Sep
26
2018
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Instana raises $30M for its application performance monitoring service

Instana, an application performance monitoring (APM) service with a focus on modern containerized services, today announced that it has raised a $30 million Series C funding round. The round was led by Meritech Capital, with participation from existing investor Accel. This brings Instana’s total funding to $57 million.

The company, which counts the likes of Audi, Edmunds.com, Yahoo Japan and Franklin American Mortgage as its customers, considers itself an APM 3.0 player. It argues that its solution is far lighter than those of older players like New Relic and AppDynamics (which sold to Cisco hours before it was supposed to go public). Those solutions, the company says, weren’t built for modern software organizations (though I’m sure they would dispute that).

What really makes Instana stand out is its ability to automatically discover and monitor the ever-changing infrastructure that makes up a modern application, especially when it comes to running containerized microservices. The service automatically catalogs all of the endpoints that make up a service’s infrastructure, and then monitors them. It’s also worth noting that the company says that it can offer far more granular metrics that its competitors.

Instana says that its annual sales grew 600 percent over the course of the last year, something that surely attracted this new investment.

“Monitoring containerized microservice applications has become a critical requirement for today’s digital enterprises,” said Meritech Capital’s Alex Kurland. “Instana is packed with industry veterans who understand the APM industry, as well as the paradigm shifts now occurring in agile software development. Meritech is excited to partner with Instana as they continue to disrupt one of the largest and most important markets with their automated APM experience.”

The company plans to use the new funding to fulfill the demand for its service and expand its product line.

Jul
31
2018
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The Istio service mesh hits version 1.0

Istio, the service mesh for microservices from Google, IBM, Lyft, Red Hat and many other players in the open-source community, launched version 1.0 of its tools today.

If you’re not into service meshes, that’s understandable. Few people are. But Istio is probably one of the most important new open-source projects out there right now. It sits at the intersection of a number of industry trends, like containers, microservices and serverless computing, and makes it easier for enterprises to embrace them. Istio now has more than 200 contributors and the code has seen more than 4,000 check-ins since the launch of  version 0.1.

Istio, at its core, handles the routing, load balancing, flow control and security needs of microservices. It sits on top of existing distributed applications and basically helps them talk to each other securely, while also providing logging, telemetry and the necessary policies that keep things under control (and secure). It also features support for canary releases, which allow developers to test updates with a few users before launching them to a wider audience, something that Google and other webscale companies have long done internally.

“In the area of microservices, things are moving so quickly,” Google product manager Jennifer Lin told me. “And with the success of Kubernetes and the abstraction around container orchestration, Istio was formed as an open-source project to really take the next step in terms of a substrate for microservice development as well as a path for VM-based workloads to move into more of a service management layer. So it’s really focused around the right level of abstractions for services and creating a consistent environment for managing that.”

Even before the 1.0 release, a number of companies already adopted Istio in production, including the likes of eBay and Auto Trader UK. Lin argues that this is a sign that Istio solves a problem that a lot of businesses are facing today as they adopt microservices. “A number of more sophisticated customers tried to build their own service management layer and while we hadn’t yet declared 1.0, we hard a number of customers — including a surprising number of large enterprise customer — say, ‘you know, even though you’re not 1.0, I’m very comfortable putting this in production because what I’m comparing it to is much more raw.’”

IBM Fellow and VP of Cloud Jason McGee agrees with this and notes that “our mission since Istio’s launch has been to enable everyone to succeed with microservices, especially in the enterprise. This is why we’ve focused the community around improving security and scale, and heavily leaned our contributions on what we’ve learned from building agile cloud architectures for companies of all sizes.”

A lot of the large cloud players now support Istio directly, too. IBM supports it on top of its Kubernetes Service, for example, and Google even announced a managed Istio service for its Google Cloud users, as well as some additional open-source tooling for serverless applications built on top of Kubernetes and Istio.

Two names missing from today’s party are Microsoft and Amazon. I think that’ll change over time, though, assuming the project keeps its momentum.

Istio also isn’t part of any major open-source foundation yet. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the home of Kubernetes, is backing linkerd, a project that isn’t all that dissimilar from Istio. Once a 1.0 release of these kinds of projects rolls around, the maintainers often start looking for a foundation that can shepherd the development of the project over time. I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before we hear more about where Istio will land.

