing that people associate with serverless,” she said.

She says that Google has tried to be more expansive in its definition “It’s basically a concept for developers where you are able to seamlessly go from writing code to deployment and the infrastructure takes care of all of the rest, making sure your code is deployed in the appropriate way across the appropriate, most resilient parts of the infrastructure, scaling it as your app needs additional resources, scaling it down as your traffic goes down, and charging you only for what you’re consuming,” she explained

But Matt Whittington, senior engineer on the Kubernetes Team at Atlassian says, while it sounds good in theory, in practice fully automated infrastructure could be unrealistic in some instances. “Serverless could be promising for certain workloads because it really allows developers to focus on the code, but it’s not a perfect solution. There is still some underlying tuning.”

He says you may not be able to leave it completely up to the vendor unless there is a way to specify the requirements for each container such as instructing them you need a minimum container load time, a certain container kill time or perhaps you need to deliver it a specific location. He says in reality it won’t be fully automated, at least while developers fiddle with the settings to make sure they are getting the resources they need without over-provisioning and paying for more than they need.

Vendors bringing solutions

The vendors are putting in their two cents trying to create tools that bring this ideal together. For instance, Google announced a service called Google Cloud Run at Google Cloud Next last month. It’s based on the open source Knative project, and in essence combines the goodness of serverless for developers running containers. Other similar services include AWS Fargate and Azure Container Instances, both of which are attempting to bring together these two technologies in a similar package.

In fact, Gabe Monroy, partner program manager at Microsoft, says Azure Container Instances is designed to solve this problem without being dependent on a functions-driven programming approach. “What Azure Container Instances does is it allows you to run containers directly on the Azure compute fabric, no virtual machines, hypervisor isolated, pay-per-second billing. We call it serverless containers,” he said.

While serverless and containers might seem like a good fit, as Monroy points there isn’t a one size fits all approach to cloud native technologies, whatever the approach may be. Some people will continue to use a function-driven serverless approach like AWS Lambda or Azure Functions and others will shift to containers and look for other ways to bring these technologies together. Whatever happens, as developer needs change, it is clear the open source community and vendors will respond with tools to help them. Bringing serverless and containers is together is just one example of that.


By Ron Miller

Steve Singh stepping down as Docker CEO

In a surprising turn of events, TechCrunch has learned that Docker CEO Steve Singh will be stepping down after two years at the helm, and former Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden will be taking over. An email announcement, went out this morning to Docker employees.

People close to the company confirmed that Singh will be leaving the CEO position, staying on the job for several months to help Bearden with the transition. He will then remain with the organization in his role as Chairman of the Board. They indicated that Bearden has been working closely with Singh over the last several months as a candidate to join the board and as a consultant to the executive team.

Singh clicked with him and viewed him as a possible successor, especially given his background with leadership positions at several open source companies, including taking Hortonworks public before selling to Cloudera last year. Singh apparently saw someone who could take the company to the next level as he moved on. As one person put it, he was tired of working 75 hours a week, but he wanted to leave the company in the hands of capable steward.

Last week in an interview at DockerCon, the company’s annual customer conference in San Francisco, Singh appeared tired, but a leader who was confident in his position and who saw a bright future for his company. He spoke openly about his leadership philosophy and his efforts to lift the company from the doldrums it was in when he took over two years prior, helping transform it from a mostly free open source offering into a revenue-generating company with 750 paying enterprise customers.

In fact, he told me that under his leadership the company was on track to become free cash flow positive by the end of this fiscal year, a step he said would mean that Docker would no longer need to seek outside capital. He even talked of the company eventually going public.

Apparently, he felt it was time to pass the torch before the company took those steps, saw a suitable successor in Bearden and offered him the position. While it might have made more sense to announce this at DockerCon with the spotlight focused on the company, it was not a done deal yet by the time the conference was underway in San Francisco, people close to the company explained.

Docker took a $92 investment last year, which some saw as a sign of continuing struggles for company, but Singh said he took the money to continue to invest in building revenue-generating enterprise products, some of which were announced at DockerCon last week. He indicated that the company would likely not require any additional investment moving forward.

As for Bearden, he is an experienced executive with a history of successful exits. In addition to his experience at Hortonworks, he was COO at SpringSource, a developer tool suite that was sold to VMware for $420 million in 2009 (and is now part of Pivotal). He was also COO at JBoss, an open source middleware company acquired by Red Hat in 2006.

Whether he will do the same with Docker remains to be seen, but as the new CEO, it will be up to him to guide the company moving forward to the next steps in its evolution, whether that eventually results in a sale or the IPO that Singh alluded to.

Email to staff from Steve Singh:


By Ron Miller

Red Hat and Microsoft are cozying up some more with Azure Red Hat OpenShift

It won’t be long before Red Hat becomes part of IBM, the result of the $34 billion acquisition last year that is still making its way to completion. For now, Red Hat continues as a stand-alone company, and is if to flex its independence muscles, it announced its second agreement in two days with Microsoft Azure, Redmond’s public cloud infrastructure offering. This one involving running Red Hat OpenShift on Azure.

