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Distributed State In Serverless Is Going Mainstream | Jonas Bonér

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Guest: Jonas Bonér (LinkedIn)
Company: Lightbend (Twitter)
Show: 2022 Prediction Series

Jonas Bonér, CEO and founder of Lightbend, shares with TFiR his 2022 predictions around distributed state and compute, and more. He believes that the distributed state in serverless is going mainstream. However, as Bonér puts it, “The true potential of serverless still remains untapped. I think there are some multiple fundamental challenges that have to be addressed for serverless to really live up to its promise.” He also believes that edge computing is the next big thing. “I think in 2022 we will really see it grow even more rapidly,” quips Bonér. Check out the above video to know more.

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Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is your host, Swapnil Bhartiya, and welcome to our 2022 predictions series. And today we have with us Jonas Boner, CEO and founder of Lightbend. Jonas, it’s great to have you on the show.

Jonas Boner: Thanks a lot. I’m happy to be here.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Of course, we have covered Lightbend before but I want to hear from you, tell me what is the company all about?

Jonas Boner: Yeah. So I mean, our mission so to speak, is to really try to help developers in general to build cloud native applications, both quickly and predictably and to learn to navigate all the inherit complexity on the cloud. And to do that we’re building a platform that does this, that delivers its own prem in the cloud on the edge. We’re very much an open source based company. Open source is in our DNA and core with projects such as Akka and Play and Scala. And so, we’ve been using that to power some of the most innovative companies in the world, all with a common theme. They need fully available systems, scalable and performance with a realtime type of systems. So, that’s been the recurring theme the last 10 years, helping companies achieve that.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Excellent. Thanks for explaining that. Now, it’s time for you to grab your crystal ball and share with us what predictions do you have for 2022?

Jonas Boner: Yeah, it’s of course hard to do that, but I’m happy to try at least in the areas that I’m excited about. So the first one, I really believe that the distributed state in Serverless is going mainstream. I don’t think anyone will argue that Serverless is on the rise. It’s getting more and more market share and hype and growth predictions and stuff. But I have to say that I really think that the true potential of serverless still remains untapped. I think there are some multiple fundamental challenges that have to be addressed for serverless to really live up to its promise. And the main problem I have with serverless as it stands today, meaning function as a service, is that it’s primarily stateless. Stateless is no means bad. It’s an excellent choice to solve certain types of problems, like data pipelining where you have multiple server embarrassingly parallel types of tasks and you want to move data from A to B, et cetera.

But I believe serverless is much more than that. It’s really an experience for how we want to develop for the cloud going forward. It’s really a new developer experience for anything, and that means I’d like to build general purpose applications in serverless. So the question is what is holding us back to build general purpose cloud-native applications in serverless? In my experience with talking to customers and stuff, it’s most evolved around challenges of managing state at scale. And it’s a fact that the most cloud-native applications today they’re non trivial. They have many different use cases across the wide range of a wide spectrum, all the way from stateless processing, like we just talked about. But also, data centric more real time workloads, stream oriented event based and things like that. And I really believe that the state is at the center of many of these so we need really good ways for managing the state.

And essentially there’s more tools in our toolbox to tackle these things. Some of the tools include we really need ways to start co-locate state with where the user is. Co-locate state and processing and user while remaining durable and consistent. And I also don’t think that having this one consistency model for all the state there is is good. There’s really no such thing as one size fits all. But instead, you need consistency a la carte, in a way, ranging from strong consistency that their classic RT-BMS database can give you, to causal consistency, to eventual consistency. I really, really think that that’s what’s needed in order to tackle this new wave of real time systems that are being built today. Things like payment systems, auction systems, streaming videos, online trading we see in and autonomous cars, et cetera. All of them are trying to provide a real time experience for the user. So, that’s my first prediction.

The second prediction is I really believe that edge computing is the next big thing. I think in 2022 we will really see it grow even more rapidly. And it’s a fact that we have excellent infrastructure today, but infrastructure by itself only solves half of the problem. In order to really make developers productive really need a program involved that takes full advantage of all this new great cloud and edge infrastructure. And as I said before, allow them to build general purpose applications without all this needless complexity that the people so easily end up in. And in order to do that, I think we need to take these proven balls for managing distributed data scale into the edge together with this serverless developer experience.

