Kontena targets the “software developers who don’t want to understand all the dirty details the operations people are doing as they deploy their platforms,” says founder and CEO Miska Kaipiainen. He believes containers can hide some of those complexities.
“The thing that is bugging me at the moment in the industry is, there’s this need to talk about the details of the technology, and nobody’s talking about the applications,” he says.
He’s talking especially about Kubernetes, where the technology of the platform has been established, but the work to turn it into products is still in progress. There’s a race to offer products that turn Kubernetes into a production-worthy tool, with entrants including Red Hat’s OpenShift, CoreOS’s Tectonic, and, most recently, two of Kubernetes’ creators launching startup Heptio.
Like Kubernetes, Kontena’s software lets a developer deploy applications. When Kaipiainen talks about the software being production-ready, he’s referring to traits such as the ability to scale to large deployments.
Using the platform, developers create Kontena Services, which include a container image itself, its networking information, and any stateful attributes of its workload. (Kontena was early in supporting stateful applications in containers, Kaipiainen claims.)
New to the 1.0 version are Kontena Stacks, which allow management of applications comprised of multiple containers.
Kontena didn’t start as a reaction to Kubernetes. It’s based on work Kaipiainen and two colleagues were doing for Digia, the Helsinki-based, publicly traded IT firm. They had discovered Docker in 2014 and began building the platform that they wanted to use for administering containers.
Digia wasn’t interested but allowed the team to continue developing the platform as a side project, Kaipiainen says. The company released its code publicly for the first time in April 2015.
Kontena could have declared the “1.0” version of code at any point after that, but Kaipiainen is a bit of a tech purist, criticizing other container-related projects for declaring production availability too soon.
“We could have done that at the time, when Docker said they were ‘1.0’ and Kubernetes said, ‘We are 1.0 too!’ and everybody said they were 1.0,” he says. “The fact is, nobody is production-worthy.”
The team is still only 12 people, and Kontena has raised just a little bit of funding, an undisclosed amount from Finnish VC Lifeline Ventures.
“We worked on this during the long nights here in Finland, so we didn’t need funding at the beginning. Something happened, and the VCs from the U.S. started calling us, so we started thinking it might be a good idea to go look for funding,” Kaipiainen says.