Platform9's Fission Workflows makes it easier to write complex serverless applications

Frederic Lardinois

Platform9's new Fission Workflows brings together all the buzzwords you love: Kubernetes, Docker containers and serverless computing. In many ways, it's the logical next step for these technologies.

Fission itself is Platform9's open source serverless computing platform that runs on top of the Kubernetes container orchestration service. In its early days, serverless applications were mostly about building small functions that were triggered whenever a specific event like a file upload happened. The idea behind Fission Workflows is to help developers build more complex serverless applications.

What Workflows does is help you orchestrate your serverless functions. The more complex your serverless applications, the more functions they typically use and the harder it gets to manage and update those interdependent functions. This also makes it difficult to monitor and troubleshoot these applications.

Soam Vasani, a software engineer at Platform9 and Fission author, told me the idea of Fission was born out of a desire to make it easier for developers to use Kubernetes. "Before fission, our customers would often take weeks to get their heads around Kubernetes," he told me. Now, it only takes them an hour or so to get their first Fission functions to run. Fission Workflow then tackles the next problem: what happens when your serverless application grows from a simple function to a full-fledged application.

Because it runs on top of Kubernetes, Fission Workflows can run on virtually any cloud and in any private data center (or even locally, on a developer's laptop). Developers can write their applications in Python, NodeJs, Go, C# and PHP.

What Fission Workflows is not, though, is a drag-and-drop interface like Microsoft Flow. For now, developers have to write their workflows by hand, though as Platform9 CEO and co-founder Sirish Raghuram tells me, the plan is to eventually launch a visual editor for Workflows, too. For now, Platform9 does offer a tool for visualizing these Workflows, though.

Like Fission itself, Workflows will be fully open source. As Raghuram told me, the company's overall business plan is to charge its customers for delivering open source frameworks as a service. It's already doing that with Kubernetes and OpenStack and once Fission catches on, it'll most likely also add that to its portfolio. The software itself, though, will always remain open source and the company has no interest in moving to an open core or freemium model.