OpenShift is RedHat’s Kubernetes offering. The thinking is that you can start with OpenShift in your data center, then as you begin to shift to the cloud, you can move to Azure Red Hat OpenShift — such a catchy name — without any fuss, as you have the same management tools you have been used to using.

As Red Hat becomes part of IBM, it sees that it’s more important than ever to maintain its sense of autonomy in the eyes of developers and operations customers, as it holds its final customer conference as an independent company. Red Hat executive vice president and president, of products and technologies certainly sees it that way. “I think [the partnership] is a testament to, even with moving to IBM at some point soon, that we are going to be  separate and really keep our Switzerland status and give the same experience for developers and operators across anyone’s cloud,” he told TechCrunch.

It’s essential to see this announcement in the context of both IBM’s and Microsoft’s increasing focus on the hybrid cloud, and also in the continuing requirement for cloud companies to find ways to work together, even when it doesn’t always seem to make sense, because as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said, customers will demand it. Red Hat has a big enterprise customer presence and so does Microsoft. If you put them together, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for the cloud and AI group at Microsoft understands that. “Microsoft and Red Hat share a common goal of empowering enterprises to create a hybrid cloud environment that meets their current and future business needs. Azure Red Hat OpenShift combines the enterprise leadership of Azure with the power of Red Hat OpenShift to simplify container management on Kubernetes and help customers innovate on their cloud journeys,” he said in a statement.

This news comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement, also involving Kubernetes. TechCrunch’s own Frederic Lardinois described it this way:

What’s most interesting here, however, is KEDA, a new open-source collaboration between Red Hat and Microsoft that helps developers deploy serverless, event-driven containers. Kubernetes-based event-driven autoscaling, or KEDA, as the tool is called, allows users to build their own event-driven applications on top of Kubernetes. KEDA handles the triggers to respond to events that happen in other services and scales workloads as needed.

Azure Red Hat OpenShift is available now on Azure. The companies are working on some other integrations too including Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) running on Azure and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 support in Microsoft SQL Server 2019.


By Ron Miller

Docker updates focus on simplifying containerization for developers

Over the last five years, Docker has become synonymous with software containers, but that doesn’t mean every developer understands the technical details of building, managing and deploying them. At DockerCon this week, the company’s customer conference taking place in San Francisco, it announced new tools that have been designed to make it easier for developers, who might not be Docker experts, to work with containers.

As the technology has matured, the company has seen the market broaden, but in order to take advantage of that, it needs to provide a set of tools that make it easier to work with. “We’ve found that customers typically have a small cadre of Docker experts, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of developers who also want to use Docker. And we reasoned, how can we help them get productive very, very quickly, without them having to become Docker experts,” Scott Johnston, chief product officer at Docker told TechCrunch.

To that end, it announced a Beta of Docker Enterprise 3.0, which includes several key components. For starters, Docker Desktop Enterprise lets IT set up a Docker environment with the kind of security and deployment templates that make sense for each customer. The developers can then pick the templates that make sense for their implementations, while conforming with compliance and governance rules in the company.

“These templates already have IT-approved container images, and have IT-approved configuration settings. And what that means is that IT can provide these templates through these visual tools that allow developers to move fast and choose the ones they want without having go back for approval,” Johnston explained.

The idea is to let the developers concentrate on building applications, and the templates provide all the Docker tooling pre-built and ready to go, so they don’t have to worry about all of that.

Another piece of this is Docker Applications, which allows developers to build complex containerized applications as a single package and deploy them to any infrastructure they wish — on-prem or in the cloud. Five years ago when Docker really got started with containers, they were a simpler idea, often involving just a single one, but as developers broke down those larger applications into microservices, it created a new level of difficulty, especially for operations who had to deploy these increasingly large sets of application containers.

“Operations can now programmatically change the parameters for the containers, depending on the environments without having to go in and change the application. So you can imagine that ability lowers the friction of having to manage all these files in the first place,” he said.

The final piece of that is the orchestration layer and the popular way to handle that today is with Kubernetes. Docker has created its own flavor of Kubernetes, based on the open source tool. Johnston says, as with the other two pieces, the goal here is to take a powerful tool like Kubernetes and reduce the overall complexity associated with running it, while making it fully compatible with a Docker environment.

For that, Docker announced Docker Kubernetes Service (DKS), which has been designed with Docker users in mind including support for Docker Compose, a scripting tool that has been popular with Docker users. While you are free to use any flavor of Kubernetes you wish, Docker is offering DKE as a Docker-friendly version for developers.

