Early Stage Startup Heptio Aims to Make Kubernetes Friendly

Two Former Google staffers the built the original Google Compute Engine and helped to create Kubernetes are launching their own company to fill a perceived gap in the container orchestration market.

Heptio was officially announced on Nov. 17, as yet another company in the ever-growing landscape of vendors aiming to support the open-source Kubernetes container orchestration system. Heptio is noteworthy in that it was recently founded and led by the same two Google staffers, Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda, that originally created Kubernetes in the first place.

"I first met Joe at Google six years ago and we built our first product together, which was Google's Compute Engine (GCE)," McLuckie told eWEEK.

GCE was Google's first attempt at a creating Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud offering. McLuckie said that the experience of building GCE taught him and Beda about virtual machine infrastructure and how people struggled to build an efficient infrastructure.

After building GCE, Beda discovered Docker as a way to help solve part of the virtualization challenge, though he realized it didn't address the issues of operations and management capabilities.

Beda and McLuckie worked with Google engineer Brendan Burns and collectively they came up with the idea to create Kubernetes.

"The idea was to create a Google-inspired orchestration tool that would manage Docker containers, that would be built in the open by Google and delivered as an open-source project to the community," McLuckie said.

Kubernetes is now part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which is a Linux Foundation Collaborative project that McLuckie helped to start in July 2015. McLuckie left Google at the end of October 2016, to start Heptio, which he now leads as CEO. Heptio has already managed to raise $8.5 million in funding from Accel and Madrona Venture Group to help build the company.

Though there are multiple commercial providers supporting Kubernetes today, McLuckie sees a gap in the marketplace that he's hoping to fill with Heptio.

"There is an obvious gap for a product company to emerge and continue the Kubernetes mission, providing support and delivering the next set of capabilities to enterprise as they start to operate at scale," McLuckie said. "So Joe and I have started Heptio to really make Kubernetes accessible, useful and enterprise-ready."

The name Heptio has particular meaning and relates back to some of the original naming ideas behind Kubernetes itself. The Kubernetes project wasn't always called Kubernetes. It actually started its life as an internal project at Google called Project 7.

Google has its own orchestration system called Borg, and Project 7 is a reference to the Star Trek character 7 of 9, which is a Borg that becomes friendly. The Borg of course, are also mentioned in Star Trek as a collective of cybernetic humanoids bent on assimilating all species and technologies.

The Project 7 name didn't stick, with McLuckie instead coming up the name Kubernetes, which is a Greek word for pilot. While the Project 7 name didn't last, the Kubernetes logo has seven spokes, as a nod to the Project 7 origins.

McLuckie explained that when coming up with the name for his new startup he wanted to respect the heritage of Kubernetes.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.