The Future of the Cloud - Investing in Seaplane

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Apr 27, 2022

We are excited to announce Seaplane’s $15M Series A, which we co-led with Bill Coughran, Partner, Sequoia Capital and Brian Long, Partner, Atlantic Bridge. This marks a significant milestone in Seaplane’s journey to deliver powerful, frictionless application performance to users across the globe. In this post, we’ll explore the challenges that make Seaplane necessary, and the advancements that make Seaplane possible — as well as some of the factors that led 8VC to invest.

Headwinds and Tailwinds

Over the last decade two key concepts have profoundly affected how software is built and scaled: containers and microservices.

Microservice architectures enable separation of concerns at the business logic software layer, and allow for the proliferation of continuous delivery models, dramatically raising user expectations for an application’s uptime and availability even while its complexity around business logic grows. Meanwhile, containers enable enterprises to accelerate their delivery cycles and rapidly scale their operations to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced market.

Together, these building blocks have driven businesses of all sizes and industries to evolve their traditionally monolithic codebases into something more agile and dynamic. This is especially true for enterprise organizations, as application workloads with complex business logic and significant scale become the norm.

However, the adoption of these new frameworks comes with tradeoffs, primarily in the area of cloud-first application management & deployment. As inefficient as monolithic deployments were, they also reduced some of the complexity inherent in managing a distributed system. Orchestration has become increasingly essential for managing these dynamic workloads, but most orchestration tools are not suited to operating on the global scale of the enterprise, especially for hybrid and multi-cloud models.

The influential Carlota Perez Framework specifies an installation age followed by a deployment age. The cloud has matured into the deployment age. In order for the cloud to succeed now, there must be a rich and flexible orchestration and management tier that supports new revolutions in application development. In this post we will discuss Seaplane’s approach to addressing this urgent need.

Thesis

Cloud-native, data-driven, and AI-first applications are some of the fastest growing areas in enterprise, and their complex, microservice-oriented architectures require a level of orchestration beyond the scope of current DevOps and Cloud Management offerings. Companies that enable and support application developers and global cloud/data infrastructure deployers for such apps will emerge as a highly differentiated and high-leverage force in the enterprise. 8VC has made a bet on Vercel as the application development framework company. Seaplane, with its deep tech around cloud/data infrastructure support, represents a bet on the second piece of our thesis. With both a development framework and proper infrastructure support it is possible to harness the explosion around JAM Stack, spearheaded by companies like Vercel and Netlify.

Introducing Seaplane

Seaplane is a user-centric application platform that continuously optimizes the use of global infrastructure to deliver applications when and where they are needed, maximizing performance and resilience. With a single Seaplane deployment, it’s possible to seamlessly and transparently utilize all major public clouds, various bare metal providers, and the Seaplane global edge network across every region, country, and continent.

As an application’s user traffic shifts, Seaplane dynamically adjusts that application’s deployments with no pre-provisioning or manual intervention required, autoscaling to meet demand and optimizing for cost and low latency. This also applies if there’s an outage if a provider goes down in one region, an application deployed with Seaplane will remain available as the platform automatically combines available capacity to weather the turbulence. If all nearby capacity fails, end users will still be able to access Seaplane-deployed applications from the nearest available zone. There is no more disaster recovery because there are no more disasters.

This is a user-centric, not a machine-centric, way to think about global infrastructure. It optimizes the end user’s quality of experience, while minimizing the cost and complexity of development and deployment. Rather than struggling with complex and fragmented cloud infrastructure, creators only need to deploy to a single cloud zone: everywhere.

From the developers’ point of view, Seaplane provides a set of simple API’s for global computing as companies already deploying containers can drive down cloud costs and management overhead, while increasing flexibility, scalability and responsiveness, by simply redirecting existing containers to Seaplane.

Why Now: A Changing Airspace

Seaplane capitalizes on the convergence of three defining, secular trends in enterprise applications:

  1. An enterprise mentality shift: There has been a change in focus from operations to outcomes. Enterprises are reinventing multiple layers of the stack to satisfy customer demand, via cloud-native, data-driven, AI/ML-first business applications.
  2. Serverless has emerged as a widely adopted paradigm of writing and managing applications in a high level language, since it enables developers to focus on agility, business logic and QOS without having to handle the complex, often fragmented cloud and data ops tiers.
  3. The proliferation of pay-what-you-use models: The general B2B consumption model is shifting from SaaS to usage-based pricing, where users only pay only for the resources consumed during any given pay period.

Closing thoughts

As we dug deeper into Seaplane, we grasped that the founders would need significant experience in deploying applications across heterogeneous environments and solving complex serving optimization problems. Niall Dalton did just that as founder/CTO of Tensyr, following fifteen years as a CTO, chief architect, and engineering manager focused on some of the most complex and data-intensive infrastructure challenges in the enterprise. Through our conversations with Niall and team, the following narrative came together:

Current orchestration tools are not up to the challenge of today’s global enterprise, and the performance gap is worsening with the proliferation of cloud-native applications and multi/hybrid cloud environments. Companies that solve multi-cloud, multi-region deployment and orchestration will emerge as dominant forces in the enterprise.

Seaplane focuses on the essential challenges of orchestration — application availability, scale, business continuity (DR/BCP), geo-based colocation (100 ms latency), shifting data regulations, and end users’ quality of experience — while minimizing cost and complexity in development, deployment, and operations.

Seaplane does for containerized applications what CDNs did for media delivery: it makes them simple, it makes them global and it keeps cost proportional to an application’s traffic. It gives developers simple APIs to manage application deployment across all available data and compute resources — from bare-metal to edge to multi-cloud — as a single, dynamically controlled, worldwide zone.

By granting the ability to truly take off from anywhere, Seaplane brings applications and data services within 10 milliseconds of every end user on the planet. With Seaplane, we are proud to invest in both the future of the cloud, and the countless creators and consumers who call it home.