Sep
25
2018
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Snyk raises $22M on a $100M valuation to detect security vulnerabilities in open source code

Open source software is now a $14 billion+ market and growing fast, in use in one way or another in 95 percent of all enterprises. But that expansion comes with a shadow: open source components can come with vulnerabilities, and so their widespread use in apps becomes a liability to a company’s cybersecurity.

Now, a startup out of the UK called Snyk, which has built a way to detect when those apps or components are compromised, is announcing a $22 million round of funding to meet the demand from enterprises wanting to tackle the issue head on.

Led by Accel, with participation from GV plus previous investors Boldstart Ventures and Heavybit, this Series B notably is the second round raised by Snyk within seven months — it raised a $7 million Series A in March. That’s a measure of how the company is growing (and how enthusiastic investors are about what it has built so far). The startup is not disclosing its valuation but a source close to the deal says it is around $100 million now (it’s raised about $33 million to date).

As another measure of Snyk’s growth, the company says it now has over 200 paying customers and 150,000 users, with revenues growing five-fold in the last nine months. In March, it had 130 paying customers.

(Current clients include ASOS, Digital Ocean, New Relic and Skyscanner, the company said.)

Snyk plays squarely in the middle of how the landscape for enterprise services exists today. It provides options for organisations to use it on-premises, via the cloud, or in a hybrid version of the two, with a range of paid and free tiers to get users acquainted with the service.

Guy Podjarny, the company’s CEO who co-founded Snyk with Assaf Hefetz and Danny Grander, explained that Snyk works in two parts. First, the startup has built a threat intelligence system “that listens to open source activity.” Tapping into open-conversation platforms — for example, GitHub commits and forum chatter — Snyk uses machine learning to detect potential mentions of vulnerabilities. It then funnels these to a team of human analysts, “who verify and curate the real ones in our vulnerability DB.”

Second, the company analyses source code repositories — including, again, GitHub as well as BitBucket — “to understand which open source components each one uses, flag the ones that are vulnerable, and then auto-fix them by proposing the right dependency version to use and through patches our security team builds.”

Open source components don’t have more vulnerabilities than closed source ones, he added, “but their heavy reuse makes those vulnerabilities more impactful.” Components can be used in thousands of applications, and by Snyk’s estimation, some 77 percent of those applications will end up with components that have security vulnerabilities. “As a result, the chances of an organisation being breached through a vulnerable open source component are far greater than a security flaw purely in their code.”

Podjarny says the plan is not to tackle proprietary code longer term but to expand how it can monitor apps built on open source.

“Our focus is on two fronts – building security tools developers love, and fixing open source security,” he said. “We believe the risk from insecure use of open source code is far greater than that of your own code, and is poorly addressed in the industry. We do intend to expand our protection from fixing known vulnerabilities in open source components to monitoring and securing them in runtime, flagging and containing malicious and compromised components.”

While this is a relatively new area for security teams to monitor and address, he added that the Equifax breach highlighted what might happen in the worst-case scenario if such issues go undetected. Snyk is not the only company that has identified the gap in the market. Black Duck focuses on flagging non-compliant open source licences, and offers some security features as well.

However, it is Snyk — whose name derives from a play on the word “sneak”, combined with the acronym meaning “so now you know” — that seems to be catching the most attention at the moment.

“Some of the largest data breaches in recent years were the result of unfixed vulnerabilities in open source dependencies; as a result, we’ve seen the adoption of tools to monitor and remediate such vulnerabilities grow exponentially,” said Philippe Botteri, partner at Accel, who is joining the board with this round. “We’ve also seen the ownership of application security shifting towards developers. We feel that Snyk is uniquely positioned in the market given the team’s deep security domain knowledge and developer-centric mindset, and are thrilled to join them on this mission of bringing security tools to developers.”

Sep
20
2018
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AI could help push Neo4j graph database growth

Graph databases have always been useful to help find connections across a vast data set, and it turns out that capability is quite handy in artificial intelligence and machine learning too. Today, Neo4j, the makers of the open source and commercial graph database platform, announced the release of Neo4j 3.5, which has a number of new features aimed specifically at AI and machine learning.

