Progress snags software automation platform Chef for $220M

Progress, a Boston area developer tool company, boosted its offerings in a big way today when it announced it was acquiring software automation platform Chef for $220 million.

Chef, which went 100% open source last year, had annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $70 million from the commercial side of the house. Needless to say, Progress CEO Yogesh Gupta was happy to bring the company into the fold and gain not only that revenue, but a set of highly skilled employees, a strong developer community and an impressive customer list.

Gupta said that Chef fits with his company’s acquisition philosophy. “This acquisition perfectly aligns with our growth strategy and meets the requirements that we’ve previously laid out: a strong recurring revenue model, technology that complements our business, a loyal customer base and the ability to leverage our operating model and infrastructure to run the business more efficiently,” he said in a statement.

Chef CEO Barry Crist offered a typical argument for an acquired company, that Progress offered  a better path to future growth, while sending a message to the open source community and customers that Progress would be a good steward of the startup’s vision.

“For Chef, this acquisition is our next chapter, and Progress will help enhance our growth potential, support our Open Source vision, and provide broader opportunities for our customers, partners, employees and community,” Crist said in a statement.

Chef’s customer list is certainly impressive including tech industry stalwarts like Facebook, IBM and SAP, as well as non-tech companies like Nordstrom, Alaska Airlines and Capital One.

The company was founded in 2008 and had raised $105 million. according to Crunchbase data. It hadn’t raised any funds since 2015 when it raised a $40 million Series E led by DFJ Growth. Other investors along the way included Battery Ventures, Ignition Partners and Scale Venture Partners.

The transaction is expected to close next month pending normal regulatory approvals.


By Ron Miller

MIT CSAIL grad launches machine learning platform with $10M Series A

Manasi Vartak, founder and CEO of Verta, conceived of the idea of the open source project ModelDB database as a way to track versions of machine models while she was still in grad school at MIT. After she graduated, she decided to expand on that vision to build a product that could not only track model versions, but provide a way to operationalize them and Verta was born.

Today, that company emerged from stealth with a $10 million Series A led by Intel Capital with participation from General Catalyst, who also led the company’s $1.7 million seed round.

Beyond providing a place to track model versioning, which ModelDB gave users, Vartak wanted to build a platform for data scientists to deploy those models into production, which has been difficult to do for many companies. She also wanted to make sure that once in production, they were still accurately reflecting the current data and not working with yesterday’s playbook.

“Verta can track if models are still valid and send out alarms when model performance changes unexpectedly,” the company explained

Verta interface

Image Credits: Verta

Vartak says having that open source project helped sell the company to investors early on, and acts as a way to attract possible customers now. “So for our seed round, it was definitely different because I was raising as a solo founder, a first time founder right out of school, and that’s where having the open source project was a huge win,” she said.

Certainly Mark Rostick, VP and senior managing director at lead investor Intel Capital recognized that Verta was trying to solve a fundamental problem around machine learning model production. “Verta is addressing one of the key challenges companies face when adopting AI — bridging the gap between data scientists and developers to accelerate the deployment of machine learning models,” Rostick said.

While Vartak wasn’t ready to talk about how many customers she has just yet at this early stage of the company, she did say there were companies using the platform and getting models into production much faster.

Today, the company has 9 employees, and even at this early stage, she is taking diversity very seriously. In fact, her current employee makeup includes 4 Indian, 3 Caucasian, 1 Latino and 1 Asian for a highly diverse mix. Her goal is to continue on this path as she builds the company. She is looking at getting to 15 employees this year, then doubling that by next year.

One thing Vartak also wants to do is have a 50/50 gender split, something she was able to achieve while at MIT in her various projects, and she wants to carry on with her company. She is also working with a third party, Sweat Equity Ventures, to help with recruiting diverse candidates.

She says that she likes to work iteratively to build the platform, while experimenting with new features, even with her small team. Right now, that involves interoperability with different machine learning tools out there like Amazon SageMaker or Kubeflow, the open source machine learning pipeline tool.

