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May 26, 2019
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containers

Replex gets $2.45M seed round to help track cloud native spend

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Replex wants to help track cloud spending, but with a cloud native twist, and today it announced a $2.45 million seed round. The company previous raised $1.68 million in 2017 for a total of $4.15 million so far.

As companies shift to a cloud native environment, and move ever more quickly, it is increasingly important to get visibility into how development and operations teams are using resources in the cloud. Replex is designed to give more visibility into spending and to help optimize the container environment in the most economical way.

Company CEO and co-founder Patrick Kirchhoff says the product is about controlling spending in a cloud native context. “The Replex platform enables operators, finance and IT managers to see who spends what. We allow them then to right-size clusters, pods and container sizes for optimal results, and they are able to control the cost, manage chargebacks and find [optimal] capacity,” he explained.

Replex cloud spending control panel. Screenshot: Replex

While there are variety of similar cloud cost control startups out there, Kirchoff says his company has been purpose built for cloud native environments and that is a key differentiating factor. “We see that the way organizations work has completely changed because with the move to cloud native infrastructure, teams within the business lines are now able to provision infrastructure on their own. Central IT departments still need to control costs and govern these resources, but they don’t have the tools to do that anymore because the existing tools are built on architectures for traditional infrastructure, and not for the cloud native approach,” he said.

Kirchoff says that developers tend to over provision just to be on the safe side, but using data from Replex, customers can figure out the optimal amount to provision for a particular workload, work with development teams, and that can save money in the long run.

Investors across the two rounds include Entrepreneurs Investment Fund, eValue, EnBW New Ventures, High-Tech Gruenderfonds (HTGF) and Technologiegruenderfonds Sachsen (TGFS). The company is currently participating in the Alchemist Accelerator . The latest round closed in December. The previous one in May 2017.

Blueland launches with a suite of eco-friendly cleaning supplies designed to reduce plastic waste

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Sarah Paiji had the idea to launch the eco-friendly refillable cleaning supply retailer Blueland after hearing about the abundance of microplastics in the water she was using to dilute her child’s baby formula.

Paiji wanted to cut back on her plastic consumption, and reduce her contribution to the overabundance of plastic waste in the environment, but felt that as a consumer she didn’t have a choice. So the former venture capital investor from the consumer startup brand studio Launch set out to create one.

The answer she came up with is Blueland, a new line of cleaning products that launches today. Blueland’s cleaners — a bathroom cleaner, glass cleaner, and multi-purpose cleaner —  are sold as tablets that customers add to the cleaning containers the company provides.

“These cleaners are mostly water,” says Paiji. “I’m paying for a plastic bottle that I don’t really need and water which I have at home for free.”

By adding water to the company’s cleaning formulation in refillable containers the company sells, Blueland thinks its customers over time can eliminate the need for 100 billion single-use plastic bottles in the U.S.

Blueland cleaning products/Image courtesy of Blueland

To provide the initial marketing push and continue its product development and sales efforts, the company has raised $3 million in a new round of funding from Global Founders Capital, Comcast Ventures, Cross Culture Ventures, BAM Ventures, along with individual investors like Justin Timberlake and the founder of the Los Angeles-based sustainable fast food chain, Sweetgreen, Nicholas Jammet; and sustainable online food retailer, Thrive Market, Nick Green.

After coming up with the idea Paiji had to find a manufacturer, who’d be willing to help reinvent an entire product category for a startup retailer.

Blueland also wasn’t Paiji’s first choice for a new startup idea. That would have been a botox bar that would sell cosmetic treatments to folks who wanted treatments, but didn’t want to pay high prices for them.

After putting the brakes on the botox business, Paiji reached out on LinkedIn to Syed Naqzi, the director of research and development at Method with her pitch for the cleaning product business.

With Naqzi on board, the company began filing patents for its unique process and the products it’s bringing to market, says Paiji. “Everything is proprietary everything is backed by patents,” she says.

While Paiji won’t disclose who the manufacturing partner is for the cleaning supplies, she did note that the company was in an adjacent consumables category to cleaners.

Within a year of reaching out to Naqzi last April, Paiji had a product supplier and the $3 million she needed to go to market.

Blueland refills/Image courtesy of Blueland

Joining Paiji and Naqzi in setting up the business was John Moscari, a fellow Harvard Business School classmate of Paiji’s who’d launched a company called Bundle Organics.

