Article by Karolina Kurzac

Microservices, Function-as-a-Service and the future where all applications will run on the Cloud

This week we interviewed the developer Michael Hausenblas. He works at Mesosphere, a pre-IPO start-up based out of San Francisco, CA, and initiator of DC/OS (Datacenter Operating System), a distributed OS that uses Apache Mesos as its kernel.

Michael talked with us about some hot topics like Virtualisation, Cloud Computing and the future trends in IT. Read the interview if you are curious about his projects and Sci-fi works he was motivated by.

– Michael, you wrote an interesting post about user space virtualisation. In which context is it useful to apply virtualisation user space (for example docker)?

Application-level light weight virtualization through containers (see also this post for what I mean by containers) is a very useful tool, both in the context of server workloads as well as on the desktop. Oftentimes we’re using it without realizing it: if you use Chrome, you’re using some sort of containers, your vanilla RedHat Linux flavour comes with defaults for cgroups (one aspect of containers, see also this page) and so on.

In contrast to heavyweight VMs—in terms of startup times and resource footprint—containers offer a fast and secure way to isolate and control resource consumption of apps. So, the real question is: in which context is it *not* useful?

– The vision of the future is that all applications will run on the Cloud. What does it mean for an operating system on a device? Do you think it will lose its importance?

Two thoughts: fog computing and data gravity. The former referring to the idea that part of the processing is done ‘on the edge’ of the network (so: not totally dumb terminals or clients) and the latter to the fact that wherever you have the majority of your data (documents, pictures, etc.) this is what will lock you in. Mobile-first is, in the consumer area and increasingly in an enterprise setup, the norm and we can expect to see a layering of operating systems, from local ones to distributed ones.

– In the last few years there have been a visible trend towards microservices. What will be the next trend?

When you apply the microservices idea rigorously and down-size your functions you eventually arrive at: Function-as-a-Service (often called serverless compute). I’ve written about it in great detail in this free report via O’Reilly.

– Currently you are working on a very fascinating project, which is DS/OS. The idea to create a managing console for the server sounds very appealing. Could you tell something more about this project and how it started?

DC/OS is a distributed operating system for cloud native services and apps. From big and fast data workloads such as Spark, Kafka and Cassandra to Docker containers, DC/OS allows you to run your stuff in an elastic and flexible way. We open-sourced it in April 2019 and have more than tripled the community since. 2017 will be very exciting, with many more reference use cases and users made available.

– A question about the IoT topic. In the future we expect factories to be fully connected with the Cloud. How will this architecture work with real time requests?

There are two important things here to consider: what happens inside of the factory and what its suppliers do (or do not do). We already now see (working) examples of this future in field trials such as Amazon’s drone-based delivery on the same day. Clearly, low latency stream-based processing of the data along the entire supply chain is a requirement, however, given that every enterprise has access to essentially the same technologies through open source and the public cloud offerings there will be other factors that decide if you’re dominating a certain vertical or are a follower. Since no big differentation on technology basis is possible or makes sense, the human factor will be much more important than today: companies adopting DevOps practices and thinking will have better chances than the ones that still think operations is a cost centre and the problem of a ‘select few’.

– The last question is more personal. As you are a Sci-fi fan, have you ever been inspired in your work by fictions or movies? Which Sci-fi book or movie would you recommend to others?

Not so much inspired but motivated by two works (which essentially are one): Fahrenheit 451 and Equilibrium. Both address the challenge how individuals deal with a totalitarian government. Very typical.

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