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Kubernetes / Operations / WebAssembly

WebAssembly Reaches a Cloud Native Milestone

While Wasm is still primarily used to develop web applications (58%), its use is expanding beyond this original use case into new areas like data visualization (35%) and more.
Sep 11th, 2023 7:50am by
Featued image for: WebAssembly Reaches a Cloud Native Milestone

The CNCF WebAssembly Landscape Report published last week offered an overview of the status of WebAssembly (Wasm) as a technology and its adoption at this time. As WebAssembly’s growth and adoption continue, the report provides a good summary of the WebAssembly players, tools, usage and how it works, as well as its overlap with cloud native environments.

The report also underscores an unofficial turning point or milestone for WebAssembly, as measured in its adoption alone as the initial Wasm landscape revealed in the report has rapidly exploded from its use in the web browser to now represent 11 categories and 120 projects or products, worth an estimated $59.4 billion.

It will be a long road before WebAssembly sees its full potential. But in theory, Wasm is designed as a way to deploy code in a secured sandbox anywhere, on any device running a CPU instruction set in any language, simultaneously through a single module. The technology is not there yet, of course, but a number of developments were discussed and demonstrated at WasmCon 2023 last week — which represents an additional milestone as the first Linux Foundation Wasm stand-alone event beyond the umbrella of KubeCon + CloudNativeCon.

In many ways, the Wasm landscape is similar to the early days of Kubernetes’ then burgeoning development and adoption a few years ago. While discussing the report and WebAssembly’s status in the cloud native landscape and in general during a WasmCon keynote, CNCF CTO Chris Anisczcyk said he sees Wasm in the early cloud native and container days.

“Remember back in the day there was a lot of innovation happening in container and cloud native space: there were multiple runtimes, multiple specs, everyone kind of fighting for mindshare,” Anisczcyk said. “I feel like something similar is happening in the Wasm state and that’s kind of where we currently are…A lot of the adoption and innovation are happening among the early adopters and will naturally progress.”

While Anisczcyk insisted that Wasm is still in its early stages of development and “a lot of the early stuff is still brewing,” he noted how the CNCF has been an early adopter of the technology. “A lot of our projects have used WebAssembly.”

Indeed, Wasm is expected to play a large role as an ultralight way to deploy sandboxed applications to endpoints in cloud native environments. Wasm, of course, has its niche usages, beyond the container sphere, of course as well. “WebAssembly complements and piggybacks on the existing Kubernetes ecosystem, opening up many new opportunities,” Daniel Lopez Ridruejo, founder and former CEO of Bitnami (now part of VMware), told The New Stack. “WebAssembly can run on microcontrollers and IoT devices in a way that Kubernetes never could, as there are many devices where you cannot even use a container. So, the momentum is building with many different industry players coming together to build a platform for it.”

Among application frameworks alone, the CNCF covers Spin, WasmCloud (CNCF sandbox), SpiderLightning, WasmEdge plug-ins, Dapr SDK for WasmEdge, Homestar, Ambient, WASIX, Extism, Timecraft, vscode-wasm, and WasmEx.

The CNCF’s coverage now extends to many more areas, for runtimes, plugins and other uses with and for AI, edge devices, web and mobile deployments and a number of other applications:

The State of Wasm 2023 report was also released at WasmCon. The survey of 255 WebAssembly users was conducted by SlashData in collaboration with the CNCF. Key findings included:

  • While Wasm is still primarily used to develop web applications (58%), its use is expanding beyond this original use case into new areas like data visualization (35%), Internet of Things (32%), artificial intelligence (30%), backend services (excluding serverless) (27%), and edge computing (25%).
  • The most significant benefits attracting developers to Wasm are faster loading times (23%), opportunities to explore new use cases and technologies (22%), and sharing code between projects (20%).
  • The top challenges faced by Wasm users were difficulties with debugging and troubleshooting (19%), as well as different performance and a lack of consistent developer experience between runtimes (both at 15%). At the same time, 17% of respondents did not face any challenges.
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