The company’s refills cost $2 and the initial cleanup kits clock in at $30. “With the refills it’s unequivocally cheaper than buying a full bottle on the market,” says Paiji.

The refills are 300 times lighter and 200 times smaller than traditional packaging for cleaning supplies and the company has plans to develop new products with similar packaging footprints across adjacent categories each quarter.

Just from a shipping perspective alone we cut out 90% because one to one we’re that much smaller,” says Paiji. 

Other, far larger, companies are thinking about their waste streams and end of life issues around their products — an issue which is becoming more important since China tightened the regulations around the scrap materials it would collect — and the amount of contamination those pallets of scrap could contain.

Last year, a coalition of major manufacturers of consumer packaged goods and foods formed Loop — an ambitious project to create zero-waste supply chains for their products with consumers who’d opt in.

Taking their cues from the milkman models of years long passed, companies like Procter & Gamble, Nestle, PepsiCo, Unilever, worked with the company TerraCycle to develop an updated version of the plan.

Consumers get refillable containers and as they use up the items, they can call a Loop pick up driver to take their containers away to be refilled or send them off at a UPS store.

Paiji argues that Blueland does something different — with lower carbon emissions coming from the process and a greater impact on reuse.

“We’ve completely invented a new form factor for this,” she says. “And we’re providing a more convenient way for people to reuse and refill.”

Blueland box/Image courtesy of Blueland

 

Google’s hybrid cloud platform is coming to AWS and Azure

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Google’s Cloud Services Platform for managing hybrid clouds that span on-premise data centers and the Google cloud, is coming out of beta today. The company is also changing the product’s name to Anthos, a name that either refers to a lost Greek tragedy, the name of an obscure god in the Marvel universe, or rosemary. That by itself would be interesting but minor news. What makes this interesting is that Google also today announced that Anthos will run on third-party clouds as well, including AWS and Azure.

“We will support Anthos and AWS and Azure as well, so people get one way to manage their application and that one way works across their on-premise environments and all other clouds,” Google’s senior VP for its technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, explained in a press conference ahead of today’s announcement.

So with Anthos, Google will offer a single managed service that will let you manage and deploy workloads across clouds, all without having to worry about the different environments and APIs. That’s a big deal and one that clearly delineates Google’s approach from its competitors’. This is Google, after all, managing your applications for you on AWS and Azure.

“You can use one consistent approach — one open-source based approach — across all environments,” Hölzle said. “I can’t really stress how big a change that is in the industry, because this is really the stack for the next 20 years, meaning that it’s not really about the three different clouds that are all randomly different in small ways. This is the way that makes these three cloud — and actually on-premise environments, too — look the same.”

Anthos/Google Cloud Services Platform is based on the Google Kubernetes Engine, as well as other open source projects like the Istio service mesh. It’s also hardware agnostic, meaning that users can take their current hardware and run the service on top of that without having to immediately invest in new servers.

Why is Google doing this? “We hear from our customers that multi-cloud and hybrid is really an acute pain point,” Hölzle said. He noted that containers are the enabling technology for this but that few enterprises have developed a unifying strategy to manage these deployments and that it takes expertise in all major clouds to get the most out of them.

Enterprises already have major investments in their infrastructure and created relationships with their vendors, though, so it’s no surprise that Google is launching Anthos with over 30 major hardware and software partners that range from Cisco to Dell EMC, HPE and VMWare, as well as application vendors like Confluent, Datastax, Elastic, Portworx, Tigera, Splunk, GitLab, MongoDB and others.

Anthos is a subscription-based service, with the list prices starting at $10,000/month per 100 vCPU block. Enterprise prices then to be up for negotiation, though, so many customers will likely pay less.

It’s one thing to use a service like this for new applications, but many enterprises already have plenty of line-of-business tools that they would like to bring to the cloud as well. For them, Google is launching the first beta of Anthos Migrate today. This service will auto-migrate VMs from on-premises or other clouds into containers in the Google Kubernetes Engine. The promise here is that this is essentially an automatic process and once the container is on Google’s platform, you’ll be able to use all of the other features that come with the Anthos platform, too.

