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The problem, ultimately, is that while open source software gives companies greater flexibility and control of their tech stack, it also serves up myriad headaches around integrations and compatibility, security, and more. Too much work is needed to ensure that everything works harmoniously — and that it continues to work harmoniously as components are shifted, upgraded, and plugged together.
This is partly why the open source services market is gearing up to become a $50 billion industry by 2026, more than double its size today — companies want the benefits of open source software, without the hassles that come with it. But managed services from the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), which promise one-click deployments for open source software, can cost a lot of money. Plus, the developer receives little operational insight into how the software is actually running.
This is a problem that Plural wants to solve, with a unified platform for deploying and managing “production-ready open-source applications in minutes.”
To help in its mission, Plural today announced it has raised $6 million in a seed round of funding led by SignalFire, as it formally launches after an extended closed beta.
Open source aggregator
Founded in 2020, Plural aggregates popular open source software such as Airbyte, Airflow, Grafana, Istio, and Redis, and sets about removing the deployment and operational complexities. It includes full observability into system performance and promises “zero downtime” upgrades. Moreover, all configurations live on Git, meaning the user is not locked into a single cloud provider — they can deploy across AWS, Google Cloud, or Azure.
Managed services from the big cloud companies are often charged at multiple dollars per hour. Plural, on the other hand, provisions the software in a Kubernetes instance and deploys solely on compute, which amounts to just a handful of cents per hour.
The company offers a management console interface for dashboarding, monitoring, managing alerts and users, and all things related to the open source apps that they have deployed through Plural. Users can install the plural command line interface (CLI) locally, from which they can issue commands to deploy applications.
Plural cofounder and CEO Sam Weaver likens Plural to an “open source software app store and installer” — one that helps companies circumvent exorbitant AWS fees, and saves countless hours of internal development resources.
“As open source software proliferated and fragmented, it became needlessly complex for enterprises to deploy,” Weaver told VentureBeat. “Miss one of the two hundred integration steps, and your system breaks. That led developers to rely on overpriced managed services as a way to get going fast, without the overhead of setup. Plural fixes this by aggregating the top open source software, and then abstracting away all the deployment and operations complexity.”
While Plural hasn’t divulged any of its early customers, it did say that its seeing some traction in mid-sized companies and is in active discussions with larger enterprises, where it considers its biggest impact will be. Specifically, Weaver mentioned an “AI-driven insurance tech” company is using Plural to deploy their data stack.
The story so far
Weaver previously served in various product roles at the likes of MongoDB and Unqork, while cofounder and CTO Michael Guarino has worked in software engineering roles at Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook. But it was at Unqork, a no-code enterprise app development platform, where Weaver experienced first-hand some of the problems involved in managed open source services.
“We had built infrastructure really quick on AWS managed services, and were having a whole host of problems as we started to scale,” Weaver explained. “[We were] unable to deploy in other regions, multi-cloud was really hard, our bill was getting crazy expensive, the services were of mixed quality, we were choosing the wrong technologies for the job solely because it was what was offered in the AWS service catalog.”
And so Unqork decided to build a platform internally for managing and deploying its product, which took more than a dozen engineers and some two years to build. Around the same time, Weaver was meandering into the venture capital world as an advisor for early-stage companies, which is where he met Guarino who working on an early iteration of Plural — Weaver liked what he saw.
“I got super excited, as I knew the problem he was solving was super hard and I had a ton of thoughts on it,” Weaver noted. “In the end, I got more excited by the Plural problem-set than the no-code stuff [at Unqork]. Both myself and Michael have seen first-hand how AWS pricing gets out of hand as app complexity goes up.”
It’s worth noting that while Plural is all about supporting companies with their open source software stack, Plural itself is also an open source product. And for the imminent future, the company will focus on driving adoption for its core open source product, with a view toward adding premium enterprise tools to the mix to help with scaling, supporting private clouds, and integrating with third-party monitoring and logging platform such as Splunk, New Relic, and Datadog.
There are similar-ish offerings out there already. Aiven, for example, has raised significant VC funding to deliver managed services across an array of open source products, though its focus leans more toward data infrastructure technologies. And then there’s Bitnami, now owned by VMWare, which is comparable insofar as it’s all about getting developers up and running with open source software across platforms and clouds.
However, Weaver said that Plural is setting itself apart from the incumbents by offering a full lifecycle management for production-grade applications, replete with everything a DevOps team needs for managing and upgrading their software stack. Moreover, Plural isn’t a managed service — it deploys on our users’ own infrastructure.
On top of that, Weaver was quick to stress that Plural is all about engaging with all the vendors and communities that are already working on the open source projects it supports.
“We believe that by working directly — and playing nicely — with the open source vendors themselves, and growing an engaged community, we can become the de facto place for people to get started when deploying open source software — à la the open source app store for enterprise software,” Weaver said.
Plural’s seed funding round included participation from Primary Ventures, Susa, and more than two-dozen angel investors from companies including Datadog, GitHub, Google, and Dropbox.
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