“We realized that we need to meet customers where they are at their level of maturity. So we focused a lot the last couple of quarters on building a system that was interoperable so you can pick and choose the components kind of like Lego blocks and have a system that works end to end seamlessly.”


By Ron Miller

Microsoft launches Open Service Mesh

Microsoft today announced the launch of a new open-source service mesh based on the Envoy proxy. The Open Service Mesh is meant to be a reference implementation of the Service Mesh Interface (SMI) spec, a standard interface for service meshes on Kubernetes that has the backing of most of the players in this ecosystem.

The company plans to donate Open Service Mesh to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) to ensure that it is community-led and has open governance.

“SMI is really resonating with folks and so we really thought that there was room in the ecosystem for a reference implementation of SMI where the mesh technology was first and foremost implementing those SMI APIs and making it the best possible SMI experience for customers,” Microsoft partner program manager (and CNCF board member) Gabe Monroy told me.

Image Credits: Microsoft

He also added that, because SMI provides the lowest common denominator API design, Open Service Mesh gives users the ability to “bail out” to raw Envoy if they need some more advanced features. This “no cliffs” design, Monroy noted, is core to the philosophy behind Open Service Mesh.

As for its feature set, SMI handles all of the standard service mesh features you’d expect, including securing communications between services using mTLS, managing access control policies, service monitoring and more.

Image Credits: Microsoft

There are plenty of other service mesh technologies in the market today, though. So why would Microsoft launch this?

“What our customers have been telling us is that solutions that are out there today, Istio being a good example, are extremely complex,” he said. “It’s not just me saying this. We see the data in the AKS support queue of customers who are trying to use this stuff — and they’re struggling right here. This is just hard technology to use, hard technology to build at scale. And so the solutions that were out there all had something that wasn’t quite right and we really felt like something lighter weight and something with more of an SMI focus was what was going to hit the sweet spot for the customers that are dabbling in this technology today.”

Monroy also noted that Open Service Mesh can sit alongside other solutions like Linkerd, for example.

A lot of pundits expected Google to also donate its Istio service mesh to the CNCF. That move didn’t materialize. “It’s funny. A lot of people are very focused on the governance aspect of this,” he said. “I think when people over-focus on that, you lose sight of how are customers doing with this technology. And the truth is that customers are not having a great time with Istio in the wild today. I think even folks who are deep in that community will acknowledge that and that’s really the reason why we’re not interested in contributing to that ecosystem at the moment.”


By Frederic Lardinois

Harness makes first acquisition, snagging open source CI company Drone.io

Harness has made a name for itself creating tools like continuous delivery (CD) for software engineers to give them the kind of power that has been traditionally reserved for companies with large engineering teams like Google, Facebook and Netflix. Today, the company announced it has acquired Drone.io, an open source continuous integration (CI) company, marking the company’s first steps into open source, as well as its first acquisition.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

“Drone is a continuous integration software. It helps developers to continuously build, test and deploy their code. The project was started in 2012, and it was the first cloud native, container native continuous integration solution on the market, and we open sourced it,” company co- founder Brad Rydzewski told TechCrunch.

Drone delivers pipeline configuration information as code in a Docker container. Image: Drone.io

While Harness had previously lacked a CI tool to go with its continuous delivery tooling, founder and CEO Jyoti Bansal said this was less about filling in a hole than expanding the current platform.

“I would call it an expansion of our vision and where we were going. As you and I have talked in the past, the mission of Harness is to be a next generation software delivery platform for everyone,” he said. He added that buying Drone had a lot of upside.”It’s all of those things — the size of the open source community, the simplicity of the product — and it [made sense], for Harness and Drone to come together and bring this integrated CI/CD to the market.”

While this is Harness’ first foray into open source, Bansal says it’s just the starting point and they want to embrace open source as a company moving forward. “We are committed togetting more and more involved in open source and actually making even more parts of Harness, our original products, open source over time as well,” he said.

For Drone community members who might be concerned about the acquisition, Bansal said he was “100% committed” to continuing to support the open source Drone product. In fact, Rydzewski said he wanted to team with Harness because he felt he could do so much more with them than he could have done continuing as a stand-alone company.

