Open Cloud Day 2018

This year we had the pleasure to organize and host one of Switzerland’s most prestigious cloud events, the OpenCloudDay. On the 30th of May, we welcomed the around 80 participants at the ZHAW School of Engineering in Winterthur for a day rich with technical talks, demos and networking possibilities for Cloud Computing practitioners and experts in Switzerland.

Welcome and introduction to Open Cloud Day 2018

The program of the day started with two opening talks covering very timely topics in the field of Cloud Computing. The first talk, given by Thomas Michael Bohnert from the ICCLab, was a critical view on what many consider as the next evolutionary direction of Cloud Computing, namely Edge Computing. We got the speaker’s perspective on the motivations, the potential obstacles and open issues for this paradigm to definitely break through (or maybe not) as the next Cloud Computing frontier. The second opening talk was given by Sacha Dubois from Red Hat and focused on the potential of Ansible Tower for the automation and management of Hybrid Clouds. After a general discussion on the possibilities offered by Ansible Tower to managing both on-premise and public cloud workloads, a live demo showed how this would work in the practice.

Presentation on Ansible Tower by Red Hat

During the second part of the morning and the first part of the afternoon, two technical sessions were ran in parallel. Several topics were covered as for instance Continuous Delivery, Continuous Deployment and Continuous Integration in the Cloud, and the CNCF activities during the last year, the challenges with the adoption of Web Application Firewall for the DevOps methodology and much more. An insightful presentation was given on the current cloudware technologies and what to expect from future post-clouds systems. Practical experiences were also presented as, for instance, in setting up a Kubernetes cluster, on the use of Ansible for cloud solutions. Also a workshop about the setup of an  oVirt infrastructure for an open source Cloud Management Software was organized in the morning. For a complete program of the technical talks please visit the webpage of the OpenCloudDay.

Attendees during one of the technical presentations

The two final technical talks of the day were given by Niklaus Hofer from Stepping Stone and Jens-Christian Fischer from SWITCH. In the first of the two talks, a presentation was given on the analysis of storage performance for a Ceph cluster. More specifically, the focus was on the comparison between the new backend solution for the Luminous Ceph release, i.e. BlueStore, and the FileStore solution for storing data to disk. Open challenges and further open points of investigation were also given.
The last talk brought up a different point of view regarding all the technical solutions to run a cloud. Based on the experience of SWITCH in running an OpenStack/Ceph based cloud for the Swiss Academic community, the importance of the users’ role in using the technology was put in focus. The user’s perspective is not to be overseen as this puts additional challenges and requirements for solutions to be deployed as the experience of SWITCH clearly highlighted.

The program of the day also offered a total of seven demo presentations on the following topics: Cloud Robotics, Edge Computing, CAB, CNA, Service Tooling, ElasTest, T-Systems solutions.

One of the demos presented by the ICCLab

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Cloud-Native Microservices Reference Architecture

How are cloud-native applications engineered? In contrast to the increasing popularity of the topic, there are surprisingly few reference applications available. In the previous blogpost we described a first version of a prototypical document management application consisting of composed containers which is called ARKIS Microservices. We elaborated on the challenges involved when designing and developing a cloud-native application. In addition, we showed some details about the architecture and functionalities of version 2.5 of this generic reference application .

In this blogpost, we now dive deeper into the architecture of the latest version 3.3, paying attention to each component. The document management software is a cloud-native application based on a microservices architecture. The software permits multiple tenants to manage their documents (create, read, update, delete and search patterns in documents). It manages the different tenants and offers different isolation models to store the documents of a tenant. Furthermore, the services are discoverable through declarative service descriptions, and their use is billed according to a pay-per-use scheme.

Continue reading

Termite. A Java library for the selective “Lambdafication” of applications.

Introducing selective Lambdafication

“Lambdafication” is the automated transformation of source code to make it run on AWS Lambda. It is a provider-specific flavour of generic “FaaSification” which is our ultimate research goal. With our Lambdafication tooling, we offer application engineers today the possibility to step into the serverless world without much effort, and leave the more challenging research tasks for the summer time.

Continue reading

Project Management SaaS

Project Management SaaS, or short PMSaaS, is a web-based tool for project management developed as part of an apprenticeship in computer engineering for application development (as part of advanced education) at the Service Prototyping Lab. The user can create new projects and employee accounts, add work packages and tasks to projects, assign employees to tasks, book hours for them, compare the booked hours to the planned person months, weigh each month differently and add expenses. The project can be edited, shared with other users and archived. To make it easier to keep track of all these things, the tool generates different graphs. This work is a result of exploring how project management can be offered as a service.

Continue reading