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Community Blog Alibaba Cloud's Jianfeng Zhang: Core Cloud Products Are Fully Serverless

Alibaba Cloud's Jianfeng Zhang: Core Cloud Products Are Fully Serverless

This short article highlights Jianfeng Zhang's speech during the 2022 Apsara Conference.

Watch the replay of the Apsara Conference 2022 at this link!

On November 3, at the Apsara Conference 2022 in Hangzhou, Jianfeng Zhang (President of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence) said, “A new computing system with the cloud as the core is taking shape. New changes are taking place in the software research and development paradigm. Serverless is one of the most important trends. Alibaba Cloud will firmly make its core products comprehensively Serverless so that customers can better realize agile innovation.

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"We hope users do less and gain more. Through serverless, using the cloud is as simple as using electricity," said Jianfeng Zhang. Serverless turns cloud computing, a resource, into a capability. In the future, the cloud will be fully serverless, closer to the "power grid" mode, and be paid according to the number of calls for computing.

Serverless does not mean deserting servers but rather hosting servers with cloud vendors, auto scaled based on the size of the business traffic. It is out-of-the-box and exempts maintenance costs. Users are billed based on usage and do not need to care about and manage underlying IT resources. They only need to focus on business code and process business based on actual requests.

Relying on the serverless architecture, cloud R&D is undergoing fundamental changes. From centralized R&D and distributed R&D in the past to assembled R&D on the cloud, software R&D is service-oriented, modular, orchestrated, and assemble. Whether it is 20,000 users or 20 million users, the IT architecture built based on Serverless can be adaptively elastic, with automatic scale-out during peak and automatic scale-in during a valley in seconds.

Based on serverless products, cloud products have become modular, API-based, and service-based. They can be assembled, and applications can be built by dragging. Through process-driven and event-driven, applications can be visualized so that they can obtain powerful application capabilities.

Alibaba Cloud is the first cloud vendor in China to offer serverless computing services.

  • Launched in 2017, Function Compute (FC) is a FaaS product, a fully managed computing service driven by events. Users only need to write code and upload it. Then, Function Compute will automatically prepare computing resources, run the code flexibly and reliably, and provide functions (such as log query, performance monitoring, and alerting).
  • In 2018, Alibaba Cloud took the lead to launch the Serverless Container Service (ASK). Based on Elastic Container Instance (ECI), it can scale out 2000 pods in one minute, lowering the threshold for Kubernetes usage to allow users to focus on applications rather than managing the underlying infrastructure.
  • In 2019, the first application-oriented Serverless PaaS (SAE) was launched, providing a comprehensive microservice and Kubernetes managing solution with lower cost and higher efficiency. It implements the migration of web, microservice, and tasks with no transformation.
  • In 2020, the Serverless Developer Platform Serverless Devs became available. It is the industry's first cloud-native lifecycle management platform that supports mainstream Serverless services/frameworks. In September 2022, Serverless Devs became the official sandbox project of CNCF and the first Serverless Tool project of CNCF.
  • Released in 2022, Serverless Application Center is a platform for managing the lifecycle of serverless applications. Users can quickly deploy and manage applications without additional cloning, building, packaging, and publishing.

Gartner (an authoritative analysis organization) predicts that more than 50% of global enterprises will deploy Serverless architectures in 2025. In terms of application scenarios, in addition to small programs, serverless is popular in scenarios such as e-commerce promotion, audio and video transcoding, AI algorithm services, game application package distribution, real-time file processing, IoT data processing, and microservices.

Century Mart was the first new retail representative to try Serverless. It found that its old architecture could not handle the problem of traffic explosion during big promotions. Then, it tried to deal with data of the member system, transaction system, payment system, and others on Alibaba Cloud Function Compute (FC). After that, it no longer needs to rely on expanding machines to support large-scale businesses. The preparation time for big sales was shortened from weeks to hours. The efficiency of R&D and O&M improved by 30%, and the cost reduced by 40%, turning big sales into a norm.

Pumpkin Film (a streaming media) has been built on Alibaba Cloud since its inception. It is a typical enterprise that was born and grew up on the cloud. However, with the continuous development of business, the original system architecture exposed many problems. Due to a hit film, Pumpkin Film received one million new users within one hour. A sudden surge in traffic resulted in the breakdown of web services. Temporary cloud expansion could not meet the huge traffic timely. After learning from this experience, we began to move toward Serverless. Based on Alibaba Cloud Serverless App Engine (SAE), we completed the launch of the core application API Gateway in three days, verified that 100% of traffic was transferred to SAE on the fifth day, and migrated the remaining 30-odd systems to SAE on the sixth and seventh day. After we upgraded the serverless architecture in seven days using SAE, the O&M efficiency improved by 70%, the cost reduced by more than 40%, and the scale-out efficiency improved more than ten times over.

Currently, Alibaba Cloud has more than 20 serverless products, of which Alibaba Cloud Function Compute (FC) calls more than 20 billion times per day, effectively supporting the peak of a million QPS during Double 11 over the years. The business growth rate is more than 300%, ranking first in China on an overall scale.

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In the FaaS platform evaluation report released by Forrester in the first quarter of 2021, Alibaba Cloud became one of the top three FaaS leaders worldwide by its comprehensive leadership in Function Compute product capabilities. This is also the first time a domestic technology company entered the FaaS leader quadrant.

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