“Drone was a growing community, a growing project and a growing business. It really came down to I think the timing being right and wanting to partner with a company like Harness to build the future. Drone laid a lot of the groundwork, but it’s a matter of taking it to the next level,” he said.

Bansal says that Harness intends to also offer a commercial version of Drone with some enterprise features on the Harness platform, even while continuing to support the open source side of it.

Drone was founded in 2012. The only money it raised was $28,000 when it participated in the Alchemist Accelerator in 2013, according to Crunchbase data. The deal has closed and Rydzewski has joined the Harness team,


By Ron Miller

Kubermatic launches open source service hub to enable complex service management

As Kubernetes and cloud native technologies proliferate, developers and IT have found a growing set of technical challenges they need to address, and new concepts and projects have popped up to deal with them. For instance, operators provide a way to package, deploy and manage your cloud native application in an automated way. Kubermatic wants to take that concept a step further, and today the German startup announced KubeCarrier, a new open source, cloud native service management hub.

Kubermatic co-founder Sebastian Scheele says three or four years ago, the cloud native community needed to solve a bunch of technical problems around deploying Kubernetes clusters such as overlay networking, service meshes and authentication. He sees a similar set of problems arising today where developers need more tools to manage the growing complexity of running Kubernetes clusters at scale.

Kubermatic has developed KubeCarrier to help solve one aspect of this. “What we’re currently focusing on is how to provision and manage workloads across multiple clusters, and how IT organizations can have a service hub where they can provide those services to their organizations in a centralized way,” Scheele explained.

Scheele says that KubeCarrier provides a way to manage and implement all of this, giving organizations much greater flexibility beyond purely managing Kubernetes. While he sees organizations with lots of Kubernetes operators, he says that as he sees it, it doesn’t stop there. “We have lots of Kubernetes operators now, but how do we manage them, especially when there are multiple operators, [along with] the services they are provisioning,” he asked.

This could involve provisioning something like Database as a Service inside the organization or for external customers, while combining or provisioning multiple services, which are working on multiple levels and a need a way to communicate with each other.

“That is where Kubecarrier comes in. Now, we can help our customers to build this kind of automation around provisioning, and service capability so that different teams can provide different services inside the organization or to external customers,” he said.

As the company explains it, “KubeCarrier addresses these complexities by harnessing the Kubernetes API and Operators into a central framework allowing enterprises and service providers to deliver cloud native service management from one multi-cloud, multi-cluster hub.”

KubeCarrier is available  on GitHub, and Scheele says the company is hoping to get feedback from the community about how to improve it. In parallel, the company is looking for ways to incorporate this technology into its commercial offerings and that should be available in the next 3-6 months, he said.


By Ron Miller

Google launches the Open Usage Commons, a new organization for managing open-source trademarks

Google, in collaboration with a number of academic leaders and its consulting partner SADA Systems, today announced the launch of the Open Usage Commons, a new organization that aims to help open-source projects manage their trademarks.

To be fair, at first glance, open-source trademarks may not sound like it would be a major problem (or even a really interesting topic), but there’s more here than meets the eye. As Google’s director of open source Chris DiBona told me, trademarks have increasingly become an issue for open-source projects, not necessarily because there have been legal issues around them, but because commercial entities that want to use the logo or name of an open-source project on their websites, for example, don’t have the reassurance that they are free to use those trademarks.

“One of the things that’s been rearing its ugly head over the last couple years has been trademarks,” he told me. “There’s not a lot of trademarks in open-source software in general, but particularly at Google, and frankly the higher tier, the more popular open-source projects, you see them more and more over the last five years. If you look at open-source licensing, they don’t treat trademarks at all the way they do copyright and patents, even Apache, which is my favorite license, they basically say, nope, not touching it, not our problem, you go talk.”

Traditionally, open-source licenses didn’t cover trademarks because there simply weren’t a lot of trademarks in the ecosystem to worry about. One of the exceptions here was Linux, a trademark that is now managed by the Linux Mark Institute on behalf of Linus Torvalds.

