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Wasmcloud Progress: Rewritten in Rust

It's been a while since I had the last update for Wasmcloud. In that time I have gotten a lot done. As the title mentions I have completely rewritten Wasmcloud's entire stack in Rust. Part of the reason was for increased speed and the other part was to get better at Rust. I also wanted to experiment with running Rust in production and this has been an excellent way to do that.

Wasmcloud is going to have a few major parts:

These parts will work together to implement a functions as a service platform.

Mara is hacker

Mara

The executor is on its own domain to prevent problems like this GitHub Pages vulnerability from 2013. It is on a .lgbt domain because LGBT rights are human rights.

I have also set up a (slightly sarcastic) landing page at wasmcloud.app and a twitter account at @usewasmcloud. Right now these are placeholders. I wanted to register the domains before they were taken by anyone else.

Architecture

My previous attempt at Wasmcloud had more of a four tier webapp setup. The overall stack looked something like this:

In simple testing, this works amazingly. The API server will send execution requests to the executors and everything will usually work out. However, the message queue I used was very "fire and forget" and had difficulties with multiple executors set up to listen on the queue. Additionally, the added indirection of needing to send the data around twice means that it would have difficulties scaling globally due to ingress and egress data costs. This model is solid and probably would have worked with some compression or other improvements like that, but overall I was not happy with it and decided to scrap it while I was porting the executor component to Rust. If you want to read the source code of this iteration of Wasmcloud, take a look here.

The new architecture of Wasmcloud looks something like this:

The main change here is the fact that the executor listens over HTTPS, avoiding a lot of the overhead involved in running this on a message queue. It's also much simpler to implement and allows me to reuse a vast majority of the boilerplate that I developed for the Wasmcloud API server.

This new version of Wasmcloud is also built on top of Wasmer. Wasmer is a seriously fantastic library for this and getting up and running was absolutely trivial, even though I knew very little Rust when I was writing pa'i. I cannot recommend it enough if you ever want to execute WebAssembly on a server.

Roadmap

At this point, I can create new functions, upload them to the API server and then trigger them to be executed. The output of those functions is not returned to the user at this point. I am working on ways to implement that. There is also very little accounting for what resources and system calls are used, however it does keep track of execution time. The executor also needs to have the request body of the client be wired to the standard in of the underlying module, which will enable me to parse CGI replies from WebAssembly functions. This will allow you to host HTTP endpoints on Wasmcloud using the same code that powers this and this.

I also need to go in and completely refactor the olin crate and make the APIs much more ergonomic, not to mention make the HTTP client actually work again.

Then comes the documentation. Oh god there will be so much documentation. I will be drowning in documentation by the end of this.

I need to write the panel and command line tool for Wasmcloud. I want to write the panel in Elm and the command line tool in Rust.

There is basically zero validation for anything submitted to the Wasmcloud API. I will need to write validation in order to make it safer.

I may also explore enabling support for WASI in the future, but as I have stated before I do not believe that WASI works very well for the futuristic plan-9 inspired model I want to use on Wasmcloud.

Right now the executor shells out to pa'i, but I want to embed pa'i into the executor binary so there are fewer moving parts involved.

I also need to figure out what I should do with this project in general. It feels like it is close to being productizable, but I am in a very bad stage of my life to be able to jump in headfirst and build a company around this. Visa limitations also don't help here.

Things I Learned

Rocket is an absolutely fantastic web framework and I cannot recommend it enough. I am able to save so much time with Rocket and its slightly magic use of proc-macros. For an example, here is the entire source code of the /whoami route in the Wasmcloud API:

#[get("/whoami")]
#[instrument]
pub fn whoami(user: models::User) -> Json<models::User> {
    Json(user)
}

The FromRequest instance I have on my database user model allows me to inject the user associated with an API token purely based on the (validated against the database) claims associated with the JSON Web Token that the user uses for authentication. This then allows me to make API routes protected by simply putting the user model as an input to the handler function. It's magic and I love it.

Postgres lets you use triggers to automatically update updated_at fields for free. You just need a function that looks like this:

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION trigger_set_timestamp()
  RETURNS TRIGGER AS $$
BEGIN
  NEW.updated_at = NOW();
  RETURN NEW;
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

And then you can make triggers for your tables like this:

CREATE TRIGGER set_timestamp_users
  BEFORE UPDATE ON users
  FOR EACH ROW
    EXECUTE PROCEDURE trigger_set_timestamp();

Every table in Wasmcloud uses this in order to make programming against the database easier.

The symbol/number layer on my Moonlander has been so good. It looks something like this:

And it makes using programming sigils so much easier. I don't have to stray far from the homerow to hit the most common ones. The only one that I still have to reach for is _, but I think I will bind that to the blank key under the ] key.

The best programming music is lofi hip hop radio - beats to study/relax to. Second best is Animal Crossing music. They both have this upbeat quality that makes the ideas melt into code and flow out of your hands.


Overall I'd say this is pretty good for a week of hacking while learning a new keyboard layout. I will do more in the future. I have plans. To read through the (admittedly kinda hacky/awful) code I've written this week, check out this git repo. If you have any feedback, please contact me. I will be happy to answer any questions.

As far as signups go, I am not accepting any signups at the moment. This is pre-alpha software. The abuse story will need to be figured out, but I am fairly sure it will end up being some kind of "pay or you can only run the precompiled example code in the documentation" with some kind of application process for the "free tier" of Wasmcloud. Of course, this is all theoretical and hinges on Wasmcloud actually being productizable; so who knows?

Be well.


This article was posted on M10 31 2020. Facts and circumstances may have changed since publication. Please contact me before jumping to conclusions if something seems wrong or unclear.

Series: olin

Tags: wasm wasmcloud wasmer

The art for Mara was drawn by Selicre.