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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Guest Researchers from Mozambique

In the final days of October, the Service Prototyping Lab at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) hosted two doctoral candidates who take part in the structured doctoral programme Information Technology and Systems at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. The candidates Martina Barros and Ambrósio Vumo arrived from Germany, as they spent a significant part of their research time at Technische Universität Dresden (TUD) as part of the DAAD-funded joint programme Welcome to Africa. The realisation of this programme also involves the Service Prototyping Lab as competence centre for research and innovation on cloud applications and new services for digital economies. This article describes how innovation transfer was conducted during the stay.

Martina Barros, Ambrósio Vumo and the host Josef Spillner

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Probabilistically Stateful Serverless Web Applications

Among the lectures offered by the Service Prototyping Lab is Scripting. Aimed at students of advanced studies, it teaches essential practical programming skills and conveys approaches how to automate the exploration of data retrieved from the Internet. Python is taught as programming languages and consequently a Python (Django) web application has thus far been used to automatically score the results submitted by students of a particular advanced task towards the end of the lecture. There’s nothing wrong with Django per se, but its roots have evidently been in the era of monolithic web applications. Armored with our Function-as-a-Service experience we decided to drop it and go purely serverless. In production.

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Migrate OpenShift applications with os2os

One of the desirable properties which users expect in a modern cloud-hosted application is portability. Users want to migrate portable applications between private and public clouds or between different cloud regions. With container images as portable application implementations and emerging sophisticated container runtimes, this should be an easy task. But when a containerised application starts to become more complex, a container platform or an orchestration tool needs to be deployed. This add specifics blueprints and together with the persistent data makes the migration of the application tough. This means that the application is not in a condition to be moved as easily between clouds or even between the orchestration tools or container platforms, losing the desirable portability property. With the idea in mind that the next generation of Cloud-Native Applications must be deployable to different cloud providers as the requirements change, we are proud to announce the first proof of concept release of os2os, a tool to migrate cloud-native applications between OpenShift installations. While our research on application migration is not limited to this single container platform, we see it as one of the more popular and technically interesting ones.

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Paraguayan Perspective on Cloud Applications

The Itaipu Technology Park (PTI) in Paraguay, founded in 2009, is involved with scientific and technological development which contributes positively to regional development. Several of its centres with a total number of 90 engineers and researchers put emphasis on ICT integration and the challenges connected with it. Among them are diverse plans to use cloud applications. In this context, the Service Prototyping Lab of Zurich University of Applied Sciences (SPLab) in Switzerland is conducting a two-week guest lecturing and research exchange presenting its research initiatives and outputs on the PTI premises in close proximity to Ciudad del Este.

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