With that, commercial companies aren’t sure how to handle this situation and developers also don’t know how to respond to these companies when they ask them questions about their trademarks.

“What we wanted to do is give guidance around how you can share trademarks in the same way that you would share patents and copyright in an open-source license […],” DiBona explained. “And the idea is to basically provide that guidance, you know, provide that trademarks file, if you will, that you include in your source code.”

Google itself is putting three of its own open-source trademarks into this new organization: the Angular web application framework for mobile, the Gerrit code review tool and the Istio service mesh. “All three of them are kind of perfect for this sort of experiment because they’re under active development at Google, they have a trademark associated with them, they have logos and, in some cases, a mascot.”

One of those mascots is Diffi, the Kung Fu Code Review Cuckoo, because, as DiBona noted, “we were trying to come up with literally the worst mascot we could possibly come up with.” It’s now up to the Open Usage Commons to manage that trademark.

DiBona also noted that all three projects have third parties shipping products based on these projects (think Gerrit as a service).

Another thing DiBona stressed is that this is an independent organization. Besides himself, Jen Phillips, a senior engineering manager for open source at Google is also on the board. But the team also brought in SADA’s CTO Miles Ward (who was previously at Google); Allison Randal, the architect of the Parrot virtual machine and member of the board of directors of the Perl Foundation and OpenStack Foundation, among others; Charles Isbel, the dean of the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing, and Cliff Lampe, a professor at the School of Information at the University of Michigan and a “rising star,” as DiBona pointed out.

“These are people who really have the best interests of computer science at heart, which is why we’re doing this,” DiBona noted. “Because the thing about open source — people talk about it all the time in the context of business and all the rest. The reason I got into it is because through open source we could work with other people in this sort of fertile middle space and sort of know what the deal was.”


By Frederic Lardinois

QuestDB nabs $2.3M seed to build open source time series database

QuestDB, a member of the Y Combinator summer 2020 cohort, is building an open source time series database with speed top of mind. Today the startup announced a $2.3 million seed round.

Episode1 Ventures led the round with assistance from Seedcamp, 7percent Ventures, YCombinator, Kima Ventures and several unnamed angel investors.

The database was originally conceived in 2013 when current CTO Vlad Ilyushchenko was building trading systems for a financial services company and he was frustrated by the performance limitations of the databases available at the time, so he began building a database that could handle large amounts of data and process it extremely fast.

For a number of years, QuestDB was a side project, a labor of love for Ilyushchenko until he met his other co-founders Nicolas Hourcard, who became CEO and Tancrede Collard, who became CPO, and the three decided to build a startup on top of the open source project last year.

“We’re building an open source database for time series data, and time series databases are a multi-billion dollar market because they’re central for financial services, IoT and other enterprise applications. And we basically make it easy to handle explosive amounts of data, and to reduce infrastructure costs massively,” Hourcard told TechCrunch.

He adds that it’s also about high performance. “We recently released a demo that you can access from our website that enables you to query a super large datasets — 1.6 billion rows with sub-second queries, mostly, and that just illustrates how performant the software is,” he said.

He sees open source as a way to build adoption from the bottom up inside organizations, winning the hearts and minds of developers first, then moving deeper in the company when they eventually build a managed cloud version of the product. For now, being open source also helps them as a small team to have a community of contributors help build the database and add to its feature set.

“We’ve got this open source product that is free to use, and it’s pretty important for us to have such a distribution model because we can basically empower developers to solve their problems, and we can ask for contributions from various communities. […] And this is really a way to spur adoption,” Hourcard said.

He says that working with YC has allowed them to talk to other companies in the ecosystem who have built similar open source-based startups and that’s been helpful, but it has also helped them learn to set and meet goals and have access to some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Marc Andreessen, who delivered a talk to the cohort the same day we spoke.

Today the company has 7 employees including the three founders, spread out across the US, EU and South America. He sees this geographic diversity helping when it comes to building a diverse team in the future. “We definitely want to have more diverse backgrounds to make sure that we keep having a diverse team and we’re very strongly committed to that.”

