PyParis’17 conference report

PyParis is a community-organised conference on all topics around the Python programming language. The expected target group are primarily practitioners and researchers in the greater capital region of France, but also international engineers and language advocates. At Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Python is taught as automation and statistics application language to more than 200 business engineering, aviation and traffic engineering undergraduates per year. It is furthermore used a lot in research, including several prototypes resulting from the Service Prototyping Lab. Therefore, it was consequential for us to attend the conference and to contribute an in-depth tutorial on one of our research topics, Function-as-a-Service, to its attendees.

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Rightsizing Kubernetes applications

Applications are increasingly delivered for cloud deployment as set of composite artefacts such as containers. The composition descriptions vary widely: There are Docker compose files, Vamp blueprints, Kubernetes descriptors, OpenShift service instance templates, and more. Ideally, taking these compositions and deploying them somewhere would always work. In practice, it is more complex than that. Commercial production environments are often constrained depending on the chosen pricing plan. Many applications would still run but due to over-estimating deployment information do not “fit” into the target environment. In this blog post, we look at how to “right-size” an application deployed into such a constrained Kubernetes instance, and furthermore propose a tool to automate this process.

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Research Directions for FaaS

FaaS, or Function-as-a-Service, is a considerable application engineering trend under observation by the Service Tooling research initiative of the Service Prototyping Lab at Zurich University of Applied Sciences. Yesterday, the lab’s semi-regular open-for-all evening seminar series, Future Cloud Applications, centered around tools for managing the growing FaaS ecosystem. While the open source tools prototypically produced through the initiative are primarily of interest to Swiss software application engineers and cloud providers, the research challenges continuously uncovered by the work are more fundamental and encompass some harder nuts to crack in dedicated research projects. This blog reflects on what has been achieved already and what needs to be accomplished in the next years.

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Running Google Cloud Functions in OpenShift

Have you created a highly popular and frequently used JavaScript (Node.js) functions for execution in Google Cloud Functions? In this case, the economics of FaaS turn against you due to the per-invocation pricing. You might want to have more options for both testing the same function locally and for deploying it into an environment with fixed monthly pricing. This blog post explains step-by-step how to migrate functions from FaaS environments into a fixed per-month pricing container environment. The running example will be Node.js functions running in Google Cloud Functions albeit the procedure is similarly applicable to other combinations.

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Snafu – The Swiss Army Knife of Serverless Computing

The Service Prototyping Lab at Zurich University of Applied Sciences is committed to advancing the state of technology for bringing applications to the cloud, for the benefit of the society of large in general and of the local industry in particular. This obliges us to closely monitor industrial trends along with academic advances. A hot topic currently found in both is the higher-PaaS-level service class of FaaS, or Function-as-a-Service, which coincides with the marketing term Serverless Computing. We have already contributed analytical work on finding the limits and possibilities of today’s FaaS systems (preprint), and engineering work on translating legacy monolithic code into fine-grained functions (preprint). It was only a matter of time until the limits in both commercially operated FaaS services and open-source FaaS prototypes became too severe for our work. Hence, after a careful analysis of what is available, we decided to come up with an alternative FaaS host process design. The design led to an architecture, and the architecture eventually to an implementation called Snafu. This post presents Snafu and positions it as Swiss Army Knife for situations in which functions should be prototyped, tested or hosted.

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NetSys’17 conference report

NetSys is a regular biennial conference covering networked and distributed systems. This year, NetSys’17 took place in Göttingen, Germany. We have attended and report on some of the research and technology trends, obviously with a focus on our own research directions. Apologies ahead for not giving a full account of the whole conference as our presence was limited by lecturing duties.

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When the Open Access world is not enough

The world of research is a complex one which despite myths does not exist in isolation. And publishing is another world within this world which is mythical even to most researchers. Open access models are being widely discussed, but there are trends and necessities going beyond and evaluating other, more consequent options. This post reports on the trends and options with the aim of becoming a text piece rich enough of information to initiate fruitful discussions on how we, as wider research community around service, cloud, distributed computing, should publish our work, our results and our interactions around them.

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Title: MOSAIC – Monitored Platform for Container-Based Applications

Industry Partner: VSHN AG

Research Partner: SPLab and ICCLab, ZHAW

Funded ByCommission for Technology and Innovation

Summary: The MOSAIC project focuses on providing a platform for delivering any kind of application as a service, with a focus on container-based applications. It features an integrated incident management system as well as a container-optimized storage system. The platform will be able to deploy hybrid applications split into multiple locations, optimizing resiliency and cost in the process, as well as support continuous integration and deployment of each service.

Project MOSAIC aims to deliver a platform to deploy and manage distributed, container-based applications. None of the currently available Platform-as-a-Service frameworks provide the same benefits to application developers: MOSAIC delivers a vendor-independent, Platform-as-a-Service framework independent, software suite which can orchestrate applications on multiple providers, automatically monitor them during runtime, automatically detect and resolve runtime incidents, all based on a custom storage backend optimized specifically for container-based cloud-native applications.

Cloud-Native Document Management

Document management is an established software-powered business domain. As with most software applications, an ongoing trend is to move the functionality of document management systems (DMS) and related functionality (Enterprise Content Management – ECM, Content Services – CS) into well-defined services, primarily in cloud environments, resulting in cloud-native document management systems/services (CNDMS).

In the context of the research initiative on cloud-native applications and the ARKIS project within the Service Prototyping Lab, we have been looking deeper into the issues surrounding cloud-native document management and have built a prototype implementation to test-drive any ideas and new concepts. This post introduces the software and the challenges already solved with it. Continue reading

Cloud-Announce Statistics and Policy

One year ago, we started running the cloud-announce mailing list for the wider research community in the area of cloud computing. The list serves to connect people in this area, but it also serves as rough indicator of research trends and pace. It is time to reflect on the first year of operation, revisit some policy decisions, and give an outlook for 2017.

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