All of these components have one thing in common besides being part of Docker Enterprise 3.0. They are trying to reduce the complexity associated with deploying and managing containers and to abstract away the most difficult parts, so that developers can concentrate on developing without having to worry about connecting to the technical underpinnings of building and deploying containers. At the same time, Docker is trying to make it easier for the operations team to manage it all. That is the goal, at least. In the end, DevOps teams will be the final judges on how well Docker has done, once these tools become generally available later this year.

The Docker Enterprise 3.0 Beta will be available later this quarter.


By Ron Miller

Docker looks to partners and packages to ease container implementation

Docker appears to be searching for ways to simplify the core value proposition of the company — creating, deploying and managing containers. While most would agree it has revolutionized software development, like many technology solutions, it takes a certain level of expertise and staffing to pull off. At DockerCon, the company’s customer conference taking place this week in San Francisco, Docker announced several of ways it could help customers with the tough parts of implementing a containerized solution.

For starters, the company announced a Beta of Docker Enterprise 3.0 this morning. That update is all about making life simpler for developers. As companies move to containerized environments, it’s a challenge for all but the largest organizations like Google, Amazon and Facebook, all of whom have massive resource requirements and correspondingly large engineering teams.

Most companies don’t have that luxury though and Docker recognizes if it wants to bring containerization to a larger number of customers, it has to create packages and programs that make it easier to implement.

Docker Enterprise 3.0 is a step toward providing a solution that lets developers concentrate on the development aspects, while working with templates and other tools to simplify the deployment and management side of things.

The company sees customers struggling with implementation and how to configure and build a containerized workflow, so it is working with Systems Integrators to help smooth out the difficult parts. Today, the company announced Docker Enterprise as a Service with the goal of helping companies through the process of setting up and managing a containerized environment, using the Docker stack and adjacent tooling like Kubernetes.

The service provider will take care operational details like managing upgrades, rolling out patches, doing backups, and undertaking capacity planning — all of . those operational tasks, which require a high level of knowledge around enterprise container stacks.

Capgemini will be the first go-to-market partner. “Capgemini has a combination of automation, technology tools, as well as services on the back end that can manage the installation, provisioning and management of the enterprise platform itself in cases where customers don’t want to do that, and they want to pay someone to do that for them,” Scott Johnston, chief product officer at Docker told TechCrunch.

The company has released tools in the past to help customers move legacy applications into containers without a lot of fuss. Today, the company announced a solution bundle called Accelerate Greenfield, a set of tools designed to help customers get up and running as a container-first development companies.

“This is for those organizations that may be a little further along. They’ve gone all in on containers committing to taking a container-first approach to new application development,” Johnston explained. He says this could be cloud native microservices or even a LAMP stack application, but point is that they want to put everything in containers on a container platform.

Accelerate Greenfield is designed to do that. “They get the benefits where they they know that from the developer to the production end point, it’s secure. They have a single way to define it all the way through the lifecycle. They can make sure that it’s moving quickly, and they have that portability built into the container format, so they can deploy [wherever they wish.],” he said.

These programs and products are all about providing a level of hand-holding, either by playing a direct consultative role, working with a systems integrator or providing a set of tools and technologies to walk the customer through the containerization lifecycle. Whether they provide a sufficient level of help that customers require is something we will learn over time as these programs mature.


By Ron Miller

Google Cloud Run brings serverless and containers together

Two of the biggest trends in applications development in recent years have been the rise of serverless and containerization. Today at Google Cloud Next, the company announced a new product called Cloud Run that is designed to bring the two together. At the same time, the company also announced Cloud Run for GKE, which is specifically designed to run on the Google’s version of Kubernetes.

Oren Teich, director of product management for serverless, says these products came out of discussions with customers. As he points out, developers like the flexibility and agility they get using serverless architecture, but have been looking for more than just compute resources. They want to get access to the full stack, and to that end the company is announcing Cloud Run.

“Cloud Run is introducing a brand new product that takes Docker containers and instantly gives you a URL. This is completely unique in the industry. We’re taking care of everything from the top end of SSL provisioning and routing, all the way down to actually running the container for you. You pay only by the hundred milliseconds of what you need to use, and its end-to-end managed,” Teich explained.

As for the GKE tool, it provides the same kinds of benefits, except for developers running their containers on Google’s GKE version of Kubernetes. Keep in mind, developers could be using any version of Kubernetes their organizations happen to have chosen, so it’s not a given that they will be using Google’s flavor of Kubernetes.

“What this means is that a developer can take the exact same experience, the exact same code they’ve written — and they have G Cloud command line, the same UI and our console and they can just with one-click target the destination they want,” he said.

All of this is made possible through yet another open source project the company introduced last year called Knative. “Cloud Run is based on Knative, an open API and runtime environment that lets you run your serverless workloads anywhere you choose —fully managed on Google Cloud Platform, on your GKE cluster or on your own self-managed Kubernetes cluster,” Teich and Eyal Manor, VP of engineering wrote in a blog post introducing Cloud Run.

