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July 24, 2019

The Apache Software Foundation Gets a New Top Level Project: Here’s Why IBM’s so Pleased

"The OpenWhisk community is actively discussing new ideas for the future, including... "

By CBR Staff Writer

Apache OpenWhisk, the open source project that IBM uses to provide serverless functions, has graduated as an Apache Software Foundation (ASF) top level project – a designation for projects with healthy communities and active ongoing development.

The upgrade in the project’s status has been welcomed by IBM, which donated the initial codebase. (IBM contributes to a range of other open source projects, including Kubernetes, Istio, Knative, Kubeflow, Java, and Jakarta EE).

You said “Serverless”?

Serverless is a method of providing back-end services on an pay-per-use basis, letting users write and deploy code without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. Serverless providers typically offer Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) capabilities that allow users to execute pieces of code on the edge without storing any data.

(Servers are still involved, but unlike typical server allocation in a cloud service, for example, users are not paying for idle CPU time. Its benefits include scalability; simplified back-end code that lets developers create simple functions that independently perform a single purpose, like making an API call.

Apache OpenWhisk: First Donated in 2016

The project is based on beta-level code donated by IBM Research in 2016, that initially only supported a single Ansible deployment of its component architecture’s Docker images (using runc for execution) on clusters of VMs, and only supported three language runtimes for writing functions: NodeJS, Python, and Swift.

It is now a product grade multi-tenant system that can execute tens of thousands of user actions concurrently in a large compute cluster, code in different languages like JavaScript/NodeJS, Swift, Python, Java (or run custom logic by packaging code with Docker),  and integrate with general services such as Kafka message queues, databases including CloudantPush Notifications from mobile applications, and more.

(“Run your action ten thousand times in a fraction of a second, or once a week. Action instances scale to meet demand as needed, then disappear. Enjoy optimal utilization where you don’t pay for idle resources” runs the blurb).

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IBM’s Matt Rutkowski, the company’s lead for the ASF project, said: “The OpenWhisk community is actively discussing new ideas for the future.

“A few areas of focus include integrating with the latest, open serverless technologies such as KnativeTekton CI/CD pipelines, and Kubernetes Event-Driven Autoscaling (KEDA) and exploring use cases to allow new protocols with finer-grained access control to functions using edge service proxies like Envoy.

“The community is even discussing how to support heterogeneous clusters with new scheduling techniques. We’re excited about the future of the OpenWhisk community and again extend our congratulations for this big achievement. We’re excited to see how OpenWhisk continues to drive serverless into the future.”

In other ASF news, the foundation has launched a new IoT mailing list amid concern that there is significant project overlap and that it is “difficult to keep track of who the players are”. The new mailing list will help reduce “unnecessary double-work and improve streamlining [of] the projects” the ASF said.

Read this: Meet the Apache Software Foundation’s Top 5 Code Committers


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