FaaS: Function hosting services and their technical characteristics

What is FaaS?

Cloud computing has become an essential paradigm of a majority of modern applications. The service model which represents cloud ecosystems is known as Everything-as-a-Service, or XaaS, with IaaS, PaaS and SaaS being among the most well-known representatives. All of them use similar client-server communication patterns (i.e. remote APIs for programmable infrastructure, platforms and applications) and they are similar in requiring the developer to understand the service functionality and characteristics.

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Openstack Summit Barcelona 2016 – Day 3

The third day of the summit had a different feel from the previous couple of days – there was no keynote and there were noticeably less people around: there is a strong sense that the show is over and now it’s necessary to do some real work. Hence, there is more time and space allocated to the project teams to enable them to move their work forward.

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Openstack Summit Barcelona 2016 – Day 2

As with the first day of the summit (see recap), the second day started with a keynote. In this case, the focus was on multicloud solutions and how Openstack can perform in this context. A few interesting points stood out from the keynote for us. First up – to emphasize how Openstack is moving – there was an announcement that China Telecom is to deploy an enormous 2000000 (2 million) square meters of Openstack in data centres (see pic). There were a couple of interesting demos, the first of which focused on the system that is used for CI/CD of Openstack itself – this system has quite high requirements and is distributed over a set of heterogeneous resources provided by disparate entities who wish to support Openstack. They demonstrated how easy it is to add a new set of Openstack resources to their platform and how quickly new test workload appears on the new resources. The second interesting demo was of the Openstack Omni project which used the horizon dashboard and openstack APIs to control AWS – it was somehow pitched as one API to rule them all, which is perhaps a bit optimistic, but it reflects the fact that the Openstack API is maturing and more and more applications are being developed against it; EC2 is no longer the only important API in town! Finally, there was a presentation by Crowdstar which highlighted the benefits of Ironic for certain workloads – 60% cost reduction and 40ms reduction in latency – and particularly how it can be used very effectively in conjunction with containers.



There was quite some interest in big data and HPC type of applications – the talks on GPU virtualization and Tensorflow were very well attended, but there is still a lot of work to be done in both these realms. The GPU virtualization work was described in the context of the Nomad project which is attempting to manage heterogeneous compute resources in Openstack; however, the vision they offer is still only at the initial stages. The Tensorflow work compared Magnum and Sahara for deploying a Tensorflow workload – Magnum was selected as the better option, somewhat due to its greater support, but there are still issues with using this as a framework for this type of work.

On a related note there was an interesting talk on unikernels and how they relate to Openstack. The guys from the MIKELANGELO project have developed solutions which enable applications to be packaged into unikernels and executed from image stores. Such solutions can be much more efficient than VM or even container based solutions – they gave an example of a VM image consuming 2GB while the equivalent unikernel consumed 56MB. However, their solution was not really integrated with Openstack and there is still a lot of work to do to make this happen.

At another session, we learnt of the developing ARM Openstack ecosystem: there are ARM Openstack distributions already available and key issues relating to ARM Openstack compute functions have been solved (mostly relating to UEFI and ACPI): the Linaro team is working on expanding the ARM Guest OS support for different Linux distributions. This is a very interesting area which will surely grow as some organizations want to reduce their dependence on Intel and perhaps have some gains in energy efficiency.

We did spend some of the day going around talking to people, so it was not all spent sitting in the sessions – we had great fun with the cloudbase guys who showed us their very cool holoens demo.

And now off to the Rackspace party!


Openstack Summit Barcelona 2016 – Day 1

We were lucky to have the opportunity to attend the Openstack Summit in Barcelona this year. The event has become a large event with a few thousand attendees and the scope is getting broader as Openstack evolves and matures.


The schedule is very dense and a little bit of homework is necessary to maximize the value from the event – the sessions we chose to attend probably capture quite a wide subset of the different conversations that went on.

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Integration of Openstack OVA importing tool to Horizon

ICCLab is announcing an integration of the Openstack OVA onboarding tool into OpenStack’s Horizon dashboard. To deploy the OVA file to Openstack all  images are extracted from the file and  uploaded to  the Openstack cluster, all necessary file format transformations are automatically performed, glance images get created and the tool creates a heat stack out of them. As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, uploading your local VMs into OpenStack was never easier.


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Reflections on ORConf 2016

We had the chance again this year to attend the really excellent ORConf 2016 (see here for a write up on ORConf 2015). The focus of the conference is on Open Source silicon in general, comprising of aspects of open source hardware design tooling, open source processor designs and open source SoC designs. This area (and community) is very interesting and it has the potential to have a signficant impact on future cloud systems – here are some reflections on the event.

While the conference addressed many different aspects of the digital design space, there was a significant emphasis on the embedded space and/or IoT type use cases: this can probably be attributed to the fact that these systems are somehow easier to design and produce in small quantities as well as the fact that there is a large opportunity in this area. It was noteworthy how quickly the community is evolving with designs presented at ORConf from last year very likely to manifest in working silicon at next year’s conference. It was also noteworthy how the community is squeezing more and more compute performance out of each Watt in their designs. Continue reading