Serverless, as you probably know by now, is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not really taking away servers, but it is eliminating the need for developers to worry about them. Instead of loading their application on a particular virtual machine,  the cloud provider, in this case, Google, provisions the exact level of resources required to run an operation. Once that’s done, these resources go away, so you only pay for what you use at any given moment.


By Ron Miller

Google’s hybrid cloud platform is coming to AWS and Azure

Google’s Cloud Services Platform for managing hybrid clouds that span on-premise data centers and the Google cloud, is coming out of beta today. The company is also changing the product’s name to Anthos, a name that either refers to a lost Greek tragedy, the name of an obscure god in the Marvel universe, or rosemary. That by itself would be interesting but minor news. What makes this interesting is that Google also today announced that Anthos will run on third-party clouds as well, including AWS and Azure.

“We will support Anthos and AWS and Azure as well, so people get one way to manage their application and that one way works across their on-premise environments and all other clouds,” Google’s senior VP for its technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, explained in a press conference ahead of today’s announcement.

So with Anthos, Google will offer a single managed service that will let you manage and deploy workloads across clouds, all without having to worry about the different environments and APIs. That’s a big deal and one that clearly delineates Google’s approach from its competitors’. This is Google, after all, managing your applications for you on AWS and Azure.

“You can use one consistent approach — one open-source based approach — across all environments,” Hölzle said. “I can’t really stress how big a change that is in the industry, because this is really the stack for the next 20 years, meaning that it’s not really about the three different clouds that are all randomly different in small ways. This is the way that makes these three cloud — and actually on-premise environments, too — look the same.”

Anthos/Google Cloud Services Platform is based on the Google Kubernetes Engine, as well as other open source projects like the Istio service mesh. It’s also hardware agnostic, meaning that users can take their current hardware and run the service on top of that without having to immediately invest in new servers.

Why is Google doing this? “We hear from our customers that multi-cloud and hybrid is really an acute pain point,” Hölzle said. He noted that containers are the enabling technology for this but that few enterprises have developed a unifying strategy to manage these deployments and that it takes expertise in all major clouds to get the most out of them.

Enterprises already have major investments in their infrastructure and created relationships with their vendors, though, so it’s no surprise that Google is launching Anthos with over 30 major hardware and software partners that range from Cisco to Dell EMC, HPE and VMWare, as well as application vendors like Confluent, Datastax, Elastic, Portworx, Tigera, Splunk, GitLab, MongoDB and others.

Anthos is a subscription-based service, with the list prices starting at $10,000/month per 100 vCPU block. Enterprise prices then to be up for negotiation, though, so many customers will likely pay less.

It’s one thing to use a service like this for new applications, but many enterprises already have plenty of line-of-business tools that they would like to bring to the cloud as well. For them, Google is launching the first beta of Anthos Migrate today. This service will auto-migrate VMs from on-premises or other clouds into containers in the Google Kubernetes Engine. The promise here is that this is essentially an automatic process and once the container is on Google’s platform, you’ll be able to use all of the other features that come with the Anthos platform, too.

Google’s Hölzle noted that the emphasis here was on making this migration as easy as possible. “There’s no manual effort there,” he said.


By Frederic Lardinois

Densify announces new tool to optimize container management in the cloud

Densify, a Toronto company that helps customers optimize their cloud resources to control usage and spending, announced a new tool today specifically designed to optimize container usage in the cloud.

Company CEO Gerry Smith, says that as containerization proliferates, it’s getting more difficult to track and control cloud infrastructure resource usage as software development and deployment happens with increasing speed.

“The whole basis upon which people buy and use cloud and container resources has become wildly expensive because of the lack of a resource management system,” Smith said.

The Densify solution looks at the consumption and for ways to cut costs and usage. “We have analytics in the cloud, any of various common cloud services that you can connect to, and then we use machine learning to analyze the resources and your cloud and container consumption,” he said.

Densify continuously make recommendations on how to make better use of resources and to find the cheapest computing, whether that’s reserved instances, spot instances or other discounted cloud resources.

What’s more, it can help you identify whether you are providing too few resources to accommodate the number of containers you are deploying, as well as too many.

This may sound a bit like what Spotinst and Cloudyn, the company Microsoft bought a couple of years ago, do in terms of helping control costs in the cloud, but Smith says, for his company it’s more about understanding the resources than pure cost.

“We look at ourselves as a resource management platform. So what we do is characterize the applications, demands of CPU and all the other resources, and use machine learning to predict what it’s going to need at any any given minute, at any given day of a week of the year, so that we can then better predictively match the right supply,” Smith explained.

It’s providing information about each container at a highly detailed level including “what’s running, what resources are being allocated, and the true utilization of an organization’s Kubernetes environment at a cluster, namespace and container level,” according to the company. All of this information should help DevOps teams better understand the resources required by their container deployments.

