The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) announced today that the OpenWhisk serverless computing framework has now become a high-level open source project.
Matt Rutkowski, CTO for serverless technologies and advocacy for IBM, said with this announcement, organizations looking to implement an open source serverless computing framework on-premises or in a public cloud now can have confidence the OpenWhisk project is sustainable beyond the handful of vendors, including IBM, that launched it.
IT organizations of all sizes are embracing serverless computing frameworks as a way to invoke application programming interfaces (APIs) to make additional compute resources available on-demand based on an event. For example, rather than having to embed a lot of additional analytics code within their application, developers alternatively might invoke a serverless computing framework such as OpenWhisk to run analytics whenever necessary.
The most widely used serverless computing framework today is the Lambda service from Amazon Web Services (AWS). However, rival cloud service providers have been embracing various open source alternatives to provide similar capabilities. At the same time, some internal IT operations teams are deploying serverless computing frameworks to provide similar capabilities within an internal IT environment.
Regardless of the approach, Rutkowski said hooks to serverless computing frameworks soon will become ubiquitous hooks within continuous integration/continuous deployment environments. In fact, DevOps environments are likely to expose multiple hooks to different serverless computing frameworks as cloud computing becomes more hybrid, he noted. Plugging in multiple serverless computing frameworks should be relatively trivial because the difference in application programming interface (API) parameters between different serverless computing frameworks is minimal, he added.
While interest in serverless computing has been running high, deciding which open source serverless computing framework to embrace has been something of a challenge. There are at least a half-dozen active serverless computing frameworks, with new ones being added regularly while other projects fade away. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has made a point of not endorsing any one serverless computing framework in the expectation that many will be adopted for various use cases. Instead, the CNCF has thrown its weight behind a Knative project that provides the middleware required to integrate Kubernetes clusters with multiple serverless computing frameworks.
Those serverless computing frameworks have already had a profound impact on containerized applications. The first generation of containerized applications was largely stateless. Now stateless functions increasingly are being processed via a serverless computing framework, while stateful applications based on containers that tend to run longer are just now starting to be deployed in production environments.
Of course, the one fact many IT organizations fail to appreciate is that serverless computing frameworks are built using containers. A serverless computing framework is really a higher-level abstraction of a container platform. The challenge organizations will face now is teaching developers when to rely on a more traditional container platform versus invoking a serverless computing framework to run a child process, for example.
Whatever path those developers choose, the one thing that is for certain is existing DevOps processes will need to be adjusted accordingly.