A growing number of organizations are adopting microservices, loosely coupled, independently deployable services that together constitute an application. According to a 2020 O’Reilly survey, 77% of organizations had adopted microservices by then, with 29% saying they were migrating or implementing the majority of their systems using microservices.
The widespread adoption of microservices, however, has created new challenges in application development. According to the same O’Reilly survey, corporate culture and integration with backing systems have become major challenges in the microservices space.
Startups rushed to fill the solutions void. There’s Helios, a microservices management platform that helps developers understand how their code interacts with the rest of their applications. Vendors like OpsLevel and Temporal compete with Helios for business, offering platforms that organize microservices into a centralized portal. A new entrant into the space is Nucleus, which aims to enable developers to build microservices architectures using a range of infrastructure, security, and observability tools. Backed by Y Combinator, Nucleus has raised $2.1 million in venture funding to date.
Nucleus was co-founded by Evis Drenova and Nick Zelei in 2021, after the two spent around seven years building infrastructure platforms at both large enterprises (e.g. IBM, Garmin) and startups (Skyflow , Newfront). The inspiration for Nucleus came after Drenova and Zelei realized they often had to rebuild the same platform to help developers build, test, and deploy their microservices.
“We noticed that more and more companies were trying to switch to [microservices] and smash their monoliths, but I really struggled to do it well,” Drenova said via email. “Some companies that have tried to move to microservices have gotten their fingers burnt because they didn’t have the right tools and, more importantly, the right people… We want it to be easy and reliable for companies to move not only to microservices but to service-oriented architectures without needing to be experts in security, infrastructure and observability.
With Nucleus, developers define microservices and deploy them on the Nucleus Platform, which automatically configures aspects of their security, observability and more. Nucleus is delivered through a command line interface designed to fit into existing development workflows and comes with prebuilt integrations including tools such as Hashicorp, Cloudflare and Okta.
“Nucleus is an infrastructure platform that allows you complete freedom over your code,” said Drenova. “As a developer, you can write your code in the language of your choice and we support it immediately. We don’t interfere with your business logic – one way of thinking is that we’ve built a cage that you can put your code in and that cage is integrated with your infrastructure and third-party tools and is extremely secure.
Drenova recognizes the many rivals in the microservices orchestration space. But he sees the DIY crowd as Nucleus’ main competitor, .
“Before writing any code, we surveyed 55 CTOs and 90% said they had built something like this in the past and it took an average of 8-12 months, cost over $1 million dollars and was taking three full-time senior engineers,” Drenova said. “We believe we can deliver a better product in 10% of the time it would take to DIY and 10% of the cost. It’s quite convincing.
These are great promises. But to Drenova’s credit, Nucleus – whose platform is still in beta – already has “a few” early customers and eight design partners. Investors have also been won over, with backers such as Soma Capital, Y Combinator, LombardStreet Ventures and “dozens” of angels pouring capital into Nucleus management.
“Nucleus is essential software. We run and manage all of your services,” Drenova added. “It’s bigger than any one developer, which means CTOs are always our buyers… Our target market is companies with 20+ developers that are migrating to service-oriented architecture. But any company that uses services can use us.
Nucleus is currently focused on organic growth, with a small team of four employees, including the co-founders. Drenova plans to hire 1-2 engineers next year, but is rather conservative, waiting for stronger signs of product-market fit.
“During a downturn, the level of the game is more level for start-ups, and while the biggest competitors focus on reducing cash burn and sustaining life, we put the pedal to the metal and seek the opportunity,” Drenova said. “We have a lot of money in the bank and we have a track for the next few years.”
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