May 25, 2022

It’s been nearly four years since Docker founder Solomon Hykes left the company that started the container revolution. Since then, Docker has gone through its ups and downs, including selling its business to Mirantis in 2019, but Hykes, who has long been Docker’s public face, except for his involvement in some funding, is mostly on the fringes. Round. For a while, however, he has been quietly working on his next startup, Dagger, which is launching in public beta today and announcing a $20 million Series A funding round.

The round was led by Redpoint Ventures, which included Y Combinator, Nat Friedman (former GitHub CEO), Brian Stevens (former Google Cloud CTO and former Red Hat CTO), Idit Levin (Founder and CEO of Solo), Julius. Voltz (creator of Prometheus), Ellen Pao (former CEO of Reddit), and Daniel Lopez (co-founder of Bitnami). Previously, Dagger raised a $3 million preliminary round and a $7 million seed round led by New Wave.

Founded by Hykes and Docker colleagues Sam Alba and Andrea Luzardi, Dagger aims to create what the team calls a “DevOps operating system.” Hykes notes that this new venture began with a team in mind, not necessarily a product idea. The co-founders set out to solve problems for the developer community, and it quickly became clear to them that the DevOps process remained a bottleneck.

Hykes told me about the process the team used to develop their ideas. “We started this long search process just to be a clean slate and listen to people’s concerns. And they got us very quickly into CI/CD and automation pipelines. You know you have a developer – and the developers are happy and productive. You have Ops – scaling, all that cool cloud stuff – and the glue in the middle, part of DevOps, it’s really hard. People are looking for a way, but they don’t like the experience and they waste all their time and resources. So we focused on that.”

The team says there are many very powerful DevOps tools out there, but they tend to be highly specialized – and as these applications grow, so does the DevOps stack. “There is no shortage of specialized equipment, but then… [developers] They all need to be glued together, and glue is annoying. So we are focused on replacing the adhesive with something better,” Hykes said.

Specifically, this means that Dagger allows DevOps engineers to write their pipelines as declarative models in CUE (meaning “configure, integrate, execute”). This allows engineers to describe their pipelines and tie different parts together, all in code. Daggers refer to these individual figures as “actions” and are also described declaratively.

“The main difference is that it’s really a real software development experience,” Hykes explains. “So if you like an action written by someone else, you can import it. You can view it if you want to see the source code for this action, it’s in the same language you already know. And this verb is probably formed by combining smaller and more specific verbs. So it’s more versatile software.”

To complement the developer experience, the Dagger team also creates a package called “Dagger Universe”, a carefully curated library of packages that developers can import into their Dagger configuration.

This holistic approach also means that potential users can keep their existing CI infrastructure in place. Dagger is not meant to replace Circle CI or GitLab – it’s basically a layer on top of them.

“It is very difficult for DevOps teams to manage their infrastructure and deploy software in the cloud, but dagger “The code is elegantly cracked to make it easier to manage software supply chains,” said Erica Brescia of Redpoint Ventures. “By making custom application delivery pipelines portable, dagger The team has changed the way we build and deploy software.”

Hykes noted that he learned a lot from his experience building Dagger in Docker. Like Docker, Dagger will have an open source part, and while the team is still figuring out the details, it will become an important part of the Dagger ecosystem.

“Dagger will be a hybrid platform,” Hykes explains. “So there’s an open source engine that we’re running [today]And there would be an alternative cloud service that would be very tightly integrated, but still optional. […] Our takeaway from Docker is that if you want to have a large and thriving developer community, you really need an open source project. This fake cannot be open source. But if you want the community to thrive – and if the user experience is especially important – you have to associate that community with a single product vision, not 10,000 different product concepts.”

For now, the team is going to focus on this open source engine to see what the community needs and where the pain points are. A managed service will come later. Hykes noted that things happened so quickly at Docker, and the service became such a fundamental technology almost overnight that the company was being pulled in so many different directions. With Dagger, he plans to slow down the speed – and since Dagger doesn’t run apps on its own, he thinks the team can keep that focus.

“We will do the same with commercialization. I think with the commercialization of Docker we realized there was a script to follow and we weren’t listening enough to our community,” Hykes said.

Dagger will use the new funding to expand its engineering team to build its product, but the company is also hiring people to form its marketing and developer relations team.

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