Dec
02
2019
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CircleCI launches improved AWS support

For about a year now, continuous integration and delivery service CircleCI has offered Orbs, a way to easily reuse commands and integrations with third-party services. Unsurprisingly, some of the most popular Orbs focus on AWS, as that’s where most of the company’s developers are either testing their code or deploying it. Today, right in time for AWS’s annual re:Invent developer conference in Las Vegas, the company announced that it has now added Orb support for the AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM), which makes setting up automated CI/CD platforms for testing and deploying to AWS Lambda significantly easier.

In total, the company says, more than 11,000 organizations started using Orbs since it launched a year ago. Among the AWS-centric Orbs are those for building and updating images for the Amazon Elastic Container Services and the Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS), for example, as well as AWS CodeDeploy support, an Orb for installing and configuring the AWS command line interface, an Orb for working with the S3 storage service and more.

“We’re just seeing a momentum of more and more companies being ready to adopt [managed services like Lambda, ECS and EKS], so this became really the ideal time to do most of the work with the product team at AWS that manages their serverless ecosystem and to add in this capability to leverage that serverless application model and really have this out of the box CI/CD flow ready for users who wanted to start adding these into to Lambda,” CircleCI VP of business development Tom Trahan told me. “I think when Lambda was in its earlier days, a lot of people would use it and they would use it and not necessarily follow the same software patterns and delivery flow that they might have with their traditional software. As they put more and more into Lambda and are really putting a lot more what I would call ‘production quality code’ out there to leverage. They realize they do want to have that same software delivery capability and discipline for Lambda as well.”

Trahan stressed that he’s still talking about early adopters and companies that started out as cloud-native companies, but these days, this group includes a lot of traditional companies, as well, that are now rapidly going through their own digital transformations.

Aug
22
2019
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Enterprise software is hot — who would have thought?

Once considered the most boring of topics, enterprise software is now getting infused with such energy that it is arguably the hottest space in tech.

It’s been a long time coming. And it is the developers, software engineers and veteran technologists with deep experience building at-scale technologies who are energizing enterprise software. They have learned to build resilient and secure applications with open-source components through continuous delivery practices that align technical requirements with customer needs. And now they are developing application architectures and tools for at-scale development and management for enterprises to make the same transformation.

“Enterprise had become a dirty word, but there’s a resurgence going on and Enterprise doesn’t just mean big and slow anymore,” said JD Trask, co-founder of Raygun enterprise monitoring software. “I view the modern enterprise as one that expects their software to be as good as consumer software. Fast. Easy to use. Delivers value.”

The shift to scale out computing and the rise of the container ecosystem, driven largely by startups, is disrupting the entire stack, notes Andrew Randall, vice president of business development at Kinvolk.

In advance of TechCrunch’s first enterprise-focused event, TC Sessions: Enterprise, The New Stack examined the commonalities between the numerous enterprise-focused companies who sponsor us. Their experiences help illustrate the forces at play behind the creation of the modern enterprise tech stack. In every case, the founders and CTOs recognize the need for speed and agility, with the ultimate goal of producing software that’s uniquely in line with customer needs.

We’ll explore these topics in more depth at The New Stack pancake breakfast and podcast recording at TC Sessions: Enterprise. Starting at 7:45 a.m. on Sept. 5, we’ll be serving breakfast and hosting a panel discussion on “The People and Technology You Need to Build a Modern Enterprise,” with Sid Sijbrandij, founder and CEO, GitLab, and Frederic Lardinois, enterprise writer and editor, TechCrunch, among others. Questions from the audience are encouraged and rewarded, with a raffle prize awarded at the end.

Traditional virtual machine infrastructure was originally designed to help manage server sprawl for systems-of-record software — not to scale out across a fabric of distributed nodes. The disruptors transforming the historical technology stack view the application, not the hardware, as the main focus of attention. Companies in The New Stack’s sponsor network provide examples of the shift toward software that they aim to inspire in their enterprise customers. Portworx provides persistent state for containers; NS1 offers a DNS platform that orchestrates the delivery internet and enterprise applications; Lightbend combines the scalability and resilience of microservices architecture with the real-time value of streaming data.

“Application development and delivery have changed. Organizations across all industry verticals are looking to leverage new technologies, vendors and topologies in search of better performance, reliability and time to market,” said Kris Beevers, CEO of NS1. “For many, this means embracing the benefits of agile development in multicloud environments or building edge networks to drive maximum velocity.”

Enterprise software startups are delivering that value, while they embody the practices that help them deliver it.

The secrets to speed, agility and customer focus

Speed matters, but only if the end result aligns with customer needs. Faster time to market is often cited as the main driver behind digital transformation in the enterprise. But speed must also be matched by agility and the ability to adapt to customer needs. That means embracing continuous delivery, which Martin Fowler describes as the process that allows for the ability to put software into production at any time, with the workflows and the pipeline to support it.

