As Kubernetes grows, a startup ecosystem develops in its wake

Kubernetes, the open source receptacle orchestration tool, came out of Google several years ago and has gained traction amazingly fast. With each step in its growth, it has created opportunities for companies to develop industries on top of the open source project.

The beauty of open source is that when it runs, you build a base platform and an economic ecosystem follows in its wake. That’s because a project like Kubernetes( or any successful open source offering) generates new requirements as a natural extension of the growth and development of a project.

Those requirements represent opportunities for new projects, of course, but also for startups looking at building companies adjacent that open source community. Before that can happen however, a couple of key pieces have to fall into place.

Ingredients for success

For starters you need the big corporates to get behind it. In the case of Kuberentes, in a 6 week period last year in quick succession between July and the beginning of September, we saw some of the best known enterprise technology companies including AWS, Oracle, Microsoft, VMware and Pivotal all join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation( CNCF ), the professional organisation behind the open source project. This was a signal that Kubernetes was becoming a standard of kinds for container orchestration.

Surely these big companies would have preferred( and tried) to control the orchestration layer themselves, but they soon found that their customers preferred to use Kubernetes and they had little choice, but to follow the clear tendency that was developing around the project.

Photo: Georgijevic on Getty Images

The second piece that has to come together for an open source community to prosper is that a significant group of developers have to accept it and start build stuff on top of the platform — and Kubernetes get that too. Consider that according to CNCF, a total of 400 projects have been developed on the platform by 771 developers contributing over 19,000 perpetrates since the launch of Kubernetes 1.0 in 2015. Since last August, the last date for which the CNCF has numbers, developer contributions had increased by 385 percentage. That’s a ton of momentum.

Cue the investors

When you have those two ingredients in place — developers and big vendors — you can begin to gain velocity. As more companies and more developers arrive, the community continues to grow, and that’s what we’ve been considering with Kubernetes.

As that happens, it typically doesn’t take long for investors to take notice, and according to CNCF, there has been over$ 4 billion in investments so far in cloud native companies — this from a project designed didn’t even exist that long ago.

Photo: Fitria Ramli/ EyeEm on Getty Images.

That investment has taken the form of venture capital fund startups trying to build something on top of Kubernetes, and we’ve seen some big raises. Earlier this month, Hasura created a $1.6 M seed round for a packaged version Kubernetes designed specially to meet the needs of developers. Just last week, Upbound, a new startup from Seattle get$ 9 million in its Series A round to help manage multi-cluster and multi-cloud environments in a standard( cloud-native) way. A little farther up the maturity curve, Heptio has raised over $33 million with its most recent round being a $25 million Series B last September. Finally, there is CoreOS, which raised virtually $50 million before being sold to Red Hat for $250 million in January.

CoreOS wasn’t alone by any means as we’ve find other exits coming over the last year or two with organizations scooping up cloud native startups. In particular, when you consider the largest organizations like Microsoft, Oracle and Red Hat buying relatively young startups, they are often go looking for talent, customers and products to get up to speed more quickly in a growing technology region like Kubernetes.

Growing an economic ecosystem

Kubernetes has grown and developed into an economic powerhouse in short period of time as dozens of side projects have developed around it, making even more opportunity for companies of all sizes to build products and services to meet an ever-growing situated of required in a virtuous cycle of investment, invention and economic activity.

Cloud Native Computing Foundation projects. Photo: Cloud Native Computing Foundation

If this project continues to grow, chances are it will gain even more investment as companies continue to flow toward containers and Kubernetes, and even more startups develop to help create products to satisfy new needs as a result.

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As Kubernetes surged in popularity in 2017, it created a vibrant ecosystem

For a technology that the average person has probably never heard of, Kubernetes surged in popularity in 2017 with a particular group of IT pros who are working with container technology. Kubernetes is the orchestration engine that underlies how operations staff deploy and manage receptacles at scale.( For the low-down on containers, check out this article .)

