When Fermyon’s founders were working at Microsoft, they helped build a lot of cloud native technologies. They noted that the development process, particularly around Kubernetes, was complex and developers often over provisioned cloud infrastructure resources for those times when usage spiked, resources that often went unused.
That was a costly hedge for companies and developers, leaving servers unused they were still paying for. As the founders listened to customers at Microsoft, they realized that they were hearing a blueprint for a product that developers were looking for, and they left the company last year to begin building it.
Today that company announced the launch of the Fermyon platform and a $6 million seed investment
If you’re thinking the solution sounds a lot like serverless, you’re not wrong, but Matt Butcher, co-founder and CEO at Fermyon, says that instead of forcing a function-based programming paradigm, the startup decided to use WebAssembly, a much more robust programming environment, originally created for the browser.
Using WebAssembly solved a bunch of problems for the company including security, speed and efficiency in terms of resources. “All those things that made it good for the browser were actually really good for the cloud. The whole isolation model that keeps WebAssembly from being able to attack the hosts through the browser was the same kind of [security] model we wanted on the cloud side,” Butcher explained.
What’s more, a WebAssembly module could download really quickly and execute instantly to solve any performance questions, and finally instead of having a bunch of servers that are just sitting around waiting in case there's peak traffic, Fermyon can start them up nearly 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 tiny program and pick your own language, but we wanted the runtime that executed it to be far more flexible and more cost effective, faster and easier to move around inside of a data center,” he said.
They started by releasing a tool called Spin, which is an open source WebAssembly framework designed for individual developers to interact with the platform. “Spin is an instrumental piece of Fermyon that makes it easy for users to run production workloads with WebAssembly, and it achieved 1,000 GitHub stars within the first six weeks after its release,” according to the company.
Today, the company is introducing Fermyon, the next open source piece, which allows teams to work together on the platform. The startup launched at the end of last year and started with 10 engineers on the first day. Butcher hopes to hire 15 people this year as the company develops. The plan is to build the open source community for starters, then once that’s established to start working on commercial pieces.
He said that earlier this year, the company had an offsite 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 insulation and they wanted to make sure everyone who came on board felt welcome and included.
“We want to make sure we're including women and minorities as we hire, right? We want to make sure that we're including people in different time zones as we communicate. We want to make sure we're including the people who are new to the team. And so as we talked through a lot of that at our offsite, we basically explored the best practices we can use to amp up every one of these dimensions,” he said.
That includes pairing new employees with someone more experienced, regardless of the business function, being aware of time zone differences, recording every meeting and posting them in Slack, so people can go back and find missing information. In addition, he starts each meeting by checking in with people and seeing how they are doing before launching into work. All of this is designed to make everyone feel a part of the team.
The $6 million seed investment was led by Amplify Partners with participation from a host of industry angels.