Microservices orchestration platform Orkes raises $20M Series A

Back in 2016, Netflix open sourced Conductor, its microservices orchestration platform, but last December, it announced that it would discontinue maintaining it. Thankfully, for the many companies that rely on it, the creators of Conductor had previously left the company to launch Orkes, a startup that provides an enterprise-grade microservices platform based on the open source project. Orkes took over the maintenance of Conductor for the time being and today the company announced that it has now raised a $20 million Series A on top of its $9.3 million seed round in 2022. The new round was led by Nexus Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors Battery Ventures and Vertex Ventures US.

The team built Conductor at Netflix in 2015, in part to help the development teams there keep pace with the rapid growth of the company and its needs. As Orkes co-CTO Viren Baraiya told me, the project quickly became popular within Netflix. “One of the things that we realized very quickly was that there is no kind of secret sauce here for Netflix. In the spirit of giving back to the community, we decided to open source the project,” he explained.

Orkes CEO Jeu George added that what people were clearly looking for was “a layer above the cloud” that would help them focus less on the infrastructure and orchestration challenges and more on building the applications. Today, thousands of companies rely on Conductor to manage much of their tech stack, including, for example, Tesla, while mortgage giant United Wholesale Mortgage, and Australian media company Foxtel are prominent Orkes customers.

Image Credits: Orkes

After Netflix dropped the open source project and Orkes took over, the startup reached out to a number of other companies and has now launched a Conductor Working Group. George noted that the overall idea here is to launch a Conductor Foundation. He didn’t rule out that the project may join a larger foundation in the future, though, akin to how Netflix managed the Spinnaker project from open sourcing it to setting up its own foundation and then moving it to the ever-growing Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Currently, Orkes offers Conductor as a fully managed platform on the customer’s cloud of choice, as well as a Conductor-based AI orchestration platform.

For the most part, the company follows the well-established path of other open-source business companies that offer premium enterprise services around a popular project. “We have seen momentum from both the existing open source users who are like, ‘hey, this is the product that we trust in, but we want to have it as a managed service,” explained Orkes chief product officer Dilip Lukose.

“Orkes is leading the creation of one of the most interesting categories in software infrastructure. The founders of Orkes wrote a new playbook for building and operating complex, observable and large-scale applications when they helped create the Conductor open source project at Netflix. Now, they’ve operationalized this modern approach to application building for the entire enterprise,” said Abhishek Sharma, managing director at Nexus Venture Partners.