The company has actually been around since 2006 under the name Cirba. In its early guise it helped companies manage VMware installations. In 2016, it pivoted to cloud resource management and changed the company name to Densify. It has raised around $60 million since inception, with about half of that coming after the company changed to Densify in 2016.

The company is based in Toronto, but has offices in London and Melbourne as well


By Ron Miller

Google’s managed hybrid cloud platform is now in beta

Last July, at its Cloud Next conference, Google announced the Cloud Services Platform, its first real foray into bringing its own cloud services into the enterprise data center as a managed service. Today, the Cloud Services Platform (CSP) is launching into beta.

It’s important to note that the CSP isn’t — at least for the time being — Google’s way of bringing all of its cloud-based developer services to the on-premises data center. In other words, this is a very different project from something like Microsoft’s Azure Stack. Instead, the focus is on the Google Kubernetes Engine, which allows enterprises to then run their applications in both their own data centers and on virtually any cloud platform that supports containers.As Google Cloud engineering director Chen Goldberg told me, the idea here it to help enterprises innovate and modernize. “Clearly, everybody is very excited about cloud computing, on-demand compute and managed services, but customers have recognized that the move is not that easy,” she said and noted that the vast majority of enterprises are adopting a hybrid approach. And while containers are obviously still a very new technology, she feels good about this bet on the technology because most enterprises are already adopting containers and Kubernetes — and they are doing so at exactly the same time as they are adopting cloud and especially hybrid clouds.

It’s important to note that CSP is a managed platform. Google handles all of the heavy lifting like upgrades and security patches. And for enterprises that need an easy way to install some of the most popular applications, the platform also supports Kubernetes applications from the GCP Marketplace.

As for the tech itself, Goldberg stressed that this isn’t just about Kubernetes. The service also uses Istio, for example, the increasingly popular service mesh that makes it easier for enterprises to secure and control the flow of traffic and API calls between its applications.

With today’s release, Google is also launching its new CSP Config Management tool to help users create multi-cluster policies and set up and enforce access controls, resource quotas and more. CSP also integrates with Google’s Stackdriver Monitoring service and continuous delivery platforms.

“On-prem is not easy,” Goldberg said, and given that this is the first time the company is really supporting software in a data center that is not its own, that’s probably an understatement. But Google also decided that it didn’t want to force users into a specific set of hardware specifications like Azure Stack does, for example. Instead, CSP sits on top of VMware’s vSphere server virtualization platform, which most enterprises already use in their data centers anyway. That surely simplifies things, given that this is a very well-understood platform.


By Frederic Lardinois

Microsoft and Docker team up to make packaging and running cloud-native applications easier

Microsoft and Docker today announced a new joint open-source project, the Cloud Native Application Bundle (CNAB), that aims to make the lifecycle management of cloud-native applications easier. At its core, the CNAB is nothing but a specification that allows developers to declare how an application should be packaged and run. With this, developers can define their resources and then deploy the application to anything from their local workstation to public clouds.

The specification was born inside Microsoft, but as the team talked to Docker, it turns out that the engineers there were working on a similar project. The two decided to combine forces and launch the result as a single open-source project. “About a year ago, we realized we’re both working on the same thing,” Microsoft’s Gabe Monroy told me. “We decided to combine forces and bring it together as an industry standard.”

As part of this launch, Microsoft is launching its own reference implementation of a CNAB client today. Duffle, as it’s called, allows users to perform all the usual lifecycle steps (install, upgrade, uninstall), create new CNAB bundles and sign them cryptographically. Docker is working on integrating CNAB into its own tools, too.

Microsoft also today launched  Visual Studio extension for building and hosting these bundles, as well as an example implementation of a bundle repository server and an Electron installer that lets you install a bundle with the help of a GUI.

Now it’s worth noting that we’re talking about a specification and reference implementations here. There is obviously a huge ecosystem of lifecycle management tools on the market today that all have their own strengths and weaknesses. “We’re not going to be able to unify that tooling,” said Monroy. “I don’t think that’s a feasible goal. But what we can do is we can unify the model around it, specifically the lifecycle management experience as well as the packaging and distribution experience. That’s effectively what Docker has been able to do with the single-workload case.”

Over time, Microsoft and Docker would like for the specification to end up in a vendor-neutral foundation. Which one, remains to be seen, though the Open Container Initiative seems like the natural home for a project like this.


By Frederic Lardinois

VMware acquires Heptio, the startup founded by 2 co-founders of Kubernetes

During its big customer event in Europe, VMware announced another acquisition to step up its game in helping enterprises build and run containerised, Kubernetes-based architectures: it has acquired Heptio, a startup out of Seattle that was co-founded by Joe Beda and Craig McLuckie, who were two of the three people who co-created Kubernetes back at Google in 2014 (it has since been open sourced).

Beta and McLuckie and their team will all be joining VMware in the transaction.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed — VMware said in a release that they are not material to the company — but as a point of reference, when Heptio last raised money — a $25 million Series B in 2017, with investors including Lightspeed, Accel and Madrona — it was valued at $117 million post-money, according to data from PitchBook.

