Dissertation Talk by Johann Schleier-Smith: Understanding and Exploring Serverless Cloud Computing; 10:30 AM, Thursday, December 16

December 16, 2021

Title: Understanding and Exploring Serverless Cloud Computing
Speaker: Johann Schleier-Smith
Advisor: Joseph M. Hellerstein
Date: Thursday, December 16, 2021
Time: 10:30 am – 11:30 am PT
Meeting ID: 926 2006 0821
Passcode: 529703
The past few years have seen a wave of enthusiasm for serverless computing, and we begin this talk by analyzing the marketplace trends and underlying technical factors that have shaped the movement. We find that serverless computing addresses programming challenges in the same class as those that high-level programming languages address, suggesting that serverless computing may be viewed as high-level programming for distributed systems.
We next turn our attention to one of the key shortcomings of serverless: the integration between compute and state. We develop FaaSFS, a distributed file system that is compatible with POSIX applications but uses a novel consistency model with relaxed real-time ordering constraints. We call this model externally consistent sequential consistency (ECSC), and demonstrate how it can scale an existing web application to 10,000 serverless processes.
Lastly, we explore whether serverless computing might lead to the demise of server hardware. By applying Amdahl’s law and scaling rules for interconnect costs, we show that applications that rely on coordination protocols are particularly dependent on large servers for scalability. By contrast, those implemented with coordination-free protocols can run well on collections of small low cost servers, or on disaggregated hardware. Both approaches will likely continue to coexist, suggesting that a need for underlying server hardware will remain even as serverless abstractions thrive.