UPDATED 14:00 EST / JANUARY 22 2019

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The Kubernetes startups we’re watching in 2019

Multiple forces came together to make 2018 the year of Kubernetes.

The open-source platform for orchestrating containers saw critical maturation in enterprise-readiness as a favored method for running distributed software applications. As adoption of hybrid and multicloud environments in enterprises grew, businesses increasingly came to see containers as the means to operate across them. Kubernetes wouldn’t be so well-positioned for 2019 without the startups that came along to spackle a hole or hammer a nail in the ecosystem.

During the past 18 months, theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, spoke with dozens of startups throughout the tech community about the Kubernetes phenomenon, how companies are embracing the platform and what to expect in 2019 and beyond. 

Kubernetes towers head and shoulders over other container orchestration technologies. A biannual enterprise user survey by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation found that 83 percent of respondents preferred Kubernetes over other options.

Before 2018, Kubernetes (and containers at scale) had a reputation as a very cool but very complex technology. Many enterprises with real-world work to get done didn’t want the trouble.

“Although there is growing interest and rapid adoption of containers, running them in production requires a steep learning curve due to technology immaturity and lack of operational know-how,” Arun Chandrasekaran, research vice president at Gartner Inc., wrote in a 2017 report.

The unfolding landscape of modern information technology showed a lot of twists, turns and dead-ends. Everyone was adopting multicloud, but running applications across multiple environments was a headache. All signs pointed to containers as the best available means to move workloads from on-premises to various cloud environments. But managing very large numbers of containers was daunting. And the supposed solution — Kubernetes — was also daunting.

The CNCF and the ecosystem around Kubernetes have put in time and toil to reduce the complexity of managing containers at scale.

The helping hands bearing Kubernetes into the enterprise

An impressive circle of companies has sprung up to make enterprise-grade Kubernetes deployment easier. Some solve security issues; others provide microservices monitoring; still others offer Kubernetes as a service. They’ve attracted the attention of investors, developers, enterprises and legacy giants, such as VMware Inc., which acquired Heptio Inc., a startup led by Kubernetes co-creators.

Twistlock Ltd. fills a hole in Kubernetes security with its cloud-native cybersecurity platform for containers. The technology has gained a large fanbase in the CNCF, Kubernetes’ home. It passes a critical test for an add-on to an existing technology: It’s easy to blend in and doesn’t require arduous assembly.

Twistlock is an official Kubernetes Technology Partner. “Not only do we protect the platform, but we just are part of [Kubernetes],” John Morello, chief technology officer of Twistlock, told theCUBE. “There’s nothing abnormal that you have to do. You deploy it and manage it like you would any other Kubernetes application.”

Here’s the complete video interview with Twistlock’s John Morello:

Google Cloud’s Kelsey Hightower, a Kubernetes influencer, recently endorsed Twistlock at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon. “Kubernetes as an early project had lots of gaps,” Hightower told theCUBE in December. “Now most of the managed services fill in the gaps by default.”

The phenomenal growth of Kubernetes and its adoption by all the major cloud providers took Hightower by surprise, as he said in another interview with theCUBE last year. “When I saw the technology early on, I thought this was definitely a winner, regardless of who agreed,” he said. “But to be this big, this fast, and all the cloud providers agreeing to use it and sell it — that is the surprise.”

From DIY to as-a-service

More and more enterprises — even traditional, slow-moving ones like manufacturing and automotive — are ready to board the Kubernetes train.

“They want to adopt technology like Kubernetes, but they don’t know how to fit it into what they’re organization needs and wants from the IT department,” Dayna Rothman, vice president of growth marketing at Mesosphere Inc., recently told theCUBE. “We want to get out there as educators, as thought leaders in the space.”

Here’s the complete video interview with Mesosphere’s Dayna Rothman:

Mesosphere is seeking to educate customers about Kubernetes through its marketing and involvement in the CNCF community. For the novice enterprise customers, Mesosphere came out with a fully-baked Kubernetes as a service offering last October.

“Instead of getting a whole team to figure out how to run stuff, it’s literally one-click installation or a single command on the DC/OS command console,” Ed Hsu, vice president of product and product marketing at Mesosphere, told theCUBE.

Here’s the complete video interview with Mesosphere’s Edward Hsu:

Kubernetes makes better technology makes better Kubernetes

Makers of technologies are increasingly using Kubernetes to make unprecedented engineering feats possible.

“Through my investments in Docker and being on the board for Cloudera, I saw firsthand the rise of stateless apps, but not stateless databases,” Jerry Chen, an investor with Greylock Partners, told theCUBE.

“Every pitch I saw for two or three years tried to solve this data and state problem in the cloud by adding more boxes,” Chen explained. “It just got to be a mess.”

Then along came Rockset Inc.’s serverless search and analytics engine that facilitates development of data-driven apps. Its managed service nixes the standard old shards, indexes and server management and frees developers from data-infrastructure operations. It leverages “fast SQL” with RESTful application programming interfaces, an architecture for networked applications.

“If you know how to use REST APIs and if you know how to use SQL, you don’t need to think about hardware, anything about standing up servers, shards, re-indexing, resharding, none of that,” Venkat Venkataramani, co-founder and chief executive officer of Rockset, told theCUBE.

Here’s the complete video interview with Venkat Venkataramani and Jerry Chen:

“We’re huge fans of Kubernetes and Docker,” Venkataramani added. “The entire Rockset back end is built on top of that.”

Rockset recently raised $21.5 million in funding from Greylock Management Corp. and  Sequoia Capital Operations LLC.

Two former engineers for Google LLC, the birthplace of Kubernetes, founded LightStep Inc. for monitoring the service mesh, a layer for managing communication and traffic across Kubernetes clusters. LightStep just raised $41 million in Series C funding. Its customer base includes DigitalOcean Inc., Lyft Technologies Inc., Twilio Inc. and Microsoft Corp.-owned GitHub.

“DigitalOcean says they’re saving something like 1,000 engineering hours a month on LightStep. It’s a huge time saver for people trying to get to the bottom of issues,” said Ben Sigelman, LightStep’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “Every second counts; seconds cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for any big outage for some of our customers. We help people get to those incidents 92 percent faster.”

Here’s the complete video interview with LightStep’s Ben Sigelman:

Interesting times ahead with serverless tech

Industry experts see Kubernetes’ relationship with serverless computing deepening in the future. Serverless is currently the ultimate in infrastructure abstraction. Some have even speculated that serverless is the death knell for containers.

“The integration of the Kubernetes orchestration layer and serverless container infrastructure is crucial to the future success of both Kubernetes and the serverless infrastructure,” Brendan Burns, distinguished engineer at Microsoft and co-founder of Kubernetes, told The New Stack.

It is unclear how this will play out. Who will fuse the technologies? Will serverless come to Kubernetes? Or will Kubernetes come to serverless?

In July, Google announced a Kubernetes-based platform, Knative, designed to deploy serverless workloads.

“All the Amazon Web Services functions and all the Azure functions have nothing to do with Knative,” Stu Miniman, host of theCUBE and an analyst with SiliconANGLE sister company Wikibon, pointed out. “Knative has goodness, but the elephant in the room is that AWS and Azure are where all of the serverless really happens.”

Advancements are being made in this area, though, according to Miniman, pointing to a multicloud serverless management platform, called TriggerMesh, that launched at the end of 2018. TriggerMesh runs on top of the Kubernetes-based Knative platform and allows developers to automate deployment and management of serverless across cloud platforms.

There’s a lot more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s event coverage here.

Image source: Pixabay

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