When from Fermyon the founders worked at Microsoft, they helped create many cloud-native technologies. They noted that the development process, especially around Kubernetes, was complex and that developers often over-provisioned cloud infrastructure resources for periods when usage increased, often going unused.
It was a costly hedge for businesses and developers, leaving unused servers they were always paying for. As the founders listened to Microsoft customers, they realized they were hearing a blueprint for a product that developers were looking for, and they left the company last year to start building it.
Today, this company announced the launch of the Fermyon platform and an initial investment of $6 million
If you think the solution looks a lot like a serverless solution, you’re not mistaken, but Matt Butcher, co-founder and CEO of Fermyon, says that instead of imposing a functions-based programming paradigm, the startup has decided to use WebAssembly, a much more robust programming environment originally created for the browser.
Using WebAssembly solved a bunch of problems for the business, including security, speed, and resource efficiency. “All of those things that made it good for the browser were actually really good for the cloud. The whole isolation model that prevents WebAssembly from being able to attack hosts through the browser was the same kind of [security] model we wanted on the cloud side,” Butcher explained.
Also, a WebAssembly module can be downloaded very quickly and run instantly to solve all performance issues, and finally instead of having a bunch of servers just waiting for traffic spikes, Fermyon can start them almost instantly and run them on demand.
So the idea was to take the best of serverless and microservices, and combine them on this new platform that mostly removed Kubernetes from the management side of things and replaced it with a much simpler programming environment.
“What we really wanted was the serverless experience, right? Write a function, write a little program, and choose your own language, but we wanted the runtime that runs it be much more flexible and cost effective, faster and easier to move around inside a data center,” he said.
They started by releasing a tool called twirl, which is an open-source WebAssembly framework designed to allow individual developers to interact with the platform. “Spin is an instrumental part of Fermyon that allows users to easily run production workloads with WebAssembly, and it reached 1,000 GitHub stars within the first six weeks after release,” according to the company.
Today, the company introduces Fermyon, the next open source coin, which allows teams to work together on the platform. The startup was launched late last year and kicked off with 10 engineers on day one. Butcher hopes to hire 15 people this year as the business expands. The plan is to build the open source community to begin with, then once that’s established, start working on commercial pieces.
He said that at the beginning of this year the company had an external site and defined its values as an organization, and one of the core values was diversity. He recognized that having a core group of founders, who all came from a similar background, could lead to isolation and they wanted to make sure everyone who joined felt welcome and included.
“We want to make sure we include women and minorities when we hire, right? We want to make sure that we include people in different time zones when communicating. We want to make sure that we include people who are new to the team. And so, while we were talking about that a lot on our offsite site, we basically explored best practices that we can use to amplify each of those dimensions,” he said.
This includes pairing new hires with someone more experienced regardless of company function, being aware of time zone differences, recording every meeting and posting to Slack, so people can go back and find the missing information. Plus, he starts every meeting by checking in with people and seeing how they’re doing before getting down to business. All of this is designed to make everyone feel part of the team.
The $6 million seed investment was led by Amplify Partners with participation from a host of industry angel investors.