New open-source project wants to expand serverless vision beyond functions

Serverless technology offers developers a way to develop without thinking about the infrastructure resources required to run a program, but up until now it has mostly been limited to function-driven programming. CloudState, a new open-source project from Lightbend, wants to change that by moving beyond functions.

Lightbend CTO Jonas Bonér believes this ability to abstract away infrastructure could extend beyond functions and triggers into a broader developer experience. “I think people sometimes [don’t distinguish] between serverless and Function as a Service. I think that’s actually cutting the technology short. What serverless really brings to the table is this completely new developer experience and operations experience by trying to automate as much as possible,” Bonér told TechCrunch.

He says that when he talks to customers, they are hankering for a more complete serverless developer experience that includes all parts of the program. “A lot of people say that I have this excellent use case for the current incarnation of serverless and Function as a Service, but the rest of my application doesn’t really work running there,” he said. That’s exactly what CloudState is trying to address.

Bonér is careful to point out that he’s not looking to replace function-driven programming. He only wants to augment it. CloudState takes advantage of some existing technologies like KNative, the open-source project that is trying to bring together serverless and containerization, as well as gRPC, Akka Cluster and GraalVM on Kubernetes.

He acknowledges that CloudState is still a work in progress, but he has the basic building blocks in place, and he’s hoping to use the power of open source to drive the development of this early-stage project. Today, it includes several key pieces — a specification outlining the goals of the project, a protocol to begin implementing it and a testing kit.

The goal here is to bring to fruition this broader vision of what serverless means, where developers can just write code without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure where the program will run. It’s a bold approach, but as Bonér says, it’s still early days, and will take time and a community to really build this out.