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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Buoyant Talks New Cloud Infrastructure Stack Layer


In this new era of cloud computing, how organizations build, deploy and manage applications is changing radically. In the world of VMs, we understand how to scale applications to meet SLAs of security, reliability, performance and elasticity. With the introduction of containers and microservices, the rules change. The software stack is being re-imagined.

One of the catalysts driving this change in Silicon Valley is the venture firm Benchmark Capital, backers of Docker, Hortonworks, the Apache Kafka company Confluent and now a new startup. They're leading a $10.5 million Series A round in San Francisco startup, Buoyant, that has created a new layer in the cloud software infrastructure stack that it calls a "service mesh." I recently spoke to former Twitter engineer and Buoyant co-founder and CEO William Morgan to learn more.

VMblog:  You guys seem like you're trying to be to the new networking stack for cloud-native, what Cisco was to the TCP / IP stack.  Is that a fair comparison?

William Morgan:  It's a flattering comparison and I'll happily take it. Cisco was at the forefront of a massive industry transformation onto TCP/IP. They provided some real value to their customers as part of that transition. With Buoyant, I believe we're seeing a similar, industry-wide transformation with the move to cloud native architectures. The details are different, of course, but there are some real analogies between the concept of the service mesh and TCP/IP itself -- just up a few layers of abstraction.

VMblog:  How do the break-downs between services look different in cloud native vs. the old virtual machine world?  And what are the sorts of outages that are most common in cloud-native / microservices stacks?

Morgan:  The biggest difference between the VM world and the cloud native world is the application architecture enabled by the cloud native environment -- specifically, microservices. Why? Because with containers and container orchestrators, the cost of moving to microservices is now dramatically reduced. It's always been a good idea, it's just been painfully expensive. Now it's cheap and people are doing it, but of course there is a whole new set of failures that get introduced by the fact that you're now running a big distributed system. You have new failure modes where one small issue can easily cascade to take down the entire application, because of the way that cross-service communication happens. Linkerd helps with that.

VMblog:  Describe who is using the Linkerd Service Mesh - what their requirements look like and how they were tackling the problem before they discovered they needed the Service Mesh?

Morgan:  That's a fun one because it's actually quite different from what we expected when we started out. We thought it would be the real high-scale companies with tons of traffic. Instead, it's been companies of all sizes and all traffic scales, and the thread that's tying them together is the move to a cloud native architecture. From startups like Monzo to big companies like Paypal, the unifying theme is that they're adopting things like Kubernetes and Docker and finding that Linkerd solves a class of significant challenges for them.

VMblog:  Do you see the Service Mesh ever being used in VM environments, or is this strictly for Cloud-Native / new applications?

Morgan:  Absolutely. One of our favorite use cases for Linkerd is in introducing something like Kubernetes into an existing environment. You never adopt Kubernetes in a vacuum; you add it to your existing stack. So we've focused on making Linkerd work in every possible environment, including VMs and physical hardware and everything else we can get our hands on. One of the biggest values to the service mesh is having a uniform, consistent layer for cross-service traffic across your entire environment. Then you can decouple application code from the underlying infrastructure and migrate things back and forth at your own pace. So Linkerd allows you to be be poly-environment in the same way that Docker allows you to be polyglot.


Published Tuesday, July 11, 2017 8:31 AM by David Marshall
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