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Happy New Year and welcome to 2022. The Kubernetes space continues to explode, and I thought I’d share a shortlist of some companies that I’ll be keeping an eye on this year.
This list isn’t exhaustive; I’m definitely leaving out some companies doing very interesting work. I’ve focused on newer companies, as you’ve probably already heard of shops like VMware. I’ve also limited the list to companies that I think of primarily as Kubernetes vendors, which excluded HashiCorp, Pulumi, and some other shops that I will be watching.
Here are my thoughts on these seven companies.
Kubeflow is a very popular open source tool for doing MLOps in Kubernetes, and Arrikto is a leading contributor to the Kubeflow project. When I first heard “MLOps” my brain flashed back to failed promises about AIOps, but MLOps is very different. It’s basically what it says on the tin: tools that make operating machine learning workflows in Kubernetes “simple, portable and scalable,” as the Kubeflow website says.
Arrikto uses the phrase “data as code” to describe how its tools let users manage ML in the same way we manage applications and infrastructure. Its products include Enterprise Kubeflow and Rok, a data management platform. Kubeflow works with popular ML tools like TensorFlow and Jupyter notebooks. Arrikto also has an Arrikto Academy, which provides self-paced learning for Kubeflow, Rok, and related tools.
I don’t work with ML in my role, so I haven’t used these tools, but I’ve heard great things about Kubeflow in the community, and MLOps seems like a problem that many companies would pay someone to solve.
This list is in alphabetical order, but if it were ordered by my interest, Chainguard would probably be number one. I saw Bob Callway and Dan Lorenc’s excellent talk about sigstore at KubeCon Los Angeles, and later I stopped by the company’s booth. My Chainguard hype has been intensifying ever since.
sigstore is an open source project for “signing, verifying and protecting software,” as its [web site] says. There’s been an extremely heightened amount of awareness about software supply chain security since the Solar Winds compromise, and sigstore makes the processes of both signing your software and validating signatures easy. Chainguard is a company founded by Dan and a few other folks (Matt Moore, Scott Nichols, Ville Aikas, and Kim Lewandowski) to offer commercial services around sigstore and SLSA.
Chainguard landed at the right time and I think it has a ton of potential. Companies that maintain and use open source software are being asked many questions right now about how they secure and validate the tools they use. I think this will become a core compliance issue for many shops, and it’s a no-brainer to pay experts to help with it.
Chainguard raised a $5 million seed round but what really blew me away was the list of angel investors, including Stephen Augustus, Maya Kaczorowski, Brandon Phillips, and Joe Duffy. It’s a group of very smart folks and I think they made a great bet.
I think of Civo as a cloud provider that’s focused on Kubernetes. Civo provides a managed Kubernetes service that makes deploying Kubernetes clusters and virtual machines easy. Civo positions itself as an option for small and mid-market companies, and it reminds me of Digital Ocean that way. I think it’s a very smart approach. Civo can’t match the AWS feature set, but the reduced complexity of using a smaller provider is a significant advantage for many companies.
One area that Civo excels in is educating people about Kubernetes. The Civo DevRel team includes people like Saiyam Pathak and Kunal Kushwaha, who have been cranking out lots of valuable content about Kubernetes and other cloud native tools. I’ve been on one of Saiyam’s YouTube streams and it was a lot of fun. The DevRel team also created the Civo Academy, a free set of courses for various Kubernetes skill levels.
Focusing on education is an excellent strategy for a company in a space as complex as Kubernetes, and I expect the Civo team will keep crushing it on that front in 2022.
One of my heuristics for looking at an early-stage startup is who works there. I don’t think I’d heard of Isolvalent until I saw Liz Rice join the staff, and then my friend Duffie Cooley landed a role there too. By then I had definitely noticed the company.
Isovalent makes an enterprise version of Cilium, an open source tool that uses eBPF to provide security and observability for cloud native environments. Liz gave a great talk at KubeCon Los Angeles about eBPF that I highly recommend. My reaction to her talk was that I wished I had Cilium years ago to troubleshoot some difficult incidents. When I first heard about eBPF I had thought of it more from the observability standpoint, but Cilium also provides a CNI plugin, transparent encryption, logs for security audits, and much more.
This is another “right place, right time” pick for me. As companies run more and more workloads in Kubernetes clusters, the importance of k8s security keeps increasing. eBPF is a powerful tool but not easy to use on its own. I expect there will be a lot more Cilium adoption this year.
#5. Kasten by Veeam
If you’ve spent any time administering VMware clusters, you’re likely to be familiar with Veeam, one of the backup tools of choice for VMware VMs. In October 2020, Veeam acquired Kasten, a company that made a backup tool for Kubernetes clusters. They branded it Kasten by Veeam, and the product is called Kasten K10.
K10 does backup/restore for data and apps running in k8s clusters, as well as disaster recovery. As Kubernetes adoption keeps going up and to the right, more and more companies need a backup solution for their clusters. DR is a critical area but sometimes doesn’t get the love it should compared to other customer-facing things. Kasten by Veeam also promises to prevent Kubernetes vendor lock-in by helping with application mobility.
Kasten by Veam was a very visible sponsor of KubeCon Los Angeles 2021, including a spot in the keynotes. They recently hired Alison Dowdney to do Developer Relations, which was a fantastic hire. Alison was previously at Weaveworks and has a great presence in the Kubernetes community. I expect she will bring a lot of visibility to what the Kasten by Veeam team is building.
Speaking of tools that I think I could talk an employer into buying, how about something to help with troubleshooting Kubernetes? Komodor is an observability tool that gives you insight into what’s happening with your clusters and workloads. As distributed applications have become more complex, they’ve become more difficult to troubleshoot, and Komodor gives you an integrated view of your Kubernetes resources. Not everyone will be a kubectl expert, and that’s ok.
Komodor also integrates tools that many teams use, like Datadog, Okta, LaunchDarkly, and PagerDuty. There’s not an open source version of Komodor as far as I know, but it does have an OpenAPI compliant API.
If you haven’t seen what Komodor can do, Anaïs Urlichs has an overview of it on her fantastic YouTube channel.
As you start deploying Kubernetes clusters and workloads, the costs can add up fast. It can be difficult to track those costs and know where they’re coming from, especially if you work with multiple cloud accounts or providers. That’s where Kubecost comes in.
Kubecost gives you insight into where your Kubernetes spend is going. You can view your spend per namespace, service, or even team, and you can set budgets and get real-time alerts. Kubecost can also track other cloud spend from things like RDS and S3, and it also works with on-prem k8s clusters. Kubecost also offers an open source version.
I could say more about Kubecost, but honestly, having a tool like this feels essential to me. If you’ve ever worked in a shop with many rogue cloud resources impacting your budget, you will know what I mean. I think Kubecost also has a similar advantage to Chainguard, in that many companies will want to have this kind of data for internal compliance reasons.
#Bonus: Loft Labs
I’m biased on this one since I work at Loft Labs, so I’m offering it as a bonus entry. I joined the company in April of 2021 because I thought the folks there were solving important problems that many Kubernetes users experience and doing it in smart ways.
Our commercial product, Loft, provides self-service environments and improved multi-tenancy for teams using Kubernetes. It includes some super helpful features like the ability to set quotas for teams, and sleep mode, which can suspend workloads in your dev environments when they’re not being used.
Thanks for reading. If you have Kubernetes companies that you’re keeping an eye on in 2022, feel free to let me know on Twitter.