Given the pedigree of Heptio’s founders, this is a signal of the big bet that VMware is taking on Kubernetes, and the belief that it will become an increasing cornerstone in how enterprises run their businesses. The larger company already works with 500,000+ customers globally, and 75,000 partners. It’s not clear how many customers Heptio worked with but they included large, tech-forward businesses like Yahoo Japan.

It’s also another endorsement of the ongoing rise of open source and its role in cloud architectures, a paradigm that got its biggest boost at the end of October with IBM’s acquisition of RedHat, one of the biggest tech acquisitions of all time at $34 billion.

Heptio provides professional services for enterprises that are adopting or already use Kubernetes, providing training, support and building open-source projects for managing specific aspects of Kubernetes and related container clusters, and this deal is about VMware expanding the business funnel and margins for Kubernetes within it its wider cloud, on-premise and hybrid storage and computing services with that expertise.

“Kubernetes is emerging as an open framework for multi-cloud infrastructure that enables enterprise organizations to run modern applications,” said Paul Fazzone, senior vice president and general manager, Cloud Native Apps Business Unit, VMware, in a statement. “Heptio products and services will reinforce and extend VMware’s efforts with PKS to establish Kubernetes as the de facto standard for infrastructure across clouds upon closing. We are thrilled that the Heptio team led by Craig and Joe will be joining VMware to help us guide customers as they move to a multi-cloud world.”

VMware and its Pivotal business already offer Kubernetes-related services by way of PKS, which lets organizations run cloud-agnostic apps. Heptio will become a part of that wider portfolio.

“The team at Heptio has been focused on Kubernetes, creating products that make it easier to manage multiple clusters across multiple clouds,” said Craig McLuckie, CEO and co-founder of Heptio. “And now we will be tapping into VMware’s cloud native resources and proven ability to execute, amplifying our impact. VMware’s interest in Heptio is a recognition that there is so much innovation happening in open source. We are jointly committed to contribute even more to the community—resources, ideas and support.”

VMware has made some 33 acquisitions overall, according to Crunchbase, but this appears to have been the first specifically to boost its position in Kubernetes.

The deal is expected to close by fiscal Q4 2019, VMware said.


By Ingrid Lunden

New Relic acquires Belgium’s CoScale to expand its monitoring of Kubernetes containers and microservices

New Relic, a provider of analytics and monitoring around a company’s internal and external facing apps and services to help optimise their performance, is making an acquisition today as it continues to expand a newer area of its business, containers and microservices. The company has announced that it has purchased CoScale, a provider of monitoring for containers and microservices, with a specific focus on Kubernetes.

Terms of the deal — which will include the team and technology — are not being disclosed, as it will not have a material impact on New Relic’s earnings. The larger company is traded on the NYSE (ticker: NEWR) and has been a strong upswing in the last two years, and its current market cap its around $4.6 billion.

Originally founded in Belgium, CoScale had raised $6.4 million and was last valued at $7.9 million, according to PitchBook. Investors included Microsoft (via its ScaleUp accelerator), PMV and the Qbic Fund, two Belgian investors.

We are thrilled to bring CoScale’s knowledge and deeply technical team into the New Relic fold,” noted Ramon Guiu, senior director of product management at New Relic. “The CoScale team members joining New Relic will focus on incorporating CoScale’s capabilities and experience into continuing innovations for the New Relic platform.”

The deal underscores how New Relic has had to shift in the last couple of years: when the company was founded years ago, application monitoring was a relatively easy task, with the web and a specified number of services the limit of what needed attention. But services, apps and functions have become increasingly complex and now tap data stored across a range of locations and devices, and processing everything generates a lot of computing demand.

New Relic first added container and microservices monitoring to its stack in 2016. That’s a somewhat late arrival to the area, New Relic CEO Lew Cirne believes that it’s just at the right time, dovetailing New Relic’s changes with wider shifts in the market.

‘We think those changes have actually been an opportunity for us to further differentiate and further strengthen our thesis that the New Relic  way is really the most logical way to address this,” he told my colleague Ron Miller last month. As Ron wrote, Cirne’s take is that New Relic has always been centered on the code, as opposed to the infrastructure where it’s delivered, and that has helped it make adjustments as the delivery mechanisms have changed.

New Relic already provides monitoring for Kubernetes, Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS), Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), and RedHat Openshift, and the idea is that CoScale will help it ramp up across that range, while also adding Docker and OpenShift to the mix, as well as offering new services down the line to serve the DevOps community.

“The visions of New Relic and CoScale are remarkably well aligned, so our team is excited that we get to join New Relic and continue on our journey of helping companies innovate faster by providing them visibility into the performance of their modern architectures,” said CoScale CEO Stijn Polfliet, in a statement. “[Co-founder] Fred [Ryckbosch] and I feel like this is such an exciting space and time to be in this market, and we’re thrilled to be teaming up with the amazing team at New Relic, the leader in monitoring modern applications and infrastructure.”


