CLOSER’18 conference report

In the European services and cloud computing research community, the International Conference on Cloud Computing and Services Science (CLOSER) has been a meeting point for academics and applied researchers for almost a decade. This year, CLOSER 2018 took place in Santa Cruz at the Portuguese island of Madeira. As for any commercially organised conference series, there are certain expectations for how well the conference is run, and there is a lot to learn for us to drive community-organised conferences and to sense the participation in cloud conferences in general. On the technical side, we presented an international collaboration work at this conference, and we dived into the respective works of others. This blog post reports about our interpretation of both the organisational and technical aspects of CLOSER 2018.

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Science Meets Industry and Innovation Alignment

Often, researchers produce results which are neither re-used nor transferred to practice, and businesses ask for solutions which have been existing for a long time albeit perhaps not in packaged and polished form. Such misunderstandings should not happen; rather, the goal must be to align the innovation needs of businesses and the wider industry with the capabilities of researchers. For this purpose, Science Meets Industry has been proposed as a new event format to bring together scientific researchers and practitioners, in particular in the domain of information technology.

The first Science Meets Industry event was jointly organised by Silicon Saxony and its Cool Silicon cluster of excellence, and hosted by four co-located Fraunhofer institutes. Josef Spillner from the Service Prototyping Lab at Zurich University of Applied Sciences had been invited as keynote speaker and shared his thoughts about «Serverless Cyber-Physical Applications» which connected well with other talk topics during the event. This blog post not only reports briefly about the event, but details the thoughts behind talk and reflects on the need for innovation alignment by incorporating feedback and additional ideas from the discussions after the talk.

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Cloud Function Marketplaces as Enablers of Serverless Computing Communities

In April 2017 we had announced work on an open marketplace for cloud functions, lambdas and other serverless application artefacts and launched a first static website at Github Pages. The project was sidelined, but in January 2018 we made the implementation called Function Hub publicly available and have since been running a stateless dynamic demo instance with the backend running Snafu in passive mode in our APPUiO Swiss Container Platform account. You can use any deployment tool (awscli, wsk, gcloud) to submit your cloud functions and make them available globally.

It took Amazon a bit longer until February 2018 to announce their AWS Serverless Application Repository but of course there it is now with, at the time of writing, 181 entries. We assume that it will grow rapidly and developers will very much rely on it in the future, similarly to how Docker Hub has become an essential ingredient for modern application development, and see the need for researchers to (1) gain insight into cloud function marketplace usage, (2) propose superior designs, and (3) from an applied perspective of strengthening the economies of souvereign countries, assist in developing viable alternatives. This blog post therefore briefly discusses our state of function hub design and prototypical architecture which is shared work with the Distributed Systems and Parallel Computing research group at Itaipu Technology Park, Paraguay.

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SPLab Colloquium on Robust Modern API Design

In the second invited talk in our colloquium series in 2018, Alan Sill from Texas Tech University’s Cloud and Autonomic Computing Center shared his views on how to manage data centres the right way. In the talk «Topics in robust modern API design for data center control and scientific applications», many issues were pointed out whose proper solution will effect the whole cloud stack up to the way cloud-native applications are designed and equipped with deep self-management capabilities. Both the talk and the mixed-in debates are captured by this blog post.

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Portable Cloud Functions for Future-Proof Software Applications

Ever since the inception of cloud computing as a widespread phenomenon over a decade ago, the issue of API and data structure variety across providers has become a major hurdle to multi-cloud applications. Even in the most recent services such as Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) offerings to build so-called serverless applications, the issue repeats itself with each provider pushing for their own management interfaces and accepted function definitions.

Yessica Bogado and Walter Benítez from Itaipu Technology Park, currently visiting the Service Prototyping Lab at Zurich University of Applied Sciences, are among the active researchers who tackle such practical problems from the perspective of engineering software applications based on microservices. In the park’s distributed systems and parallel computing research team led by Fabio López Pires, they are witnessing first hand the increasing issues of local software and service providers to keep up with cloud trends. Appropriate tooling can therefore help to alleviate the issues. This blog post describes one such tool, the FaaS converter, which has emerged from their applied research. Continue reading

Impressions from Swiss Python Summit 2018

The third Swiss Python Summit took place in Rapperswil, Switzerland, today. Conveniently located about an hour drive from the Service Prototyping Lab at Zurich University of Applied Sciences, the event reserved a spot on our conferences shortlist this year. In this post, we will briefly summarise major impressions from the well-organised summit.

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SPLab Colloquium on Serverless Scientific Computing

Maciej Malawski from AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków, Poland, visited us today to give a colloquium talk titled «Can we use Serverless Architectures and Highly-elastic Cloud Infrastructures for Scientific Computing?» and to discuss research around the wider topics of workflows and cloud function compositions. This post summarises the talk and the subsequent discussion mixed with further general reflections on the state of serverless applications.

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Visitors from Itaipu Technology Park

Following up on the previous visit from Service Prototyping Lab (SPLab) at Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland to Itaipu Technology Park (PTI) in Paraguay, two young investigators from PTI’s Centre of Information and Communication Technology (CTIC) with support from CONACYT are now visiting us at the SPLab and more generally in Switzerland.

Yessica Bogado and Walter Benítez will spend some weeks to get to know the local research and development situation, get information about our ongoing research initiatives, dive into solving some hard questions, and discuss ideas for future collaboration. Furthermore, they will explore novel research methods and prototypes specifically in emerging technology areas such as cloud-native applications and serverless applications, as well as upcoming hybrid container/cloud function applications.

Walter Benítez, Yessica Bogado and the host Josef Spillner

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Vienna Software Seminar: DevOps and Continuous-*

Vienna, the second-largest city in the German-speaking world, had become a meeting place earlier this week for software and service engineers who explore the crossroads of software architecture, DevOps processes and continuous-* (software development, integration, delivery) approaches. The 1st Vienna Software Seminar had mixed business and academic participants and has been of particular interest to architects and practitioners who want to migrate applications or related processes into cloud environments and are in need of relevant methods and tools. With its interactive agile format and focus on break-out groups, the seminar was structured so that topics could be discussed in detail and grouped by interest. This report summarises the four-day event including some highlights from selected discussions from a participant perspective.

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Extending Web Applications with Cloud Functions

The discourse on cloud functions focuses heavily on diverse use cases: Standalone functions to perform a certain functionality, compositions of functions into complete applications, and functions as plumbing between separate application parts. This blog post intends to explore the use of cloud functions as extensibility mechanism for existing applications. It exemplifies the interaction between a function, a website and a login-protected web application and furthermore discusses implementation aspects and the notion of caching data in function instances.

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