While working at Twilio, Alan Shreve ran into a difficult-to-grok (pun intended) infrastructure challenge, which inspired him to create Ngrok, a service that allows developers to share webpages and apps running on their local PC or server. Shreve, an engineer at the company, slowed down the deployment process by creating webhooks (automatic messages delivered from applications when something happens) without the proper development environment.
The answer for him was Ngrok. The goal of Ngrok, an open source package that has evolved into a distributed platform, is to simplify the networking layer so that applications may be deployed to any environment, including the public cloud, serverless platforms, on-premises data centres, and IoT devices.
Ngrok, which had been self-funded for the past seven years, just announced a $50 million Series A funding round headed by Lightspeed Venture Partners and including participation from Coatue. Shreve narrates
“Developers tape together various open source projects, home-grown proxy layers and combine them with disparate services from cloud-specific vendors like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform and content delivery networks like Cloudflare. Developers are required to configure unnecessarily low-layer networking resources like IPs, DNS, VPNs and firewalls to deliver their applications,” Shreve told. “Ngrok allows developers to avoid that complexity.”
Using a “reverse proxy,” Ngrok may expose services and applications hosted in the cloud, a private network, or even on a developer’s local desktop. It allows programmers to access local functionality via the internet by creating a “tunnel” between locally hosted services and public-facing IP addresses.
Load balancing, encryption, and other security and observability capabilities may be added to existing apps with zero code modifications using Ngrok. Using Ngrok, programmers can create working demos of their websites without actually releasing them to the public. Alternatively, they can use internet-of-things field devices to gain remote access to private cloud applications.
“When developers build applications and APIs, they need to deliver them to customers on the internet. Ingress is the service that provides application delivery and makes your service available securely to its customers. Ngrok’s ingress is [an] application’s front door,” Shreve said. “The way developers build applications has fundamentally changed. Microservice architectures, serverless platforms and other shifts in the industry have led to a proliferation of new APIs and apps which need their own ingress in different environments.”
Ngrok now has five million developers as users, with 30,000 of them paying for the service. Shreve seems to have grokked it (I’ll see myself out). Shreve refused to provide financial details, but said that the company’s income had “doubled” from the previous year, with high-paying customers like Databricks, Zendesk, Copado, Klaviyo, and SonarSource.
Ngrok faces competition from well-funded firms like Tailscale, ZeroTier, Netmaker, and Defined Networking’s Nebula. In May, Tailscale received $100 million for its mesh networking technology, which allows several users to access and utilise the same set of software applications from a single server.
However, if Shreve is worried, he didn’t make his worry very clear.
“Typically, companies oversee between two hundred and one thousand applications. “Shreve went on to say that at that size, the delivery of programmes faster shifts the needle by keeping developers focused on addressing genuine business challenges rather than dealing with networking complexity. Developers may save time and effort by using Ngrok’s API-first ingress-as-a-service platform to create applications that work across many platforms.
Guru Chahal of Lightspeed Venture Partners said:
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