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Using WebAssembly for Serverless Computing

By David Li on 2025-03-08T04:07:08.000Z

Using WebAssembly for Serverless Computing

Serverless computing has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it simplifies the process of deploying and scaling cloud applications. In serverless computing, developers can focus on writing code without worrying about the underlying infrastructure, and applications can automatically scale with the number of requests.

One technology that has gained significant traction in the serverless computing space is WebAssembly (Wasm). Initially designed for efficient and safe execution of code in web browsers, WebAssembly has proven to be a powerful tool for serverless computing as well. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of using WebAssembly for serverless computing and discuss how you can get started.

What is WebAssembly?

WebAssembly is a binary instruction format for a stack-based virtual machine. It is designed as a portable target for the compilation of high-level languages like C, C++, and Rust, enabling deployment on the web for client and server applications. WebAssembly provides a compact binary format, which is fast to decode and execute, making it an ideal choice for web browsers and other runtime environments.

Why Use WebAssembly for Serverless Computing?

There are several reasons to consider using WebAssembly in serverless computing:

  1. Performance: WebAssembly is designed for fast execution, providing near-native performance. This is especially important in a serverless environment, where functions are often short-lived and need to start up quickly. WebAssembly’s compact binary format and fast startup times can help improve the overall performance of serverless applications.

  2. Language Flexibility: One of the key benefits of WebAssembly is its support for multiple programming languages. Developers can write serverless functions in their preferred language, such as C, C++, Rust, or even languages that compile to WebAssembly, like AssemblyScript. This flexibility allows developers to leverage existing skills and ecosystems while still benefiting from the performance and security advantages of WebAssembly.

  3. Security: WebAssembly is designed with security in mind, running inside a sandboxed execution environment. This makes it an attractive choice for serverless computing, where functions often handle sensitive data and need to be isolated from other parts of the system. By using WebAssembly, developers can help ensure that their serverless functions are secure and reliable.

  4. Portability: Since WebAssembly is platform-independent, serverless functions written in WebAssembly can run on multiple platforms and environments with little to no modification. This can simplify the deployment process and make it easier to support multiple cloud providers or runtime environments.

Getting Started with WebAssembly and Serverless

To start using WebAssembly for serverless computing, you’ll need a few tools and resources:

  1. WebAssembly Compiler: You’ll need a compiler to convert your high-level language code into WebAssembly binary format. Some popular choices include LLVM for C and C++, and Rust’s native compiler for Rust code.

  2. Serverless Framework: To deploy and manage your serverless functions, you’ll need a serverless framework that supports WebAssembly. Examples of such frameworks include the Fastly Compute@Edge and Cloudflare Workers. These frameworks provide tools and services to help you build, deploy, and manage your serverless applications.

  3. WebAssembly Runtime: To run your serverless functions, you’ll need a WebAssembly runtime environment. This can be a standalone runtime like Wasmtime or Wasmer, or a runtime provided by your serverless framework.

Here is a high-level overview of the steps involved in deploying a serverless function using WebAssembly:

  1. Write your serverless function in a high-level language like C, C++, or Rust.
  2. Compile the code to WebAssembly using a suitable compiler.
  3. Deploy the WebAssembly binary to your serverless framework, which will handle the function’s lifecycle, including scaling and invocation.
  4. Use the serverless framework’s API or tools to manage and monitor your serverless function.

Conclusion

WebAssembly is a powerful and flexible technology that can significantly improve the performance, security, and portability of serverless applications. By leveraging WebAssembly, developers can write serverless functions in a variety of languages, benefit from near-native performance, and deploy their applications to multiple platforms with ease.

As more serverless frameworks and runtime environments continue to adopt WebAssembly, it’s clear that this technology will play a crucial role in the future of serverless computing. If you’re looking to build high-performance, secure, and portable serverless applications, consider incorporating WebAssembly into your development process.

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