The technology’s premise is that by allowing software code to be prepped in ready-made containers, code can quickly be moved between environments and even connected together to run a distributed app in the cloud. This approach speeds up the testing process and allows for building large, scalable cloud applications.
For further reading, check out our report, Inside the Linux Container Ecosystem.
The trend seems clear: Containers are gaining traction fast. That’s good news for Docker Inc., which makes the popular open source container platform of the same name, and also a potential boon to the many container management and orchestration startups racing to gain footholds.
Although container startups are numerous, we’ve identified several that we believe are interesting and worth watching. (Note that we left out Docker itself. With more than $100 million raised, it’s graduated beyond the “startups to watch” phase.)
Self-proclaimed “open source hackers” and “online civil liberty activists,” the CoreOS team is on a mission to improve security of “the stack” while making advancements in modern server infrastructures.
The growing popularity of containers has led to storage issues, and this three-year-old company is combatting it with its container storage project called Torus. However, the startup’s main commercial project is Tectonic, a container orchestration platform based on the open source Kubernetes project. After raising $20 million a couple of years ago and another $28 million in May, this company uses Linux containers to manage services at a high level of abstraction, with the goal of making the Internet more secure. It is clear that there is a lot of belief in this company when looking at the amount of funding it has already received.
Founders: Alex Polvi (formerly of Rackspace), Brandon Philips (Rackspace)
Funding: $48 million (Google Ventures (GV), Intel Capital, Accel, Fuel Capital, KPCB, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, Fuel Capital, Y Combinator Community Fund, Work-Bench Ventures)
This San Francisco-based startup was quick to jump on the trend of expanding open source tools and DevOps for the data center. The company specializes in container orchestration and container management.
Three-year-old Mesosphere’s primary product is its Data Center Operating System (DCOS), the core of which is the open source Apache Mesos kernel. In a funding announcement in March, investor HP Ventures endorsed Mesophere by calling DCOS “the most exciting new enterprise operating system since Linux.”
Mesosphere has attracted notable customers such as Verizon, Apple, Airbnb, Netflix, and Twitter, and it’s backed by more than 60 partners including, Microsoft, HPE, Accenture, Autodesk, Cisco, EMC, Equinix, Puppet, and Verizon.
Founders: Tobi Knaup (Airbnb), Florian Liebert, Ben Hindman (Twitter, Google)
Funding: $126 million (A. Capital Ventures, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Khosla Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Center Electric, CrunchFund)
Weaveworks is, not surprisingly, another Linux container vendor that focuses on orchestration, management, and monitoring, although it might be best known for tackling container networking. The company was formed in 2014 and received a first round of funding led by Accel Partners. Following a $15 million Series B in May, Weaveworks put its final pieces in place to deliver a networking platform for containers. Weaveworks aims to build an infrastructure around users’ applications, and not the other way around.
Weaveworks supports integrations with Docker, AWS, Azure, CoreOS, Apache Mesos, and Kubernetes. And its customers include Docker Inc., Container Solutions, Cyrus Innovation, L Shift, Jetstack, OpenCredo, and Ricston.
Founders: Alexis Richardson (Pivotal Software, VMware), Matthias Radstock (RabbitMQ)
Funding: $20 million (Accel Partners and GV)
4. Rancher Labs
Since it launched in 2014, Rancher Labs has quickly gained traction in the container orchestration and container management space. CEO Sheng Liang and his founding team previously ran Cloud.com and were the creators of CloudStack.
Rancher, the company’s open source container management platform, hopped on the trend toward running containers in production. This platform also helped the startup extend into the area of software-defined storage. Rancher Labs’ products are designed for DevOps teams that are serious about running containers in production, and the company claims to have well over 1 million downloads.
Founders: Sheng Liang (Citrix), Shannon Williams (Citrix), Darren Shepherd (Citrix, GoDaddy), Will Chan (Citrix, Seven Networks)
Funding: $30 million (GRC SinoGreen, Mayfield, Nexus Venture Partners)
ClusterHQ’s experts describe themselves as “the container data people,” and the company is one of several that have fleshed out the ecosystem of open source containers, including Docker Inc. One of the company’s cornerstone products, Flocker, manages Docker containers and data volumes together. It is an open source data volume manager for Dockerized applications. ClusterHQ announced in October that it would enter its fourth quarter with over a 390 percent increase in Flocker downloads.
Founders: Luke Marsden (Digital Crocus), Rob Haswell (The Property Jungle)
Funding: $12 million (Accel Partners, Canaan Partners, Eden Ventures, Episode 1, DN Capital, EC1 Capital, Firestartr)
Founded by a former Israeli military member in January, Twistlock took off quickly. The company received a $2.5 million funding round in May 2015 and another $10 million in July. With only 12 employees, Twistlock managed to get noticed by Google Cloud Platform because of its contribution to open source projects, especially Docker.
These “security geeks,” as they call themselves, have a passion for making systems safer and have years of experience in information security and enterprise software. Twistlock offers container protection on well-known platforms such as Docker, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Cloud Native, and Google Cloud Platform just to name a few. Twistlock Run and Twistlock Trust are the company’s cornerstone products, both aimed at securing containers in their own specific ways. In November, Twistlock officially launched its security suite. The company claimed that it had gained 15 customers just during the suite’s beta phase.
Founders: Ben Bernstein (Microsoft), Dima Stopel (Microsoft, Deutsch Telekom Labs at BGU)
Funding: $12.5 million (TenEleven, YL Ventures, Rally Ventures)