Buoyant raises $10.5M Series A round as it looks to bring service meshes to the masses

Buoyant, a company founded by former Twitter infrastructure engineers William Morgan and Oliver Gould, today announced that it has raised a $10.5 million Series A round. This round was led by Benchmark Capital, with participation from #Angels, a female-led group of current and former Twitter executives, and previous investors A Capital Ventures, Data Collective, Fuel Capital, SV Angel and the Webb Investment Network. Benchmark’s Peter Fenton will join Buoyant’s board of directors (only a few months after he stepped down from Twitter’s board).

Buoyant isn’t a household name yet, but it’s the company behind the open source Linkerd project, which became part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation at the beginning of this year. Linkerd is maybe the most popular of a new crop of infrastructure tools that fall under the “service mesh” heading. The idea behind service meshes is to provide an infrastructure layer that allows the different services that make up modern applications to talk to each other. A complex application that runs on top of a container orchestrator like Kubernetes, for example, may be composed of hundreds of individual services. Those services have to be able to talk to each other (and find each other) in a network that is anything but static. A service mesh like Linkerd or Istio, the recently announced Google/Lyft/IBM collaboration (which can now actually work together with Linkerd), combines load balancing with dynamic routing to ensure that these services can talk to each other.

Current Linkerd users include the likes of Ticketmaster, Apprenda, NextVR, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Monzo (a startup bank in the U.K.).

“As the entire software industry moves to cloud computing, the way that applications are built and operated is changing dramatically,” said Fenton in today’s announcement. “Buoyant’s introduction of the service mesh has the potential to be as fundamental a component of microservices and cloud native software as TCP/IP was to network programming, and Linkerd’s dramatic open source adoption over the past year is evidence of just how immediate of a need that is for companies.”

As Buoyant CEO William Morgan told me, the company hasn’t yet decided on how it will monetize the service. This new funding will go toward hiring more engineers and product development. While Buoyant, which currently has 13 employees, already offers paid support for enterprise users, Morgan believes that it’s too early to focus on monetization and that the company is currently better off focusing on building out the open-source ecosystem around Linkerd. “At some point, we have to turn things around and start making money, but in the short term, open-source adoption is what we’re focused on,” he told me.

As companies move to the new “cloud-native” model of developing their applications, the need for products like Linkerd quickly becomes apparent, though it’s still early days for many companies and especially enterprises, which tend to move a little bit slower (though Morgan noted that many of the company’s early adopters are also not just enterprises but also startups). “They are moving into this cloud-native stack and they are moving into it for the right reasons,” Morgan said. “They want to operate their applications on this cloud model, where you don’t have a lot of control over your hardware.” Docker and Kubernetes solve one piece of this problem, but as is so often the case, one solution begets new problems.