Startups to watch

12 hot application container startups

storage container
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From management to storage and networking to security – these startups have containers covered

The container revolution is upon us.

Companies from Red Hat to IBM, Amazon Web Services to Microsoft and even VMware are all into containers. And where there is a hot new technology, there are of course hot startups.

In the past year interest and buzz about containers has soared. A recent survey from research firm Forrester found that 31% of developers said they’ve used Docker or containers in the past year. “That’s a big number of global developers for such a new technology,” says Dave Bartoletti, who tracks containers for Forrester. Another 9% say containers are already in production -- a respectable number for such a young market.

Fundamentally containers are a way to virtualize the operating system to managing code and applications. There are challenges around managing containers though, from coordinating the network, to assigning storage for them. Startups from across the industry are tackling these issues and more, and here’s a closer look at 12 of them.

BlueData

Headquarters: Mountain View
Founded: 2012
Funding: $19 Million from Atlantic Bridge, Ignition Partners, Data Collective, Amplify Partners, Intel Capital
Why it’s worth watching: Containers are primarily seen as a way to ease application development, but some startups are finding innovative use cases for managing applications with containers. BlueData, which is led by an ex-R&D vice president from VMware named Kumar Sreekanti, is one such example.

The company, which aims to “democratize” big data deployments by making them more consumable, has increasingly been making containers part of its strategy. BlueData allows organizations to deploy big data platforms like Hadoop and Apache Spark in Docker containers, and is making containerized versions available through a free trial of its EPIC platform, which can run on as a downloaded program or a hosted application in Amazon Web Service’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). BlueData hopes to make a fuller version of its product generally available this fall.

ClusterHQ

Headquarters: San Francisco
Founded: 2008
Funding: $15 million from Accel Partners and Canaan Partners
Why it’s worth watching: Containers don’t inherently hold on to data about applications that are inside of them when they’re moved from one virtual machine to another. A lot of enterprise applications need to hold on to state though. ClusterHQ’s Flocker product, which is also an open source project, allows containers to hold state.

Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller says this is a big step forward for containers. ClusterHQ calls Flocker a data volume manager. This capability allows Docker containers to run databases in containers and port them from one VM host to another without losing data associated with the app in the container. “Making containers persistent is probably an increase of 3-5x (in terms of) uses cases that can be addressed by containers that have persistency,” he wrote in a blog post analyzing the announcement of Flocker 1.0.

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CoreOS

Headquarters: San Francisco
Founded: 2013
Funding: $20 million from Google Ventures, KPCB, Fuel Capital, Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital and Y-Combinator
Why it’s worth watching: The founders of CoreOS thought containers were great, but didn’t love some of Docker’s design decisions related to security and management. So, the CoreOS team crafted a lightweight Linux operating system meant to run in scale-out distributed systems as well as its own container software dubbed rkt (pronounced “rocket”). Similar to the open source Docker project, rkt is a container runtime format that allows for container creation.

CoreOS also has developed Tectonic, a commercial distribution of the Kubernetes open source container management platform from Google. If Docker will have any near-term competition from another startup, it could come from CoreOS, which was launched by Alex Polvi and Brandon Phillips, who worked on cloud monitoring at Rackspace.

Docker

Headquarters: San Francisco
Founded: 2013
Funding: $150M from Insight Venture Partners, Coatue, Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust, Benchmark, Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital, Trinity Ventures and AME Cloud Ventures. 
Why it’s worth watching: There is no better recognized company in the container market right now than Docker.

It’s the name of both an open source project for creating containers and a company that’s commercializing the code. The open source project is led by a governing board that includes some Docker employees, but also contributors from many other companies. Docker has focused thus far on many of the basic aspects of containers – how to create them, how they interact with management platforms and what can be done with them. As the company advances though, it’s adding more management features atop its product, for example by controlling the networking containers need. Docker – the open source code – has emerged as a de facto standard for container runtimes, which gives Docker the company a big opportunity to capitalize on commercializing the management of those containers. Solomon Hykes, Docker’s CTO, is credited with helping to spur the container movement when he founded dotcloud, which was the original name of Docker the company.

Kismatic

Headquarters: San Francisco
Founded: 2014
Funding: Undisclosed
Why it’s worth watching: Google has said it runs almost all of its applications in containers, and last year open sourced software called Kubernetes that helps manage infrastructure clusters, including containers. Kismatic is a startup hoping to commercialize Kubernetes.

As of now the company is still in stealth mode, so details about what it is doing haven’t been shared publicly. But it’s expected that Kismatic will attempt to make Kubernetes more palatable to business users. That approach to open source technology usually includes things like packaging it, putting in security controls and making it reliable and fault tolerant.

The folks behind Kismatic come from Mesos, another orchestration technology provider. One executive served as CTO of the Wikimedia Foundation.

PortWorx

Headquarters:  Redwood City
Founded: 2015
Funding:  Series A round of $8.5 million, from Mayfield and one undisclosed investor
Why it’s worth watching: It’s one thing to be able to spin up a container, but it’s a whole other thing to manage clusters of them, as Portworx wants to do.

Think of Portworx as a sort of vSphere for containers, its founders say. The company’s

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