You may have noted in my predictive piece in 2018 that I am quite bullish on serverless technology. More specifically, I’m bullish on serverless for the enterprise data center and Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) in the public cloud.
If you're confused about that distinction, let me provide some quick color, so we're all on the same page−literally and figuratively.
Serverless is a system. It’s a framework. It’s an event-driven environment in which containers (usually) are loaded and executed based on some condition being triggered. That condition might be an API call or the time of day. Serverless as a construct does not specify what is in the containers. One of the possibilities is a function.
Which leads us to FaaS, which relies on serverless as its execution environment and specifies that the “what” being executed is a function. It’s more of a use case for serverless than it is a technology, but this industry likes to extend and warp and wash everything so let’s just view them as individual technologies you can use.
How you can use them is what makes me bullish on the technologies
Serverless not yet strategic but showing its strength
Part of my role in the Office of the CTO at F5 is focused on gathering and analyzing industry data that are relevant, or that might be relevant in the future. Thus, I spend a lot of time just reading the Internet. The whole Internet. Yes, even your tweet streams and Reddit rants.
In that perusal, I find a wealth of data and interesting statistics as well as anecdotal discussions on the challenges and benefits of implementing new and interesting technologies like serverless.
Now, part of my role is also to help produce the State of Application Services every year. This year we asked about Serverless-as-a-strategic trend and found that it’s starting to catch the eyes of cloud architects (29 percent), SRE/DevOps (24 percent), and even executives (24 percent). That might not seem high, but it's the first year serverless has debuted on our list, and it has managed to beat out CI/CD and DevOps, which just can't seem to rise to the level of strategic.
Other research digs into the details. A CNCF survey of 2400 respondents last year found that 38 percent were already using serverless−both hosted in the public cloud and on-premises.
It's not the only survey to note the use of serverless on-premises. It's a data point that some find confusing because serverless is closely associated with cloud−and public cloud, to boot. But it's a data point that should not be ignored because the use cases for serverless on-premises are actually pretty compelling.
Use cases expand usefulness
Serverless offers not just simplicity of scale and faster time to value. It also dramatically increases the efficiency of resources−like compute and network, too. Because its entire focus is on executing just in time something−whether containerized app or function−it’s incredibly good at optimizing resource consumption. And for enterprises, optimizing resource consumption is a good thing. With more apps than they count, the ability to better make use of resources is a boon. And serverless can, in many situations, offer that ability. Executing apps or workflows on-demand essentially means sharing the same resources across many apps and workflows in a way that virtualization−or containerization on its own−can offer.
On-premises, compelling use cases are rising up that marry batch jobs and out of band processing with serverless. Chatbots and database change capture. Operational use cases abound, with continuous integration, delivery, and deployment making use of serverless as a platform for driving automation and orchestration.
Off-premises, in the cloud, REST APIs and web apps dominate FaaS use cases. But not always the ones you’d think. Data shows that serverless and FaaS are often incorporated into cloud-native and migrated application architectures. FaaS is being leveraged to extend and modernize existing apps that would otherwise be too expensive to refactor. FaaS is forming the foundations of a new integration model, in which integration on demand is the norm and FaaS is the new bus.
As serverless adoption and usage continues to grow in 2019−both on-premises and off−we’ll continue to see innovation being driven by the marriage of on-demand infrastructure and just-in-time execution.
There’s more to serverless than just functions. And in the coming year, I suspect we'll see more and more projects and products that push past the shiny surface of serverless to show us just how useful this new option can be across all of IT.