Jul
24
2018
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Google Cloud goes all-in on hybrid with its new Cloud Services Platform

The cloud isn’t right for every business, be that because of latency constraints at the edge, regulatory requirements or because it’s simply cheaper to own and operate their own data centers for their specific workloads. Given this, it’s maybe no surprise that the vast majority of enterprises today use both public and private clouds in parallel. That’s something Microsoft has long been betting on as part of its strategy for its Azure cloud, and Google, too, is now taking a number of steps in this direction.

With the open-source Kubernetes project, Google launched one of the fundamental building blocks that make running and managing applications in hybrid environments easier for large enterprises. What Google hadn’t done until today, though, is launch a comprehensive solution that includes all of the necessary parts for this kind of deployment. With its new Cloud Services Platform, though, the company is now offering businesses an integrated set of cloud services that can be deployed on both the Google Cloud Platform and in on-premise environments.

As Google Cloud engineering director Chen Goldberg noted in a press briefing ahead of today’s announcement, many businesses also simply want to be able to manage their own workloads on-premise but still be able to access new machine learning tools in the cloud, for example. “Today, to achieve this, use cases involve a compromise between cost, consistency, control and flexibility,” she said. “And this all negatively impacts the desired result.”

Goldberg stressed that the idea behind the Cloud Services Platform is to meet businesses where they are and then allow them to modernize their stack at their own pace. But she also noted that businesses want more than just the ability to move workloads between environments. “Portability isn’t enough,” she said. “Users want consistent experiences so that they can train their team once and run anywhere — and have a single playbook for all environments.”

The two services at the core of this new offering are the Kubernetes container orchestration tool and Istio, a relatively new but quickly growing tool for connecting, managing and securing microservices. Istio is about to hit its 1.0 release.

We’re not simply talking about a collection of open-source tools here. The core of the Cloud Services Platform, Goldberg noted, is “custom configured and battle-tested for enterprises by Google.” In addition, it is deeply integrated with other services in the Google Cloud, including the company’s machine learning tools.

GKE On-Prem

Among these new custom-configured tools are a number of new offerings, which are all part of the larger platform. Maybe the most interesting of these is GKE On-Prem. GKE, the Google Kubernetes Engine, is the core Google Cloud service for managing containers in the cloud. And now Google is essentially bringing this service to the enterprise data center, too.

The service includes access to all of the usual features of GKE in the cloud, including the ability to register and manage clusters and monitor them with Stackdriver, as well as identity and access management. It also includes a direct line to the GCP Marketplace, which recently launched support for Kubernetes-based applications.

Using the GCP Console, enterprises can manage both their on-premise and GKE clusters without having to switch between different environments. GKE on-prem connects seamlessly to a Google Cloud Platform environment and looks and behaves exactly like the cloud version.

Enterprise users also can get access to professional services and enterprise-grade support for help with managing the service.

“Google Cloud is the first and only major cloud vendor to deliver managed Kubernetes on-prem,” Goldberg argued.

GKE Policy Management

Related to this, Google also today announced GKE Policy Management, which is meant to provide Kubernetes administrators with a single tool for managing all of their security policies across clusters. It’s agnostic as to where the Kubernetes cluster is running, but you can use it to port your existing Google Cloud identity-based policies to these clusters. This new feature will soon launch in alpha.

Managed Istio

The other major new service Google is launching is Managed Istio (together with Apigee API Management for Istio) to help businesses manage and secure their microservices. The open source Istio service mesh gives admins and operators the tools to manage these services and, with this new managed offering, Google is taking the core of Istio and making it available as a managed service for GKE users.

With this, users get access to Istio’s service discovery mechanisms and its traffic management tools for load balancing and routing traffic to containers and VMs, as well as its tools for getting telemetry back from the workloads that run on these clusters.

In addition to these three main new services, Google is also launching a couple of auxiliary tools around GKE and the serverless computing paradigm today. The first of these is the GKE serverless add-on, which makes it easy to run serverless workloads on GKE with a single-step deploy process. This, Google says, will allow developers to go from source code to container “instantaneously.” This tool is currently available as a preview and Google is making parts of this technology available under the umbrella of its new native open source components. These are the same components that make the serverless add-on possible.

And to wrap it all up, Google also today mentioned a new fully managed continuous integration and delivery service, Google Cloud Build, though the details around this service remain under wraps.

