Serverless is pretty hot right now, so I asked one of our serverless analysts Arun Chandrasekaran a few questions on the topic…
Q – What is serverless, is it a new technology or just a rebranding of something old/marketing?
Serverless computing allows users to run code without provisioning or managing any underlying system or application infrastructure, and they automatically scale to support increasing or decreasing loads. The interest around serverless computing began when Amazon announced AWS Lambda at its re:Invent conference in November’2014. The interest has considerably increased since then and other cloud providers have followed suit with their own offerings. I’d argue that the precursor to Serverless computing is Cloud IaaS, where the complexity of underlying resources (servers, storage, network) was hidden from the users, and with IaaS providing flexibility to provision unlimited compute, storage and network resources on-demand.
My (unofficial) take: This is not just marketing (for a change), Serverless is something new (albeit with a horrible name). Rather than run an app on a VM or container in the cloud, you just run a snippet of code.
Q – What are some examples of serverless solutions?
Among the cloud providers, Amazon offers AWS Lambda, Microsoft’s offers Azure Functions, Google’s service is currently in beta and is called Google Cloud Functions, and IBM offers Bluemix OpenWhisk. For customers interested in implementing serverless frameworks in Private IT environments, there are a couple of early stage open source projects worth looking at – Iron Functions from Iron.io and Project Fission from Platform9.
Q – I presume this is very early days in the mainstream, i.e., a science project? Or are real people using it?
The maturity and enterprise readiness of many of these offerings is nascent. Further, only Amazon and Microsoft’s offerings being generally available. Being a pioneer and as the longest operating serverless framework, AWS has several hundreds of customers that use its service today. The primary use cases are event-driven augmentation of existing applications and scheduled batch processing. Serverless frameworks also act as an integration layer across disparate services that need to be wired together.
Q – So, serverless is primary a technology being deployed in the public cloud, not on-prem, correct?
That is correct. Due to the maturity of the offerings and the growing set of developer ecosystem tools in cloud, a majority of deployments exist in public cloud environments today.
Q – What’s the one thing a network engineer/architect should know about serverless if they hear it is being considered in their environment? Or should they not even care at this point.
While Serverless is hailed as the holy grail of “NoOps”, the reality is there is plenty of cloud centric operational know-how as well as security, monitoring, debugging skills that will be required to operate these in a production environment and/or at a scale.
My (unofficial) take: NoOps still requires connectivity so beef up your connectivity to your cloud providers, if you haven’t already. And you’ll eventually be blamed for have to troubleshoot slow serverless functions slow as a “network problem”.
Q – What are the best research notes we have on it?
Evolution of Server Computing: VMs to Containers to Serverless — Which to Use When? https://www.gartner.com/document/3749163
Adding Serverless Computing and fPaaS to Your Cloud-Native Architecture Toolbox https://www.gartner.com/document/3587220
Andrew & Arun
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