Is this WebAssembly's year?

Today on Runtime: why cloud computing companies are watching WebAssembly very closely, Microsoft takes a page out of Google's book, and the latest enterprise tech hiring moves.

a rack of servers in a data center
Photo by Taylor Vick / Unsplash

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Today on Runtime: why cloud computing companies are watching WebAssembly very closely, Microsoft takes a page out of Google's book, and the latest enterprise tech hiring moves.

Some assembly required

One of the most interesting cloud computing technologies to emerge since the container could be ready for prime time later this year, as long as its community-oriented approach holds together and delivers the key pieces of the puzzle needed to unlock enterprise support.

WebAssembly (Wasm for short) is a low-level software execution format that was originally designed by Mozilla engineers for web browsers but has captivated the cloud computing community in recent years as a fast, secure, and vendor-neutral approach to app deployment.

  • Backers believe it can improve application performance and server efficiency without having to throw away investments in technologies like Docker containers and Kubernetes or rewrite apps for serverless computing services.
  • "What if there's another class of cloud compute, another kind of runtime, that would have these virtues of being a really strong, secure sandbox, but also would be able to start instantly, and we can move small objects around very quickly, and it could scale down to zero when no load was coming in and scale up to tens of thousands (of instances) nearly instantly when traffic started to come?" said Matt Butcher, CEO of Fermyon.

Wasm was originally developed for web applications running in a browser, but several features also appealed to cloud computing builders.

  • It could launch an application extremely fast from a cold start.
  • It (theoretically) allowed companies to bring apps written in any language and deploy them to servers running Wasm.
  • And it had a strong security model in which that executable code was "sandboxed," or confined to a secure area of the computer in case any malicious code tagged along with that application.

But there are several hurdles that mainstream companies will need to clear before they start building apps around Wasm.

  • "I refer to WebAssembly often as a bunch of numbers in a trench coat," said Bailey Hayes, director at Cosmonic.
  • "To do things like accessing (the) network or HTTP or connecting to a database, all of that is provided by the host," and right now the number of languages supported by those hosts is relatively low, she said.
  • Making sure all of these standards work well together is both complex and tedious, and stable versions of the projects that hope to make them safe for enterprise use likely won't arrive until later this year, Hayes said.

The cloud giants have been decidedly neutral so far when it comes to Wasm, which could have negative ramifications for their proprietary functions-as-a-service serverless compute strategies, primarily AWS's Lambda.

  • That could change, but if the cloud could adopt a technology like Kubernetes as widely as it did, advocates think Wasm support could follow relatively quickly after stable releases arrive.
  • "My intuition is that within the next 18 months, we will have a solid signal that (Wasm) is either definitely going to progress very well, or no, this is going to be much slower," Warren said.

Read the full story on Runtime.

Killed by Microsoft

How much notice should enterprise tech buyers get when one of their vendors decides it's time to pull the plug on a service? The easy answer is "a lot," and Microsoft, which has traditionally been pretty good about these transitions, appears to have forgotten that lesson.

Mary Jo Foley at Directions at Microsoft noticed that Redmond's finest recently told Dynamics 365 customers that it was killing an analytics tool three days after it first warned customers that the feature might soon go away. Microsoft has a replacement tool ready to go, at least, but "customers now have an unplanned, and unbudgeted IT project to migrate from one reporting solution to another in a service they are already using," Foley wrote.

The company is technically within its Modern Lifecycle Policy guidelines because support for the tool will continue through the end of October, but this is the kind of move that gets enterprise tech buyers up in arms when Google tries it. There have been a lot of layoffs this year at Microsoft, and this feels like something that fell through the cracks before it was too late to alter the launch schedule.

Enterprise moves

Lea Kissner, the former Twitter CISO who left two weeks after the company got Elon'd, is the new CISO at Lacework.

Danny Bloomfield is the new head of sales at CodeSee, a startup helping developers visualize their code bases.

The Runtime roundup

AWS announced plans to invest nearly $13 billion by 2030 in India, where it currently operates two data-center regions.

Alibaba plans to spin out its cloud computing division as a new public company, although if the Chinese government maintains oversight of the new company it will remain a hard sell for U.S. cloud buyers.

Ampere launched a new Arm-based server chip that has 192 cores, which is a lot, but maybe not as much as you think.

Private equity companies are circling New Relic, according to the Wall Street Journal, as it has struggled to make the transition from monitoring to observability.

Snowflake is in talks to buy Neeva, an AI search startup that has done a lot of its own work on large-language models, The Information reported.

Thanks for reading — see you Saturday!

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