Developers today want to develop code and not worry about the infrastructure. That is exactly what the serverless computing revolution promises. But serverless computing is still in a nascent phase and comes with its fair share of complexities. Nimbella is looking to fill this gap by delivering a complete, integrated solution. Nimbella is a serverless cloud solution that leverages public cloud infrastructure. It can also be extended to on-premises (private) datacenters. Its cloud-agnostic nature prevents problems like vendor lock-in which is one of the greatest drawbacks of serverless computing solutions today. They’re all tied to a single cloud vendor. In this article, we dig deep into Nimbella’s solution to understand how it solves the various pain-points associated with today’s serverless computing architecture.
Serverless computing allows developers to build and run applications without having to worry about maintaining servers. Unlike conventional systems, developers don’t have to pay for idle server capacities. With serverless computing, they only pay for what they use. This emerging software architecture has great reception in the market as it saves a lot of time and money for developers. No wonder that serverless computing is growing at an insane rate of 75 percent — faster than any other cloud service today.
Problem with today’s serverless computing
The current standards of serverless automation, abstractions, and integrations are below the proven standards. These standards are imperative to hasten the adoption of technology in new application domains. It lacks some of the abstractions needed for the adoption and acceleration into application domains and new markets. It requires developers to combine many other services to get the most out of it. Eventually, learning about these services becomes a burden to developers.
Container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes are a great step up. They provide all the necessary environment for developers to run their code. Kubernetes manages the scheduling of containers onto a compute cluster, handles the workloads and ensures that they run as the user intended. However, learning how to work with Kubernetes shouldn’t become an extra task for developers.
“Kubernetes comes with certain limitations today around starting up a container, managing a container registry, and building the container image — all of which can be slow,” says Rodric Rabbah, co-founder and CTO of Nimbella. Also, the technology available today is serverless compute and not serverless storage. So it is not suitable for long-running and stateful workloads. Serverless frameworks are also not the best option for the companies that want to run their applications on their private cloud.
Nimbella saves the day
Serverless computing has got some serious issues when it comes to widespread adoption. But the good news is, Nimbella has ambitious plans to address most of them. At Nimbella, they are creating a framework that can provide all the abstractions that a developer would need. Unlike the existing frameworks that can only be used for stateless applications, Nimbella’s framework is also suitable for long-running and stateful workloads. The framework will also make the management of AI workloads a breeze. Operational issues like cloud portability are addressed by Nimbella. It provides a layer of abstraction and is open-core-based. This enables developers to build applications just the way they would program the business logic and without having to worry about which cloud the applications are being hosted on.
Nimbella’s solution amalgamates the programming experience around serverless across clouds. It is particularly designed to address the needs of stateful workloads, event-based and long-running applications. It also has some complex use cases that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning. The platform is extremely developer friendly as it makes it a breeze to build and manage applications. Nimbella is built on open standards and it gives developers complete control over their code.
Rabbah compares serverless solutions to buying a car when he says, “Building cloud-native applications today is still hard even if you are going to use AWS. They give you all the parts but it is very hard to take the parts to build yourself a fast-driving car. Nimbella, however, wants to deliver something like a car, and let you build a navigator for it.” Nimbus means “Cloud” and “Bella” means beautiful (in Spanish and Italian). Nimbella’s objective is to make your experience with the serverless cloud beautiful.
Power of the hybrid cloud
According to Forrester Research, 62 percent of public cloud adopters use more than two unique cloud platforms while 74 percent of enterprises use a hybrid/multicloud strategy. Looking at the hybrid cloud and multicloud trends in the IT sector, it is best for companies to plan for the eventuality of a multicloud environment even if they are currently using a single cloud. Fortunately, Nimbella’s solution is cloud-agnostic.
Cloud-agnostic tools can mitigate the costs associated with policy design and deployment, across different cloud environments. Monitoring and management using the same service greatly reduce the risks of mismatched security policies and instances of uncertainty in enforcement. Cloud-agnostic tools that operate in the context of the data center are a boon for companies that need to be agile and move quickly. The ability to reuse policies across the entire multi-cloud spectrum reduces friction in deployment. It also ensures consistency in performance and security.
Cloud-agnostic frameworks can also help you avoid serious troubles like vendor lock-in. If you are using a serverless framework provided by a particular vendor (say AWS Lambda), you are programming to the nuts and bolts of that platform. So, when you have to move to a framework provided by a different vendor (say Google Cloud Functions), you have to rewrite the whole application from the ground up. Faced with this situation, organizations would rather stay locked-in with the same vendor even if another vendor has advantages. You can avoid this dilemma by adopting a cloud-agnostic solution like Nimbella.
Anshu Agarwal, the co-founder, and CEO of Nimbella, has a strong technical background, she has led the product and marketing teams at four successful infrastructure startups: ConteXtream (acquired by HPE), Cedexis (acquired by Citrix), Speedera Networks (acquired by Akamai), and Ankeena Networks (acquired by Juniper Networks). She was also a member of the Board of Directors of OpenDaylight which is a Linux Foundation Project. She is also currently a member of the Zenspace advisory board.
Anshu and Eric Swildens, co-founder and chief architect of Nimbella, worked together at Speedera. They happened to connect with Rodric Rabbah (co-founder and CTO at Nimbella) and Perry Cheng (co-founder and VP Engineering at Nimbella). Rabbah and Cheng, during their stint at IBM Research, co-created OpenWhisk (now Apache Openwhisk), one of the most popular open source serverless frameworks. Rabbah led the design and implementation of the core architecture and has worked directly with IBM’s clients to help them succeed in their adoption of serverless computing. The team has a shared vision and the members have complementary skill sets. Anshu in her LinkedIn profile expresses that it was like destiny bringing the four of them together.
The co-founders were also lucky enough to find an excellent group of investors who shared their dream. Nimbella has raised $4 million in the seed funding round that was closed on Dec. 31, 2018. The investors include Serik Kaldykulov from Elefund, Nilanjana Bhowmik from Converge, Ashmeet Sidana from Engineering Capital, and the Swildens Brothers.
Though there is very little information on the company website, it still gives us a flavor of what they are doing. Anshu in an interview expressed that they are going to be releasing their developer playground soon. This emphasizes that developer experience is their priority. There will also be an offering for private cloud in Q2. It is an exciting time to be building serverless applications, and Nimbella is one startup to keep an eye on.