By Ingrid Lunden

Twistlock snares $33 million Series C investment to secure cloud native environments

As the world shifts to a cloud native approach, the way you secure applications as they get deployed is changing too. Twistlock, a company built from the ground up to secure cloud native environments, announced a $33 million Series C round today led by Iconiq Capital.

Previous investors YL Ventures, TenEleven, Rally Ventures, Polaris Partners and Dell Technologies Capital also participated in the round. The company reports it has received a total of $63 million in venture investment to date.

Twistlock is solving a hard problem around securing containers and serverless, which are by their nature ephemeral. They can live for fractions of seconds making it hard track problems when they happen. According to company CEO and co-founder Ben Bernstein, his company came out of the gate building a security product designed to protect a cloud-native environment with the understanding that while containers and serverless computing may be ephemeral, they are still exploitable.

“It’s not about how long they live, but about the fact that the way they live is more predictable than a traditional computer, which could be running for a very long time and might have humans actually using it,” Bernstein said.

Screenshot: Twistlock

As companies move to a cloud native environment using Dockerized containers and managing them with Kubernetes and other tools, they create a highly automated system to deal with the deployment volume. While automation simplifies deployment, it can also leave companies vulnerable to host of issues. For example, if a malicious actor were to get control of the process via a code injection attack, they could cause a lot of problems without anyone knowing about it.

Twistlock is built to help prevent that, while also helping customers recognize when an exploit happens and performing forensic analysis to figure out how it happened.

It’s is not a traditional Software as a Service as we’ve come to think of it. Instead, it is a service that gets installed on whatever public or private cloud that the customer is using. So far, they count just over 200 customers including Walgreens and Aetna and a slew of other companies you would definitely recognize, but they couldn’t name publicly.

The company, which was founded in 2015, is based in Portland, Oregon with their R&D arm in Israel. They currently have 80 employees. Bernstein said from a competitive standpoint, the traditional security vendors are having trouble reacting to cloud native, and while he sees some startups working at it, he believes his company has the most mature offering, at least for now.

“We don’t have a lot of competition right now, but as we start progressing we will see more,” he said. He plans to use the money they receive today to help expand their marketing and sales arm to continue growing their customer base, but also engineering to stay ahead of that competition as the cloud-native security market continues to develop.


By Ron Miller

Sumo Logic brings data analysis to containers

Sumo Logic has long held the goal to help customers understand their data wherever it lives. As we move into the era of containers, that goal becomes more challenging because containers by their nature are ephemeral. The company announced a product enhancement today designed to instrument containerized applications in spite of that.

They are debuting these new features at DockerCon, Docker’s customer conference taking place this week in San Francisco.

Sumo’s CEO Ramin Sayer says containers have begun to take hold over the last 12-18 months with Docker and Kubernetes emerging as tools of choice. Given their popularity, Sumo wants to be able to work with them. “[Docker and Kubernetes] are by far the most standard things that have developed in any new shop, or any existing shop that wants to build a brand new modern app or wants to lift and shift an app from on prem [to the cloud], or have the ability to migrate workloads from Vendor A platform to Vendor B,” he said.

He’s not wrong of course. Containers and Kubernetes have been taking off in a big way over the last 18 months and developers and operations alike have struggled to instrument these apps to understand how they behave.

“But as that standardization of adoption of that technology has come about, it makes it easier for us to understand how to instrument, collect, analyze, and more importantly, start to provide industry benchmarks,” Sayer explained.

They do this by avoiding the use of agents. Regardless of how you run your application, whether in a VM or a container, Sumo is able to capture the data and give you feedback you might otherwise have trouble retrieving.

Screen shot: Sumo Logic (cropped)

The company has built in native support for Kubernetes and Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (Amazon EKS). It also supports the open source tool Prometheus favored by Kubernetes users to extract metrics and metadata. The goal of the Sumo tool is to help customers fix issues faster and reduce downtime.

As they work with this technology, they can begin to understand norms and pass that information onto customers. “We can guide them and give them best practices and tips, not just on what they’ve done, but how they compare to other users on Sumo,” he said.

Sumo Logic was founded in 2010 and has raised $230 million, according to data on Crunchbase. Its most recent round was a $70 million Series F led by Sapphire Ventures last June.


By Ron Miller

Kubernetes stands at an important inflection point

Last week at KubeCon and CloudNativeCon in Copenhagen, we saw an open source community coming together, full of vim and vigor and radiating positive energy as it recognized its growing clout in the enterprise world. This project, which came out of Google just a few years ago, has gained acceptance and popularity astonishingly rapidly — and that has raised both a sense of possibility and a boat load of questions.

