Gravitational pulling us toward an open and multi-cloud future

The future of enterprise computing is multi-cloud and open-source. This is what enterprises and developers want, and they are pulling the industry with them. However, the commercial aspirations of cloud providers are increasingly at odds with this future, and we cannot rely on them alone to guarantee it.

The scale and heterogeneity of cloud-native applications makes them extremely difficult to build and operate. For the past decade, software companies have dealt with this by hiring large DevOps teams whose job it is to keep their applications up and running. But the resources and headcount this requires often outstrips what is available to mainstream enterprises. To address this, cloud providers continue to offer tooling that encourages customers to offload this complexity to managed services. While its benefits are clear, this tooling is only accessible via proprietary APIs. Whether a company "rolls their own" or leverages managed services, their apps are ultimately bound to the provider they run on.

This is not an accident. The strategy of cloud providers is to offer immediate convenience and ease of use, in exchange for a hefty price premium and embracing their managed services. While this has been one of the most lucrative business models of all time, the resulting dynamic is concerning. Most enterprises are very early in their journey to the cloud. This means a sizeable portion of overall IT spend is up for grabs, and just a few vendors (read: cloud providers) could eventually capture the majority of it. The likelihood of this consolidation makes it essential that we enable developers to run applications across different providers and infrastructure form-factors with ease. Without this capability, the success of cloud both in concept and practice will be limited as its economics slowly trend in favor of the providers and away from developers.

The accelerating growth of open-source consumption tells a different story. We are witnessing billions in enterprise value being created by commercial open-source vendors of databases, middleware, and even applications. Kubernetes has become the de-facto data-center operating system, providing a way for developers to build and operate their applications with open standards and APIs. Developers are overwhelmingly choosing to leverage open-source where possible. If you accept this, then it becomes important to make it as easy as possible to leverage open-source, without such lock-in to the cloud provider. We find the tension brewing here to be one of the most interesting themes in enterprise technology today, and believe it presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity for startups whose products relieve it.

This is why I am excited to announce that Kleiner Perkins has led a $25m Series A in Gravitational. Ev, Sasha, and Taylor identified this tension during the formative period of the cloud era while working at Rackspace via the acquisition of their first startup, Mailgun. What they were seeing gave them chilling memories of the early days of Microsoft’s eventual consolidation of the desktop computing market. Given the incredible reliance our society has on software today, this version of the future of computing did not appeal to them.

Gravitational builds open-source tools that enable developers to securely build and run applications that are completely independent of the cloud provider or type of infrastructure they run on. Instead of coupling dependencies with the provider of infrastructure as the clouds do, Gravitational proposes bundling all dependencies into the application itself. The result is a cloud-native application that can be packed into a single file, and run anywhere. Today, they support some of the largest and most technically advanced companies on earth in deploying and operating their cloud-native applications across different clouds and forms of infrastructure with this approach.

A set of difficult, unsolved problems stand between us and an open and multi-cloud future. What excites us most is Gravitational’s long-term ambition to resolve many of them. We count Gravitational amongst an exciting new cohort of companies working to guarantee this future, including recent standouts like Hashicorp and GitLab. We could not be happier to welcome Gravitational to the Kleiner Perkins family and be able to help them continue to pull developers toward the open future they deserve.

  • Bucky Moore

Read Gravitational's announcement here