For the short term, the company wants to continue building its community, working on continuing to improve the open source product, while working on the managed cloud product.


By Ron Miller

Databricks acquires Redash, a visualizations service for data scientists

Data and analytics service Databricks today announced that it has acquired Redash, a company that helps data scientists and analysts visualize their data and build dashboards around it.

Redash’s customers include the likes of Atlassian, Cloudflare, Mozilla and Soundcloud and the company offers both an open source self-hosted version of its tools, as well as paid hosted options.

The two companies did not disclose the financial details of the acquisition. According to Crunchbase, Tel Aviv-based Redash never raised any outside funding.

Databricks co-founder CEO Ali Ghodsi told me that the two companies met because one of his customers was using the product. “Since then, we’ve been impressed with the entire team and their attention to quality,” he said. “The combination of Redash and Databricks is really the missing link in the equation — an amazing backend with Lakehouse and an amazing front end built-in visualization and dashboarding feature from Redash to make the magic happen.”

Image Credits: Databricks

For Databricks, this is also a clear signal that it wants its service to become the go-to platform for all data teams and offer them all of the capabilities they would need to extract value from their data in a single platform.

“Not only are our organizations aligned in our open source heritage, but we also share in the mission to democratize and simplify data and AI so that data teams and more broadly, business intelligence users, can innovate faster,” Ghodsi noted. “We are already seeing awesome results for our customers in the combined technologies and look forward to continuing to grow together.”

In addition to the Redash acquisition, Databricks also today announced the launch of its Delta Engine, a new high-performance query engine for use with the company’s Delta Lake transaction layer.

Databricks’ new Delta Engine for Delta Lake enables fast query execution for data analytics and data science, without moving the data out of the data lake,” the company explains. “The high-performance query engine has been built from the ground up to take advantage of modern cloud hardware for accelerated query performance. With this improvement, Databricks customers are able to move to a unified data analytics platform that can support any data use case and result in meaningful operational efficiencies and cost savings.”


By Frederic Lardinois

Loodse becomes Kubermatic and open sources Kubernetes automation platform

Loodse, a German Kubernetes automation platform, announced today that it was rebranding as Kubermatic. While it was at it, the company also announced that it was open sourcing its Kubermatic Kubernetes Platform as open source under the Apache 2.0 License.

Co-founder Sebastian Scheele says that his company’s Kubernetes solution can provision clusters and applications on any cloud, as well in a datacenter running, for example OpenStack or VMware. What’s more, it can do it much faster by automating much of the operations side of running Kubernetes clusters.

“We wanted to really have a cloud native way to run and manage Kubernetes. And so it’s running the Kubernetes master itself, which is completely containerized on top of Kubernetes, rather than being run on VMs. This helps provide you with better scalability, but also because it’s running on Kubernetes, we get all of the resilience and auto scaling out of Kubernetes itself,” Scheele told TechCrunch.

He says that he and his co-founder Julian Hansert have always had a strong commitment to open source, and offering Kubermatic platform under the Apache 2.0 license is a way to show that to the community. “One of the big [things] we can bring to the table is making Kubermatic completely open source, while following the Open-core model, and having a strong commitment to open source to the world and also to the community,” he said.

Image Credit: Kubermatic

As for why it’s rebranding, he says that the original company name is a German word that means navigation pilot for a ship. The name is a nod to its Hamburg base, which is a hub for container ships. It makes sense to Germans, but not others, so they wanted a name that more broadly reflected what the company does.

“Now that we are open sourcing Kubermatic, we also thought that people should understand our vision and what’s our DNA. It’s Kubernetes automation, helping our customers to really save money on Kubernetes operations by automating as much as possible on the operation level, so our users can really focus on building new applications,” he explained.

The company launched 4 years ago and has taken no funding, completely bootstrapping along the way. It’s worth noting it was of the top 5 committers to the open source Kubernetes project in 2019 along with much bigger names including Google, VMware, Red Hat and Microsoft.

Today the company has 50 employees most of whom are working remotely by choice, rather than due to the pandemic. In fact the company has employees working in 10 different countries. He says that has allowed him to work with people with a broad set of skills, who don’t necessarily live in Hamburg where he and Hansert are based.


