The building and running of any type of product, in this case a SAAS or software product, is usually complex. Especially so for DevOps and engineering who make sure that product is running consistently. The reasons behind it are many but the two most obvious causes are the increasing demand for microservices architecture and cloud adoption happening at a massive rate.
Even a tiny change can prove to be a nightmare for the DevOps and SRE teams as it would cause a system-wide outage in the worst-case scenario. Teams could be left in a state of turmoil to find who changed what and when. The most difficult part of it would be trying to figure out a way to prevent those changes as fast as possible.
“What firefighters are to civil engineering, DevOps and site reliability engineers (SREs) are to software engineering. The world of microservices needs to have sprinklers and smoke detectors.” - Nishant Modak, the CEO and co-founder of Last9
That’s where Nishant Modak and Piyush Verma’s software reliability startup Last9 comes to help. Last9 is available as a new-age site reliability engineering platform where DevOps teams enhance their software reliability through constant checks, measures, and keeping a record of all changes made. The startup was founded in 2020 and has recently raised $12 million from backers like Sequoia Capital India. Let’s get to know Last9 better in the remainder of the article.
The roots of Last9 are deeper than the past 2 years when it was launched in stealth mode by its co-founders, SRE veterans, and above all like-minded colleagues, Nishant Modak and Piyush Verma. The duo have been an important part of the Pune tech community due to their excellent engineering skills. Modak holds a BE in Computer from the Pune Institute of Computer Technology with an interest in IEEE.
Modak started his career as a techpreneur by co-founding Revealing Hour Creations, an IT consulting firm based in Pune, Maharashtra where built the product and the team from scratch and also raised funds to secure its future. After spending more than 2 years on that project, Modak decided to work freely with a wide range of businesses on their product roadmap and tech strategy through his software engineering skills. Modak also helped build several consumer projects for Gojek for example GoFood and GoLife.
After spending a year as a consulting architect and developer for companies like Emami Frank Ross, Clover Network Inc., and Paytm, Modak co-founded Oogway Consulting with Piyush Verma and Aditya Godbole in Pune in 2016. The goal of Oogway Consulting was to improve the scalability, relevance, and reliability of software solutions and solve real-world problems. The startup was later acquired by Trust Social, a Vietnam-based Big Data company in 2018.
“We scaled the business pretty rapidly but we kept running into the same problem,” Modak recalls. “Each time a software difficulty slowed us down, we thought about how there had to be a better way to resolve the issue.”
Piyush Verma, the other co-founder of Last9 tread a similar path as Modak in his professional life. After completing BTech in Computer Science from J.C. Bose University of Science and Technology, YMCA, Verma perfected his skills in server architecture, Goland, and of course microservices. He started as a cloud architect at DataStax, a Santa Clara, the California-based company managing their cloud offering for hosting Cassandra which has been essentially used by several fortune 500 companies.
Fast forward to 2016, Verma was already in talks with Modak whom he met and connected with right away due to their interest in data and processes. After Oogway Consulting was acquired, both Modak and Verma accepted to onboard their team as director and head of SRE respectively. According to Verma and Modak, they learned first-hand about the struggles of the DevOps team throughout their professional experience and concluded that there was a demand for something like Last9.
"Having been software reliability engineers (SREs) for over a decade, this platform is born out of our struggles. What firefighters are to civil engineering, DevOps, and site reliability engineers (SREs) are to software engineering. The world of microservices needs to have sprinklers and smoke detectors! Last9 provides engineering teams with the control room and levers to manage their microservice environments and significantly reduce alert fatigue and MTTD." said Nishant Modak, Founder and CEO of Last9.
Last9 first took shape in California in early 2020 as the co-founders tried to create an easy plug-in of its system matrix that allowed Last9 to produce a knowledge graph for all kinds of microservices. This graph helps users to get a birds’ eye view of the entire software architecture which can be navigated however DevOps wants to find every single change made at a metric level data.
“The number of microservices is constantly growing and each of them is being deployed several times a day or week, all hosted on ephemeral servers. A typical request depends on at least three internal and one external service. It’s a densely connected web of systems,” Nishant Modak, co-founder and CEO of Last9, told VentureBeat.