Google’s Hölzle noted that the emphasis here was on making this migration as easy as possible. “There’s no manual effort there,” he said.

Google Cloud Run brings serverless and containers together

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Two of the biggest trends in applications development in recent years have been the rise of serverless and containerization. Today at Google Cloud Next, the company announced a new product called Cloud Run that is designed to bring the two together. At the same time, the company also announced Cloud Run for GKE, which is specifically designed to run on the Google’s version of Kubernetes.

Oren Teich, director of product management for serverless, says these products came out of discussions with customers. As he points out, developers like the flexibility and agility they get using serverless architecture, but have been looking for more than just compute resources. They want to get access to the full stack, and to that end the company is announcing Cloud Run.

“Cloud Run is introducing a brand new product that takes Docker containers and instantly gives you a URL. This is completely unique in the industry. We’re taking care of everything from the top end of SSL provisioning and routing, all the way down to actually running the container for you. You pay only by the hundred milliseconds of what you need to use, and its end-to-end managed,” Teich explained.

As for the GKE tool, it provides the same kinds of benefits, except for developers running their containers on Google’s GKE version of Kubernetes. Keep in mind, developers could be using any version of Kubernetes their organizations happen to have chosen, so it’s not a given that they will be using Google’s flavor of Kubernetes.

“What this means is that a developer can take the exact same experience, the exact same code they’ve written — and they have G Cloud command line, the same UI and our console and they can just with one-click target the destination they want,” he said.

All of this is made possible through yet another open source project the company introduced last year called Knative. “Cloud Run is based on Knative, an open API and runtime environment that lets you run your serverless workloads anywhere you choose —fully managed on Google Cloud Platform, on your GKE cluster or on your own self-managed Kubernetes cluster,” Teich and Eyal Manor, VP of engineering wrote in a blog post introducing Cloud Run.

Serverless, as you probably know by now, is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not really taking away servers, but it is eliminating the need for developers to worry about them. Instead of loading their application on a particular virtual machine,  the cloud provider, in this case, Google, provisions the exact level of resources required to run an operation. Once that’s done, these resources go away, so you only pay for what you use at any given moment.

Google’s managed hybrid cloud platform is now in beta

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Last July, at its Cloud Next conference, Google announced the Cloud Services Platform, its first real foray into bringing its own cloud services into the enterprise data center as a managed service. Today, the Cloud Services Platform (CSP) is launching into beta.

It’s important to note that the CSP isn’t — at least for the time being — Google’s way of bringing all of its cloud-based developer services to the on-premises data center. In other words, this is a very different project from something like Microsoft’s Azure Stack. Instead, the focus is on the Google Kubernetes Engine, which allows enterprises to then run their applications in both their own data centers and on virtually any cloud platform that supports containers.As Google Cloud engineering director Chen Goldberg told me, the idea here it to help enterprises innovate and modernize. “Clearly, everybody is very excited about cloud computing, on-demand compute and managed services, but customers have recognized that the move is not that easy,” she said and noted that the vast majority of enterprises are adopting a hybrid approach. And while containers are obviously still a very new technology, she feels good about this bet on the technology because most enterprises are already adopting containers and Kubernetes — and they are doing so at exactly the same time as they are adopting cloud and especially hybrid clouds.

It’s important to note that CSP is a managed platform. Google handles all of the heavy lifting like upgrades and security patches. And for enterprises that need an easy way to install some of the most popular applications, the platform also supports Kubernetes applications from the GCP Marketplace.

As for the tech itself, Goldberg stressed that this isn’t just about Kubernetes. The service also uses Istio, for example, the increasingly popular service mesh that makes it easier for enterprises to secure and control the flow of traffic and API calls between its applications.

With today’s release, Google is also launching its new CSP Config Management tool to help users create multi-cluster policies and set up and enforce access controls, resource quotas and more. CSP also integrates with Google’s Stackdriver Monitoring service and continuous delivery platforms.

“On-prem is not easy,” Goldberg said, and given that this is the first time the company is really supporting software in a data center that is not its own, that’s probably an understatement. But Google also decided that it didn’t want to force users into a specific set of hardware specifications like Azure Stack does, for example. Instead, CSP sits on top of VMware’s vSphere server virtualization platform, which most enterprises already use in their data centers anyway. That surely simplifies things, given that this is a very well-understood platform.

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