So there you have it. By themselves, all of those announcements may seem a bit esoteric. As a whole, though, they show how Google’s bet on Kubernetes is starting to pay off. As businesses opt for containers to deploy and run their new workloads (and maybe even bring older applications into the cloud), GKE has put Google Cloud on the map to run them in a hosted environment. Now, it makes sense for Google to extend this to its users’ data centers, too. With managed Kubernetes from large and small companies like SUSE, Platform 9, containership is starting to become a big business. It’s no surprise the company that started it all wants to get a piece of this pie, too.

Jun
04
2018
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How Yelp (mostly) shut down its own data centers and moved to AWS

Back in 2013, Yelp was a 9-year old company built on a set of internal systems. It was coming to the realization that running its own data centers might not be the most efficient way to run a business that was continuing to scale rapidly. At the same time, the company understood that the tech world had changed dramatically from 2004 when it launched and it needed to transform the underlying technology to a more modern approach.

That’s a lot to take on in one bite, but it wasn’t something that happened willy-nilly or overnight says Jason Fennell, SVP of engineering at Yelp . The vast majority of the company’s data was being processed in a massive Python repository that was getting bigger all the time. The conversation about shifting to a microservices architecture began in 2012.

The company was also running the massive Yelp application inside its own datacenters, and as it grew it was increasingly becoming limited by long lead times required to procure and get new hardware online. It saw this was an unsustainable situation over the long-term and began a process of transforming from running a huge monolithic application on-premises to one built on microservices running in the cloud. It was a quite a journey.

The data center conundrum

Fennell described the classic scenario of a company that could benefit from a shift to the cloud. Yelp had a small operations team dedicated to setting up new machines. When engineering anticipated a new resource requirement, they had to give the operations team sufficient lead time to order new servers and get them up and running, certainly not the most efficient way to deal with a resource problem, and one that would have been easily solved by the cloud.

“We kept running into a bottleneck, I was running a chunk of the search team [at the time] and I had to project capacity out to 6-9 months. Then it would take a few months to order machines and another few months to set them up,” Fennell explained. He emphasized that the team charged with getting these machines going was working hard, but there were too few people and too many demands and something had to give.

“We were on this cusp. We could have scaled up that team dramatically and gotten [better] at building data centers and buying servers and doing that really fast, but we were hearing a lot of AWS and the advantages there,” Fennell explained.

To the cloud!

They looked at the cloud market landscape in 2013 and AWS was the clear leader technologically. That meant moving some part of their operations to EC2. Unfortunately, that exposed a new problem: how to manage this new infrastructure in the cloud. This was before the notion of cloud-native computing even existed. There was no Kubernetes. Sure, Google was operating in a cloud-native fashion in-house, but it was not really an option for most companies without a huge team of engineers.

Yelp needed to explore new ways of managing operations in a hybrid cloud environment where some of the applications and data lived in the cloud and some lived in their data center. It was not an easy problem to solve in 2013 and Yelp had to be creative to make it work.

That meant remaining with one foot in the public cloud and the other in a private data center. One tool that helped ease the transition was AWS Direct Connect, which was released the prior year and enabled Yelp to directly connect from their data center to the cloud.

Laying the groundwork

About this time, as they were figuring out how AWS works, another revolutionary technological change was occurring when Docker emerged and began mainstreaming the notion of containerization. “That’s another thing that’s been revolutionary. We could suddenly decouple the context of the running program from the machine it’s running on. Docker gives you this container, and is much lighter weight than virtualization and running full operating systems on a machine,” Fennell explained.

Another thing that was happening was the emergence of the open source data center operating system called Mesos, which offered a way to treat the data center as a single pool of resources. They could apply this notion to wherever the data and applications lived. Mesos also offered a container orchestration tool called Marathon in the days before Kubernetes emerged as a popular way of dealing with this same issue.

“We liked Mesos as a resource allocation framework. It abstracted away the fleet of machines. Mesos abstracts many machines and controls programs across them. Marathon holds guarantees about what containers are running where. We could stitch it all together into this clear opinionated interface,” he said.

Pulling it all together

While all this was happening, Yelp began exploring how to move to the cloud and use a Platform as a Service approach to the software layer. The problem was at the time they started, there wasn’t really any viable way to do this. In the buy versus build decision making that goes on in large transformations like this one, they felt they had little choice but to build that platform layer themselves.

