In 2015, Google released a free and open-source version of their code-development and testing automation tool. A Python dialect is used to facilitate the writing of rules and macros for the service, which has been given the name Bazel (the internal tool was named Blaze). When the lead developer of Bazel at Google, Ulf Adams, and the lead of enterprise customer onboarding for Bazel at Google, Helen Altshuler, who also co-created BazelCon, raise new funding for their Bazel-centric startup EngFlow, it’s probably worth paying attention. The tooling is currently used by companies ranging from Adobe to Databricks, Dropbox, LinkedIn, and Redfin.
Today, the firm announced that it has secured $18 million in a Series A round from the same investors that had led the company’s $3.7 million seed round: Tiger Global, Firstminute Capital, and Andreessen Horowitz. In addition to Cockroach Labs’ CEO Spencer Kimball, Github co-founder Tom Preston-Werner, Snowflake’s CFO Mike Scarpelli, Envoy’s creator Matt Klein, and GitHub engineering VP Rachel Potvin all contributed to this round.EngFlow calls itself a “build acceleration company” and aims to help enterprise customers accelerate the process of building and testing their source code. It currently supports Bazel, Chromium, and the Android Platform.
According to Adams, “Google has connected Bazel with a number of developer services,” making it a crucial part of the company’s Bazel strategy. So it’s not just the build tool; there’s also remote execution, a UI, coverage runners for evaluating test coverage data, deployment integration, and so forth. We’ve been in contact with Bazel users for four years, and they’ve consistently shown interest in these features. We like to think of Google as a unique snowflake, but other corporations are increasingly showing interest in mimicking its practises. As a result, we saw an opening and took advantage of it.
Altshuler also noted that companies are increasingly forming platform engineering teams with the intention of introducing a more subjective CI/CD methodology. That’s who often gets a taste of Bazel before the engineers get their hands on it to see whether it fits their needs. “These platform engineering teams are our primary customers, but behind every platform engineering team are hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of engineers who are impacted by Bazel and, ideally, don’t need to be Bazel experts and know all the internals — it should just work for them,” she said.
Since many of EngFlow’s new clients are switching over from Gradle or CMake, it should come as no surprise that the company recently recruited Jay Conrod, creator of the open-source Gazelle tool for making the switch to Bazel (and also a former Googler).
While Bazel is the primary emphasis here, both Chromium and Android platform builds are supported. A browser like Brave, which uses the Chromium web engine, is an example of a client. Through the use of EngFlow’s distributed build system, Brave was able to reduce its build time from two hours to only fifteen. However, Bazel is still the major emphasis, and the team has just released Bazel Invocation Analyzer, a new open-source tool that provides developers with insights into their Bazel profiles and helps them improve their builds.
The build process is crucial to the success of any software project. And it’s been a huge investment of time and money for firms in the past to get right,” said Martin Casado, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. When it comes to making these kinds of changes, EngFlow is at the front. Based on their extensive experience with Bazel and build, they’ve created a solution that, for the first time, can handle the most complicated code bases and massive infrastructure setups while providing significant cost and time savings throughout the development process. Not just empty boasting, EngFlow has considerably more client traction across several industries than is typical at this level. We’re excited to double down as an investment and see EngFlow establish themselves as the industry standard in construction.
It’s maybe not surprising that EngFlow isn’t the only firm attempting to commercialise Google’s open-source products (hello, Kubernetes). For instance, BuildBuddy, which is supported by YC, also provides a build system based on Bazel. Meanwhile, the well-funded Gradle Enterprise provides enterprise build tool support for Gradle, Maven, and Bazel.
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