Akuity raises $20M to simplify Kubernetes container management

Akuity, a provider of app delivery software for Kubernetes, today announced that it closed a $20 million Series A funding round led by Lead Edge Capital and Decibel Partners, bringing Akuity’s total raised to $25 million. Co-founder and CEO Hong Wang says that the funding will enable Akuity to expand the size of its workforce while contributing to the open source community.

Apps are increasingly built using containers, or “microservices” packaged with all the necessary dependencies and configuration files. Kubernetes is open source software for deploying and managing these containers. While popular, managing containers with Kubernetes can become complex, particularly as legacy software moves to the cloud as a part of pandemic-prompted digital transformations. According to one recent survey (albeit commissioned by a Kubernetes tooling vendor), over a third of developers and architects admit that Kubernetes has become a major source of burnout.

Wang, Jesse Suen and Alexander Matyushentsev believed there must be an easier way. The three were founding engineers at Applatix, a Kubernetes management engine that was acquired by Intuit in 2018. A year earlier, Applatix had open sourced a project called Argo, a “container-native” workflow engine designed to streamline the process of specifying, scheduling and coordinating the running of apps on Kubernetes. While at Intuit following the Applatix acquisition, Wang, Suen and Matyushentsev investigated ways to foster Argo as oversight of the project was transferred to the Linux Foundation.

“Enterprises are well on their way toward containerization. However, as these organizations move to Kubernetes, they quickly discover that their existing, legacy tooling is ill-suited for delivering Kubernetes-native apps with its configuration-heavy design,” Suen told TechCrunch via email. “[W]hile Kubernetes is very powerful, it is extremely complex and provides a poor out-of-the-box developer experience. Because of this, organizations invest in platform and infrastructure teams, as well as developer experience teams, to standardize and ease their transition to Kubernetes. Building these teams is challenging, exacerbated by both high demand and low supply of Kubernetes expertise. Moreover, many of these organizations re-implementing the same patterns again and again and would benefit from a codified set of best practices and standardized tooling.”

Suen and Wang position Argo, and by extension Akuity, as a complement to the traditional continuous delivery (CD) solutions offered by vendors including Armory, CloudBees and Harness.io. (In software development, “continuous delivery” refers to the engineering approach where teams create software in short cycles to ensure that it can be reliably released at any time.) Argo allows developers to create a “pipeline” for building apps and specify the pipeline as code, so that it can be built or upgraded using containers and run on other systems.

“Akuity was formed to help companies modernize their Kubernetes tooling, leveraging Argo, the leading open source suite of Kubernetes-native app delivery software,” Wang told TechCrunch in an email interview. “[With Akuity,] we are aiming to revolutionize the DevOps space and provide the most advanced toolset that empowers developers to get the maximum value out of Kubernetes.”

Toward that end, Akuity is in the process of launching a fully managed version of Argo called Akuity Platform. Currently in closed beta ahead of general availability later this year, Akuity Platform adds features to Argo like deployment analytics and telemetry, health checks for app components and an audit trail and history of app events and API calls.

“The number one problem we solve for enterprises is easing their transition to Kubernetes,” Matyushentsev, who recently became chief architect at Akuity, told TechCrunch via email. “With [Akuity,] businesses can enable a high frequency of deployment for quick delivery of new features and updates, decrease [the] lead time for changes and updates, … decrease mean time to recovery to recover quickly, … minimize change failure rate (i.e., the proportion of failures coming from changes), [and] increase the stability and reliability of apps and services.”

It’s early days for Akuity, which has rivals in container-friendly CD tools like Flux CD and Jenkins X. But Wang pointed to Argo’s uptake as evidence that Akuity has the right approach. Production use of Argo increased by 115% year-over-year, according to a 2021 survey by Cloud Native Computing Foundation, the Linux Foundation overseeing Argo. And since launching last October, Akuity has closed “several” deals with Fortune 1000 companies, Wang claims.

Whether that translates to strong momentum down the road remains to be seen — particularly without revenue numbers to go on. Regardless, it’s true that tooling and services built around Kubernetes represent a massive opportunity. A 2021 poll from Canonical found that 45.6% of organizations now use Kubernetes in production. A separate report estimates the market for Kubernetes solutions will reach $5.56 billion in 2028, up from $1.71 billion in 2021.

“Our product adoption accelerated during the pandemic,” Wang added. “Based on our conversations with customers, many of them are leveraging the Kubernetes adoption opportunities to refresh their developer tool stack. Argo becomes the default choice as it is Kubernetes-native and has the most vibrant open-source community in the CD space.”