The fate of cloud computing: Operation as a single global computer made possible by serverless

“We are well on the way to realizing our vision of making the world’s cloud resources as easy to use as a single computer. If we do this, we will finally exploit the full revolutionary potential of the cloud – we need it to the millisecond at the push of a button. “

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

That is the word of Priya Nagpurkar, Director of the Hybrid Cloud Platform for IBM Research. In one recently interview with SVP and Director of IBM Research Dario Gil. Nagpurkar explained how IBM Research is pioneering a serverless computing architecture that will transform the cloud into the world’s largest computer. Serverless computing will enable all of this without opening up the complications of backend deployment and security management.

There are data centers for the world’s leading public clouds at hundreds of locations on almost every continent. “However, this only paints part of the picture,” says Gil. There are also “a massive number of private computing environments that exist in silos around the world. The cloud has grown dramatically over many years to what it is today, a massively distributed network of public and private data centers with zettabytes of computing power and Data”. Warehouse.”

With everything that happens in the cloud, we have to “get to the point where we can get the cloud up and running as if it were a single, infinitely powerful computer,” says Nagpurkar. There are too many obstacles in the way right now, she adds. “Think about the simplicity of just working on your laptop. You have a common operating system that you are familiar with. And most importantly, you spend most of your time working on code that. You need to understand the intricacies of all cloud providers – there’s AWS, Azure, GCP, IBM, and private clouds. You need to provide cloud resources that can take a while to connect online. And you have to take care of things like security, compliance, resilience, scalability and cost efficiency. It’s just a lot of complexity. “

Proprietary software stacks from different vendors “not only increase this complexity, they also stifle innovation,” she says. “The most important software abstractions start with the operating system. Linux as the operating system for the data center era triggered this proliferation of software, including virtualization technologies such as containers. That ushered in the cloud era.”

Serverless technologies are paving the way to access and use this new global computer, she continues. “Serverless technologies are the key to making this happen. “Serverless has three key attributes: ease of use, on-demand elasticity, and payment for what you use,” says Nagpurkar. “For example, take on a simple data prep task in the cloud, which is quite common. But in this case the data could come from anywhere – for example from edge environments. To make this as simple as a command, you might have a ton of things going on under the covers on your laptop, and today it’s the developers and data scientists who do these things manually. I have to worry: do I have access? Can I move the data? Where are the API keys? How many containers should I open? That’s what I spend most of the time. But with serverless you can literally reduce this to a single command, as easy as moving files around on your laptop – the serverless platform does the rest of it under. That’s the beauty of serverless. “

IBM Research is driving this vision today in the Knative Open source community, she continues. IBM supports this feature with Red Hat OpenShift Serverless. “We are driving this development of serverless forward and are getting closer and closer to this vision of the cloud as a computer,” says Nagpurkar.

Realize the vision of a single global computer? “It is one of the greatest challenges that we should solve in computer science, in particular, to make this enormously heterogeneous and distributed system usable,” says Nagpurkar. It’s time for a distributed operating system that “provides this common level of abstraction for these heterogeneous and distributed cloud resources,” she says. Kubernetes is the open technology that emerges victorious from this evolutionary battle. So you have Linux containers, Kubernetes, both open technologies. “


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