By Ron Miller

Yugabyte lands $30M Series B as open source database continues to flourish

It’s been a big period of positive change for Yugabyte, makers of the open source, cloud native YugabyteDB database. Just last month they brought on former Pivotal CEO Bill Cook as CEO, and today the company announced it has closed a $30 million Series B.

8VC and strategic investor WiPro led the round with participation from existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and Dell Technologies Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $55 million, according to the company.

The startup also announced that former Pivotal co-founder Scott Yara would be joining the company’s board. Along with Cook, that brings a distinct Pivotal influence to the company.

Kannan Muthukkaruppan, who was CEO, now holds the title of president. He says that the company has built “a fully open source, high performance distributed SQL database meant for transactional workloads in the cloud.”

Today, in addition to the open source product, it offers a private Database as a Service platform to enterprise customers. This can run on a variety of platforms including public, private, or hybrid cloud or Kubernetes infrastructure. The company also offers a fully managed cloud service, which is currently available on AWS and Google Cloud Platform with Azure support coming in the future.

The founders have quite a pedigree. Muthukkaruppan spent 13 years at Oracle helping build Oracle’s relational engine. Then he moved onto Facebook in the early days where he met co-founders Karthik Ranganathan and Mikhail Bautin. The founding team worked on database technology that helped scale Facebook from 40 million users to over a billion.

It was that background that really caught the attention of Cook. “First of all, there’s a huge market opportunity here that we think we fit into, and it is unique in the sense of the pedigree that this team has, and what they built and the expertise they have across that whole spectrum of being able to scale and have [a database that is] performant across [geographic] zones,” he said.

As the company gets this investment, it’s not only a period of change inside the organization, it is against the backdrop of the worldwide pandemic and economic fallout from that event, but Muthukkaruppan sees momentum here in spite of the macro conditions.

“With COVID-19, we actually saw an increased sense of urgency across many enterprises, wanting to move businesses to the cloud and improve their operational and go-to-market efficiency around the product that they were bringing to market,” he said. He believes that the company’s database can be a key part of that.

The company currently has 50 employees, but sees doubling that number in the next 12-18 months as interest in the products continues to grow. Cook says the company has a diverse workforce today, and he will continue to build on that in his hiring practices.

“The more inclusive you can be ties to all our principles and values [as a company] already so we’re not changing how we operate,” he says. He says diversity is not only the right thing to do from a human perspective, it also makes good business sense to have a diverse workforce.


By Ron Miller

VMware to acquire Kubernetes security startup Octarine and fold it into Carbon Black

VMware announced today that it intends to buy early-stage Kubernetes security startup, Octarine and fold it into Carbon Black, a security company it bought last year for $2.1 billion. The company did not reveal the price of today’s acquisition.

According to a blog post announcing the deal from Patrick Morley, general manager and senior vice president at VMware’s Security Business Unit, Octarine should fit in with what Carbon Black calls its “intrinsic security strategy” — that is, protecting content and applications wherever they live. In the case of Octarine, it’s cloud native containers in Kubernetes environments.

“Acquiring Octarine enables us to advance intrinsic security for containers (and Kubernetes environments), by embedding the Octarine technology into the VMware Carbon Black Cloud, and via deep hooks and integrations with the VMware Tanzu platform,” Morley wrote in a blog post.

This also fits in with VMware’s Kubernetes strategy, having purchased Heptio, an early Kuberentes company started by Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda, two folks who helped develop Kubernets while at Google before starting their own company,

We covered Octarine last year when it released a couple of open source tools to help companies define the Kubernetes security parameters. As we quoted head of product Julien Sobrier at the time:

“Kubernetes gives a lot of flexibility and a lot of power to developers. There are over 30 security settings, and understanding how they interact with each other, which settings make security worse, which make it better, and the impact of each selection is not something that’s easy to measure or explain.”