Neo4j founder and CEO Emil Eifrem says he had recognized the connection between AI and machine learning and graph databases for a while, but he says that it has taken some time for the market to catch up to the idea.

“There has been a lot momentum around AI and graphs…Graphs are very fundamental to AI. At the same time we were seeing some early use cases, but not really broad adoption, and that’s what we’re seeing right now,” he explained.

AI graph uses cases. Graphic: Neo4j

To help advance AI uses cases, today’s release includes a new full text search capability, which Eifrem says has been one of the most requested features. This is important because when you are making connections between entities, you have to be able to find all of the examples regardless of how it’s worded — for example, human versus humans versus people.

Part of that was building their own indexing engine to increase indexing speed, which becomes essential with ever more data to process. “Another really important piece of functionality is that we have improved our data ingestion very significantly. We have 5x end-to-end performance improvements when it comes to importing data. And this is really important for connected feature extraction, where obviously, you need a lot of data to be able to train the machine learning,” he said. That also means faster sorting of data too.

Other features in the new release include improvements to the company’s own Cypher database query language and better visualization of the graphs to give more visibility, which is useful for visualizing how machine learning algorithms work, which is known as AI explainability. They also announced support for the Go language and increased security.

Graph databases are growing increasingly important as we look to find connections between data. The most common use case is the knowledge graph, which is what lets us see connections in a huge data sets. Common examples include who we are connected to on a social network like Facebook, or if we bought one item, we might like similar items on an ecommerce site.

Other use cases include connected feature extraction, a common machine learning training techniques that can look at a lot of data and extract the connections, the context and the relationships for a particular piece of data, such as suspects in a criminal case and the people connected to them.

Neo4j has over 300 large enterprise customers including Adobe, Microsoft, Walmart, UBS and NASA. The company launched in 2007 and has raised $80 million. The last round was $36 million in November 2016.

Aug
23
2018
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Armory lands $10M Series A to bring continuous delivery to enterprise masses

Armory, a startup that has built a CI/CD platform on top the open source Spinnaker project, announced a $10 million Series A today led by Crosslink Capital. Other investors included Bain Capital Ventures, Javelin Venture Partners, Y Combinator and Robin Vasan.

Software development certainly has changed over the last several years, going from long cycles between updates to a continuous delivery model. The concept is actually called CI/CD or continuous integration/continuous delivery. Armory’s product is designed to eliminate some of the complexity associated with deploying this kind of solution.

When they started the company, the founders made a decision to hitch their wagon to Spinnaker, a project that had the backing of industry heavyweights like Google and Netflix. “Spinnaker would become an emerging standard for enabling truly multi-cloud deployments at scale. Instead of re-creating the wheel and building another in-house continuous delivery platform, we made a big bet on having Spinnaker at the core of Armory’s Platform,” company CEO and co-founder Daniel R. Odio wrote in a blog post announcing the funding.

The bet apparently paid off and the company’s version of Spinnaker is widely deployed enterprise solution (at least according to them). The startup’s ultimate goal is to help Fortune 2000 companies deploy software much faster — and accessing and understanding CI/CD is a big part of that.

As every company out there becomes a software company, they find themselves outside their comfort zones. While Google and Netflix and other hyper-scale organizations have learned to deploy software at startling speed using state of the art methodologies, it’s not so easy for most companies with much smaller engineering teams to pull off.

That’s where a company like Armory could come into play. It takes this open source project and it packages it in such a way that it simplifies (to an extent) the complex world that these larger companies operate in on a regular basis, putting Spinnaker and CI/CD concepts in reach of organizations whose core competency might not involve sophisticated software deployment.

All of this relates to multi-cloud and cloud-native approaches to software development, which lets you manage your applications and infrastructure wherever they live across any cloud vendor or even on-prem in consistent way. Being able to manage continuous deployment is part of that.

Armory launched in 2016 and is based in the Bay area. It has raised a total of $14 million with a $4 million seed round coming last year. They were also a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2017 class and count Y Combinator as an investor in this round.

Aug
21
2018
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Foundries.io promises standardized open source IoT device security

IoT devices currently lack a standard way of applying security. It leaves consumers, whether business or individuals, left to wonder if their devices are secure and up-to-date. Foundries.io, a company that launched today, wants to change that by offering a standard way to secure devices and deliver updates over the air.

