The company is built on the premise that you should be able to choose to rent or own cloud capacity, depending on the workload, not losing the benefits of cloud computing like elasticity when you choose the latter. To accomplish this, the Oxide team set out to build an entirely new cloud hardware rack that would deliver all of the advantages public cloud vendors enjoy, without sacrificing on control, efficiency, and flexibility.

Another issue that limits private clouds is that many enterprises attempt to build their private clouds on Kubernetes. The problem is that Kubernetes was not designed for multitenancy, and, thus, it does not offer a true cloud experience. That’s not a knock on Kubernetes, but the container orchestration software is typically deployed on top of bloated layers of software, adding complexity and making it difficult to manage at scale.

Hyperscalers build proprietary hardware to overcome OEM obstacles

Co-founders Tuck and Bryan Cantrill, CTO, struggled with these issues firsthand when they worked together at the cloud infrastructure provider Joyent. “The cloud software we built ran on commodity hardware. However, we kept having issues where the root cause was that our software did not perform as expected on the OEM hardware. There were so many disconnects, and they were impossible to predict ahead of time,” Tuck said. Then, when Joyent was acquired by Samsung in 2016, the problems grew right alongside the company’s expanding cloud footprint.

When the Joyent team sought ways to remedy these problems, they first attempted to acquire the same infrastructure that the large hyperscalers use. Cantrill contends that the hyperscalers have “infrastructure privilege.” “Hyperscalers like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google gave up on commodity hardware long ago,” said Cantrill. The major cloud companies have all built their own proprietary systems, which offer superior performance, but the typical enterprise can only rent, not buy, that hardware.

Eventually, Cantrill, Tuck, and co-founder Jessie Frazelle (now CEO of the hardware design company KittyCAD) raised seed funding and founded Oxide Computer Company in 2019. As the Oxide team investigated how to deliver the kind of cloud computing experience to the enterprise that hyperscalers enjoy, they soon learned that they were taking on a massive challenge, one that Cantrill said would involve rebuilding a “completely ossified” infrastructure stack, top to bottom.

This meant that Oxide had a talent challenge on its hands, as well. But as word trickled out that they intended to rebuild the cloud hardware-software stack, they soon attracted 60 seasoned hardware and software veterans, who worked with them to redesign not only compute and switching but also printed circuit boards, fans, the OS, and even power supplies.


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