The role of FaaS in mixed-technology cloud and scientific computing applications

The computer science department of AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków has produced substantial analytical research contributions to assess the suitability of cloud functions as a basis for scientific workflows and computing platforms. Therefore, representing our similar research interests in the Service Prototyping Lab at Zurich University of Applied Sciences, we arranged an intensive two-day exchange including a research seminar, some live experiments and many inspiring discussions. This blog post summarises the talks and experimental results and provides an overview about evident trends and possibilities for future research in this area.

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Call for Contributions: IEEE/ACM UCC and BDCAT 2018, Zurich, Switzerland

Block the dates in your calendar: December 17 to 21 is high cloud time in Switzerland!

Two computer science research laboratories at Zurich University of Applied Sciences, the Service Prototyping Lab and the ICCLab, are jointly going to host the 11th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Utility and Cloud Computing (UCC 2018) and the 5th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Big Data Computing, Applications and Technologies (BDCAT 2018) along with a number of satellite and co-located events from December 17 to 21 in Zurich, Switzerland. This pre-christmas conference week with prestigious conferences is a unique opportunity to bring together international researchers and practitioners in central Europe. Please consider supporting the event with corporate donations, tutorials, cloud challenge entries and other contributions. Your chance to demonstrate convincing cloud technology to the world! Contact the conference organisers for any details.

Technical paper submissions are furthermore open to a number of collocated workshops. Among them we would like to point out the 1st Workshop on Quality Assurance in the Context of Cloud Computing (QA3C 2018) and the 1st Workshop on Cloud-Native Applications Design and Experience (CNAX 2018) in which our research staff proudly serves as co-chairs. In total, 9 workshops are accepting papers now, a doctoral forum accepts research proposals, and a cloud challenge supports practical (demo-able) contributions with emphasis on reproducible impactful results.

Finally, we would like to mention specifically the subsequent European Symposium on Serverless Computing and Applications (ESSCA 2018) on December 21st which as a mixed industry-academic-community event acknowledges that FaaS-based applications have become mainstream but challenges remain. Got a talk on that topic? Just propose it informally to enrich the technical meeting with different perspectives. Along with ESSCA, on December 20 there will be the 4th edition of the International Workshop on Serverless Computing as part of UCC.

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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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

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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UCC 2017 Coverage – Day 1

Our own researchers Piyush and Josef are in Austin, the capital of the lone star state Texas to attend the current iteration of IEEE/ACM International Conference on Utility and Cloud Computing which takes place in conjunction with the International Conference on Big Data Computing, Applications and Technologies. ICCLab’s and SPLab’s recent research results have been accepted as multiple peer-reviewed workshop papers and a tutorial presented on the first day and a work in progress poster which will be presented in the next days.

In this series of blog posts, starting with this one, we will present our views and analysis of the results that will be presented at this event by cloud researchers from around the world.

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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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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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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.

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