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Loft Labs promises self-service Kubernetes access for all developers

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Kubernetes  has revolutionized how businesses build, test, deploy, and scale their applications. Emerging from the vaults of Google back in 2014, the container orchestration platform has been adopted by small and large companies alike, from Box and BlackRock to IBM and Spotify.

As one of the world’s most popular open source projects, Kubernetes automates many of the resource-intensive manual processes involved in managing containerized applications. Containers are software packages that have all the components needed to deploy applications in public and hybrid clouds and on-premise datacenters and ensure an application plays ball across all environments. Moreover, Kubernetes helps accelerate development velocity and agility at a time when companies are increasingly moving to the cloud and microservices software architecture.

But when a company says it has “adopted Kubernetes,” it likely means a dozen or so people in its IT department — rather than developers — have access to Kubernetes for running the production system. That leaves hundreds or thousands of a company’s engineers building software that could also be running on Kubernetes from the get-go but isn’t.

This is something Loft Labs is seeking to address with a commercial and open source product suite that promises “truly cloud-native engineering practices,” including unimpeded, self-service access to Kubernetes. To extend its reach into developer teams of all sizes, Loft Labs this week announced a $4.6 million seed round of funding.

“Today, IT typically has to provision resources manually for software engineers and developers or the company does not give engineers access to any cloud resources at all,” Loft Labs cofounder and CEO Lukas Gentele told VentureBeat. “Most software engineering is done entirely on the developer’s laptop, but applications are increasingly designed for scale and for running in the cloud in a distributed way. That makes it very hard for developers to work on their local laptop.”

Open sesame

Founded out of San Francisco in 2019, Loft Labs has open-sourced several Kubernetes projects, including developer tool DevSpace, which is a Docker-Compose alternative that helps engineers build, test, and debug applications inside Kubernetes; Kiosk, which adds multi-tenancy functionality to Kubernetes clusters; JSPolicy, a JavaScript-based policy engine; and Vcluster, a virtual cluster tool that helps engineers spin up lightweight virtual Kubernetes (namespaces) clusters that run inside an underlying Kubernetes cluster.

Tying together these various open source strands is the company’s commercial product known as Loft, which launched last August and enables enterprises to “scale self-service access” to Kubernetes across the engineering workforce.

While the various open source projects are offered via a command line interface (CLI) or application programming interface (API), the commercial Loft entity ushers in a graphical user interface (GUI) and a bunch of additional premium features, including multicloud and multi-cluster support, single sign-on, audit logging to support security workflows across all the open source components, and robust service level agreements (SLAs).

Above: Loft: Managing development Kubernetes clusters

With Loft, companies can give their engineers direct access to cloud resources through a self-service Kubernetes offering, enabling developers to provision their own computing resources without extensive spadework on the IT side.

“Giving software developers on-demand access to code-ready development environments in Kubernetes enables them to build better software from the start,” Gentele explained. “So Loft, ultimately, increases developer productivity and software quality by giving developers direct access to cloud-native development environments where they can validate and test their code repeatedly as early in the development process as possible.”

Traction

Loft Labs claims a number of Fortune 500 companies as clients, including “one of the world’s largest car manufacturers” and a major U.S. financial institution. Customers it’s willing to name-check include Gusto, Urbint, and HqO.

This early traction, alongside revenue growth, has allowed Loft Labs to raise $4.6 million in seed funding. The round was led by Fusion Fund, an early-stage venture capital fund that has previously backed the likes of Lyft and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Other investors in the round included RTP Seed, Emergent Ventures, Berkeley SkyDeck Fund, and Puppet CTO Abby Kearns.

As is often the case, if you want to know what’s hot in technology, follow the money. Kubernetes has spurred a burgeoning ecosystem of commercial companies, and investors have shown they are eager to join the party. Just last month, Kubernetes operations management platform Rafay raised $25 million. And over the past year, numerous companies from the Kubernetes space have attracted the attention of bigger tech companies, including New Relic, which snapped up Kubernetes observability platform Pixie Labs; Red Hat, which bought Kubernetes security startup StackRox; Rapid7, which acquired Alcide; and Cisco, which bought not one but two Kubernetes companies.

There is even a dedicated startup accelerator and incubator called Kubeshop, majority-owned by Insight Partners and Veeam cofounder Ratmir Timashev, that serves as a Kubernetes product pipeline by “nurturing and funding” open source software development.

According to Gentele, it’s the “accelerated pace of Kubernetes adoption” across the spectrum that has these dollars flowing. “It is quickly becoming the de facto computing resource, and companies are accelerating their investments into Kubernetes technologies,” he explained. “In previous years, Kubernetes has been more of an exploration and research topic for a lot of companies, but enterprises are now starting to really double down on it and want to roll out Kubernetes internally much more exhaustively than just to a few teams.”

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