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The rise of Kubernetes since Google open-sourced the project back in 2014 says a lot about the broader industry push toward containerized applications. In a survey released last year, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) found that 92% of organizations now use containers in production environments, representing a 300% increase since 2016. Moreover, 91% of organizations that do run containers, use Kubernetes for orchestration.

Containers, essentially, are software packages that “contain” all the required components for companies to run their applications in public clouds or private datacenters, solving the problem of getting software to play nicely when shifted between environments. Kubernetes, meanwhile, is used by some of the world’s biggest businesses to automate the manual processes involved in managing these containerized applications, and is now one of the world’s top three open source projects — according to some estimations, at least.

Kubernetes is king

As with just about every popular open source project, a flourishing ecosystem of platforms and products have emerged on top of Kubernetes, from big tech companies such as Amazon, to a flurry of fledgling startups. One of these is Kubermatic, a five-year-old German company that helps major enterprises such as Allianz, Lufthansa, and Siemens automate their Kubernetes management and deployment across clouds, on-premises, and hybrid environments.

Kubermatic, which counts itself among the top corporate contributors to the Kubernetes project, rebranded from Loodse last June, at the same as it open-sourced its core Kubermatic Kubernetes Platform (KKP) under an Apache 2.0 Licence. Today, the Hamburg-based company announced it has raised $6 million in a seed round of funding led by Nauta Capital, with plans to put its fresh cash injection toward increasing adoption of its open source product and grow its enterprise customer base internationally.

As more and more businesses strive to modernize their IT infrastructure, this inevitably means transitioning applications to microservices and the cloud, while it may also mean adopting a multi- or hybrid-cloud approach. And so modern software has to be both malleable and scalable, while also being robust and reliable (i.e., bug-free) — this creates a great deal of complexity for developers and IT teams.

“What we can observe with enterprises across all industries is that the pressure on IT has never been greater,” Kubermatic CEO and cofounder Sebastian Scheele told VentureBeat. “IT managers face the challenge of modernizing their complete IT landscape to make use of data and automation to build better products — and ultimately stay competitive in a digitizing world.”

So how, exactly, does Kubermatic address this? According to Scheele, Kubermatic solves the core challenges by automating complex Kubernetes installations, while offering flexibility over what tools and infrastructure IT teams can use. What this means is that developers themselves, rather than a handful of senior figures further up the IT chain, can access a self-service Kubernetes platform to deploy their clusters across any infrastructure — and centrally manage all their workloads from a single dashboard.

Above: Kubermatic: Clusters across cloud providers

The platform also includes automated deployments, upgrades, and policy compliance, with integrated metrics via built-in Prometheus and Grafana support to help teams monitor their Kubernetes health and resource consumption.

Competitive landscape

A quick glance across the Kubernetes landscape reveals a slew of similar platforms, such as Loft Labs, which recently closed a $4.6 million seed round of funding. And then there are more established players, such as RedHat’s OpenShift and Rancher Labs, which Suse acquired last year for a reported $700 million.

According to Scheele, Kubermatic differentiates itself in a number of ways, including what he calls a “unique Kubernetes-in-Kubernetes architecture” that consumes only a fraction of resources versus its most direct competitors while claiming that Kubermatic also offers “the largest choice” of integrations out-of-the-box.

“Our vision is to help customers achieve power through automation — we build the world’s most adaptable and autonomous software delivery platform because we want IT teams to focus their time on writing applications that rival the likes of Amazon and Google,” Scheele said.

However, it’s sliced and diced, it’s clear that Kubernetes is one of the hot technology trends, both in industry and venture capital circles. In the past year or so, Red Hat, Cisco, Rapid7, and New Relic have all snapped up Kubernetes companies, while earlier this month Suse bolstered its Kubernetes security by acquiring NeuVector. Elsewhere, newcomers such as Nirmata are also attracting investors’ cash for solving Kubernetes complexity.

Alongside Nauta Capital, Kubermatic also secured the founders of process-mining company Celonis as angel investors.

“Containers and Kubernetes have become the de-facto standard to achieve the flexibility, speed, and resilience companies need for scalable business models like ours,” Celonis chief technology officer and cofounder Martin Klenk said in a statement. “Over the past months, I’ve witnessed more and more of our enterprise customers adopt Kubernetes, as well as multi-cloud and edge strategies to modernize their IT landscape and I expect this to become enterprise-mainstream for business-critical workloads.”

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