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Swiss Army Knife of Serverless Computing

Project description

Snafu: Snake Functions

Snafu is a tiny flexible Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) host process and
tool for Python and other programming languages. Snafu is unique in
reducing the effort to get going (no configuration is required, although
a configuration file is available for optional customisation), in
choosing the execution model (with and without isolation for instance),
in exposure of functions, and in integration with other FaaS runtimes
and commercial services.

Think of it as the 'Swiss Army Knife of Serverless Computing'!

Functions are read from specified source files. If no directory is
specified, 'functions' with some sample functions as well as
'functions-local' for user-imported functions are scanned. The set of
exported functions consists of all of them (convention name: any) or
just one pre-defined function by default named 'lambda_handler' with
specific arguments, for compatibility with AWS Lambda's Python 2.7
runtime (convention name: 'lambda'). For languages requiring compilation
(i.e. Java), this is attempted transparently.

Functions are invoked through connectors, for instance HTTP requests or
interactive command-line input or both at the same time. They correspond
roughly to Lambda triggers. The invocations are recorded in loggers, for
instance CSV files. They are furthermore checked against authenticators.
All connectors, loggers, executors and authenticators are described

The utility script 'snafu-import' exists to slurp Lambda, OpenWhisk and
Google Cloud functions and configurations for execution with Snafu or to
some extent with other FaaS runtimes.
Configuration support is limited to environment variables at the moment.
Configuration files are read as *.config associated to *.py. In their
absence, the handler name (<source>.<function>) becomes the function

The daemon 'snafu-control' implements a FaaS control plane in partial
compliance to Lambda, OpenWhisk and Google Cloud Functions so that the
respective command-line tools (aws, wsk, gcloud) can be used against it.

Snafu is implemented in Python 3 so that any Lambda functions need to be
passed through the 2to3 tool which 'snafu-import' can automate. It is
expected that Python 3 will be added to Lambda in the near future,
making this step then obsolete. Alternatively, out-of-process execution
exists for all supported programming languages, including Python 3 for
improved parallel execution performance.

The runtime and success status of invoked functions are measured through
the loggers and can be further processed for statistical analysis and
billing purposes.

Python 3 is required. For the full functionality, install the 'flask'
and 'pyesprima3' modules as well as compilers and interpreters for all
supported languages (i.e. python2, python3, nodejs, gcc, javac/java).

Snafu runs interactively until interrupted with Ctrl+C.

% ./snafu [-h]
% ./snafu --executor <e> --logger <l> --convention <c>

# e.g. ./snafu --executor python2stateful --logger sqlite

To fill up the functions pool with some already deployed in AWS, IBM or
Google, use the import utility.

% ./snafu-import [--convert] [--source <s>] [--target <t>]

# e.g. --source gfunctions: deploy from Google into Snafu
# e.g. --source openwhisk --target funktion: from IBM into Funktion

Apart from hosting the functions, Snafu can also be used in batch
processing to test functions systematically. For instance:

% echo "{}" | ./snafu -x lambda_function.lambda_handler

The control plane 'snafu-control' implements essential functionality
found in the Lambda control plane via Snafu. Use aws-cli with the option
--endpoint-url to redirect all requests to your instance (by default, it
runs on http://localhost:10000/). It is highly recommended to add
--cli-read-timeout 0 as well. The gcloud tool needs patching
(tools/patch-gcloud), the wsk tool needs --apihost set to

% ./snafu-control [-h]

# e.g. ./snafu-control --reaper --deployer --authenticator aws

The file snafu.ini.dist can be copied to snafu.ini to customise the
configuration of Snafu.

Connectors (only in snafu)
* cli (interactive function name choice; payload asked or read from
* web (function name chosen via URL path; payload via HTTP POST)
* messaging (no function name choice apart from config; no payload choice: )
* filesystem (no function name choice apart from config; no payload choice: )
* cron (no function name choice apart from config; no payload choice: empty)

* csv
* sqlite
* (none)

Note: one default executor is defined and can be overridden for each
file type (.py, .js, .class, .so).

For Python:
* inmemory (fastest, in-memory, only for truly stateless function)
* inmemstateless (higher isolation level through module reload)
* python2 (external
* python2stateful (re-used instance with lower isolation level)
* python3 (external)
* lxc (wrapping function instances into LXC contexts for isolation)

For other programming languages:
* java (external, under development)
* javascript (external, under development)
* c (external, under development)

Forwarders (only in snafu-control, as pseudo-executors)
* proxy (redirect to another fixed or per-tenant instance of Snafu)
* docker (redirect to a dynamically created per-tenant instance)
* openshift (under development)

Authenticators (only in snafu-control)
* aws (AWS4 signature algorithm)
* (none)

* imports: from Google Cloud Functions, OpenWhisk, AWS Lambda
* exports: to Funktion, Fission, Kubeless + of course Snafu

Packaged Snafu
A containerised version is made available for running Snafu in a Docker
environment. An alternate version of the image is complete rather than
minimal and includes among others the command-line tools of several
commercial FaaS providers.

% docker run -ti jszhaw/snafu
% docker run -ti jszhaw/snafucomplete

Integration into OpenShift and Kubernetes is available for experiments
and documented in the 'openshift' directory.

Furthermore, a Python package is made available on PyPI.

% pip install snafu

Research and Further Reading
Snafu results from service tooling research at the Service Prototyping
Lab at Zurich University of Applied Sciences. Preprints and
peer-reviewed papers analyse the tool's characteristics and compare it
with other FaaS runtimes. While not recommended for production use,
these publications may give inspiration for using Snafu in prototyping
and piloting settings.

(☺) 2017, 2018 Josef Spillner <>
with contributions from Tobias Brunner, Bernard Jollans and others
(C) 2017, 2018 Zürcher Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
you may not use any file in this repository except in compliance with
the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
limitations under the License.

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