In plain English, that means that as the number of receptacles grows then you need a tool to help launching and track them all. And because the idea of receptacles — and the so-called “microservices” model it enables — is to break down a complex monolithic app into much smaller and more manageable pieces, the number of receptacles tends to increase over day. Kubernetes has become the de facto criterion tool for that job.

Kubernetes is actually an open source project, originally developed at Google, which is managed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation( CNCF ). Over the last year, we’ve considered some of the biggest names in tech flocking to the CNCF including AWS, Oracle, Microsoft and others, in large proportion since they are want to have some influence over the development of Kubernetes.

Growing quickly

As Kubernetes has gained momentum, it has become a platform for invention and business ideas( as tends to happen with popular open source projects ). Once you get beyond the early adopters, companies start to see opportunities to help customers who want to move to the new technology, but lack internal expertise. Companies can create commercial opportunities by hiding some of the underlying complexity associated with using a tool like this.

We are starting to see this in a big way with Kubernetes as companies begin to build products based on the open source that delivers a more a packaged approach that makes it easier to use and enforce without having to learn all of the tool’s nuances.

To give you a sense of how quickly usage had increased, 451 Research did a receptacle survey in 2015 and observed merely 10 percent of respondents were using some sort of container orchestration tool, whether Kubernetes or a competitor. Just two years later in a follow-up survey, 451 found that 71% of respondents were use Kubernetes to manage their containers.

Google’s Sam Ramji, who is VP of product management at Google( and was formerly CEO at Cloud Foundry Foundation ), says it feels like an overnight sensation, but like many things it was a long time in the making. The direct antecedent of Kubernetes is a Google project called Borg. Ramji points out that Google was operating containers in production for a decade before the company released Kubernetes as an open source project in 2014.

“There was almost a decade of container management at scale in Google. It wasn’t an experiment. It was code that ran the Google business at scale on Borg. Kubernetes is built from scratch based on those lessons, ” Ramji said.

Cloud native computing

One of the big drivers behind use Kubernetes and cloud native tools in general is that companies are increasingly operating in a hybrid world where some of their resources are in the cloud and some on-prem in a data center. Tools like Kubernetes provide a framework for managing applications wherever they happen to live in a consistent way.

That consistency is one big reason for its popularity. If IT was forced to manage applications in two different places employing two different tools( or situateds of tools ), it would( and does) create a confusing mess that stimulates it difficult to understand just what resources they are using and where the data is living at any particular moment.

One reason the Cloud Native Computing Foundation is called that( instead of the Kubernetes foundation ), is that Google and other governing members recognize that Kubernetes is only part of the cloud native narrative. It may be a big component, but they want to encourage a much richer system of tools. By naming it more broadly, they are encouraging the open source community to build tools to expand the ability to manage infrastructure in a cloud native fashion.

Big companies on board

If you look at the top 10 contributors to the project, it involves some major technology players, some of whom cross over into OpenStack, Linux and other open source projects.These include Google, Red Hat, CoreOS, FathomDB, ZTE Corporation, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Fujitsu, and Mirantis.

Dan Kohn, the CNCF’s executive director, says these companies have recognized that it’s easier to cooperate around the base technology and vie on higher level tools. “I would describe an analogy back to Linux. People describe Kubernetes as the’ Linux of the cloud’. It’s not that all of these companies have decided to hold hands or are not vying for the same clients. But they have recognized that trying to compete in receptacle orchestration doesn’t have a lot of value, ” he said.

And many of these companies have been scooping up Kubernetes, receptacle or cloud-native related companies over the last 12 -1 8 months.

Company Acquired Company Purpose Date Acquired Amount Red Hat Codenvy receptacle growth team workspaces

5/ 25/2017

Undisclosed Oracle Wercker operate and deploy cloud native apps at scale

4/ 17/2017

Undisclosed Microsoft Deis workflow tool for Kubernetes

4/ 10/2017

Undisclosed Mirantis TCP Cloud cloud-like continuous updating

9/ 15/2016

$30 million Centurylink ElasticBox mutli-cloud applications management

6/ 14/2016

$20 million Apprenda Kismatic support and tooling for Kubernetes

5/ 19/2016

Undisclosed