There are a dozen new technologies being introduced every day that never amount to anything, while others move on to create completely new methodologies for how we interact with IT. Just like virtualization changed the way data centers operate, containers are changing how we interact with our applications and Kubernetes (K8s in short hand) seems to be a front runner in this space. However, with any new technology hitting the market, there is a bit of a lag before it takes off. People have to understand why it’s needed, who’s got the best solution, and how you can make it work with your own environment. Heptio is a startup company focusing on helping enterprises embrace Kubernetes through their open source tools and professional services. I’ve been hearing great things about Heptio, but when my good friend, Tim Carr, decided to go work for there, I decided that I better look into who they are, and figure out what he sees in their little startup.
Heptio was co-founded by Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda who were founding engineers of the Kubernetes project for Google and probably understand Kubernetes better than most (I would assume). They’re taking their knowledge and building tools to help customers adopt Kubernetes in a stable, secure, reliable way across platforms.
What Exactly Does Heptio Sell?
Heptio currently sells services to customers who need help with their Kubernetes deployments. This might come in the form of consulting services, or their Heptio Kubernetes Subscription (HKS). In the grand scheme of things, Kubernetes is still fairly new. Companies have started developing code on the K8s platform and love how easy it is to run containers on it, but management is still difficult. There are a lot more questions that enterprises need to solve than just, “How do I spin up an application on Kubernetes?” For the enterprise, additional considerations need to be considered such as, How do we ensure our cluster is backed up to meet our RTO and RPO requirements? How do we ensure that we’ve got proper role based access controls in place and separation of duties with our cluster? How do we patch our K8s cluster, and get visibility into possible issues that arise?
Heptio’s main product is their Heptio Kubernetes Subscription or HKS. You pick where you want your Kubernetes cluster to live, such as in AWS, GCE, Azure, on-prem, or whatever you’d like. Heptio will manage that cluster using many of the open source tools that they helped create. You make the choices that make sense to your organization for platform portability, and Heptio will make sure its backed up, conformant with CNCF standards, patched and updated.
The HKS solution also comes with advisory support so that you can ask questions as you are building your environment and of course, break-fix for when issues arise. If you’re new to managing an enterprise Kubernetes deployment, this is a great way to make sure you’ve got the basics covered.
Where have I heard of Heptio before?
If you’ve worked with Kubernetes very much, you may have used some of their open sourced products, and there are a number of them.
Heptio Ark – Ark is a tool to manage disaster recovery of K8s cluster resources. This tool creates a simple way to recover resources if something happens to your K8s clusters, or if you need a simple way to migrate your resources to a different cluster.
Heptio Contour – Contour helps manage your Envoy (opensource project created and used by Lyft) load balancer for your K8s deployments. It helps deploy Envoy into your environment and keep it updated as new downstream containers change state.
Heptio Gimbal – Gimbal is a neat tool that lets you route traffic to one or more of your K8s clusters from the internet, or to legacy systems such as an OpenStack cluster, or both.
Heptio Sonobuoy – Sonobouy might be the most well known project. This tool makes sure that your K8s installation is conformant with the official Kubernetes specifications. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has set standards for what each K8s deployment must provide to consumers. If two vendors both have Kubernetes distributions, you’d want to ensure that both of these allow the same set of minimum capabilities so that you can move your containers between the platforms. Sonobuoy is the defacto standard to report on these conformant metrics.
ksonnet – Ksonnet is a neat way to manage your k8s manifests. It provides a quick way to start with your templates by generating much of the code for you. It also has library so you an use tools like VSCode with auto-complete turned on. This is typically an easier way to manage code than YAML or JSON files.
Heptio Authenticator for AWS – This was a project completed by both Heptio and AWS to allow Amazon’s IAM service to provide authentication to a Kubernetes cluster. If you’re an AWS customer running K8s, this is a big deal for you.
What’s up with the Name?
If you’re curious about the company name, you’re not alone. Geekwire was able to interview Mr. Beda in 2016 to find out that the name is in reference to the original Kubernetes build inside of Google before it was open sourced. Before Kubernetes was a thing, Google called it the Borg. When it was being named, it was pitched as 7 of 9 which is in reference to a character from Star Trek Voyager. “Hept” is a greek prefix for “seven” and thus Heptio is a nod to the original project that McLuckie and Beda helped to create during their time with Google.
In a nutshell, there seems to be a bunch of talent behind this little startup and there has been enough financial backing too, to make this company take off. Last September Heptio had a $25M Series B funding round and that’s nothing to shake a stick at. With their propensity to work with the open source communities to build new tools, and provide expert knowledge to companies on the Kubernetes deployments, there’s no telling how far this little start up could go. Good luck to them, and we’ll be watching to see where things lead.