So my vision for the edge could be summed up in what if you didn’t have to think at all about how to store and manage state? What if you only had to think about your business logic, your public API, how you communicate with the outside world, and your domain data, how it’s structured? What if you can become databaseless and forget about everything about databases, storage APIs, OR mapping, caching and message brokers and all of these things. Instead, what if your services, because they’ll be powered by this data play of application state, they can run anywhere in the world, from the public cloud, which of course the majority of applications will still run, but all the way out to thousands of points of presences out at the edge and where it can really ensure that state is always where it needs to be, wherever that might be. Where it always can ensure co-location of state and processing and end user. That will really ensure ultra low latency and higher [inaudible 00:06:36], what most people talk about is being the main benefit of the edge.

But I have to say that I actually don’t think that it’s only about low latency in performance and speed when it comes to edge. It’s equally much about being constantly available and building truly resilient systems, because edge computing, specifically stateful edge computing means that we can actually build systems that almost never stop. It really allows that each service work with just local data that you sit on and own. Data that is always right there and not being dependent on going out and fetch it somewhere and having to rely on that the network is up and that service that you’re going to go and fetch it from is always there. You only work with local data. And when you want to communicate that data you can do it point to point out on the edge, not having to go back to central cloud and go all the way back up again. But, having these autonomous processes that can work out out on the edge with local data and just collaborate out there. I really believe that’s the next thing that’s going to come, and I really believe that that’s where serverless is going.

Okay. My third prediction is I really believe that sustainability in the cloud becomes a priority in 2022 for a ton of companies. I don’t think anyone can deny that global warming is a real thing and then we all unfortunately are already starting to see the effects of it. I think that it’s paramount that companies take responsibility around this to minimize energy consumption. And I think that one of the best and immediate tactics in order to do that is actually shifting cloud-based applications over to a serverless architecture. I think that will help not just to scale their applications more easily and all the things that we talked about when it comes to serverless, but also to dramatically decrease the amount of hardware that we’re using. And then by extension, the power we’re needing to be used actually to meet our computing needs.

This pay as you go model of serverless means that hardware is really used as efficiently as possible. You only pay for what you use and you only use it when you need it. And when you’re not using it, meaning the hardware, then someone else is. So it’s really efficient, always full utilization of hardware. And the second thing, serverless also means that you actually delegate the operations of the system to cloud vendors. And cloud vendors now can have the advantage of looking at the full system, meaning all applications running in the cloud, holistically and more globally, and can actually optimize across all of these applications. Something that if you’re just running a single application, you simply can’t because your view you so limited to just your needs, so to speak. I really hope that that shift will help us slow down global warming in general.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Perfect. Thanks for sharing these predictions. Now, tell me what is going to be the focus of the company in 2022?

Jonas Boner: Yeah. We’re of course focusing a lot on the challenges in these predictions and our latest product is called Akka Serverless. It is a fully API pass that makes it very easy to build applications in the serverless experience on the cloud, like applications that are always available, super low latency, real time type of systems. We just released GA for that about a month ago. So our focus here is continue to develop that and making it the best platform for building applications and APIs in the cloud in general. I’m also very interested in taking that, not just to the cloud as we are now, but also bridge that over to the edge, allowing to run your applications easily on thousands of points or presences. And probably even more importantly, being able to run hybrid cloud edge applications, because I think it will take a while until everything runs in the edge, even though I think actually it eventually will. But hybrid setups is actually I think is the way that people will start tinkering with the edge and move closer and closer to where the usage is.

So, I’m really excited about tackling some of these challenges in 2022.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Jonas, thank you so much for taking time out today and of course, share your predictions, the focus of the company. And I would love to have you back on the show. Actually, I would love to have you back on the show next year as well, just to hold a scorecard and see how many of your predictions turn out to be true, and then get the next set of predictions for next year. But thanks for your time today. Enjoy the holidays and see you next year.

Jonas Boner: Thanks a lot. I really appreciate being on the show and enjoy talking to you. So, thanks a lot.

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