In late 2013 they began to pull together the idea of building this platform on top of Mesos and Docker, giving it the name PaaSTA, an internal joke that stood for Platform as a Service, Totally Awesome. It became simply known as Pasta.

Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images

The project had the ambitious goal of making their infrastructure work as a single fabric, in a cloud-native fashion before most anyone outside of Google was using that term. Pasta developed slowly with the first developer piece coming online in August 2014 and the first  production service later that year in December. The company actually open sourced the technology the following year.

“Pasta gave us the interface between the applications and development teams. Operations had to make sure Pasta is up and running, while Development was responsible for implementing containers that implemented the interface,” Fennell said.

Moving to deeper into the public cloud

While Yelp was busy building these internal systems, AWS wasn’t sitting still. It was also improving its offerings with new instance types, new functionality and better APIs and tooling. Fennell reports this helped immensely as Yelp began a more complete move to the cloud.

He says there were a couple of tipping points as they moved more and more of the application to AWS — including eventually, the master database. This all happened in more recent years as they understood better how to use Pasta to control the processes wherever they lived. What’s more, he said that adoption of other AWS services was now possible due to tighter integration between the in-house data centers and AWS.

Photo: erhui1979/Getty Images

The first tipping point came around 2016 as all new services were configured for the cloud. He said they began to get much better at managing applications and infrastructure in AWS and their thinking shifted from how to migrate to AWS to how to operate and manage it.

Perhaps the biggest step in this years-long transformation came last summer when Yelp moved its master database from its own data center to AWS. “This was the last thing we needed to move over. Otherwise it’s clean up. As of 2018, we are serving zero production traffic through physical data centers,” he said. While they still have two data centers, they are getting to the point, they have the minimum hardware required to run the network backbone.

Fennell said they went from two weeks to a month to get a service up and running before this was all in place to just a couple of minutes. He says any loss of control by moving to the cloud has been easily offset by the convenience of using cloud infrastructure. “We get to focus on the things where we add value,” he said — and that’s the goal of every company.

Dec
14
2017
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Instana raises $20 million for its microservice monitoring and management service

 Instana, a company that helps enterprises monitor and manage their microservice deployments with the help of automation and artificial intelligence, today announced that it has raised a $20 million Series B round led by Accel, with participation from existing investor Target Partners. This brings Instana’s total funding to $26 million to date. Launched in 2015, Instana bills itself as… Read More

Oct
12
2017
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Google, IBM and others launch an open-source API for keeping tabs on software supply chains

 Thanks to containers and microservices, the way we are building software is changing. But you probably still want to know who built a given container and what’s running in it. To get a handle on this, Google, IBM and others today announced Grafeas, a new joint open-source project that provides users with a standardized way for auditing and governing their software supply chain. Read More

Jan
23
2017
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Cloud Native Computing Foundation adds Linkerd as its fifth hosted project

shipping containers, boxes The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the open source group that’s also the home of the popular Kubernetes container management system, today announced that it has added Linkerd as its fifth hosted project. Linkerd (pronounced linker-DEE), which was incubated at Buoyant, follows in the footsteps of other CNCF projects like Kubernetes, Prometheus, OpenTracing and Fluentd. The… Read More

Sep
13
2016
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Microsoft’s Azure Service Fabric for running and managing microservices is coming to Linux

A Microsoft logo sits on a flag flying in the grounds of the Nokia Oyj mobile handset factory, operated by Microsoft Corp., in Komarom, Hungary, on Monday, July 21, 2014. Microsoft said it will eliminate as many as 18,000 jobs, the largest round of cuts in its history, as Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella integrates Nokia Oyj's handset unit and slims down the software maker. Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty Images Microsoft’s CTO for Azure (and occasional novelist) Mark Russinovich is extremely bullish about microservices. In his view, the vast majority of apps — including enterprise apps — will soon be built using microservices. Microsoft, with its variety of cloud services and developer tools, obviously wants a piece of that market. With Service Fabric, the company offers a service… Read More

May
25
2016
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Preparing for infrastructures of the future

containers There are many abstract notions about what the future of infrastructure will look like, but the truth is that the future is staring companies in the face. The adoption of hybrid cloud models, containers and microservices architectures are only the beginning stages of preparing for infrastructures of the future. Read More

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