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Five years after creating Traefik application proxy, open-source project hits 2B downloads

Ron Miller
·3-min read

Five years ago, Traefik Labs founder and CEO Emile Vauge was working on a project deploying thousands of microservices and he was lacking a cloud-native application proxy that could handle this kind of scale. So like any good developer, he created one himself, and Traefik was born.

If you go back five years, the notion of cloud native was still in its infancy. Docker has been doing containers for just a couple of years, and Kubernetes would only be released that year. There wasn't much cloud-native tooling around, so Vauge decided to build a cloud-native reverse proxy out of pure necessity.

"At that time, five years ago, there was no reverse proxy that was good at managing the complexity of microservices at cloud scale. So that was really the origin of Traefik. And one of the big innovations was its automation and its simplicity," he said.

As he explained it, a reverse proxy needs to have several features, like traffic management, load balancing, observability and security, but much of this had to be done manually with the tools available at the time. As it turns out, Vauge had stumbled onto a major pain point.

"Initially I created Traefik for myself. It was a side project but it turned out that there was a huge interest and very quickly a community gathered around the project," he said. After a few months, he realized he could build a company around this and left his job to start a company called Containous.

Today, he changed the name of that company to Traefik Labs and the open-source project he developed has become wildly popular. "Five years later we are at 2 billion downloads. It's in the top 10 most downloaded projects on Docker. We have 30,000 stars on GitHub. So basically it's one of the largest open-source projects in the world," he said. In addition, he said there are more than 550 individuals contributing to the project today.

When he formed Containous, he developed an open core-based commercial project designed for enterprise needs around scaling, high availability and more security features. Today, that includes the Traefik Proxy and an open-source service mesh called Traefik Mesh.

Among the companies using the open-source project today are Conde Nast, eBay Classifieds and Mailchimp.

Vauge certainly was in the right place at the right time five years ago, which he modestly attributes to luck because he was working at one of the few companies at the time that was dealing with microservices at scale. "We had to build a lot of things, and Traefik was one of those things. So I was basically lucky because I created Traefik at the right time," he said.

Not surprisingly, a company with that kind of open-source traction has attracted the interest of venture capitalists, and Vauge has raised $16 million since he launched his company in 2015, including $10 million led by Balderton Capital in January.