As for the startup, it now gets folded into VMware’s security business. While the CEO tried to put a happy face on the acquisition in a blog post, it seems its days as an independent entity are over. “VMware’s commitment to cloud native computing and intrinsic security, which have been demonstrated by its product announcements and by recent acquisitions, makes it an ideal home for Octarine,” the company CEO Shemer Schwarz wrote in the post.

Octarine was founded in 2017 and has raised $9 million, according to Pitchbook data.


By Ron Miller

Confluent introduces scale on demand for Apache Kafka cloud customers

We find ourselves in a time when certain businesses are being asked to scale to levels they never imagined. Sometimes that increased usage comes in bursts, which means you don’t want to pay for permanent extra capacity you might not always need. Today, Confluent introduced a new scale on demand feature for its Apache Kafka cloud service that will scale up and down as needed automatically.

Confluent CEO Jay Kreps says that elasticity is arguably one of the most important features of cloud computing, and this ability to scale up and down is one of the primary factors that has attracted organizations to the cloud. By automating that capability, they giving DevOps one less major thing to worry about.

“This new functionality allows users to dynamically scale Kafka and the other key ecosystem components like KSQL and Kafka Connect. This is a key missing capability that no other service provides,” Kreps explained.

He points out that this particularly relevant right now with people working at home. Systems are being taxed more than perhaps ever before, and this automated elasticity is going to come in handy, making it more cost-effective and efficient than was previously possible.

“These capabilities let customers add capacity as they need it, or scale down to save money, all without having to pre-plan in advance, ” he said.

The new elasticity feature in Confluent is part of a series of updates to the platform, known as Project Metamorphosis, that Confluent is planning to roll out throughout this year on a regular basis.

“Through the rest of the year we’ll be doing a sequence of releases that bring the capabilities of modern cloud data systems to the Kafka ecosystem in Confluent Cloud. We’ll be announcing one major capability each month, starting with elasticity,” he said.

Kreps first announced Metamorphosis last month when the company also announced a massive $250 million funding round on a $4.5 billion valuation. In spite of the current economic situation, driven by the ongoing pandemic, Confluent plans to continue to build out the product, as today’s announcement attests.


By Ron Miller

Cockroach Labs scores $86.6M Series D as scalable database resonates

Cockroach Labs, the NYC enterprise database company, announced an $86.6 million Series D funding round today. The company was in no mood to talk valuations, but was happy to have a big chunk of money to help build on its recent success and ride out the current economic malaise.

Altimeter Capital and Bond co-led the round with participation from Benchmark, GV, Index Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Tiger Capital. Today’s funding comes on top of a $55 million Series C last August, and brings the total raised to $195 million, according to the company.

Cockroach has a tough job. It’s battling both traditional databases like Oracle and modern ones from the likes of Amazon, but investors see a company with a lot of potential market building an open source, on prem and cloud database product. In particular, the open source product provides a way to attract users and turn some percentage of those into potential customers, an approach investors tend to favor.

CEO and co-founder Spenser Kimball says that the company had been growing fast before the pandemic hit. “I think the biggest change between now and last year has just been our go to market which is seeing pretty explosive growth. By number of customers, we’ve grown by almost 300%,” Kimball told TechCrunch.

He says having that three-pronged approach of open source, cloud an on-prem products has really helped fuel that growth. The company launched the cloud service in 2018 and it has helped expand its market. Whereas the on-prem version was mostly aimed at larger customers, the managed service puts Cockroach in reach of individual developers and teams, who might not want to deal with all of the overhead of managing a complex database on their own.

Kimball says it’s really too soon to say what impact the pandemic will have on his business. He recognizes that certain verticals like travel, hospitality and some retail business are probably going to suffer, but other businesses that are accelerating in the crisis could make use of a highly scalable database like CockroachDB.

“Obviously it’s a new world right now. I think there are going to be some losers and some winners, but on balance I think [our] momentum will continue to grow for something that really does represent a best in class solution for businesses, whether they are startups or big enterprises, as they’re trying to figure out how to build for a cloud native future,” Kimball said.

The company intends to keep hiring through this, but is being careful and regularly evaluating what its needs are much more carefully than it might have done prior to this crisis with a much more open mind toward remote work.

