Moderna’s Nathaniel Reynolds on Service Mesh, Open Source, and AI for Developers
In this post, Nathaniel Reynolds, Associate Director of Informatics Architecture & DevOps at Moderna Therapeutics, talks about service mesh, removing limitations with open source, and how AI helps developers do more.
No one can predict the future, but here's a safe bet: in the next five to ten years, we aren't going to have fewer applications. We're going to have more. And that means connectivity requirements are going to get bigger and bigger over time.
So, who's going to manage that connectivity?
If no one provides the underlying infrastructure to manage all of those requests and connections, the application teams will be doing that. But that isn't their job. Applications teams should be focused on building apps and managing end users. Their job is not to build the underlying infrastructure.
That's where service mesh comes in. Service mesh provides scalable API connectivity within every application that the application team is building.
Nathaniel Reynolds, Associate Director of Informatics Architecture & DevOps at Moderna Therapeutics, understands the importance of choosing the right infrastructure for your business. We talked to him about what makes mesh a good web app platform, why open source services offer a wider range of tools, and how AI helps developers get back to their jobs faster.
The importance of a reliable platform
At Moderna, they're constantly doing new and different things, which means they need a platform that can keep up.
"We have to create a scalable, highly reliable platform for our web applications that primarily is a security-first mindset," Nathaniel said.
The top security-first platforms have two things in common: an API gateway and service mesh. When those two elements are combined in one platform, it makes life a lot easier for developers.
"Because we can package all of the technical responsibility of the API gateway and the mesh into a relatively single technical unit, we can reduce that strategic and technical burden on our developers," Nathaniel said.
When you have a reliable platform, your developers don't have to worry about constantly monitoring the tech side of things. Instead, they can focus on developing applications, which is what their job is supposed to be about.
Open source decreases limitations
Your platform determines which tools and products you can use. And if you aren't using an open source platform, your options are considerably restricted.
"There's a limitation to how many products and tools out there that you can just readily take advantage of," Nathaniel said.
While closed-source platforms have their benefits, if you want to have access to a broader range of tools, you need to consider an open source platform instead, such as Kong Mesh and Kong Gateway.
"Once we realized how much we'd actually just get out the box for free when we just combined EKS, the Kong Mesh, and the Kong Gateway — it was a no-brainer," Nathaniel said.
By evaluating which tools you need access to the most you can determine the platform best suited to your needs.
Use multi-cloud to standardize how concerns are handled
Open source, multi-cloud organizations have one major benefit that other platforms simply can't compete with: portability.
"One of the strongest benefits of using open source technologies . . . is being able to have portable infrastructure that we can pretty much deploy in any other environment," Nathaniel said.
The bigger your organization gets, the more complex it becomes.
If you want to be able to address all of the needs of a growing business, you have to have portable technology. Otherwise, problems and concerns will quickly get out of hand.
With Kong Mesh, it's easy to streamline processes and come up with standardized solutions to everyday issues.
"The goal here — and the goal of the business leaders that I'm talking to — really is to unify and standardize how some of these concerns are being handled," Nathaniel said. "And you have to be portable to do that."
Without portable technology, you're going to be managing connectivity in different ways across different types of infrastructure. It's better to consolidate everything with a portable platform like mesh instead.
Put fail-safes in place
No system is infallible, and sometimes applications or processes fail. So it's important to get ahead of the inevitable.
"We always have to think, 'Oh, I know this is going to fail. So let's have our developers be responsible for writing that retry logic,'" Nathaniel said.
With an open source platform, retry logic can be managed right in mesh, making it easier than ever to implement fail safes.
Working directly in mesh helps improve security and makes sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Utilize machine learning
The future of tech is artificial intelligence. With properly utilized AI, mundane, time-consuming processes will be a thing of the past. But how do you implement these new processes?
"In order to do this, you have to capture lots of data for training these algorithms, and then you have to make these algorithms accessible through an API and make them accessible to all the niche workflows and other applications that could benefit from them," Nathaniel said.
Moderna's goal is to digitize and automate as much as possible, which means putting in more work upfront.
"This necessitates a lot of digital development, a lot of building applications and modifying workflows and improving them," Nathaniel said.
But if you build the right infrastructure now, you'll reap the benefits for years to come.
Maintain good infrastructure
There are so many products out there that you can buy to solve your business's needs. Every company has unique requirements, so it can be a challenge to sort through the many tools to find the perfect fit. Moderna found a perfect fit with Kong Mesh.
But the right product is only half of the solution.
"If you really want to have a good digital process and infrastructure, you're going to have to have people who are going to be there for a long time and care about it and maintain it," Nathaniel said.
Your people are just as vital a part of your platform's infrastructure as your tools, so it's important to find the right ones.
You also have to take care of your people just like you take care of your tools. This means removing unnecessary burdens from your team members whenever possible.
"Anything that can make the developer experience streamlined and better seems like the future to me, and I'm just trying so hard to get to the point where I can just press a button," Nathaniel said.
Don't bog your employees down with menial security tasks. Let your platform take care of those instead.
What are the differences between API gateways and service mesh? And when should you use one or the other?