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ReactiveOps Relaunches as Fairwinds

This article was written by Brian Dowling and originally appeared in Xconomy.


From a host of angles, the business opportunity looked to be a hard one to pass up. The technology business up for sale was: one, self-funded and not saddled by mountains of outside equity; two, profitable and growing; and three, in the middle of the messy but booming world of enterprise software infrastructure.

For the three Boston technology execs who are taking over the re-emerging company—former Veracode chairman and CEO Bob Brennan, former Black Duck Software Chief Technology Officer Bill Ledingham, and Volition Capital founding partner Rob Ketterson—there was enough “there” there to orchestrate an angel investor-funded deal to buy the company and see what it could become.

As of today, the company, formerly ReactiveOps, is called Fairwinds. It is taking off with millions more in working cash, Ledingham as CEO, Brennan as chairman, and Ketterson also on the board. Former IBM executive Jun Ho Son is Fairwinds’ CFO, former Veracode product director Joe Pelletier is the company’s head of strategy, and former Veracode sales director Brian Levin is heading up sales.

Ledingham isn’t disclosing how much capital it took to buy ReactiveOps, but he says its angel investors now are putting in several million dollars more for working capital.

Fairwinds’ zip code in the technology world puts it squarely in cloud computing infrastructure. More specifically, the company works with “containers,” a computing technology that helps companies use cloud services more efficiently by creating a sort of mini virtual computer that can appear right when called upon, take up only as much resources as needed for the task at hand, then disappear once its job is done. While fewer than 30 percent of global organizations run their cloud computing this way today, it’s estimated that 75 percent will use containers by 2022.

The business plan behind Fairwinds is focused on helping companies adopt container technology—a plodding task that Ledingham knows well from his time at Black Duck Software.

Ledingham says he led the company’s adoption of containers through the Kubernetes platform, which is the main platform used today and the one on which Fairwinds focuses.

“We quickly found there were a lot of technical decisions that needed to be made around the questions of how you operationalize the technology to make sure it’s reliable, secure, configured properly, [and] resource efficient,” Ledingham told Xconomy. “There’s a lot of bits and pieces you have to wade through in terms of deciding [how] to get it up and running in a production environment.”

In all, it took Black Duck nine to 12 months and an engineering team to get it up and running, Ledingham says. Fairwinds is promising to get a business running containers within weeks.

Given Fairwinds’ business runs squarely within the confines of the Big Tech-dominated cloud computing world inhabited by the likes of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), IBM (NYSE: IBM), and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), there is some risk that these companies decide to take on the very pain point that Ledingham and his compatriots have identified as a business opportunity.

Ledingham acknowledges the risk, but says it would be hard for those tech giants to build something that could answer all the specific and complex adoption issues that each business has when they explore how to deploy containers.

“I do see the cloud providers continuing to move up into the space, in terms of making it easier over time,” he says. “That being said, there’s still a lot of application-specific configuration that’s required here at the platform layer. They can’t provide those services.”

Ledingham says the company’s aim is to offer businesses a service that efficiently manages their transition to the Kubernetes platform.

He says it’s unclear whether the company will need to take on additional outside capital or whether it can continue keep up with growth with its current profits. So far, Fairwinds has been able to grow 50 percent a year from profits alone, Ledingham says.

Fairwinds has 50 employees now, most of whom operate remotely. The company’s headquarters are at a WeWork in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood.

Brian Dowling is a Senior Editor at Xconomy, based in Boston. You can reach him at bdowling@xconomy.com or follow him on Twitter @be_d