The Frontend Cloud
The landscape of Web dev tech has been oscillating between the "all server" and "all client" models, with each phase presenting its unique set of advantages and challenges. Now, this swinging pendulum is losing momentum and reaching a point of equilibrium (how did I manage to write three Latin words in 1 sentence?). Where's this equilibrium happening? At the center, obviously. Where is the center, though? At the edge
The latest innovations introduced by React-based frameworks such as Next.js and Remix and cloud platforms such as Vercel and Netlify are giving birth to a groundbreaking architectural hybrid model. This architecture is The Frontend Cloud, and it leverages the advancements in Edge Cloud computing and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to enhance Web development capabilities significantly. Concretely speaking, The Frontend Cloud leans on the CDN's new computing and storage capabilities, something unimaginable until very recently.
In this post, I will delve into the intricacies of thi model and analyze its potential in reshaping the web development domain.
The Foundation: Edge Runtimes and CDN
Edge Computing and CDNs are at the core of the Frontend Cloud model, which represents a significant departure from traditional cloud infrastructure running in data center regions. Edge computing enables the execution of server-side logic closer to the end-users in geographical edge regions, substantially improving response times and reducing latency.
- WASM 😇
This ability to perform computations at the edge of the network, coupled with the dynamic content delivery capabilities of CDNs, has contributed to the genesis of the Frontend Cloud model.
Notable platforms like Cloudflare Workers and Vercel Edge Functions have already demonstrated the potential of the Frontend Cloud model with cool features such as HTTP Streaming, which, in combination with React's Supense API and Server Components, are paving the way for the development of lightning-fast, resource-efficient web applications. Moreover, the Edge now supports ephemeral storage through Key-Value (KV) objects, further extending the server-side logic capabilities to run even more complex business logic!
The Limitations of Current Edge Technologies
Despite the numerous advantages of the Frontend Cloud model, we need to be aware of a good number of limitations. One key issue I see is the absence of global replication for KV objects. At present, KV objects are localized to the edge location, restricting their utility for global use cases. However, the introduction of solutions such as Cloudflare's Durable Objects seeks to address this challenge by offering global replication, although the technology is still in its infancy. Overcoming these limitations will be crucial for the widespread adoption of the Frontend Cloud model.
The rapid evolution of Edge Cloud computing and the introduction of the Frontend Cloud architecture suggests that web development will continue to experience remarkable transformations in the coming years. I am very excited about solutions like Redis on the Edge Runtime or even Neon Database, which opens the possibility of performing PostgreSQL read/write operations on the Edge, something that could happen within the next few years. Such advancements would pave the way for the development of web applications with greater flexibility, reliability, and performance.
As the Frontend Cloud model evolves, we can anticipate the creation of new web development tools and technologies that streamline the development process. Real-time data synchronization and adaptive server-side rendering are just a few examples of the innovations that will emerge from this new paradigm. Consequently, web applications will become increasingly versatile, allowing seamless operation across multiple devices and platforms.
Despite the promise of the Frontend Cloud model, several challenges must be addressed before it can achieve its full potential. Latency, data consistency, and security concerns are among the most pressing issues that need to be resolved to ensure the successful adoption of the Frontend Cloud model. As innovators in this emerging field, it is imperative that we collaborate and share our collective knowledge to tackle these challenges and unlock the true potential of the Frontend Cloud.
The Frontend Cloud model, with its unique fusion of server and client-side capabilities, has the potential to revolutionize the web development landscape. By harnessing the power of Edge Cloud and CDNs, web developers can create high-performance, adaptive, and immersive experiences for users across the globe. As the limitations of the current Edge technologies are addressed and overcome, the Frontend Cloud model will continue to mature and reshape the boundaries of web development.
Look at the following piece of code using Next.js and Planetscale:
Looking closely at the code, you may think we are reinventing PHP. However, I like to see this differently. Indeed the server-side code looks like PHP, and the client-side code looks like a SPA. But isn't that the magic? I love how I can combine server efficiency and client reactivity in one app.