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VMblog Expert Interview: Lightbend Delivers Akka Serverless, its Platform-as-a-Service Offering

interview-lightbend-murdoch 

Today, Lightbend announced the formal availability of Akka Serverless, their first of its kind Platform-as-a-Service offering.  To understand more, VMblog spoke with Brad Murdoch, Executive Vice President of Lightbend.

VMblog:  Before we jump in, can you give VMblog readers a quick background on the company?

Brad Murdoch:  Lightbend is the company behind the open source distributed computing framework, Akka, and a number of other popular open source projects.  Akka is used by developers to build high-performance, highly scalable back-end services and APIs that power today's cloud native applications. You might well have used Akka today without knowing it - and you certainly did if you bought a coffee at Starbucks, watched Disney+, used LinkedIn, or played Fortnite.

VMblog:  What are you announcing today?

Murdoch:  We are announcing the formal availability of Akka Serverless, our Platform-as-a-Service offering that is really the first of its kind. Developers from around the world can get it today. Akka Serverless combines an API-first, database-less programming model and serverless runtime. By bringing all of that into one single package, developers no longer have to set up and tune databases, maintain and provision servers, configure or run compute clusters. All of that is handled by Akka Serverless. On top of that, Akka Serverless brings you advanced data access patterns like Event Sourcing, CQRS, and CRDTs without developers having to learn how to implement them. All they need to do is build their serviceusing one of the available languages and they're up and running in minutes. 

Akka Serverless comes to market with a rounded out set of state models- the "how" and "where" you store your application data- to give the utmost flexibility to developers while fulfilling the vision of zero ops required for stateful APIs and Services. Akka Serverless has also added several new features per its customers' feedback such as SDK support for Scala and Typescript with upgraded Community Support for Python.

VMblog:  What makes this new architecture so different?

Murdoch:  A lot of energy has gone into abstracting away the underlying infrastructure of the cloud with technologies such as Kubernetes and that has moved the industry forward significantly.  But building high-performance, highly scalable and resilient back-end services and API's takes a lot of specialized expertise - distributed computing is hard, even in a containerized world.  Akka Serverless abstracts away all of the hard stuff required to build this class of services - including databases, caches and message brokers - allowing the developer to focus where there is the biggest value: the business logic.

VMblog:  Does Akka Serverless really eliminate the need for databases?

Murdoch:  Yes it does! In the same way that with serverless infrastructure there are actually servers behind the scenes, Akka Serverless uses high-performance distributed databases under the covers but developers do not need to have any knowledge of them whatsoever.  We take an API-first approach where the data that the function will need at runtime is declared upfront and then Akka Serverless automatically makes this data available at runtime.  If you want, you can use SQL queries to retrieve data as well.

VMblog:  What are some of the biggest challenges organizations face in regards to serverless?

Murdoch:  Serverless today has been limited in applicability due to challenges related to performance, the management of state at scale, and the architectural complexity of building real-time systems with a serverless paradigm. Akka Serverless solves these issues, which makes this model significantly more attractive to a much broader swatch of developers. The key is making this accessible and easy-to-use with the developers enterprises have now. We think we've cracked that code.

VMblog: What does Akka Servlerss give to developers that they don't have now?

Murdoch:  We believe that developers want to write code, so with Akka Serverless we tightly integrate the building blocks to build highly scalable and extremely performant services, but we do so in a way that allows developers to write "what" they want to connect to and let the platform handle the "how". As a best practice you want microservices to communicate asynchronously using message brokers, but you don't want all developers to have to figure out how to connect to them and interact with them. Akka Serverless provides a higher-level abstraction on top of that so it's a straightforward API that you use in your code and Akka Serverless handles connecting to it.

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Published Thursday, November 18, 2021 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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