Continuous delivery (CD) makes it possible to develop software that can adapt quickly, meet customer demands and provide a level of satisfaction with benefits that enhance the value of the business and the overall brand. CD has become a major category in cloud-native technologies, with companies such as CircleCI, CloudBees, Harness and Semaphore all finding their own ways to approach the problems enterprises face as they often struggle with the shift.

“The best-equipped enterprises are those [that] realize that the speed and quality of their software output are integral to their bottom line,” Rob Zuber, CTO of CircleCI, said.

Speed is also in large part why monitoring and observability have held their value and continue to be part of the larger dimension of at-scale application development, delivery and management. Better data collection and analysis, assisted by machine learning and artificial intelligence, allow companies to quickly troubleshoot and respond to customer needs with reduced downtime and tight DevOps feedback loops. Companies in our sponsor network that fit in this space include Raygun for error detection; Humio, which provides observability capabilities; InfluxData with its time-series data platform for monitoring; Epsagon, the monitoring platform for serverless architectures and Tricentis for software testing.

“Customer focus has always been a priority, but the ability to deliver an exceptional experience will now make or break a “modern enterprise,” said Wolfgang Platz, founder of Tricentis, which makes automated software testing tools. “It’s absolutely essential that you’re highly responsive to the user base, constantly engaging with them to add greater value. This close and constant collaboration has always been central to longevity, but now it’s a matter of survival.”

DevOps is a bit overplayed, but it still is the mainstay workflow for cloud-native technologies and critical to achieving engineering speed and agility in a decoupled, cloud-native architecture. However, DevOps is also undergoing its own transformation, buoyed by the increasing automation and transparency allowed through the rise of declarative infrastructure, microservices and serverless technologies. This is cloud-native DevOps. Not a tool or a new methodology, but an evolution of the longstanding practices that further align developers and operations teams — but now also expanding to include security teams (DevSecOps), business teams (BizDevOps) and networking (NetDevOps).

“We are in this constant feedback loop with our customers where, while helping them in their digital transformation journey, we learn a lot and we apply these learnings for our own digital transformation journey,” Francois Dechery, chief strategy officer and co-founder of CloudBees, said. “It includes finding the right balance between developer freedom and risk management. It requires the creation of what we call a continuous everything culture.”

Leveraging open-source components is also core in achieving speed for engineering. Open-source use allows engineering teams to focus on building code that creates or supports the core business value. Startups in this space include Tidelift and open-source security companies such as Capsule8. Organizations in our sponsor portfolio that play roles in the development of at-scale technologies include The Linux Foundation, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and the Cloud Foundry Foundation.

“Modern enterprises … think critically about what they should be building themselves and what they should be sourcing from somewhere else,” said Chip Childers, CTO of Cloud Foundry Foundation . “Talented engineers are one of the most valuable assets a company can apply to being competitive, and ensuring they have the freedom to focus on differentiation is super important.”

You need great engineering talent, giving them the ability to build secure and reliable systems at scale while also the trust in providing direct access to hardware as a differentiator.

Is the enterprise really ready?

The bleeding edge can bleed too much for the likings of enterprise customers, said James Ford, an analyst and consultant.

“It’s tempting to live by mantras like ‘wow the customer,’ ‘never do what customers want (instead build innovative solutions that solve their need),’ ‘reduce to the max,’ … and many more,” said Bernd Greifeneder, CTO and co-founder of Dynatrace . “But at the end of the day, the point is that technology is here to help with smart answers … so it’s important to marry technical expertise with enterprise customer need, and vice versa.”

How the enterprise adopts new ways of working will affect how startups ultimately fare. The container hype has cooled a bit and technologists have more solid viewpoints about how to build out architecture.

One notable trend to watch: The role of cloud services through projects such as Firecracker. AWS Lambda is built on Firecracker, the open-source virtualization technology, built originally at Amazon Web Services . Firecracker serves as a way to get the speed and density that comes with containers and the hardware isolation and security capabilities that virtualization offers. Startups such as Weaveworks have developed a platform on Firecracker. OpenStack’s Kata containers also use Firecracker.

“Firecracker makes it easier for the enterprise to have secure code,” Ford said. It reduces the surface security issues. “With its minimal footprint, the user has control. It means less features that are misconfigured, which is a major security vulnerability.”

Enterprise startups are hot. How they succeed will determine how well they may provide a uniqueness in the face of the ever-consuming cloud services and at-scale startups that inevitably launch their own services. The answer may be in the middle with purpose-built architectures that use open-source components such as Firecracker to provide the capabilities of containers and the hardware isolation that comes with virtualization.

Hope to see you at TC Sessions: Enterprise. Get there early. We’ll be serving pancakes to start the day. As we like to say, “Come have a short stack with The New Stack!”

Aug
07
2019
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CircleCI brings its continuous integration to Microsoft programmers for first time

CircleCI has been supporting continuous integration for Linux and Mac programmers for some time, but up until today, Microsoft developers have been left on the outside looking in. Today, the company changed that, announcing new support for Microsoft programmers using Windows Server 2019.

CircleCI, which announced a $56 million Series D investment last month, is surely looking for ways to expand its market reach, and providing support for Microsoft programmers is a good place to start, as it represents a huge untapped market for the company.