“Our mission is solving the problem of IoT and embedded space where there is no standardized core platform like Android for phones,” Foundries.io CEO George Grey explained.

What Foundries has created is an open and secure solution that saves everyone from creating their own and reinventing the wheel every time. Grey says Foundries’ approach is not only secure, it provides a long-term solution to the device update problem by providing a way to deliver updates over the air in an automated manner on any device from tiny sensors to smart thermostats to autonomous cars.

He says this approach will allow manufacturers to apply security patches in a similar way that Apple applies regular updates to iOS. “Manufacturers can continuously make sure their devices can be updated with the latest software to fix security flaws or Zero Day flaws,” he said.

The company offers two solutions, depending on the size and complexity of your device. The Zephyr RTOS microPlatform is designed for smaller, less complex devices. For those that are more complex, Foundries offers a version of Linux called the Linux OE microPlatform.

Diagram: Foundries.io

Grey claims that these platforms free manufacturers to build secure devices without having to hire a team of security experts. But he says the real beauty of the product is that the more people who use it, the more secure it will get, as more and more test it against their products in a virtuous cycle.

You may be wondering how they can make money in this model, but they do it by charging a flat fee of $10,000 per year for Zephyr RTOS and $25,000 per year for Linux OE. These are one-time prices and apply by the product, regardless of how many units get sold and there is no lock-in, according to Grey. Companies are free to back out any time. “If you want to stop subscribing you take over maintenance and you still have access to everything up to the point,. You just have to arrange maintenance yourself,” he said.

There is also a hobbyist and education package for $10 a month.

The company spun off from research at Linaro, an organization that promotes development on top of ARM chips.

To be successful, Foundries.io needs to build a broad community of manufacturers. Today’s launch is the first step in that journey. If it eventually takes off, it has the potential to provide a consistent way of securing and updating IoT devices, a move which would certainly be welcome.

Aug
15
2018
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Oracle open sources Graphpipe to standardize machine learning model deployment

Oracle, a company not exactly known for having the best relationship with the open source community, is releasing a new open source tool today called Graphpipe, which is designed to simplify and standardize the deployment of machine learning models.

The tool consists of a set of libraries and tools for following the standard.

Vish Abrams, whose background includes helping develop OpenStack at NASA and later helping launch Nebula, an OpenStack startup in 2011, is leading the project. He says as his team dug into the machine learning workflow, they found a gap. While teams spend lots of energy developing a machine learning model, it’s hard to actually deploy the model for customers to use. That’s where Graphpipe comes in.

He points out that it’s common with newer technologies like machine learning for people to get caught up in the hype. Even though the development process keeps improving, he says that people often don’t think about deployment.

“Graphpipe is what’s grown out of our attempt to really improve deployment stories for machine learning models, and to create an open standard around having a way of doing that to improve the space,” Abrams told TechCrunch.

As Oracle dug into this, they identified three main problems. For starters, there is no standard way to serve APIs, leaving you to use whatever your framework provides. Next, there is no standard deployment mechanism, which leaves developers to build custom ones every time. Finally, they found existing methods leave performance as an afterthought, which in machine learning could be a major problem.

“We created Graphpipe to solve these three challenges. It provides a standard, high-performance protocol for transmitting tensor data over the network, along with simple implementations of clients and servers that make deploying and querying machine learning models from any framework a breeze,” Abrams wrote in a blog post announcing the release of Graphpipe.

The company decided to make this a standard and to open source it to try and move machine learning model deployment forward. “Graphpipe sits on that intersection between solving a business problems and pushing the state of the art forward, and I think personally, the best way to do that is by have an open source approach. Often, if you’re trying to standardize something without going for the open source bits, what you end up with is a bunch of competing technologies,” he said.

Abrams acknowledged the tension that has existed between Oracle and the open source community over the years, but says they have been working to change the perception recently with contributions to Kubernetes and Oracle FN, their open source Serverless Functions Platform as examples. Ultimately he says, if the technology is interesting enough, people will give it a chance, regardless of who is putting it out there. And of course, once it’s out there, if a community builds around it, they will adapt and change it as open source projects tend to do. Abrams hopes that happens.

