As containers mature, new start-ups fill out the ecosystem

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26 April 2017 | 0

First, the venture funding came for Docker—seven rounds at last count, with the last in 2015. Now more of that money is arriving to support the world containers have built.

Currently, container security outfit Twistlock announced it has secured $17 million (€15.6 million) in Series B funding, much of it from Polaris Partners, investors in code-analysis service Veracode. That is $1 million (€916,200) less than Docker’s last D round, and Twistlock’s first round of fundraising netted $10 million (€9.16 million) last July, which is nearly as much as Docker’s own Series A in 2011.

This is not an aberration, as the container ecosystem has sprouted many start-ups already onto their second, third, and fourth rounds of funding. Most of them focus on supporting areas like security (as in Twistlock’s case), storage, data services, and monitoring.

Consider some other examples. Portworx raised $20 million (€18.33 million) in its Series B earlier this month. The company addresses a common container issue: deploying stateful data with a containerised app so that it works with the scheduling mechanisms used to run containers, and in either on-premises or cloud-native environments.

Datadog, which provides systems monitoring for container-based environments, did its D round in January to the tune of a whopping $94.5 million (€86.6 million). Datadog’s bigger numbers may be due to it being a general IT monitoring outfit, but it has put containers front and centre in its product line-up. It stands out by offering a monitoring solution that’s highly granular, has alerting functionality built in, and is easy to deploy.

Diamanti ($18 million (€16.5 million) in series B in Feburary), created by ex-Cisco folks, is also aimed at “[solving] network and storage challenges in Linux containerised environments.” the company provides a PCIe appliance, an add-on for existing servers, that provisions storage and networking I/O on demand to containers. It’s reminiscent of the approach HP Enterprise used for its Synergy servers, where the underlying hardware is managed by APIs to compose infrastructure to suit a given scenario.

Hedvig ($21.5 million (€19.7 million), series C, in March) provides software-defined storage pools by ganging together multiple kinds of storage into a single system that provides file, block, and object interfaces. It originally focused on “classic” virtualised environments like VMs, but containers are now part of the picture too, and its storage proxy service can be deployed as a VM or a container.

Also worth mentioning is Heptio, founded by ex-Googlers Joe Beda and Craig McLuckie “to support and advance the open Kubernetes ecosystem.” It’s on Series A ($8.5 million (€7.8 million), from last November), but any start-up focused on the explosively popular container orchestration system is worth keeping an eye on.

Widen the time frame to include last year, and many other container-focused companies enter the picture: container-based Linux distro creators Rancher Labs ($20 million (€18.3 million) series B, May 2016) and CoreOS ($30 million (€27.5 million) series B, May 2016); container networking and application-fabric mavens Weaveworks ($15 million (€13.8 million) series B, May 2016); the list goes on.

But the chief focus, again, is on solving problems that remain persistent issues with containers. These are issues that do not lend themselves to solutions native to any given container platform; they’re larger, more systematic difficulties that demand more systematic responses.

It will be interesting to see how much territory any one start-up can stake out once it hits profitability. Enterprise-targeted start-ups are far likelier to reach a sustainable level than more mainstream flash-in-the-pans, but it’s still unclear how much room there will be for multiple competing solutions to the same problems, even in the vibrant and rapidly expanding world of containers.



IDG News Service

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