Datacenter Trends

Mesosphere Sees Growth in the Datacenter Operating System Market

The company's founder said its DCOS offering is for 'Apps Running at Datacenter Scale.'

Silicon Valley-based cloud company Mesosphere has been in the news a lot lately, most recently grabbing headlines because of its partnership with Sysdig, a provider of container-specific monitoring solutions, and due to a $73.5 million Series C funding round led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Microsoft. HPE was already a strategic investor, but Microsoft is a new one, though it was reported last year that Redmond tried unsuccessfully to buy the company.

Mesosphere is the three-year-old startup that commercialized Apache Mesos, an open source cluster manager designed to handle workloads in distributed environments. The company's flagship product is the Data Center Operating System (DCOS), which, among other things, provides a simpler administration model for datacenter operators. Mesosphere partnered with Microsoft to build the Azure Container Service on the DCOS.

The company has some big names on its list of paying customers (in addition to Microsoft and HPE), including eBay, Yelp, Verizon, and Uber -- and Netflix, Apple, Airbnb, and Twitter all use Mesosphere's free distro of Mesos in their database management systems. Twitter was an early financial supporter of Mesosphere.

When the funding announcement went out last month, Mesosphere Cofounder and CEO Florian Leibert used Marc Andreessen's famous comment in a statement: "Software is eating the world and enterprises of all sizes are paying attention to a new class of applications that run at datacenter scale.  DCOS is the first platform that takes the roadblocks out of the way so developers and operators can thrive in this new world of containers and distributed systems."

I asked Mesosphere's CMO, Matt Trifiro, to elaborate on that statement.

"Apache Mesos is a complex piece of software," he told me. "It's a distributed systems kernel. Its interface is an API. You need a team of engineers to run it! We saw the opportunity to turn this very complex product into something that any enterprise could consume. And the way we did it was to build all the other pieces of an operating system around this distributed systems kernel. It's almost literally like an operating system on a laptop, but running at datacenter scale across 40,000 cores instead 4."

When Trifiro started with Mesosphere two years ago, the company consisted of 11 engineers in a Bay Area condo, he said. Today it has 160 employees, mostly in San Francisco, and maintains an engineering and support office in Hamburg, Germany. The company has built momentum primarily among top Silicon Valley companies within the relatively small world of Apache Mesos users, Trifiro admitted, but the Mesosphere's long-term opportunity is definitely in the wider world.

"Whether you're a manufacturer of flavored soda water or toothbrushes or jet engines, you now have a need to build the kind of software, at the kind of scale, that a Google or a Facebook or a Twitter built five years ago. You're trying to build applications that don't fit on a single machine, so you need to deploy distributed systems. You're dividing your development teams into agile groups that are doing continuous integration and continuous deployment of microservices that all have to be highly available, highly elastic, and fault tolerant.

 All those things, which were perfected at these tech companies, are now the kinds of things ever enterprise that wants to be competitive has to adopt."

Trifiro also offered what is, so far, my favorite illustration of the essential challenge facing non-tech companies that suddenly find themselves needing to compete around IoT: "So the toothbrush manufacturer looks at his managers and says, OK, now we've figured out how to put a Wi-Fi chip into all of our toothbrushes. How do we connect them back to our datacenter and built the application that actually delivers the text message to you when you didn't brush in the morning, the report you can bring to your dentist, and the auto fulfillment of your brush heads and toothpaste from Amazon?"

Along with the funding news, the company announced the 1.0 release of Marathon, an open source container orchestration platform, and unveiled a new product called Velocity, which is built around the Jenkins continuous integration/delivery (CI/CD) server. Mesosphere also makes Infinity, a real-time IoT data stack based on Apache's Cassandra database, Kafka distributed messaging system and Spark Big Data processing engine. Infinity and Velocity run on top of the DCOS.

In a statement issued at the time of the funding announcement, Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of Microsoft's Cloud + Enterprise division, said, "Mesosphere is at the center of three of the biggest tech trends today -- cloud, containerization and microservices."

"Velocity" might have been a more accurate name for the whole company.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].


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