“We care more about the standard becoming quite broadly adopted, than we do about our particular implementation of it because that makes it easier for everyone. It’s really up to the community decide that this is valuable and interesting.” he said.

Graphpipe is available starting today on the Oracle GitHub Graphpipe page.

Aug
09
2018
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Prometheus monitoring tool joins Kubernetes as CNCF’s latest ‘graduated’ project

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) may not be a household name, but it houses some important open source projects including Kubernetes, the fast-growing container orchestration tool. Today, CNCF announced that the Prometheus monitoring and alerting tool had joined Kubernetes as the second “graduated” project in the organization’s history.

The announcement was made at PromCon, the project’s dedicated conference being held in Munich this week. According to Chris Aniszczyk, CTO and COO at CNCF, a graduated project reflects the overall maturity where it has reached a tipping point in terms of diversity of contribution, community and adoption.

For Prometheus that means 20 active maintainers, more than 1,000 contributors and more than 13,000 commits. Its contributors include the likes of DigitalOcean, Weaveworks, ShowMax and Uber.

CNCF projects start in the sandbox, move onto incubation and finally to graduation. To achieve graduation level, they need to adopt the CNCF Code of Conduct, have passed an independent security audit and defined a community governance structure. Finally it needs to show an “ongoing commitment to code quality and security best practices,” according to the organization.

Aniszczyk says the tool consists of a time series database combined with a query language that lets developers search for issues or anomalies in their system and get analytics back based on their queries. Not surprisingly, it is especially well suited to containers.

Like Kubernetes, the project that became Prometheus has its roots inside Google. Google was one of the first companies to work with containers and developed Borg (the Kubernetes predecessor) and Borgmon (the Prometheus predecessor). While Borg’s job was to manage container orchestration, Borgmon’s job was to monitor the process and give engineers feedback and insight into what was happening to the containers as they moved through their lifecycle.

While its roots go back to Borgmon, Prometheus as we know it today was developed by a couple of former Google engineers at SoundCloud in 2012. It joined Kubernetes as the second CNCF project in May 2016, and appropriately is the second graduate.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s role in all of this to help promote cloud native computing, the notion that you can manage your infrastructure wherever it lives in a common way, greatly reducing the complexity of managing on-prem and cloud resources. It is part of the Linux Foundation and boasts some of the biggest names in tech as members.

Jul
12
2018
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GitHub Enterprise and Business Cloud users now get access to public repos, too

GitHub, the code hosting service Microsoft recently acquired, is launching a couple of new features for its business users today that’ll make it easier for them to access public repositories on the service.

Traditionally, users on the hosted Business Cloud and self-hosted Enterprise were not able to directly access the millions of public open-source repositories on the service. Now, with the service’s release, that’s changing, and business users will be able to reach beyond their firewalls to engage and collaborate with the rest of the GitHub community directly.

With this, GitHub now also offers its business and enterprise users a new unified search feature that lets them tap into their internal repos but also look at open-source ones.

Other new features in this latest Enterprise release include the ability to ignore whitespace when reviewing changes, the ability to require multiple reviewers for code changes, automated support tickets and more. You can find a full list of all updates here.

Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub wasn’t fully unexpected (and it’s worth noting that the acquisition hasn’t closed yet), but it is still controversial, given that Microsoft and the open-source community, which heavily relies on GitHub, haven’t always seen eye-to-eye in the past. I’m personally not too worried about that, and it feels like the dust has settled at this point and that people are waiting to see what Microsoft will do with the service.

Jun
20
2018
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Nginx lands $43 million Series C to fuel expansion

Nginx, the commercial company behind the open source web server, announced a $43 million Series C investment today led by Goldman Sachs Growth Equity.

NEA, which has been on board as an early investor is also participating. As part of the deal, David Campbell, managing director at Goldman Sachs’ Merchant Banking Division will join the Nginx board. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $103 million, according to the company.

The company was not willing to discuss valuation for this round.

Nginx’s open source approach is already well established running 400 million websites including some of the biggest in the world. Meanwhile, the commercial side of the business has 1,500 paying customers, giving those customers not just support, but additional functionality such as load balancing, an API gateway and analytics.