“We’re really happy to announce that we are going to support Windows because customers are asking for it. Windows [comprises] 40% of the development market, according to a Stack Overflow survey from earlier this year,” Alexey Klochay, CircleCI product manager for Windows, told TechCrunch.

Microsoft programmers could have used continuous integration before outside of CircleCI, but it was much harder. Klochay says that with CircleCI, they are getting a much more integrated solution. For starters, he says, developers can get up and running right away without the help of an engineer. “We give the power to developers to do exactly what they need to do at their own pace without getting locked into anything. We’re providing ease of use and ease of maintenance,” he explained.

CircleCI also provides greater visibility across a development team. “We are also giving companies tools to get better visibility into what everyone is building, and how everyone is interacting with the system,” he said.

Klochay says that much of this is possible because of the changes in Windows Server 2019, which was released last year. “Because of all the changes that Microsoft has been introducing in the latest Windows Server, it has been a smoother experience than if we had to start a year ago,” he said.

Nathan Dintenfass from CircleCI says that, in general, the Microsoft ecosystem has shifted in recent years to be more welcoming to the kind of approach that CircleCI provides for developers. “We have observed a maturation of the Windows ecosystem, and being more and more attracted to the kinds of teams that are investing in really high-throughput software delivery automation, while at the same time same a maturation of the underlying cloud infrastructure that makes Windows available, and makes it much easier for us to operate,” he explained.

Jul
23
2019
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CircleCI closes $56M Series D investment as market for continuous delivery expands

CircleCI launched way back in 2011 when the notion of continuous delivery was just a twinkle in most developers’ eyes, but over the years with the rise of agile, containerization and DevOps, we’ve seen the idea of continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) really begin to mainstream with developers. Today, CircleCI was rewarded with a $56 million Series D investment.

The round was led by Owl Rock Capital Partners and Next Equity. Existing investors Scale Venture Partners, Top Tier Capital, Threshold Ventures (formerly DFJ), Baseline Ventures, Industry Ventures, Heavybit and Harrison Metal Capital also participated in the round. CircleCI’s most recent funding prior to this round was a $31 million Series C last January. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $115.5 million, according to the company.

CircleCI CEO Jim Rose sees a market that’s increasingly ready for the product his company is offering. “As we’re putting more money to work, there are just more folks that are now moving away from aspiring about doing continuous delivery and really leaning into the idea of, ‘We’re a software company, we need to know how to do this well, and we need to be able to automate all the steps between the time our developers are making changes to the code until that application gets in front of the customer,’ ” Rose told TechCrunch.

Rose sees a market that’s getting ready to explode and he wants to use the runway this money provides his company to take advantage of that growth. “Now, what we’re finding is that fintech companies, insurance companies, retailers — all of the more traditional brands — are now realizing they’re in a software business as well. And they’re really trying to build out the tool sets and the expertise to be effective at that. And so the real growth in our market is still right in front of us,” he said.

As CircleCI matures and the market follows suit, a natural question following a Series D investment is when the company might go public, but Rose was not ready to commit to anything yet. “We come at it from the perspective of keeping our heads down trying to build the best business and doing right by our customers. I’m sure at some point along the journey our investors will be itching for liquidity, but as it stands right now, everyone is really [focused]. I think what we have found is that the bulk of the market is just starting to arrive,” he said.

Nov
07
2018
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CircleCI launches Orbs, a package manager for software delivery automation

DevOps platform CircleCI today announced a new partner program that will open up its platform and allow third-party tools to integrate with it. In addition, the company is launching Orbs, which it describes as “the world’s first package manager designed specifically for configuration of software delivery automation.”

Fresh off its $31 million funding round earlier this year, CircleCI is clearly on a mission to firmly plant its stake in the increasingly competitive continuous integration and delivery space. Its launch partners today include the likes of Cypress, JFrog, Pulumi, Sauce Labs, Sonatype and WhiteSource.

That partner program, though, mostly sets the stage for Orbs. The idea behind Orbs is to give the company’s users the ability to share their preferred CI/CD configuration across teams and projects by allowing them to package their commands, executors and jobs into a few lines of code. It’s basically a way to allow teams to automate more of their build/test/deploy workflow and share their best practices for configuring their software pipelines. For new users, these Orbs will also make it easier to get started without having to write a lot of boilerplate code.

CircleCI will offer its own set of certified Orbs, as well as those written by its partners. Currently, there are Orbs for working with Heroku and Amazon’s S3 and CodeDeploy, for example, as well as the obligatory Slack notification Orb. In total, CircleCI is launching 25 packages today.

“CircleCI Orbs are the most exciting thing in the CI world since Docker containers,” said Gleb Bahmutov, VP of Engineering at Cypress and an early-access orbs customer and contributor. “From a developer’s standpoint, orbs are a much-needed improvement from the regular ‘read the docs, copy/paste example, tweak for 30 minutes until CI passes’ — an outdated workflow. It’s an absolutely incredible experience.”

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