Recently, the CompTIA Benelux Business Technology Community held a session on developments in cloud computing. Frederik Denkens, founder of SkyScrapers and a specialist in helping companies looking to accelerate their SaaS journey with Cloud Native, DevOps, Kubernetes and AWS, talked about serverless computing and its consequences for IT service providers. Here’s what he had to say.
Innovation in computing has always been around, but today we see changes developing with breakneck speed, as new paradigms in IT are emerging at an extremely fast pace. What was new yesterday may be outdated next week. Business models we have become accustomed to are being replaced by new ones. For example, managing and setting up systems and selling software and licenses have changed dramatically. The cloud is the new paradigm and pay-as-you-go the new model.
While cloud technology has revolutionized many aspects of IT, there is a new technology that will have much impact on the way software functionality is created. There is a huge difference with traditional development practices which can be shown by comparing serverless with existing approaches.
From single server to serverless
If we look at the traditional single server approach, a developer who works on new functions or new software must always bear in mind a number of things: hardware, storage layer, operating system, services, network, scaling and load-balancing. All of these have an influence on the performance of the software and therefore cannot be ignored.
One step further and virtualization and IaaS come in. The advantage of that technology for developers is that they no longer need to worry about hardware and storage layer. However, operating system, services, network, scaling and load-balancing still play an important role. After virtualization, the containers emerged, taking hardware, storage layer, services and network out of the equation. This made development much easier.
However, with serverless, developers can forget about all of these aspects. It is only about functions. Therefore, serverless is also called FaaS or function as a service. A definition of serverless is “a category of cloud computing services that provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run and manage application functionalities without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an app.”
Fast development cycles
Serverless is especially popular among SaaS providers because they can use it to accelerate development cycles. They can easily add functions to the software they deliver to end users while their developers need not worry about all the infrastructure aspects of development. They can focus on creating code for functions of an app.
The benefits of serverless computing are clear. You can ‘knit’ your applications together with building blocks and APIs of which many are available at one of the worldwide hyperscalers AWS, Google or Microsoft. They have embraced serverless computing by providing an array of tools and capabilities to support development teams. Development teams have only one interest: the application, while scaling is no longer an issue (which it still is for containers).
Serverless computing is growing fast: 10% of organizations will be using serverless computing by 2022. Half of all AWS users have adopted AWS lambda (serverless), which is a similar growth to machine learning and AI.
With serverless, application developers no longer have to think about the underlying layers. They can focus on creating direct business value while the rest comes out of the box. This leads to organizational effectiveness and optimized costs associated with infrastructure maintenance. Also, development costs decrease while productivity increases. In addition, teams may feel more motivated because they see results and value much quicker.
However, there are challenges to serverless computing. First of all, there is the aspect of developer’s skills, mindset and culture. Serverless is new and different and requires developers to get the right training and guidance. Next, there is always the aspect of vendor lock in when starting with serverless. When selecting a partner, it is a choice for the long term. On the other hand, major hyperscalers provide a vast ecosystem. Nevertheless, it is wise to get good and independent advice on the pros and cons of the various vendors.
Also, there is the aspect of debugging, which requires the right tools and best practices as well as security awareness and expertise. Finally, there is the aspect of upfront cost management. What do training, consultation, tooling and service provider services cost? All of these issues must be discussed thoroughly to get a good picture of the possibilities of serverless for an organization.
But ultimately, it is worth exploring sooner rather than later because serverless is here to stay and will fundamentally speed up innovation at a lower cost. Innovation is not an option, but a must.
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