Nginx CEO Gus Robertson was pleased to get the backing of such prestigious investors. “NEA is one of the largest venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and Goldman Sachs is one of the largest investment banks in the world. And so to have both of those parceled together to lead this round is a great testament to the company and the technology and the team,” he said.

The company already has plans to expand its core commercial product, Nginx Plus in the coming weeks. “We need to continue to innovate and build products that help our customers alleviate the complexity of delivery of distributed or micro service based applications. So you’ll see us release a new product in the coming weeks called Controller. Controller is the control plane on top of Nginx Plus,” Robertson explained. (Controller was launched in Beta last fall.)

But with $43 million in the bank, they want to look to build out Nginx Plus even more in the next 12-18 months. They will also be opening new offices globally to add to its international presence, while expanding its partners ecosystem. All of this means an ambitious goal to increase the current staff of 220 to 300 by the end of the year.

The open source product was originally created by Igor Sysoev back in 2002. He introduced the commercial company on top of the open source project in 2011. Robertson came on board as CEO a year later. The company has been growing 100 percent year over year since 2013 and expects to continue that trajectory through 2019.

Jun
06
2018
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Four years after its release, Kubernetes has come a long way

On June 6th, 2014 Kubernetes was released for the first time. At the time, nobody could have predicted that 4 years later that the project would become a de facto standard for container orchestration or that the biggest tech companies in the world would be backing it. That would come later.

If you think back to June 2014, containerization was just beginning to take off thanks to Docker, which was popularizing the concept with developers, but being so early there was no standard way to manage those containers.

Google had been using containers as a way to deliver applications for years and ran a tool called Borg to handle orchestration. It’s called an orchestrator because much like a conductor of an orchestra, it decides when a container is launched and when it shuts down once it’s completed its job.

At the time, two Google engineers, Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda, who would later go on to start Heptio, were looking at developing an orchestration tool like Borg for companies that might not have the depth of engineering talent of Google to make it work. They wanted to spread this idea of how they develop distributed applications to other developers.

Hello world

Before that first version hit the streets, what would become Kubernetes developed out of a need for an orchestration layer that Beda and McLuckie had been considering for a long time. They were both involved in bringing Google Compute Engine, Google’s Infrastructure as a Service offering, to market, but they felt like there was something missing in the tooling that would fill in the gaps between infrastructure and platform service offerings.

“We had long thought about trying to find a way to bring a sort of a more progressive orchestrated way of running applications in production. Just based on our own experiences with Google Compute Engine, we got to see firsthand some of the challenges that the enterprise faced in moving workloads to the cloud,” McLuckie explained.

He said that they also understood some of the limitations associated with virtual machine-based workloads and they were thinking about tooling to help with all of that. “And so we came up the idea to start a new project, which ultimately became Kubernetes.”

Let’s open source it

When Google began developing Kubernetes in March 2014, it wanted nothing less than to bring container orchestration to the masses. It was a big goal and McLuckie, Beda and teammate Brendan Burns believed the only way to get there was to open source the technology and build a community around it. As it turns out, they were spot on with that assessment, but couldn’t have been 100 percent certain at the time. Nobody could have.

Photo: Cloud Native Computing Foudation

“If you look at the history, we made the decision to open source Kubernetes and make it a community-oriented project much sooner than conventional wisdom would dictate and focus on really building a community in an open and engaged fashion. And that really paid dividends as Kubernetes has accelerated and effectively become the standard for container orchestration,” McLuckie said.

The next thing they did was to create the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) as an umbrella organization for the project. If you think about it, this project could have gone in several directions, as current CNCF director Dan Kohn described in a recent interview.

Going cloud native

Kohn said Kubernetes was unique in a couple of ways. First of all, it was based on existing technology developed over many years at Google. “Even though Kubernetes code was new, the concepts and engineering and know-how behind it was based on 15 years at Google building Borg (And a Borg replacement called Omega that failed),” Kohn said. The other thing was that Kubernetes was designed from the beginning to be open sourced.

