For all the progress of what’s happening in the cloud, we’ve got to “get to the point where we make the cloud work like a single infinitely powerful computer,” says Priya Nagpurkar, director of hybrid cloud platform at IBM Research. To date, there are many obstacles in the way, he adds. “Think of the simplicity of just working on your laptop. It has a common operating system and familiar tools.
And, most importantly, if you have to spend most of your time working on code to develop, in the cloud you are far from that. You will need to understand the nuances of all cloud providers – there are AWS, Azure, GCP, IBM and private clouds, and you will need to provide cloud resources that can take a while to get online. And you’ll have to worry about things like security, compliance, resilience, scalability and cost efficiency. “
Realizing the vision of a single global computer? “It’s one of the biggest challenges we must solve right now in computer science, to take advantage of this tremendously heterogeneous and distributed system,” says Nagpurkar. It’s time for a distributed operating system that provides “that common layer of abstraction between these
cloud resources,” she says. Kubernetes is open technology that is emerging as the victor in this evolutionary battle. So you will have Linux, Kubernetes, and both open technologies. “
The next phase of the cloud is to bring together public and private data centers around the world into a single, infinitely powerful computer that’s easy to access and use, and IBM has a guide for that. “We’re well on our way to realizing our vision of making the world’s cloud resources as easy to use as a single
computer. When we do, we will finally realize the cloud’s revolutionary potential. The ability to get what we need when we need it down to the millisecond at the click of a button. “
In a recent interview with IBM senior vice president and director of research, Dario Gil, Nagpurkar explained how IBM Research is pioneering serverless architecture computing that will transform the cloud into the world’s largest computer. Serverless computing will make all of this possible by opening up access without the hassle of back-end provisioning and security management. There are data centers for the world’s top public clouds in hundreds of locations spanning nearly every continent.
“However, this only covers part of the spectrum,” says Gil. There are also a “large number of private computers in environments that exist in silos around the world. The cloud has evolved dramatically over many years into what it is today, a massively distributed network of public and private data centers comprising zettabytes of computing and data storage capacity. “
Piles of proprietary software from different vendors “not only add to all this complexity, they also stifle innovation,” he says. “The main software abstractions start with the operating system. Linux as the operating system for data, the ‘center era’ triggered this proliferation of software, including virtualization technologies like ‘containers’, which ushered in the cloud era. ” Serverless technologies are paving the way for us to be able to access and leverage this emerging global computer, she continued.
“Serverless technologies are the key to realizing this.” There are three main attributes to serverless: ease of use, elasticity and ‘pay-as-you-go’,” says Nagpurkar.” For example, we can use simple data preparation in a cloud task, which is quite common. But the data, in this case, can come from anywhere – peripheral environments for example.
I have to worry about: do I have access? Can I move the data? Where are the API keys? How many ‘containers’ should I use? And this is where I spend most of my time. But with serverless you can literally boil this down to a single command, as simple as moving files on your laptop – and the serverless platform does the rest. That’s the beauty of a ‘serverless’. “
IBM Research is “carrying that vision forward today in the Knative open source community,” he continues. IBM supported this feature with Red Hat OpenShift Serverless. “We’re continuing to drive this serverless evolution and it’s bringing us closer and closer to this vision of the cloud as a computer,” says Nagpurkar.