As of now, the early-stage venture is actively working with some large-scale businesses across the US as well as Asia. Last9 is conveniently based in both Santa Clara, California and Pune, Maharashtra as well. Apart from that, the company has a remote-first team policy that allows workers from different parts of the world to collaborate easily. Kuldeep Dhankar, a repeat founder himself has joined the company as CRO quite recently.
The priority at Last9 is to create a top-tier software to work seamlessly with any DevOps team. The company was recently chosen by one of the largest streaming platforms used to stream the Indian Premier League (IPL), a yearly cricket tournament that has over 30 million viewers. Last9 intends to help as many systems as it can by avoiding multiple integrations and simply tapping into the existing telemetry standards to increase compatibility.
“Users (enterprises) provide read-only access to their cloud environment and metrics storage. After this, Last9’s platform maps out microservices call graphs, including both internal and external systems. In addition, it baselines key metrics and helps identify, measure and track these indicators to provide insights into how customers are getting impacted,” Modak explained.
Last9 describes itself as a modern reliability stack which is designed to use existing observability tricks to allow your team to create as well as implement various mental models using their own data sets. A free demo can be scheduled via their official website. Here’s what Last9’s offerings provide:
The knowledge graph that generates an easy to navigate map-view helps maintain infrastructure and components like Kubernetes, Kafka, etc.
“Once you’ve given us read-only permission to access your system, we can pull down data from all the different silos that have grown up as the software infrastructure has evolved,” explains Modak. “We can see how any given request is routed through the system and where it is breaking down.”
Last9 components are continuously evolving to learn every new system and create new pathways to connect components to your devices.
“Users love the fact that now they have a map of all dependencies in addition to out-of-the-box tracking of their key SLIs. Being able to trace which tenant got affected instantly and the fact that all this happens without an agent, makes it extremely easy to adopt across all systems,” the CEO of Last9 said.
Machine learning and automatic alerting talk can be fundamentally complex but Last9 is working on changing it and putting users in charge of everything.
Measuring service promises helps Last9 to improve on its service level objectives in a way that guarantees full customer satisfaction.
Last but not least, the SRE platform created by veteran SRE devs uses open standards and even public APIs. It is to ensure that users can work with all of their data sources through one channel seamlessly and even add more to it.
It is worth noting that Last9 has been SOC2 Type 1 certified to deliver the best data protection and privacy to their customers.
As Nishant Modak said, the number of microservices has been exploding in recent years and most of them are being deployed every single day several times on ephemeral servers. Within this densely populated and interconnected web of systems, it becomes challenging to measure, track, and improve the processes. The concept of site reliability engineering has come a long way since its origin in 2003 at Google. Now SREs are a vital sub-discipline of systems engineering.
“Last9’s knowledge graph, accessible visually on the screen, enables immediate identification of root cause for any incident and in fact enables early warning of upcoming downtimes since the knowledge graph knows how failures cascade across the system. We can confidently say that no other player at scale in the space today has this capability,” Modak said.
Last9 is standing on the verge of creating a ripple within this market by simplifying what was once considered incredibly hard to understand. This reliability platform is out to unlock end-to-end maps (also known as call graphs) for all kinds of microservices to change intelligence easily. By using Last9, its users can avoid asking questions like what went wrong, what was changed, and how to prevent a change?
Apart from being chosen for the Indian Premier League and working with notable US-based and Asian businesses, Last9 has also joined Hotstar, Yieldstreet, Disney+, Skit, and Arria to name a few. Their team of 10 has grown to almost 50 globally talented individuals at their multiple hubs situated in Bengaluru, Pune (in India), and also at Mountain View in the USA.
The list of partners at Last9 has been growing ever since 2020 when the early-stage venture raised its first round of finance during the seed round with Better Capital and Surge. With its recent Series A funding, Modak and Verma’s startup also got the support of Sequoia Capital India by raising $11 million. But the market in which Last9 exists, there are a few active competitors.
Let us now take a look at its direct competitors and understand where Hadrian Automation stands:
The California-based data collaboration platform Logic Monitor started in 2007 under the current CEO Christina Crawford Kosmowski. The Dynatrace competitor has been acquired by Vista Equity Partners Management LLC. according to our research, Logic Monitor has been in 6 rounds of funding that raised $130 million in total. Its past funding rounds were participated by the likes of Providence Equity Partners etc.
