Behind the Investment – AtomicJar

Insight Partners has a rich history of investing in developer testing tools. We’re proud to have supported companies like SmartBear, Tricentis/QASymphony, Browserstack, Waldo, and others which help their  customers accelerate release cycles and deliver better, more stable end products.

An emergent technique within testing we have closely monitored is integration testing – the testing of interdependent code and resources to ensure components operate as expected. As developers shift toward microservices, testing the interconnection of application components is becoming ubiquitous and an integral part of the development process.

Testcontainers has widely become the leading open-source software for integration tests, with ~7 million monthly Docker downloads and a vibrant and passionate developer community. The community’s growth is accelerating. Using Testcontainers, developers can spin up testing environments for common integration and UI tests using Docker containers, which act as “throwaway” instances for production-like replicas of external resources (e.g., databases, web browsers, other microservices). This enables faster creation and execution of integration tests and mitigates many painful issues for developers that come from spinning up and taking down tests manually.

There are lots of obstacles to using integration testing, particularly for more complex software. Keeping local testing environments up-to-date with new code releases is cumbersome. Running integration tests is taxing on local developer machines. Replicating tests from one machine to another is not as simple as it seems. Many developers we’ve spoken to have had some form of the “works only on my machine” problem where a test is successful on their laptop but not a teammate’s!

The Testcontainers’ founders set out to build a cloud-hosted, commercial version – driven by the simple belief that running Testcontainers in the cloud would provide clear improvements to development velocity and better enterprise deployments.

For this they are now launching Testcontainers Cloud (TCC). Through this new product, developers can seamlessly route integration tests to cloud servers and fine-tune their test environments to production-grade specifications, resolving the “works on my machine” problem. By sending tests to the cloud, developers also free up local compute resources and enable tests to run up to 3x faster. Developers do not even need Docker installed on their machine and can now take advantage of Cloud IDEs and other live collaboration tools.

With the launch of Testcontainers Cloud to public beta, AtomicJar offers a full suite of integration testing products. AtomicJar streamlines integration testing for software projects, regardless of scope or complexity.

Before making our investment, we conducted extensive diligence that included surveying hundreds of developers, talking to many of AtomicJar’s beta customers, and deeply understanding the product and its roadmap and were amazed by the size of the opportunity that will continue to grow as microservices continue to get adopted by companies of all sizes. We are thrilled about AtomicJar’s potential to improve the productivity of the almost 90M software developers across a wide range of industries, geographies, and software development methodologies. We’re excited to partner with them as they help lead the “shift left” of best-in-class software testing and delivery.

Behind the Investment- Software Defined Automation: Bringing Industrial DevOps into the 21st Century

The explosive demand for developer operations (or “DevOps”) tooling stems from a logical sequence of events. The world’s savviest businesses know they need to wield software to win in their respective markets. This has led to a massive increase in demand for both internally built and externally-procured software solutions. This demand is effectively insatiable, which means a limited supply of technical talent craves increases in efficiency in how software is developed and deployed. Thus, infrastructure software to build software is in itself the most in-demand category of software there is.

So, DevOps has rapidly emerged to address this major imbalance, and has brought new levels of efficiency and efficacy to modern software engineering. This trend elevated the importance of developer-friendly solutions, particularly these developers are self-selecting which tools they use to build and deploy software. Insight Partners has been at the forefront of backing DevOps vendors born on the back of these trends, such as Postman for API creation and management, LaunchDarkly for feature flagging, JFrog for artifact management, and dozens of others.

And yet, not all software is created in the same way, and not all forms of developers have benefited from these trends. Take a walk through any manufacturing or assembly line, and you’ll be confronted with a very different reality of how software is built. Where Netflix engineers might leverage GitHub for code versioning and collaboration, industrial automation engineers carry around USB sticks loaded up with their code. Where Amazon engineers leverage CI:CD to continually deploy updates for cloud-hosted applications, their industrial counterparts have to pause production to directly deploy code onto hardware via LAN cables. The seemingly tablestakes concepts of developer collaboration, code security, code quality analysis, centralized push requests, etc. simply have not been propagated in the industrial context so far. Why is the industrial Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) so clearly lagging behind modern best practices?

While the answer to this question has many nuances, perhaps the most important obstacle has been the unique physical infrastructure powering production lines. Nearly all electromechanical movements on production lines are run on physical “programmable logic controllers,” or “PLCs.” These are highly specialized physical computers that push repetitive commands to machinery and dictate their every motion. These PLCs are extremely reliable despite relying on low-level compute power and functionality, and they are built to operate for decades without downtime or human intervention.


