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Lightbend 2023 Predictions: Climbing the ladder of abstractions to make cloud native solutions useable


Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2023.  Read them in this 15th annual series exclusive.

2023: Climbing the ladder of abstractions to make cloud native solutions useable

By Jonas Bonér, CEO & Founder at Lightbend

2022 seems to be ending exactly as it begun ... a world shaken up by massive global changes impacting business and society alike. Many of these issues are interwoven to exacerbate the impact of each - worldwide conflict, an ongoing pandemic, radical shifts in how work gets done ... all of these, taken together, weave a complex tapestry of changes that today's businesses must face. And I would argue that it is this complexity that not only has defined our current state of application development, but has also served as impetus for new directions in how we face these challenges. That includes the technologies and tools we build to solve these novel problems. Here are three predictions I'm making about how we deal with this situation in the coming year. 

Climbing the ladder of abstractions to make cloud native solutions useable by everyone  

2022 may have been the year of Kubernetes and cloud native, but 2023 will be the year that all companies, not just those with the budgets to build an enormous talent base of advanced developers, leverage the transformative power of these technologies. 

All companies are facing significant challenges with deploying applications on cloud native infrastructure. This is because the K8s/CNCF ecosystem is overwhelmingly complex. Most companies continue to move forward due to the immense benefits such as time-to-market. However, only the most well-funded dev teams can navigate the complexity to deliver true value with good ROI to their organizations. Serverless offerings were an outstanding innovation that helped to alleviate some of these issues, but the ability to mask complexity and build mission-critical apps that can scale remained elusive. 

I believe that 2023 is the year that tools deliver the right abstractions of this complexity to leverage their power using the developer talent they have today. This will be accomplished by vendors offering solutions that climb this "ladder" of abstractions further up the chain towards the No Operations or NoOps model without compromising on what we offer developers-the ability to focus on building business logic in the language of their choice. Far from simple Function-as-a-Service offerings, we will see vertically integrated platforms that solve almost all issues for developers, enabling smaller firms to compete on a more even footing with far larger organizations. 

Investment in Platform Engineering Will Continue to Rise in 2023 

For those firms that don't pursue new vendor platforms-as-a-service as a means to mask the complexity of the cloud native era, other routes will be leveraged as a means to optimize developer productivity. 

Platform Engineering, often available primarily to large firms with the budget to allocate to their DevOps teams, can work internally to build custom platforms for their developers. In this model, internal teams build toolchains and workflows that provide the self-service functionality developers require. 

These internal teams manage all infrastructure, the entire platform, in the most efficient way by providing higher-level primitives for the teams to work with. This means staying on top of security and other critical functions, leaving defining the core business logic to the developer teams.

This approach is limited due to the talent and budget required to execute effectively, but we will see many attempts regardless. That's how challenging cloud native has become for most organizations. 

Edge Computing Gains Mass Appeal 

Edge Computing as a concept has been with us for years, but in the 2020s, it has steadily been gaining steam. We believe that 2023 will be the breakout year when edge computing architectures find their footing with the enterprise, and we see significant growth in this market. Leading analyst firms would agree with me, seeing Edge Computing as a $274 billion market by 2025 (IDC, January 2022). 

Several enabling technologies help to catalyze edge computing's rise. WASM has undoubtedly been hyped as a solution. It is secure, isolated, scalable, efficient, small footprint, and cross-platform, among other characteristics. Others, such as 5G, "edge clusters" deployed by the hyperscalers, and the "Supercloud" that Cloudflare is building, also come to mind. 

Of course, defining what edge computing exactly means can be a challenge. From my perspective, choosing between cloud and edge is not a binary, black-and-white decision but one that has a lot of shades of gray in between. From an architectural perspective, the edge consists of many hierarchical layers between the cloud and the devices; each layer is further away from the cloud but closer to the end-users-a cloud-to-edge continuum

Where you need your services to run in this continuum is very much use-case-dependent and might change over the lifetime of an application, depending on usage patterns or changes in features and business requirements. Critical parameters like latency, throughput, consistency, availability, scalability, compute resources, etc., change drastically as you move through this continuum. You also need to pay close attention to what architectural and design patterns around data management, local vs. replicated state, consensus, communication, and more are being applied. We need platforms that can do the heavy lifting, raise the abstraction level, eliminate decision overload, and manage all these complexities on behalf of the developer.


As usual, I'm looking forward to seeing how my predictions play out. I did pretty well last year on the evolution of serverless technologies but perhaps not so well on Edge Computing. Any movement at all of each of these three subjects will be serve as a "win" our industry. It will take a great deal of collaboration to tackle the complex issues our industry faces. That, and a bit luck never hurts. Regardless, good luck to you and yours in this upcoming, complex year of 2023.



Jonas Boner 

Jonas Bonér is CEO and co-founder of Lightbend, and the creator of the Akka event-driven middleware project. Previously he was a core technical contributor at Terracotta, working on core JVM-level clustering technology, and at BEA, as part of the JRockit JVM team. Jonas has also been an active contributor to open source projects including the AspectWerkz Aspect-Oriented Programming (AOP) framework and the Eclipse AspectJ project. He is an amateur Jazz musician, passionate skier and holds a Bachelors of Science from Mid Sweden University.

Published Monday, December 12, 2022 7:41 AM by David Marshall
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