Serverless computing was injected with a handful of new building blocks from this week’s Google Cloud Next event that highlight the rapid maturation of the technology and drew considerable commentary on Twitter.
One of the more prominent announcements was around the Knative platform. The Kubernetes-based platform was developed by Google, Pivotal, IBM, Red Hat, and SAP. It’s an open source set of components that allows for the building and deployment of container-based serverless applications that can be transported between cloud providers.
Knative is focused on orchestrating source-to-container builds; routing and managing traffic during deployment; auto-scaling workloads; and binding services to event ecosystems.
While still new, the platform managed to get a supporting quote from T-Mobile US, which has been quietly aggressive in using cloud native to support its back-end services.
“Knative helps our developers focus on building the business logic rather than worrying about building low-level platform capabilities such as build, deploy, autoscaling, monitoring, and observability,” explained Ram Gopinathan, principal technology architect at T-Mobile, in a statement.
Gopinathan added that T-Mobile used Knative to migrate its store locator application into the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). “We did that in just a sprint as Knative provided lot of platform-level capabilities that our developers did not have to build,” he said.
Clearing the Path
RightScale, which offers a hybrid cloud management platform, noted in a recent survey that serverless was the fastest growing cloud service. Use surged 75 percent year over year from being used by 12 percent of those surveyed in 2017, to 21 percent of those surveyed earlier this year.
IBM, which has been aggressive in the serverless space with its OpenWhisk project, said it expects Knative to bolster future development and adoption.
“Ultimately, we anticipate Knative becoming a foundational component for serverless architectures that can take advantage of all types of cloud-native tools,” explained Jason McGee, vice president of IBM Cloud Platform, in a blog post.
Pivotal threw out similar accolades, with Ryan Morgan, VP of engineering for Pivotal’s Application Platform group, noting the possibility for Knative to provide clarity to a currently murky serverless ecosystem.
“Why does Knative matter? Because until now, the serverless landscape has been muddled,” Morgan wrote in a blog post. “There’s still confusion about use cases and who offers what. There’s been some obvious success for public cloud vendors, but the overall market for function runtimes is fragmented. Knative stands to unify that.”
Analysts have noted that unification will be important to the long-term business case viability of serverless as most current platforms are rigidly tied to a specific cloud provider.
Charlie Li, chief cloud officer at Capgemini, noted that the lack of market maturity has bolstered fear of vendor lock-in when it comes to serverless platforms.
“Vendor lock-in with serverless is more pressing than what is happening with containers,” Li said. “If you are a full Microsoft shop or all-in with AWS [Amazon Web Services], this is not a problem. But if you want to have a multi-cloud environment, it’s not easy to migrate serverless applications across platforms.”
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which houses the Kubernetes Project, is attempting to tackle this issue with its own CloudEvents initiative. The project wants to provide a common platform for developers to describe serverless events, which are what trigger serverless-based applications. This will allow for greater portability of serverless application across different platforms, such as AWS Lambda and Google Cloud Functions.
“One thing is quite clear – as a new technology there is a lack of standardization and interoperability between cloud providers that may lead to vendor lock-in,” CNCF wrote in a white paper. “There is a need for quality documentation, best practices, and more importantly, tools and utilities. Mostly, there is a need to bring different players together under the same roof to drive innovation through collaboration.”
The platform launch also drew considerable Twitter commentary.
Edwin Yuen, senior analyst for cloud at Enterprise Strategy Group, tweeted that the platform “is about not making serverless and containers an either/or decision. It’s about making great applications for uses.”
There were also discussions on just how “serverless” Knative is considering its connection to Kubernetes.
Photo courtesy of Google.