Heptio Pilots Businesses Toward Hybrid Cloud with $25M Investment

The praise Heptio co-founder Joe Beda received after the Seattle startup company announced a $25 million funding round “seems a little strange,” he said in a tweet Wednesday, because the “real work” is still ahead.

Beda’s tweet was met with more congratulations and assertions that the company—an archetype of Seattle’s cloud computing ecosystem—is already doing well with customers. With the new investment, led by Madrona Venture Group with participation from prior backer Accel Partners and new investor Lightspeed Venture Partners, 9-month-old Heptio now has substantial resources to continue developing its customer base and technology. It raised an $8.5 million Series A round last November.

The company works deep in the IT stack, down where computing resources are allocated to applications. Importantly, it offers businesses the prospect of flexibility and a path away from vendor lock in, making it easier to move IT workloads among cloud computing environments from the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.

Heptio co-founder and CTO Joe Beda.

Heptio is a startup in the model of others that make it easier to use open-source software—in this case, the container-management technology Kubernetes, released by Google in 2014. Beda and CEO Craig McLuckie were part of the original team at Google to develop the software, named for the Greek word for helmsman or pilot. Heptio provides training, support, and professional services to help companies implement Kubernetes.

“The level of community engagement and industry acceptance of Kubernetes exceeded our wildest expectations and has been truly humbling,” McLuckie says in a blog post. “It is, however, still relatively early days for the project. Kubernetes really speaks to systems engineers, but there is a huge body of work to do to make it truly accessible to engineers who don’t necessarily have the time to ‘dig into’ the details of the project.”

Containers, in the context of IT infrastructure, refer to discrete, isolated instances of an operating system running on the same physical hardware. Each container appears to the application running on it as though it were its own computer. The technology is meant to improve resource utilization and flexibility in data centers and cloud computing environments.

Kubernetes is one of several technologies designed to make it easier to manage these containers, including in hybrid computing environments that cross public and private clouds, and on-premises IT infrastructure.

Heptio co-founder and CEO Craig McLuckie.

Madrona managing partner Tim Porter, who is joining Heptio’s board, says half of the Fortune 100 uses Kubernetes. Heptio, he adds in a blog post, has “landed a number of high-profile (although still confidential) customers, and laid the groundwork for key partnerships.”

These early customers “have demonstrated an incredible need for product capabilities and additional services,” driving Heptio’s need to raise money to “dramatically” grow its team, McLuckie says.

He also described the broader business opportunity Heptio intends to pursue:

“We also believe that the challenges that enterprise companies face as software systems become increasingly fundamental to their businesses cannot be solved by a single open-source technology alone. Organizations of all sizes see open source cloud native technologies a path to not only avoid vendor lock-in, but get more out of the tech that powers their business. We aspire not only to connect them with the Kubernetes community, but also to partner with them to deliver and integrate full enterprise-grade solutions for the workloads that power their businesses.”

As for Beda’s tweet, you could read it as a humblebrag or an indictment of the tech industry’s outsized focus on funding rounds rather than more substantive business and technology milestones. The tech press is just as guilty of this as anyone.

Photo credit: Container ship and tug by Ingrid Taylar via Flickr, cropped and used under a CC BY 2.0 license. 

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