Appdynamics recently got acquired by Cisco, the world’s leading cybersecurity and networking MNC based in the US. Appdynamics started as a private company in 2008 under the leadership of Linda Tong, its general manager. The company is known for providing cloud-based app performance monitoring and other such management solutions for different industries. The company now has around $500 million in annual revenue and has raised $364.5 after being in 7 funding rounds.
Firebase is a private subsidiary of the global search engine giant, Google. It is a cloud services provider that focuses on a real-time database for creating a wide variety of mobile and web apps. The headquarters of Firebase is located in San Francisco, California in 2011 and was founded by the current CEO and co-founder James Tamplin. Firebase accumulated a total of $7 million in funds through its seed and Series A funding which was led by investors like Union Square Ventures, Flybridge Venture Capital, etc.
From a financial perspective, the unique SRE platform has a long way to go. After being funded twice, the total funds raised for Last9 is close to $13 million. Though it has been the norm for companies working in similar industries such as the aforementioned competitors that took years before recording a fair amount of funds raised.
In the previous funding rounds, Last9 has bagged the support and partnership of investors that are of paramount importance for example Sequoia Capital India, Better Capital, and Surge (Better Capital being the existing investors in both rounds of funding). Even though the direct competitors of the SRE platforms are continuing on a solid path after their acquisitions by tech conglomerates, Last9 is creating reliability as its main asset.
After its last month’s fundraiser, Last9 has boosted its last valuation which was at $65 million. The post-money valuation of the company is now at $76 million after the Series A round. The company’s weaknesses and strengths are reflected in the Oddup Score which is close to 53.62 for now. This score has been chosen by our expert researchers who spent their precious time figuring out how Last9 will hold up in the future based on its present conditions.
The seed round of funding was announced by the company right after it came out of stealth in April 2020. Last9 had been operating for just a few months before the seed round took place and was led by two renowned venture firms. Surge, a scale-up program under Sequoia Capital India and Better Capital, a VC firm that finances innovative tech solutions ended up as lead investors of this round.
"Last9 has helped Yieldstreet identify, track, and understand the most important metrics impacting our investors with data our microservices services were already generating. We can resolve issues faster and reduce our team's alert fatigue," said Azret Deljanin, VP of Infrastructure and Security, Yieldstreet, a leading alternative investments platform for US retail investors.
After two years of wrapping up its seed funding round, the SRE platform announced its Series A round in 2022. The early-stage venture has come a long way since its first time raising funds as it went on to raise a total of $11 million from its 2 participating investors. The lead investor this time was Bengaluru-based Sequoia Capital India whose rapid scale-up program Surge aided Last9 2 years ago in expanding its operations and Better Capital. After the funding round, Harshjit Sethi, the Managing Director at Sequoia India joined Last9 as a partner.
"The value proposition of Last9 is simple and very powerful. The cloud has led to an explosion of infrastructure data. This has made an engineer's job of understanding dependencies to pinpoint a root cause that much harder. Last9's secret sauce of building a map of the company's architecture allowing companies to do this quickly has seen strong reception from marquee customers. Nishant and Piyush are amongst the strongest SREs in our region and we are excited to double down on our partnership with them and the Last9 team." said Harshjit Sethi, Managing Director, Sequoia India.
Product development has been a challenge for companies like Last9. They are focusing on the change of intelligence and provide tools using which businesses can check the impacts of their changes in advance. According to recent interviews, the co-founders of the startup Last9 are aiming on scaling up the business from a commercial point of view. Currently, the company is eyeing North America as its largest target market for the initial phase. But that would not stop Modak and Verma from making Last9 geographically agnostic.
“Building software systems that are reliable and can handle the velocity of code change is the need of the hour, but the way reliability is handled today is broken,” says Modak. “As the world is moving towards a microservices-led architecture, we believe it’s high time engineering teams start observing services and not servers.”
The total funds raised from investors are supposed to go into product development and a commercial launch that has not been announced yet. The yet-to-come product launch is supposed to give Last9 the required amount of financial boost. With the fresh capital, Last9 will also be building out a capable engineering team to extend their product’s capabilities in the best way possible. The team will also focus on their go-to-market.
“Improving adoption and integrations for open-telemetry and other open-source standards is another key focus area. Change intelligence and insights on failures in a distributed systems environment are key to solving this problem and we will continue to invest heavily in that,” Modak noted.