Allen Bradley programmable logic controller

These PLCs can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars, and in the current market environment are backlogged for many months due to massive chip supply chain breakdowns. Code is written in one of several common programming languages unique to industrial software, and it then runs locally after being deployed directly on these devices via LAN cables. There is no industrial GitHub equivalent supporting these languages. And unlike with cloud-hosted software, there is no centralized way of deploying applications remotely onto the PLCs.

This hardware dependency precludes industrial automation engineers from self-procuring developer tooling. Layered on top of the hardware obstacle are immense risks around security (e.g., hacking of production lines) or operations disruptions (e.g., applications crashing and forcing a pause in production) which are top of mind for IT leadership.

Industrial automation is widely-recognized as broken for all these reasons, yet the fundamental problems have remained unsolved for decades. Certain point solutions have emerged over the years to help industrial engineers manage and collaborate on their code, but adoption is nascent and they don’t address the fundamental problem: the industry is reliant on physical, siloed PLCs.

Software Defined Automation is bringing a new paradigm to the industrial SDLC

Enter Software Defined Automation. When we first met Josef and Axel, it was clear that they were the right founders to bring modern DevOps to the industrial environment. With senior engineering leadership experience in the industrial-focused teams at Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, as well as a combined 15+ years at Siemens, they intimately understand the nuances of this challenging problem space from both the next-gen cloud and industrial experiences.

Josef and Axel, co-founders of Software Defined Automation

Josef and Axel recognized that the underlying infrastructure problem around PLC dependencies must be solved to bring agility and flexibility to factories, so they are pioneering the concept of virtualized PLCs. “vPLCs” are industrial real-time control software workloads running on virtual machines, enabling instant provisioning, real-time performance monitoring, remote code deployment, and much more.

Virtualizing the PLC is already a hard and meaningful challenge, but the vision of the team goes much further. The SDA team sees this virtualized infrastructure layer as the core platform upon which to build a whole suite of DevOps and TechOps tooling, including code versioning, developer collaboration and cloud-based management of conventional and virtual PLCs. By solving the fundamental “PLC dependency” problem, they are unlocking a huge TAM for DevOps and TechOps in one of the largest and most complex markets in the world. In essence, SDA is equipping factories with modern end-to-end PLC lifecycle management tools.

Ultimately, the winner in this market will be much more than an infrastructure product or developer tool. It will be a single end-to-end platform that marries both, enabling not only independence from physical PLCs, but also a broad suite of DevOps and TechOps tooling tailored specifically for industrial automation. It was clear when speaking with SDA customers and market experts that they are combining the right value prop and team at the right time. We are thrilled to be backing this future category leader on their journey to bring industrial DevOps into the 21st Century and beyond.

Behind the Investment – Fermyon

Sixteen years since AWS launched EC2, the cloud has become a complex ecosystem that can be daunting to developers trying to deploy applications. WebAssembly (Wasm), a binary executable format, offers a glimmer of hope for a simpler new world where developers can “ship once, run anywhere” with many security, performance, and cost benefits. With recent advances in the WebAssembly community, there is an opportunity to use this new technology to simplify application delivery — and we believe the team at Fermyon can do just that.

Now, we are excited to announce that we are partnering with Fermyon on this journey by leading their $20M Series A.

What’s WebAssembly?

WebAssembly is a binary instruction format that allows you to convert code from various programming languages (e.g., Rust, Swift, Python) into a format that can be run on any browser or virtual machine.

Wasm was developed by Mozilla engineers to run inside the browser because it efficiently ran computationally intensive tasks like running video games, streaming television shows, and using complex design tools such as Figma in a browser.

Enthusiasm for Wasm is now shifting to server-side applications — i.e., Wasm as a highly portable mechanism to run code directly on VMs or bare metal. Similar to how containers did not replace VMs but found a space where they were better suited, we believe WebAssembly modules live side by side with containers — offering a more compelling solution than containers in many scenarios.

What’s Fermyon?

Fermyon is a new company that develops open source and commercial products for WebAssembly and helps steer the Bytecode Alliance aimed at creating open standards for the Wasm ecosystem. Their first open-source product, Spin, launched in March to make building Wasm microservices easier for developers. This week at Kubecon, the Fermyon team launched Fermyon Cloud.

Fermyon Cloud is a PaaS for WebAssembly micro services. Their team eloquently defines a PaaS as a “cloud-based hosting environment into which a developer can deploy their own application, and have the platform manage configuration, deployments, releases, logging, and other operational concerns.” By building a PaaS around Wasm, Fermyon can provide unprecedented performance, cost, security, and most importantly, simplicity for developers. This approach is especially exciting today at a time when the cloud has become complicated, and there is a newfound desire to simplify operations.

We have been so impressed by Matt, Radu, and the entire Fermyon team who have become key thought leaders and community advocates in the WebAssembly world. Congratulations to the team on launching Fermyon Cloud. We’re thrilled to welcome Fermyon into the Insight family!

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