At this year’s European version of the conference, the community seemed to be coming to grips with that rapid growth as large corporate organizations like Red Hat, IBM, Google, AWS and VMware all came together with developers and startups trying to figure out exactly what they had here with this new thing they found.

The project has been gaining acceptance as the defacto container orchestration tool, and as that happened, it was no longer about simply getting a project off the ground and proving that it could work in production. It now required a greater level of tooling and maturity that previously wasn’t necessary because it was simply too soon.

As this has happened, the various members who make up this growing group of users, need to figure out, mostly on the fly, how to make it all work when it is no longer just a couple of developers and a laptop. There are now big boy and big girl implementations and they require a new level of sophistication to make them work.

Against this backdrop, we saw a project that appeared to be at an inflection point. Much like a startup that realizes it actually achieved the product-market fit it had hypothesized, the Kubernetes community has to figure out how to take this to the next level — and that reality presents some serious challenges and enormous opportunities.

A community in transition

The Kubernetes project falls under the auspices of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (or CNCF for short). Consider that at the opening keynote, CNCF director Dan Kohn was brimming with enthusiasm, proudly rattling off numbers to a packed audience, showing the enormous growth of the project.

Photo: Ron Miller

If you wanted proof of Kubernetes’ (and by extension cloud native computing’s) rapid ascension, consider that the attendance at KubeCon in Copenhagen last week numbered 4300 registered participants, triple the attendance in Berlin just last year.

The hotel and conference center were buzzing with conversation. Every corner and hallway, every bar stool in the hotel’s open lobby bar, at breakfast in the large breakfast room, by the many coffee machines scattered throughout the venue, and even throughout the city, people chatted, debated and discussed Kubernetes and the energy was palpable.

David Aronchick, who now runs the open source Kubeflow Kubernetes machine learning project at Google, was running Kubernetes in the early days (way back in 2015) and he was certainly surprised to see how big it has become in such a short time.

“I couldn’t have predicted it would be like this. I joined in January, 2015 and took on project management for Google Kubernetes. I was stunned at the pent up demand for this kind of thing,” he said.

Growing up

Yet there was great demand, and with each leap forward and each new level of maturity came a new set of problems to solve, which in turn has created opportunities for new services and startups to fill in the many gaps. As Aparna Sinha, who is the Kubernetes group product manager at Google, said in her conference keynote, enterprise companies want some level of certainty that earlier adopters were willing to forego to take a plunge into the new and exciting world of containers.

Photo: Cloud Native Computing Foundation

As she pointed out, for others to be pulled along and for this to truly reach another level of adoption, it’s going to require some enterprise-level features and that includes security, a higher level of application tooling and a better overall application development experience. All these types of features are coming, whether from Google or from the myriad of service providers who have popped up around the project to make it easier to build, deliver and manage Kubernetes applications.

Sinha says that one of the reasons the project has been able to take off as quickly as it has, is that its roots lie in a container orchestration tool called Borg, which the company has been using internally for years. While that evolved into what we know today as Kubernetes, it certainly required some significant repackaging to work outside of Google. Yet that early refinement at Google gave it an enormous head start over an average open source project — which could account for its meteoric rise.

“When you take something so well established and proven in a global environment like Google and put it out there, it’s not just like any open source project invented from scratch when there isn’t much known and things are being developed in real time,” she said.

For every action

One thing everyone seemed to recognize at KubeCon was that in spite of the head start and early successes, there remains much work to be done, many issues to resolve. The companies using it today mostly still fall under the early adopter moniker. This remains true even though there are some full blown enterprise implementations like CERN, the European physics organization, which has spun up 210 Kubernetes clusters or JD.com, the Chinese Internet shopping giant, which has 20K servers running Kubernetes with the largest cluster consisting of over 5000 servers. Still, it’s fair to say that most companies aren’t that far along yet.

Photo: Ron Miller

But the strength of an enthusiastic open source community like Kubernetes and cloud native computing in general, means that there are companies, some new and some established, trying to solve these problems, and the multitude of new ones that seem to pop up with each new milestone and each solved issue.

As Abbie Kearns, who runs another open source project, the Cloud Foundry Foundation, put it in her keynote, part of the beauty of open source is all those eyeballs on it to solve the scads of problems that are inevitably going to pop up as projects expand beyond their initial scope.

“Open source gives us the opportunity to do things we could never do on our own. Diversity of thought and participation is what makes open source so powerful and so innovative,” she said.

It’s worth noting that several speakers pointed out that diversity of thought also required actual diversity of membership to truly expand ideas to other ways of thinking and other life experiences. That too remains a challenge, as it does in technology and society at large.

In spite of this, Kubernetes has grown and developed rapidly, while benefiting from a community which so enthusiastically supports it. The challenge ahead is to take that early enthusiasm and translate it into more actual business use cases. That is the inflection point where the project finds itself, and the question is will it be able to take that next step toward broader adoption or reach a peak and fall back.


By Ron Miller