Call for Contributions: 14th IEEE/ACM UCC in Leicester, UK

The digital transformation of all areas of life is accelerated in this decade by novel cloud services, e-infrastructures, data platforms and cyber-physical system integration. This broader scope of cloud computing calls for technically sound contributions that combine scale with convenience and reliability. Society and economy depend on cloud applications delivering compute power on demand in every location along data paths as a general service to the public, in analogy to conventional utilities. The engineering of such systems and applications calls for scientifically proven approaches, methods, tools and technologies.

Providing a forum to review and discuss possible solutions, UCC is the premier IEEE/ACM conference for areas related to Cloud Computing as a Utility where leading researchers and practitioners in this important and growing field gather on an annual basis.

After a period of enforced online meetings, we are looking forward to UCC 2021 being one of the first major conferences to be conducted in hybrid mode, permitting direct interactions between participants. The call for papers and other participation information is already on the website.

UCC 2021 website

HDocker and Docker Image Analysis Accepted for DAIS 2021

We conducted joint work with Université de Neuchâtel on improving the handling of Docker container images in the increasingly heterogeneous hardware environments. We propose to (1) finer-grained incorporate hardware dependency information in the image metadata, (2) leveraging heuristic analysis techniques to populate such information at large scale (although of course preferring properly curated metadata), and (3) improving the tool support around container creation from images. The work has led to new tools like hdocker and heuristic analysis rules. Furthermore, to underline the need for such a solution, we have been conducting a long-term tracking over fourteen now seventeen months of selected subsets of registered Docker container images.

This work has been accepted by the 21st International Conference on Distributed Applications and Interoperable Systems (DAIS 2021). Ahead of the event we already provide the collected data and code. Have a look!

Recent Progress in Digitally Supported Education

Zurich University of Applied Sciences is a campus-based university with high quality presence education in bachelor, master and continuous education programmes. There are situations in which no presence is possible – most recently involuntarily invoked by the COVID situation – where smart digital solutions help with educational procedures in online or hybrid teaching modalities. Additionally, there are also situations in which such solutions might be helpful as a general complement to all teaching modalities including presence. Eventually, the goal is to ensure highly qualified alumni to boost the local economy and to fill the pipeline of next-generation researchers. A lot of the public debate has been on lectures alone. In this blog post, recent progress on digitally supported labs and examination is being summarised, demonstrating that Zurich University of Applied Sciences is also active on the solution side with novel science-based tool, service and solution designs. We are looking forward to colleagues from other institutions to discuss and advance these solutions further with us.

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Switzerland Online: Market Share Estimation

With the ongoing pandemic and the resulting home office / home study regulations, little is known about how people go online, especially with emphasis on local conditions. Based on recent student interactions, we give an estimation of the market shares of network providers, operating systems and web browsers.

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Leveraging Docker and reproducible workflows for portable research environments

Reproducibility is an important aspect of research. One particular concept of interest is FAIR principles. FAIR stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable and defines a ‘best practices’ approach for research.

However, complying with such a concept presents its own unique challenges: Some research tools rely on complex infrastructure elements and software stacks that are hard to replicate. In cases such as these, the added workload acts as an inhibitor on ensuring reproducibility. The result is that many experiments, data pipelines and results are hard to replicate. According to our preliminary insights, based on interviews within the ZHAW, on how experiments are conducted, such complexity is indeed commonplace in our current research activities. 

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Processing IoT Sensor Data with Semi-Stateful Cloud Functions

At Zurich University of Applied Sciences, we are currently building a test track to link applied teaching with research and innovation. Such a facility allows for covering a whole range of topics: programming, autonomous driving, robotics, cloud, serverless, continuums, sensing, open data, data science, and various computing paradigms. We expect a video to be available around November that explains the facility and especially the teaching element. In this research blog post, we already report on interesting observations around the uplink between sensors and FaaS. We expect these insights to bring benefits to companies building IoT-cloud integrations.

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Deep tracing of cloud function execution

In an increasingly self-aware and knowledge-driven software world, understanding the execution behaviour of an application is mandatory for cost-effective delivery. This applies especially to cloud functions, because many complex applications are composed of those functions. Similar short-lived, event-driven processing models can be found inside databases and message brokers. This means systematic tracing of cloud functions should be conducted so that a large variety of applications benefits from rightsizing memory allocation and associated fair microbilling.

We recently reported on our upcoming presentation on generating static trace profiles for cloud functions. In general, tracing techniques help reporting with high precision how much memory an application requires. But in practice, the memory needs depend on a number of factors that change over time. Similar to how static environment variables have been replaced by dynamic queries to updateable key-value stores to increase dynamics, we should be able to produce dynamic traces that show at least a correlation to certain values within the function, like the number of rows in a table. This research blog post shows one approach to do that.

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FaaSification Community Website

Software engineers are interested in novel ways to convert their applications into formats that can run «serverless» on Function-as-a-Service. Many issues have to be considered – partitioning of the application functionality, short-livedness and memory constraints of functions, easy but limited language runtimes or rather difficult container wrappers around microservices. Our virtual guest researcher Leonardo Rebouças de Carvalho, from University of Brasília in Brazil, has recognised the issue and launched a community website faasification.com that contains a lot of tools, methodologies, articles, research insights and events related to shifting software into the world of FaaS. Bookmark that site if you are developing serverless software!

Exploit Insights into your Cloud Application

If you develop or deliver cloud applications, you can benefit from automated knowledge fostering and exploitation. For instance, if you compose your app from multiple microservices, then you want to consider the app tainted from a security perspective once one of the microservices is found to be vulnerable. Likewise, if you bundle containers and cloud functions into a complex application, you would like to know upfront if, due to technical limitations in one small gear of the whole machinery, you will have a restricted choice of clouds to operate it. We will deliver a tutorial showing you how to accomplish that. Join us at the 9th IEEE International Conference on Cloud Computing in Emerging Markets (CCEM 2020) on November 7 to learn more!

WoSC Paper Accepted: Revisiting Pay-per-Use Models in Serverless Applications

The International Workshop on Serverless Computing (WoSC) has become an established forum to discuss new serverless technologies, ranging from application development to runtime concerns. Despite FaaS having raised the bar for not being billed for many hours of idle server processes, we are constantly thinking from an application engineering perspective into how the pay-per-use models could become even more fine-grained and fair. Thus, we are happy to announce that an appropriate autotuning approach has been accepted for being presented at WoSC6 in December 2020.

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