Heptio has found an interesting way to differentiate itself from the numerous Kubernetes-based container distribution platforms that have inundated the market: it’s claiming to be the first “undistribution.” (And yes, we know that’s not a real word.)

The claim is tied to its Heptio Kubernetes Subscription (HKS) that is centered on a “true open source” version of Kubernetes. This allows companies to operate within an unhindered multi-cloud environment.

The “un” part comes from a focus on circumventing additional features included by some other Kubernetes-based container distros to ease implementation. Specifically, HKS targets limitations on hosting models or platforms, potential vendor lock-in due to proprietary forks, and delayed access to the most recent Kubernetes updates.

HKS uses a production-ready reference architecture centered on upstream Kubernetes. Heptio CEO Craig McLuckie said that architecture is infused with Heptio’s open source tools that fill in key gaps in the Kubernetes ecosystem, and nothing more.

He explained the company was targeting forward-leaning organizations that don’t want to be tied down by limitations embedded in more formal distros. “We are focused on companies that are technically sophisticated and also want to participate in and give back to the open source community,” McLuckie said.

The company is also looking to serve organizations that have found their way into the Kubernetes ecosystem through various communities, but have “come to a point where they might get stuck and need help.”

McLuckie said sometimes users “want something more formalized and someone they can call if things get weird or they need a patch.” He noted that community support is typically in the form of a Slack message and not of the instantaneous and real-time needs of many organizations.

Heptio deals with installing the framework and works directly with the Kubernetes community on dolling out any fixes. McLuckie noted this model also encourages organizations using the platform to contribute back into the Kubernetes ecosystem.

This is not to say that Heptio views the Kubernetes ecosystem through rose-colored glasses. McLuckie explained that while the technology itself is amazing, it must also be realized as a new technology, and fixes or patches are needed.

Kubernetes Ties

Heptio from its inception has had a close relationship with Kubernetes. It formed in late 2016 under the guise of making the Kubernetes platform more accessible to developers running apps on premises or in the public cloud.

McLuckie and Heptio CTO Joe Beda were also part of the initial Kubernetes team at Google. Kubernetes began as Google’s Borg platform before being spun out into the open source community. It currently resides inside the Linux Foundation‘s Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

Heptio last September scored $25 million in Series B funding, which was added to the $8.5 million it attracted as part of its founding. Beda at that time said the firm plans to accelerate growth and begin looking beyond just Kubernetes in supporting enterprises as they move into the hybrid cloud environment.

Competitive Set

Heptio’s push into the space comes as numerous other vendors have rallied around Kubernetes, many of which claim to use unaltered versions of the orchestrator. However, there remains a timing issue in terms of those vendors being able to keep up with the pace of Kubernetes development.

The Kubernetes Project has been releasing a new platform iteration every three months. The most recent version, dubbed 1.9, was released late last year.

As an example, CoreOS added the Kubernetes 1.8 version to it Tectonic platform two months after it was released by the Kubernetes Project. CoreOS did note that it uses some of that time for additional testing, which previously came in handy when it was forced to delay the integration of Kubernetes 1.7 due to finding a “major issue.”

Red Hat just forked over $250 million to acquire CoreOS.

McLuckie did not want to comment specifically on the financial ramifications of the CoreOS deal with Red Hat. He did note he was happy for the folks at CoreOS and that the deal showed the importance of container orchestrator platforms.

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