It was an honor to give a talk on the future of Serverless at goto Chicago, an enterprise developer conference running from May 24 to 25, 2016. As you can see from the full room, containers, microservices and serverless are popular topics with developers, and this interest extends across a wide swath of back-end languages, from Java to Ruby to node.js. Unfortunately, the talk was not recorded, so I’m providing these notes (and my slide deck) for those who could not attend.
The Evolution of Deployed Applications
Before we look forward into the future of Serverless, let’s look back. We’ve seen a historical evolution in deployed applications at multiple different levels. Whereas before the unit of scale was measured by how many servers you could deploy, we’ve moved through rolling out virtual machines to the current pattern of scaling our containerized infrastructure. Similarly, we’ve seen a shift from monolithic architectures deployed through major releases to containerized, continuously-updated microservices. This paradigm is Iron.io’s “sweet spot,” and we’re leading the enterprise towards a serverless computing world.
Travis Reeder, the co-founder and CTO of Iron.io, spoke at last night’s Docker NYC meetup about Microcontainers. In addition, Hermann Hesse of Sumo Logic spoke about Logging in Docker.
Iron.io is a big proponent of microcontainers, which are minimalistic docker containers that can still process full-fledged jobs. We’ve seen microcontainers gaining traction amongst software architects and developers because their minimalistic size makes them easy to download and distribute via a docker registry. Microcontainers are easier to secure due to the small amount of code, libraries and dependencies, which reduces the attack surface and makes the OS base more secure. Continue reading “Microcontainers, and Logging in Docker: Iron.io CTO speaks at Docker NYC”
My previous post, Distinguished Microservices: It’s in the Behavior, made a comparison between two types of microservices – real-time requests (“app-centric”) and background processes (“job-centric”). As a follow up, I wanted to take a deeper look at job-centric microservices as they set the stage for a new development paradigm — serverless computing.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re getting rid of the data center in any form or fashion — it simply means that we’re entering a world where developers never have to think about provisioning or managing infrastructure resources to power workloads at any scale. This is done by decoupling backend jobs as independent microservices that run through an automated workflow when a predetermined event occurs. For the developer, it’s a serverless experience.
Microservices is more than just an academic topic. It was born out of the challenges from running distributed applications at scale; enabled by recent advancements in cloud native technologies. What started as a hot topic between developers, operators, and architects alike, is now catching on within the enterprise because of what the shift in culture promises — the ability to deliver software quickly, effectively, and continuously. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing landscape, that is more than just desirable; it’s required to stay competitive.
Culture shifts alone are not enough to make a real impact, so organizations embarking down this path must also examine what it actually means for the inner workings of their processes and systems. Dealing with immutable infrastructure and composable services at scale means investing in operational changes. While containers and their surrounding tools provide the building blocks through an independent, portable, and consistent workflow and runtime, there’s more to it than simply “build, ship, run.”
Docker enables you to package up your application along with all of the application’s dependencies into a nice self-contained image. You can then use use that image to run your application in containers. The problem is you usually package up a lot more than what you need so you end up with a huge image and therefore huge containers. Most people who start using Docker will use Docker’s official repositories for their language of choice, but unfortunately if you use them, you’ll end up with images the size of the empire state building when you could be building images the size of a bird house. You simply don’t need all of the cruft that comes along with those images. If you build a Node image for your application using the official Node image, it will be a minimum of 643 MB because that’s the size of the official Node image.
I created a simple Hello World Node app and built it on top of the official Node image and it weighs in at 644MB.
That’s huge! My app is less than 1 MB with dependencies and the Node.js runtime is ~20MB, what’s taking up the other ~620 MB?? We must be able to do better.
What is a Microcontainer?
A Microcontainer contains only the OS libraries and language dependencies required to run an application and the application itself. Nothing more.
Rather than starting with everything but the kitchen sink, start with the bare minimum and add dependencies on an as needed basis.
Taking the exact same Node app above, using a really small base image and installing just the essentials, namely Node.js and its dependencies, it comes out to 29MB. A full 22 times smaller!
Try running both of those yourself right now if you’d like, docker run –rm -p 8080:8080 treeder/tiny-node:fat, then docker run –rm -p 8080:8080 treeder/tiny-node:latest. Exact same app, vastly different sizes.
Last night’s meetup, which was hosted by Betable, included two presentations and two lightning talks rounding out a solid evening for the GoSF group. Topics included identity on the web, safe storage of tokens (beyond ENV vars), and even the debut of a new Go-inspired embedded systems language.
A day ago I joined 700+ folks at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco to attend the 2015 Container Summit. Container’s are young, but one thing this event made clear is the forebears have been around quite a while.
A favorite part of the summit was hearing war stories. That is, how containers are called on to get things done in the real world. There were plenty of looks to the past and the future, as well.