The cloud networking market is broken – Netmaker is trying to fix it
From businesses to individual users, everybody seems to be using the cloud. And, with organizations migrating more and more towards a remote or hybrid work model, cloud computing is simply going to get bigger and bigger.
The market's overall value exceeded $368 billion (opens in new tab) in 2021, and this is expected to grow at a staggering annual rate of 15.7% between now and 2030.
This fast expansion together with a considerable rise in demand is bringing quite a few challenges as the sector struggles to keep up with new trends, tools and cyber threats.
This was exactly the scenario that ex-IBM cloud engineer Alex Feasley and former colleague, now business partner, Dillon Carns encountered about a year ago when they decided to set up their own cloud network system.
The limits of today's cloud networking systems
"The newest trends [in cloud computing] are about building more distributed applications. There's things like IoT, edge computing, multi hybrid cloud. All of these new patterns involve running applications in differently networked environments. But there's not really a solution, or a good solution, for controlling the networking across these different infrastructures," Feasley told TechRadar.
"That's the gap we're aiming to solve: automating and integrating the networking between these different distributed environments."
Cloud computing, or networking, refers to the infrastructure delivering on-demand computing services over the internet. Starting off with the cloud as a secure storage space, its more recent use is a way to process and link different accounts and applications over a remote virtual network.
"I think there's a bit of a skill gap in the industry where there's just not enough developers focused on networking. I don't think we see nearly as much innovation in the networking space as we do in other spaces, but it's really needed," said Feasley.
A lack of expertise able to keep up with new trends in cloud computing is one of the main issues affecting organizations, according to a recent survey (opens in new tab) conducted by US computer software company Flexera.
Other limitations dragging down new developments in cloud networking are:
Netmaker: the virtual networking platform of the future?
These were some of the issues that CEO and co-founder of Netmaker (opens in new tab) Alex Feasley and partner Dillon Carns encountered a year ago, before deciding to create their own mesh network able to overcome such limitations.
"We originally had a much bigger idea: to have a cloud provider that doesn't own any infrastructure and it's provided by users. But to make it work, we needed a really performant mesh VPN," he said.
For those not familiar with the concept of mesh VPN, such a software differs from traditional VPN services as it uses peer-to-peer technology to directly connect every node (or device) within the network without needing to pass via a central gateway or server.
What Feasely and Carns were after, though, was a very fast, secure and dynamic mesh VPN. "Unfortunately, when we looked at what was currently out there, nothing really accomplished what we needed," said Feasely. "So, we built Netmaker to solve our problem."
Netmaker differs from its competitors as it's powered by the secure and ultra-fast WireGuard protocol. Its flexibility and great performance which can match an unencrypted network make it especially suited for running infrastructure, Feasley explained to us.
Existing mesh networks generally use different protocols delivering slower performances. And also when WireGuard is employed, like in the case of Tailscale and NordVPN's Meshnet, such tools aim for a simple end user experience powerful enough to carry on everyday activities.
On the contrary, Netmaker is looking to improve the experience for IT departments and IT businesses rather than individual users.
An open-source networking platform available on GitHub for everyone to review, it aims to link hybrid/multi-cloud, edge, IoT, and Kubernetes environments without sacrificing strong performance, security and flexibility.
"In practice, it allows people to define the connections between any machines that they own inside the network - as long as those machines have an Internet connection - securely and automatically," said Feasley.
People can choose between its community and professional plan, both free of charge. The latter gives users some additional features like metrics details, user access control and a so-called failover routing option to automatically relay the network via a third machine in case a peer-to-peer connection cannot be established.
It is worth noting that bigger organizations need to upgrade their pro plan into a paid subscription as the free tier only allows for one user and 50 machines as network limit.
What's more, it's very easy for users to secure their anonymity as, despite the paid version, it doesn't even require an email address to get started.
Launched in March 2021, the Netmaker's community is quickly growing. It now counts over 1400 active platforms with roughly 10,000 machines running across these networks.
However, as Feasley admitted, "it turns out building a VPN is a very challenging thing."
Netmaker's goal is certainly quite ambitious and it needs resources to keep developing at the same pace the cloud networking sector does.
That's why they launched a funding campaign to secure the necessary resources to be able to stay on top of the cloud's game and its challenges. After graduating from Y Combinator, the startup managed to raise $2.3 million (opens in new tab) last October to enlarge their team and keep doing what they love: writing more and better codes.
"We would love to go in some more directions with this over time as we see some great opportunities for integrations," said Feasley. "But networking is a huge problem to solve and something that needs a lot of work. So, Netmaker is going to keep us plenty busy for the foreseeable future."