Photo: Swapnil Bhartiya on Flickr. Used under CC by SA 2.0 license

He pointed out that Google could have gone in a few directions with Kubernetes. It could have created a commercial product and sold it through Google Cloud. It could have open sourced it, but had a strong central lead as they did with Go. They could have gone to the Linux Foundation and said they wanted to create a stand-alone Kubernetes Foundation. But they didn’t do any of these things.

McLuckie says they decided to something entirely different and place it under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, but not as Kubernetes project. Instead they wanted to create a new framework for cloud native computing itself and the CNCF was born. “The CNCF is a really important staging ground, not just for Kubernetes, but for the technologies that needed to come together to really complete the narrative, to make Kubernetes a much more comprehensive framework,” McLuckie explained.

Getting everyone going in the same direction

Over the last few years, we have watched as Kubernetes has grown into a container orchestration standard. Last summer in quick succession  a slew of major enterprise players joined CNCF as AWSOracleMicrosoftVMware and Pivotal all joined. They came together with Red Hat, Intel, IBM Cisco and others who were already members.

Cloud Native Computing Foundation Platinum members

Each these players no doubt wanted to control the orchestration layer, but they saw Kubernetes gaining momentum so rapidly, they had little choice but to go along. Kohn jokes that having all these big name players on board is like herding cats, but bringing in them in has been the goal all along. He said it just happened much faster than he thought it would.

In a recent interview with TechCrunch, David Aronchick, who runs the open source Kubeflow Kubernetes machine learning project at Google, was running Kubernetes in the early days. He is shocked by how quickly it has grown. “I couldn’t have predicted it would be like this. I joined in January, 2015 and took on project management for Google Kubernetes. I was stunned at the pent up demand for this kind of thing,” he told TechCrunch.

As it has grown, it has become readily apparent that McLuckie was right about building that cloud native framework instead of a stand-alone Kubernetes foundation. Today there are dozens of adjacent projects and the organization is thriving.

Nobody is more blown away by this than McLuckie himself who says seeing Kubernetes hit these various milestones since its initial release has been amazing for him and his team to watch. “It’s just been a series of these wonderful kind of moments as Kubernetes has gained a head of steam, and it’s been  so much fun to see the community really rally around it.”

Jun
01
2018
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Helm moves out of Kubernetes’ shadow to become stand-alone project

Helm is an open source project that enables developers to create packages of containerized apps to make installation much simpler. Up until now, it was a sub-project of Kubernetes, the popular container orchestration tool, but as of today it is a stand-alone project.

Both Kubernetes and Helm are projects managed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). The CNCF’s Technical Oversight Committee approved the project earlier this week. Dan Kohn, executive director at the CNCF says the two projects are closely aligned so it made sense for Helm to be a sub-project up until now.

“What’s nice about Helm is that it’s just an application on top of Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an API and Helm accesses that API. If you want you to install this [package], you access the Kubernetes API, and it pulls this many containers and pods and [it handles] all of the steps involved to do that,” Kohn explained.

This ability to package up a set of requirements allows you to repeat the installation process in a consistent way. “Helm addresses a common user need of deploying applications to Kubernetes by making their configurations reusable,” Brian Grant, principal engineer at Google and Kubernetes (and a member of the TOC) explained in a statement.

Packages are known as “charts,” which consist one or more containers. Kohn says for example, you might want to deploy a chart that includes WordPress and MariaDB in a single container. By creating a chart, it defines the installation process and which pieces need to go in which order to install correctly across a cluster.

Kohn said they decided to pull it out as a separate program because it doesn’t always follow the Kubernetes release schedule, and as such they wanted to make it stand-alone so it wouldn’t necessarily have to be linked to every Kubernetes release.

It also allows developers to benefit from the community, who could build Charts for common installation scenarios. “By joining CNCF, we’ll benefit from the input and participation of the community, and conversely Kubernetes will benefit when a community of developers provides a vast repository of ready-made charts for running workloads on Kubernetes,” Matt Butcher, co-creator of Helm and principal engineer at Microsoft said in a statement.

Besides Microsoft and Google, other project sponsors include Codefresh, Bitnami, Ticketmaster and Codecentric. The project website states there are currently 250 developers contributing to this project. By becoming part of CNCF that will very likely increase soon.

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