Jamstack Panel: How the Edge Will Change Development
Sunil Pai, who worked with the edge as a senior system engineer at Cloudflare until recently, suggested developers put part of their website on the edge within the quarter.
“We’re working on the rest of it at the moment. There’s a lot of work to do, but you should use a lot of it today,” Pai, who is now founder of Cool Computer Club, which builds developer tools for edge applications, told the audience at Tuesday’s conference. It will take time to adapt, particularly when it comes to NPM scripts, Pai said.
“It turns out that a lot of packages on NPM right now don’t really work on a bunch of these new edge runtimes,” he said. “It feels like there’s now a phase where we are going to flesh out the ecosystem for production usage. Nobody wants to use a weekend project that someone put out on GitHub. It has to walk through the fires of production to be battle ready.”
Some are already moving to the edge. Netlify co-founder and CEO Matt Biilmann said that the cloud-based development company has seen approximately three times month-over-month growth in edge use cases recently.
New Possibilities for Runtime
Brian Douglas, founder and CEO of OpenSauce, asked the panel what possibilities were unlocked now that developers can build on top of new runtimes. The accessibility will enable regular developers to build very ambitious, planet-scale applications, Pai said.
Runtimes that are built on top of isolates (such as Deno) with strong security guarantees, and runtimes built around WebAssembly, are similar in the possibilities they unlock for different sets of developers, Biilmann added. These runtimes will allow systems to be more nimble and support smarter decisions around scaling, concurrency and where to run the code, he said.
“Some of the possibilities we’ll see is both running code very close to the end user, but also running the same type of code very close to our data,” Biilmann said. “So I’m also expecting to see interesting integration of tools, like Deno into databases and so on, because both paths will be really interesting. Can we get our code running really close to the edge, but can we also flip the script on that sometimes and send code to where our data lives, and then get a get simpler result back rather than then having to do these multiple round trips, and so on.”
Better, Cheaper, Faster
In the immediate future, these optimizations that developers can take advantage of will make it better, cheaper and faster, said Ryan Dahl, founder and CEO of Deno and creator of Node.js.
“It’s essentially an order of magnitude cost improvement over traditional AWS Lambda solutions, for example, for serverless,” Dahl said.
“You can take that React code and run it server-side and actually generate static HTML that you’re shipping to your user, but doing that instead of as a build step ahead of time, doing that just in time on first requests,” Dahl said.
Predictions for the Future
The panel offered future predictions for how the edge would change development. More web frameworks will target the edge use case, Dahl said.
“Coming back to the state, like either getting the runtime close to the state, … or getting the data closer to the runtime itself is also an important thing that is going to be worked out,” Dahl said. “We’ll see more iteration in how you manage state in these edge runtimes.”
Biilmann predicted that companies will build their APIs to be run on the edge out of the box, to ensure that APIs can respond fast globally, as well as new patterns around how caching is done.
There will be more focus on streaming technologies and patterns, suggested Pai.
“There are technologies that [have] been there for a bunch of years, which is streaming responses, but nobody really knew how to use it,” Pai said. “Frameworks are now taking that abstraction for you and edge runtimes, it turns out, are a great way to do it. So your React applications now start way faster because they can send a few bytes and your head tags before they even start rendering the rest of the page. Streaming patterns for APIs and web pages seem to be a thing to keep an eye on.”