When it comes to new developments, cloud engineers are at the forefront of putting them into practice. During Club Cloud, Alexandru Iosup, Professor of Computer Science at the VU University Amsterdam, and a panel of cloud specialists, consisting of Jeroen Reijn, cloud engineer at Luminis, Antoni Tzavelas, cloud course creator, and Luca Cavallin, cloud engineer at Xebia, shared their expectations of the future of cloud engineering and discuss the impact these developments have on their trade.
Based on their insights and experiences, this post covers five cloud engineering trends.
The Need to Invest in Cloud
Europe must invest in the cloud now, or alternatively watch countries like the United States and China lead the way technologically over the next 15 years. In the Netherlands alone, the shortage of engineers is in the tens of thousands. This requires a holistic approach with multiple solutions. Developments are moving at a very fast rate. Iosup compares it to the transport sector: if innovation there were as fast as in the IT sector, then in a year's time there would be a means of transport that could arrive in Delft from Amsterdam within seconds.
Computer Systems and Networks Manifesto
Professor Alexandru Iosup, Professor of Computer Science at the VU University Amsterdam, believes that all fields of expertise need a document that clearly states what the field brings for society, how it does so, and what it needs to continue to do so. Computer systems and networks form the infrastructure of the digital economy. Because this industry did not have one yet, together with several others, he decided to take the initiative to write a Manifesto for Computer Systems and Networks.
Five Cloud Engineering Trends
It is important that cloud engineers are aware of the changes in their roles. By keeping up with the trends in cloud computing, engineers will play an enormous part in IT development in the Netherlands and Europe. The participants in the Cloud Engineering Panel, Antoni Tzavelas, Jeroen Reijn, and Luca Cavallin, had a lively discussion about the trends and developments that will impact the field of IT and the work of engineers in the years to come.
Five Cloud Engineering Trends
What are the developments that will impact Cloud Engineering in the years to come? During Club Cloud, several trends have been discussed. In this article, we summarize five of the major cloud engineering developments.
1. Efficiency is Key
The emergence of new models such as serverless computing always makes engineers enthusiastic. After all, it makes their job easier and gives them the space to do even more. According to Iosup, the ideal situation would be to have a single universal abstraction that solves everything. “I don’t think we’ll see that in my lifetime, however”, he explains during Club Cloud 2021.
“Every time you make things more abstract, there are workloads that are too heavy to handle.” Workloads such as graph processing and online applications are not well suited to general computer architectures. “Otherwise you won’t meet your Service Level Agreements, and we will destroy more of the planet than necessary.” After all, every calculation consumes resources and electricity. Efficiency should therefore be a top priority for every engineer.
2. Zero Trust Security Comes First
It is one of the first questions organizations ask before making a decision with regard to the cloud: is it secure? The good news is that cloud computing has never been more secure. Of course, there are no guarantees, and responsibility is usually shared between user and service provider. However, the risks associated with cloud computing are in many cases even smaller than traditional on-premise solutions. Ultimately, the cloud is as secure as you make it yourself.
Zero Trust is a principle that only provides access to users (no matter who) and devices if their full identity has been established. Because there is no traditional boundary to the network, this ties in seamlessly with the cloud. No wonder the need to apply Zero Trust is becoming increasingly apparent. Generally speaking, applications and data in the cloud can be reached from anywhere in the world. To keep things practical, this should be done without keys and without passwords as much as possible.
According to Reijn, mistakes are very easily made, for example, because of the complexity version management entails.
“If you’re switching to the cloud, it is important to consider these aspects”, says Jeroen Reijn, Cloud Solution Architect at Luminis. “You can approach it in different ways. From a management perspective, you are dealing with hundreds of services with their own credentials and login secrets. This means a lot of things have to be taken into account to guarantee security.”
3. Microservices and Applications Go Hand in Hand
Just a few years ago, it was popular to use the cloud for microservices-based environments. Microservices are functions of applications – the services – that have been detached from each other, and subsequently interact via APIs, with Kubernetes for rollout and monitoring.
Combining the Benefits
This lack of a ‘central’ component makes it scalable, easy to upgrade, and very flexible, for example within a DevOps environment. Unfortunately, such an architecture is also more complex. It is a lot easier to make mistakes, and finding and solving problems is a much greater challenge. No wonder some people have bad experiences with microservices. But does that mean you should go back to the classic monolithic application? And completely forget about the benefits of microservices? No, because it’s becoming increasingly possible to combine the benefits of monolithic applications and microservices.
“Suppose you’ve been fully committed to microservices in the past, but had difficulties managing them”, says Luca Cavallin, Cloud Engineer at Xebia. “There’s nothing stopping you from centralizing at least part of them."
This allows you to overcome any problems while keeping the benefits intact. “Cloud providers meanwhile offer proven solutions to avoid these kinds of errors in the architecture."
4. The Edge is Crucial for the Short Term
The data explosion has given a huge boost to the transition to the cloud. The massive computing power required for the latest applications is forcing organizations to seriously consider the cloud. However, public cloud also has certain limitations that will not be solved in the short term.
Reijn describes the situation: “With autonomous vehicles, you don’t want them to have to wait for a network congestion to be resolved.” Real-time applications require real-time data processing. You have to keep the distances between client and service as small as possible.
The above is why edge computing is on the rise. Edge computing is about placing small, dedicated server rooms close to where the client is active, so that all data can be processed directly. For an engineer this may seem like a return to on-premises, but it is more like a further integration of different IT domains. In my opinion, the future of cloud computing will clearly be hybrid”, says trainer and coach Antoni Tzavelas.
“It will play a big role, especially in the area of edge computing. We’re trying to reduce latency all the time. As long as we can increase network speeds at a ridiculous rate, edge computing will not go away any time soon.”
5. Roles Are Being Increasingly Combined
Cloud computing is the driving force behind DevOps, where development, testing and management are integrated into a single process. As a result, cloud engineers are taking on more and more technical roles. This is possible because the environment and tools within cloud environments make it easier to allocate IT resources to certain processes, for example. However, engineers have to draw on an increasingly broader knowledge set: elements of developments, management, but data science is also increasingly part of their role.
“I see cloud engineers and cloud architects as a rebirth of the system administrator, but in a different area”, explains Tzavelas. The full-stack software developer is therefore already in the cloud. If you continue along this line, they could well evolve into a full-stack cloud engineer.
The Cloud Engineer Is the Enabler
The possibilities that cloud computing offers organizations are limitless. However, the question is: how do you use the innovations effectively? It is up to cloud engineers to create the right conditions for this. They therefore bear a growing responsibility in tomorrow’s world.