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A partial Upbound team photo including (L to R) Matt Heilman, product designer; Bassam Tabbara, founder and CEO;, Illya Chekrygin, founding member and engineer; Luke Weber, founding engineer. (Upbound Photo)

As more software factories add Kubernetes to their container strategies, a lot of people are getting excited about the container orchestrator’s promise as a common platform across clouds and data centers. Upbound just raised $9 million to build a company around the idea that if that future comes to pass, you’ll need help managing this multicloud world.

GV (which used to be called Google Ventures) led a Series A round for Upbound, founded last year by Microsoft and Quantum veteran Bassam Tabbara. The eight-person Seattle-based startup plans to build a platform that will let Kubernetes users interested in multicloud deployments build services that scale across multiple public clouds and help those companies deploy their applications across those environments.

“Kubernetes has emerged as the ‘lingua franca‘ of the cloud,” said Tabbara, who will be giving a technical talk during our DevOps/Containers track this June at the 2018 GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit. He’s referring to the speed at which the cloud computing industry recognized that Kubernetes was here to stay as the predominant container orchestration product, which led cloud leaders like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft to embrace a project originally developed at rival Google.

Now under the auspices of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which Upbound joined as part of its announcement Wednesday, Kubernetes could be emerging as something more than just a container orchestration platform. An increasing number of people believe Kubernetes could emerge as a sort-of operating system for cloud computing, which could change a lot of assumptions around how cloud applications are built and delivered.

“We’re building a multicloud control plane that enables you to connect up all your cloud environments and treat them as they were one,” Tabbara said. If this sounds familiar, it’s along the lines of what Mesosphere wanted to do with its DC/OS “datacenter operating system,” which allowed you to manage multiple data centers as if they were a single computer.

But Upbound wants to take it a step further by allowing you to treat multiple Kubernetes clusters spread across multiple environments as a single computer. Kubernetes is complex enough on its own, but once you start deploying multiple clusters across multiple clouds, it’s extremely difficult to manage the complexities of testing and production environments across cloud environments that all do things a little differently, he said.

Tabbara also thinks this product could be used by software-as-a-service vendors that want to provide their product across multiple clouds, in addition to enterprise customers managing their Kubernetes environments. At this point, the product is still an idea; Tabbara hopes to meet with potential customers over the next year or so to get feedback and start working up a platform based on those experiences, but he said he’s already had a lot of customer interest in such a product.

Upbound is separate from Rook, an open-source project developed by the Upbound team that addresses storage issues on Kubernetes clusters. It was recently accepted into the CNCF and Upbound will continue to maintain that project, but the company is not going to be built around a commercial version of Rook, he said, which has been a common open-source startup business strategy over the last few years.

Tabbara hopes to hire 12 or so employees for Upbound over the rest of the year. The round should give them “a healthy runway” to expand over the next few years as the product comes into shape, he said.

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