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Four Things Everyone Should Know about Apache OpenWhisk on Bluemix

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For the past year, one of the hottest topics in development has been serverless architecture and all that it enables. The buzz is centered around the many benefits this programming model brings to applications in the cloud. At every technology conference you attend today, people want to know: What’s happening with serverless and how can I take advantage?

As more use cases emerge, it is becoming apparent that developers everywhere are realizing the significant value serverless technology–including the open source project Apache OpenWhiskTM–brings to the table. Advantages range from auto-scaling to handling inconsistent traffic flows, resiliency through micro-service based applications that can run in isolation and pay for only the compute that is used.

Together, these features enable the developer to focus on creating their applications rather than managing the infrastructure around it. When developers are free to focus on their code, the pace of innovation is perceptively escalated.

Since we made IBM Bluemix OpenWhisk generally available in December, the use cases have been incredible to watch, and the community has gained so much valuable insight into how this technology can usher us into the next era of cloud computing.

So, let’s take a look at some of the benefits to developers that have emerged around IBM Bluemix OpenWhisk:

API Gateway Integration

API management is expected to grow from $606M in 2016 to nearly $2.7B by 2021, and the reason is simple. APIs are powerful tools that developers everywhere are integrating into their applications. As the desire and need for these APIs grow, so does the need to manage them while ensuring their security and compliance. Recently we announced the commercial offering of Apache OpenWhisk on Bluemix is fully integrated with API Gateway, which serves as a lightweight ‘gatekeeper’ in between a source and the responding OpenWhisk action

The gateway will provide a set of policies to manage things like API traffic, security protocols and acceleration. This gateway gives the developer analytics, rate limiting on API calls, OAuth authorization standard and CORS, which translates to applications seamlessly managed and secured. The result is a developer that is free to care about only which APIs would work best for the solution they are building—not how to manage them.

Access to Cognitive and Data Services

In our connected world where the IoT domain has taken hold of nearly every aspect of our lives, there are millions of connected devices and systems that are continuously receiving and sending data. This data has significant value potential, but without applying logic and analytics that value can be lost. With OpenWhisk, a developer has an open door to the extensive resources within Watson services and data analytics.

A developer can create an application that uses these tools to unearth reoccurring patterns and relationships within their data. This enables decision makers to quickly enact adjustments that drive increased efficiencies in their business processes. For example, a company that endeavors to provide sustainable garbage collection, used OpenWhisk to receive data from the sensors on their trucks. In doing so, the company has been able to bring as much as 50% cost savings to cities through optimization of scheduling, fleet management and routing.

By combining OpenWhisk’s event-driven model with Watson and data services, companies become increasingly agile in their decision making while liberating themselves from the necessity to manage and provision their infrastructure.

Polyglot Application Development

Developers want to build applications with the tools they love without having to deal with the learning curve needed for supported languages. Whether it’s a mobile app developer who loves Swift or a classic JavaScript, Node, Java, C++, Python or even a Docker Container, the developer can expect their full support on OpenWhisk. This level of variety further reduces the length of the development cycle because the developer can start immediately with the tools they already know and jump right into creating their Mobile, IoT, web or cloud based app.

Flexibility and Scalable Business Model

One of the most intriguing and exciting aspects to OpenWhisk is the capacity to auto-scale based on demand at any given time, or the number of calls on the APIs happening at once. The developer does not have to account for scaling when creating the application; that necessity is seamlessly built in and abstracted away. This brings significant time savings in application development and mitigates the concern over whether the system is prepared to handle peak times (think retailers during the holidays).

OpenWhisk also provides substantial cost savings because the user is only charged for the seconds required to make the compute action occur. For a giant banking enterprise, this can translate to processing a year’s worth of check deposits automatically. By using OpenWhisk to resize the scanned image, store it and leverage optical character recognition, human error and manual inputs are eliminated. Combining that with the inherent cost savings associated with only being charged for compute directly used, the user could almost immediately realize significant reduction in overhead cost.

OpenWhisk is now an Apache Incubator project, and we’re excited to demonstrate its capabilities during Serverless Conference. Stop by our booth and meet some of the developers behind it. I am honored to be able to join the serverless community in Austin for this event and look forward to sharing my thoughts around the impact serverless architecture is making on the tech industry. Look forward to seeing you there.

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