CloudNativeDay: WASM aims to drive the next IT era

WebAssembly (WASM) is poised to power the next era of cloud-native application development that can run truly anywhere.

Liam Randall, CEO of Cosmonic, a provider of a platform for building and deploying WASM applications, told attendees of a virtual CloudNativeDay Eventually, WASM will be at the center of a new era in IT that will enable companies to build faster, highly portable applications that are not tied to an IT infrastructure platform and are more secure.

At its core, WASM is a portable binary instruction format for building software that describes a memory-safe, sandboxed execution environment. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) pushed the development of WASM to create a common format for browsers that run JavaScript code. Wasm is now extended beyond browsers and JavaScript to allow developers to create a set of universal binaries that could work on any platform without modification.

This approach replaces the current dominant method of building software, which relies on the aggregation of software components that tend not to have clear boundaries between them. One of the problems with this approach is that it is relatively easy for malware to infect all components of an application.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is now trying to push the adoption of a WASM runtime from Cosmonic that will allow WASM applications to run on any platform, rather than being limited to building applications that only run on Windows or Linux, for example can be executed.

This level of portability will prove crucial as more companies look to accelerate the deployment of applications across a wide range of edge computing platforms, Randall noted.

It may be some time before WASM becomes the artifact of choice for building applications, but it’s clear that the walls that have separated one IT platform from the other are finally beginning to crumble. As applications become much more portable, the longstanding goal of writing an application once and deploying it anywhere can finally be achieved. Not only is this critical in terms of overall application developer productivity, but it also has significant implications for streamlining the management of DevOps workflows by making it easier to both initially deploy and continuously update applications.

Meanwhile, as organizations continue to review their application development practices to better secure software supply chains, it is becoming clearer that outdated approaches to building applications are fundamentally flawed. Rather than trying to refactor processes to encourage developers to better secure applications, it may be more effective to change the way applications are built. Finally, considering all the processes required to secure older approaches to application development, it can be cheaper and easier to adopt a new app development method.

Of course, as always, the challenge is to take the first step away from the inertia of legacy application development approaches.

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