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On Akka and the future of Lightbend

Jonas Bonér Founder, CTO and Chairman of the Board, Lightbend, Inc.

Recently, we announced the results of some tough decisions at Lightbend concerning two open source projects that are very close to our hearts: Play and Lagom.

We have written about our plan to hand over Play Framework to full community ownership on Open Collective (see the Play page here), and this effort is well underway and broadly supported.

With Lagom Framework, a different solution is underway–while we saw wide adoption of Lagom in our customer base, adoption in the OSS community hasn’t materialized. In short, we intend to continue investing to ensure we support Lagom customers fully, but we are not investing in future enhancements in the next year.

This brings us to the question of Akka itself, and here I must admit to a failing: we have not communicated our strategy broadly enough. Here is a bit of context for how we got here...

Akka is the present (and future) focus for Lightbend

Several years ago, we began to question exactly what our core value was and where we should be investing our time and money. About a year ago, we made a more definitive decision to focus on really one technology platform: Akka. This wasn’t conveyed as widely and consistently as it could have been. For that lack of clear communication to our customers and users, I apologize. So it is with this in mind that I want to share our vision for Akka, which is what we see as the future (and present) for Lightbend.

You may have noticed that we are spending a lot of time on Kalix. In the spirit of “drinking our own champagne”, we are doing much of this work from the perspective of a customer of the Akka Platform (which comprises all of the Akka OSS projects/modules).

We believed, when we started Kalix, that OSS would really benefit by having our company, and our engineers, build and run a production Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) with active users on it. And we have seen this pay off already:

  • Akka 2.6, released well over a year and a half ago, contains many enhancements to the core platform that were needed for the foundation of Kalix
  • Akka Projections has been improved through feedback from the Kalix product and users
  • Akka gRPC performance was dramatically improved through working through Kalix production issues
  • Akka Durable State was a recently released feature that ultimately allows users to have queryable Key-Value capabilities as part of the CQRS pattern, a feature that was first developed in Kalix Value Entities

And our roadmap for Akka, for things that will be released in the coming months, has been inspired by Kalix requirements:

  • More Alpakka connectors to additional database offerings, e.g. Yugabyte;
  • More flexible data passivation strategies for Akka Persistence;
  • Shard allocation strategies for Akka Cluster, enabling a smoother roll-out of updates and scaling up and down.

Akka is central to our vision

In all of this, you can see our vision for the company and our products:

To make it simple to build distributed data and streaming applications that span from the cloud to the edge and beyond.

Without Akka, for Lightbend, there is no distributed data and distributed streaming. There is none of the greatness that has powered so many great use cases and companies out there today. But we also cannot achieve greater simplicity without pushing into the areas that Kalix is taking us into.

I believe that Kalix is a natural extension to Akka, but I also believe that it will not be the only one as we move forward. My vision and appetite are much greater: data continues to power technology solutions but we as developers are forced to do too much and manage too much, too many moving parts and complexity. There have been good steps forward—serverless in general, serverless distributed databases more specifically—but they have been relatively small incremental steps.

I believe that in order to build the next generation of distributed applications, we need to abstract away as much of the unnecessary complexity of managing how data flows to where and when it needs to be while maintaining its integrity and guarantees.

We want to empower more developers to build cloud-native applications quickly and predictably, while avoiding its inherent complexity.

Our vision for the next generation of applications

Our mission is to enable this through simpler programming interfaces to very powerful distributed data and streaming patterns and technologies and through this, empower many more developers to build cloud-native applications quickly and predictably, while avoiding its inherent complexity. I know that Akka plays a role in this but so do so many other technologies out there—present today or to be born tomorrow.

As you can see, I want to take a big leap forward in how we as application and systems developers build real-time, data-driven solutions, with data at the core and always available wherever the need currently is: cloud, edge, or hybrid. I need Akka for this and I believe Akka will become that much better through our investment in this vision.

We value your feedback and support. If you want to share your ideas, please visit our Discussion Forum to let your voice be heard.


The Total Economic Impact™
Of Lightbend Akka

  • 139% ROI
  • 50% to 75% faster time-to-market
  • 20x increase in developer throughput
  • <6 months Akka pays for itself