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WebAssembly for the Backend: GopherCon Israel 2023

Adrian Cole
February 07, 2023

WebAssembly for the Backend: GopherCon Israel 2023

This was a rewritten talk for 30minutes prioritizing use case over deep explanation of WebAssembly arch and model. This was given to a lovely crowd of a couple hundred people at GopherCon Israel https://www.gophercon.org.il

Adrian Cole

February 07, 2023

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  1. Open Source late bloomer Currently all-in on wazero.io and the

    people who use it 2 I’m Adrian from Tetrate codefromthecrypt on GitHub @adrianfcole
  2. What does wasm do for me? 3 We have 30

    minutes, let’s skip to the good stuff if you hear jargon you don’t know, only take note if you care its the context!
  3. WebAssembly allows decoupling without RPC. Tools like go-plugin allow you

    to define ABI as protobuf services. 5 e.g. go-plugin gRPC Host Guest Decoupled with gRPC API Decoupled with WebAssembly Monolith Breaking the Monolith Service
  4. Sidecar monoliths Sidecars are usually monolithic, and while highly customizable,

    tricky to change. For example, Envoy versions are tightly coupled to Istio versions. Dapr is a static binary, so cannot custom libraries dynamically. 6
  5. Customizing sidecars with HTTP Middleware My App Middleware 1 Middleware

    2 Middleware 3 Dapr Sidecar Request Response You install this You built this You configure this
  6. You want to break the monolith My App Middleware 2

    Middleware 3 Dapr Sidecar Request Response My Filter You can’t change this binary You built this You want to own this code
  7. Sidecars define the WebAssembly function contract they support ABI is

    a contract between the host running wasm and the guest. It defines functions like an IDL. Dapr (golang) supports the http-wasm ABI, implementing the server side of an HttpHandler. Compatible middleware, compiled to wasm, can be replaced without changing Dapr 9
  8. So.. WebAssembly can break the monolith My App Middleware 2

    Middleware 3 Dapr Sidecar Request Response My Filter WebAssembly allows custom functionality in a static binary, based on an ABI contract http-wasm guest http-wasm host My Filter http-wasm/http-wasm-guest-tinygo v1.10
  9. Containers images are platform specific Container images must be built

    for the intended OS + architecture. “FROM scratch” can reduce this to kernel+arch, but only for static binaries. Many applications require a base layer with dependencies like libc, complicating deployment 12
  10. 13 WebAssembly has no operating system • Compiling to %.wasm

    removes platform dependencies • You can compile it on linux and run it on windows • wasm containers are emerging, but not mature
  11. 14 DIY WebAssembly containers work today if you mix abstractions

    Container integration means pushing a WebAssembly Virtual Machine into the container runtime. For example, wasmer or wasmtime in crun. Some goals of wasm containers is re- use of Dockerfile and OCI registries
  12. 16 • Start a process (os/exec) • Call a Foreign

    Function (CGO) Sometimes we want to call code we can’t import
  13. Wasm cannot directly affect resources like files. Guests call imported

    host functions with pointers to shared memory they own. 17 out, err := run(ctx, fi leFS(path), "dcraw", "-e", "-c", "input") WASI commands are like os/exec but safer _start fd_read(input) args_get mem.Write(dcraw_-e_…) out.Write(mem) fi le.Read(mem) github.com/ncruces/RethinkRAW fd_write(stdout) memory dcraw.wasm wasi dcraw.c clang
  14. Code may look similar, but wasm is very different than

    CGO 18 WebAssembly isn’t integrated like CGO, but it is safer. github.com/ncruces/go-sqlite3 Not C.CString Not unsafe.Pointer Dynamic not pre- defined in import “C”
  15. 19 So why bother with re-use with WebAssembly? github.com/ncruces/go-sqlite3 You

    can embed stateful processes into your application, provided they can be compiled to wasm and route I/O through WASI
  16. Trivy provides an SDK which implements their custom ABI for

    config and analysis. Modules are installed locally or via OCI repository. 20 Wasm isn’t just for polygot, it can be a Go plugin implementation! trivy.dev acme-cves.wasm acme-cves.go Tinygo Trivy SDK ghcr.io/acme
  17. Compilers are different or at least need different flags. Performance

    varies and is runtime specific. Benchmark! There are other ways to polyglot! 22 • Features like reflection usually don’t work • Wasm has no parallelism, so garbage collection is inline • WebAssembly has no standard library, so binaries can get big. programming WebAssembly is trickier than normal code
  18. Go’s a little behind, but there’s hope The main go

    compiler has experimental GOARCH=wasm GOOS=js, so of limited use outside node.js and browsers. TinyGo works with WASI, but it lacks features like reflection. @johanbrandhorst proposed a GOOS=wasi compilation target which if accepted increases re-use 24 golang/go#58141
  19. Those interested can look at wazero.io or join #wazero on

    gophers slack! 26 • WebAssembly impacts all layers of architecture, but it is an embedding solution • Go developers can replace some os/exec and CGO patterns with wasm, as well make safe plugins. • WebAssembly is tricky and evolving, so proceed with caution. Here are some good talks: Wasmer Things: An Upside Down Guide To WebAssembly by Edoardo Vacchi CGO-less Foreign Function Interface With WebAssembly by Takeshi Yoneda