Kimball certainly recognizes that it’s not an easy time to be raising this kind of cash and he is grateful to have the confidence of investors to keep growing his company, come what may.


By Ron Miller

Confluent lands another big round with $250M Series E on $4.2B valuation

The pandemic may feel all-encompassing at the moment, but Confluent announced a $250 million Series E today, showing that major investment continues in spite of the dire economic situation at the moment.

Today’s round follows last year’s $125 million Series D. At that point the company was valued a mere $2.5 billion. Investors obviously see a lot of potential here.

Coatue Management led the round with help from Altimeter Capital and Franklin Templeton. Existing investors Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $456 million.

The company is based on Apache Kafka, the open source streaming data project that emerged from LinkedIn in 2011. Confluent launched in 2014 and has gained steam, funding and gaudy valuations along the way.

CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps reports that growth continued last year when sales grew 100% over the previous year. A big part of that is the cloud product the company launched in 2017. It added a free tier last September, which feels pretty prescient right about now.

But the company isn’t making money giving stuff away, so much as attracting users, who can become customers at some point as they make their way through the sales funnel. The beauty of the cloud product is that you can buy by the sip.

The company has big plans for the product this year. Although Kreps was loath to go into detail, he says that there will be a series of changes coming up this year that will add significantly to the product’s capabilities.

“As part of this we’re going to have a major new set of capabilities for our cloud service, and for open source Kafka, and for our product that we’re going to announce every month for the rest of the year,” Kreps told TechCrunch. These will start rolling out the first week in May.

While he wouldn’t get specific, he says that it relates to the changing nature of cloud infrastructure deployment. “This whole infrastructure area is really evolving as it moves to the cloud. And so it has to become much, much more elastic and scalable as it really changes how it works. And we’re going to have announcements around what we think are the core capabilities of event streaming in the cloud,” he said.

While a round this big with a valuation this high and an institutional investor like Franklin Tempeton involved typically means an IPO could be the next step, Kreps was not ready to talk about that, except to say the company does plan to begin behaving in the cadence of a public company with a set of quarterly earnings, just not for public consumption yet.

The company was founded in 2014. It has 1000 employees and has plans to continue to hire and to expand the product. Kreps sees plenty of opportunity here in spite of the current economics.

“I don’t think you want to just turtle up and hang on to your existing customers and not expand if you’re in a market that’s really growing. What really got this round of investors excited is the fact that we’re onto something that has a huge market, and we want to continue to advance, even in these really weird uncertain times,” he said.


By Ron Miller

Mozilla names long-time chairwoman Mitchell Baker as CEO

Mozilla Corporation announced today that it has chosen long-time chairwoman Mitchell Baker to be CEO, replacing Chris Beard who announced he would be stepping down at the end of the year last August.

Baker represents a logical choice to lead the company. At a time of great turmoil in the world at large, she brings the stability of someone who has been with Mozilla Corporation since 2003. Writing in a company blog post, she certainly recognized the challenges ahead, navigating through the current economic uncertainty and the competitive challenges the company faces with its flagship Firefox browser..

“It’s a time of challenge on many levels, there’s no question about that. Mozilla’s flagship product remains excellent, but the competition is stiff. The increasing vertical integration of internet experience remains a deep challenge. It’s also a time of need, and of opportunity. Increasingly, numbers of people recognize that the internet needs attention,” Baker wrote.

Baker has been acting as interim CEO since December when Beard officially left the company. In a blog post from the board announcing Baker’s official new title, they certainly recognized that it would take someone with her unique combination of skills and experience to guide the company through this next phase.

“Mitchell’s deep understanding of Mozilla’s existing businesses gives her the ability to provide direction and support to drive this important work forward,” they wrote. Adding, “And her leadership style grounded in openness and honesty is helping the organization navigate through the uncertainty that COVID-19 has created for Mozillians at work and at home.”

Mozilla Corporation was founded in 1998 and is best known for its flagship, open source Firefox browser. The company faces stiff competition in the browser market from Google, Apple and Microsoft.


By Ron Miller