This startup wants to speed cloud migrations by attacking architectural debt

  • Technical debt, especially architectural technical debt, is a key issue for companies looking to move apps to the cloud

  • HPE-back vFunction is adding more tools for enterprise clients to tackle technical debt

  • vFunction's CEO told Fierce the banking and automotive industries have been particularly interested in its tools

You may not have heard of this startup before, but HPE-backed vFunction is working to tackle one of the biggest kinks in the cloud migration pipeline: technical debt. More specifically, it’s rolling out new features to help companies better understand their app architecture and dependencies to speed release timelines, improve reliability and manage sprawling complexity.

Technical debt basically refers to all the quick fixes developers implement to achieve short-term goals. While temporarily effective, these shortcuts result in app architectures and code that is messier and harder to maintain. It’s the former – architectural technical debt – that vFunction has its eye on fixing.

Why? Because all that debt is catching up to enterprises as they look to move apps to the cloud.

“Tech debt is a major problem ... we see that the number one goal for many CIOs is to modernize their current environment and applications,” Futurum Group Lead Principal Analyst Paul Nashawaty told Fierce.

He continued: “Understanding the heritage debt combined with new debt of modernized solutions is an area where organizations are trying to understand to properly plan and budget.”

Hansa Iyengar, senior principal analyst at Omdia, added 70% of the more than 5,100 organizations Omdia surveyed globally feel their modernization process is less than ‘well advanced.’ She added “architectural observability can really help move things faster for those struggling as it provides a clear visual representation of underlying systems architectures and a view into the impact of modernization efforts in near-real time.”

Enter vFunction. While Iyengar noted there are some several somewhat similar tools in the market that provide visibility into either microservices architectures or cloud applications (think AppDynamics and Datadog), vFunction is unique in taking a combined approach to the problem, she said.

Jump start(up)

Founded in 2017, vFunction emerged from stealth in early 2021 with $12.2 million in seed funding. At the time, it launched a platform designed to help enterprises modernize legacy applications by mapping out dependencies and breaking apps down into cloud-compatible microservices.

Later that year, vFunction scored another $26 million in funding from venture fund Zeev Ventures and Hewlitt Packard Enterprise.

Though it was originally focused specifically on tackling monolithic applications written using Java and .NET, CEO Moti Rafalin said that over time it has discovered the problem of architectural technical debt “is not unique to monolithic applications” but instead a “pervasive” issue.

That’s why it’s now adding dependency mapping and observability support for distributed apps as well. This will be available for any app covered by the OpenTelemetry framework, including those written in Java, .NET, Python, C++, Node.js and more.

The idea is that by providing customers with an ongoing view of their app architecture, developers can continuously steer with updates and remediation so it doesn’t drift out of control, Rafalin explained.

According to the CEO, vFunction’s architectural observability approach has gained strong traction with many verticals, but especially the financial and automotive industries. Rafalin said large banks in Italy, the U.K. and Australia are among its customers. 

“These are industries that are being disrupted. Banks are facing competition from fintech startups. In order to compete they need to accelerate their engineering velocity and release features at a much higher pace,” he said.

“If their release cycle is once every 12 months, they’ll be dead in the water. They need to modernize to be competitive," said Rafalin.

So, what’s next for vFunction? Iyengar predicted “more fundraising and strong expansion in the near future for vFunction given the immediate need their product addresses.”

vFunction exited stealth in Feb. 2021 with a Seed funding round valued at $12.2 million. Shasta Ventures and Zeev Ventures led the Seed round with participation from Engineering Capital and Khosla Ventures, according to vFunction. Since then, the company also raised $26.2 million in Series A.

Meanwhile, Nashawaty said he expects more development of strategic partnerships.

He added, “Evolution will be key for vFunction. Most organizations are looking at the current tech stack to support the business's past, present, and future states. vFunction will need to continue to understand and evaluate the organizational challenges and bridge the gap across these states.”