Loft makes working with virtualized Kubernetes clusters easier

Loft Labs helps developers -- and the businesses that employ them -- more efficiently use their Kubernetes clusters by virtualizing Kubernetes itself. This makes it easier to share a single Kubernetes cluster with multiple developers working on different projects instead of spinning up a new cluster for every use case, which is what often happens.

Today, Loft launched version 3 of its virtual cluster solution, which includes a fully revamped user interface, a deeper integration with Argo CD and better support for GitOps-style deployments.

As Loft founder Lukas Gentele told me, the team got its start doing client work for other startups and then launched DevSpace, a tool that helps developers streamline their Kubernetes workflow. The founders applied to Y Combinator in 2018 with this idea and while they made it to the in-person interview round, they weren't chosen for that batch, they took it as validation of the idea. The team eventually got an offer from UC Berkeley's SkyDeck accelerator and built out a cloud version of DevSpace in the process. And while DevSpace Cloud had a few thousand users, they mostly used it as a hobby platform. This made it almost impossible to monetize. So after scrapping that idea, the team went back to the drawing board.

Image Credits: Loft

"We were reflecting on DevSpace Cloud and what went well, what did we learn and what was missing," Gentele told me about the origin of Loft. "The really big missing piece was: it's really freaking hard to share Kubernetes clusters. Multi-tenancy is an unsolved problem in Kubernetes. Nobody really knows how to do it. That's why so many companies create hundreds or even thousands of Kubernetes clusters."

With Loft, developers get one Kubernetes cluster and then the tool creates a container that hosts the cluster. "It functions and it interacts like a real Kubernetes cluster. I won't be able to tell the difference -- just like a virtual machine and a real physical machine," Gentele explained. Developers talk to the same Kubernetes API and use the same kubtctl CLI they are already used to.

"I think one thing that makes us unique is that we're super Kubernetes-native. There are a lot of these companies that now talk about platform engineering. I think a lot of them make the mistake of having a proprietary API. We've never done that. Our API is the Kubernetes API," Gentele explained.

Image Credits: Loft

The core open source product underneath all of this is vCluster, which Gentele says has already been used to create over 30 million virtual clusters. Some even use it to run large SaaS products on top of it in production -- and that's before it has even seen a 1.0 release.

With this new version, Loft now introduces the concept of projects, which now allows users to create groups of users -- and define those through a company's single sign-on provider -- and give them access to specific capabilities and resources. "This makes it a lot easier to define limits for these independent teams -- and then turn it into a self-service system," he noted.

Image Credits: Loft

On top of the redesigned user interface, the team now also added a YAML editor to the tool, which immediately reflects any changes you make in the tool's graphical user interface. This, in turn, also enables the teams to use this file as part of their GitOps processes.

Also new is the deep Argo CD integration as well as the ability to share versioned templates for virtual clusters, spaces and apps across an enterprise.

Gentele hinted at a new open source project from Loft that will likely launch in the coming months, which will broaden the team's focus beyond Kubernetes. He declined to share any details, though.