Why Serverless is the Future of Cloud Computing

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Serverless computing, a rising trend in the world of cloud computing, offers companies numerous benefits that traditional server-based computing doesn't offer. These include enhanced performance, better scalability, and lower costs. And its growth has been swift because with serverless computing, developers can run code without managing servers.

Serverless computing, a rising trend in the world of cloud computing, offers companies numerous benefits that traditional server-based computing doesn’t offer.

These include enhanced performance, better scalability, and lower costs. And its growth has been swift because now developers can run code without managing servers.

And because of its popularity, cloud providers will likely offer additional serverless computing options in the future.

Scott Petry, partner, consulting services, cloud engineering practice lead at PwC, told Techopedia:

“In the early days of cloud computing, the focus was on replicating the legacy model of compute, storage, and network into the cloud so that companies could take advantage of cloud service providers of greater scale and reliability.”

Concepts, such as virtual machines, virtual private cloud networks, operating system images, and relational databases, all mirror exactly what companies did in their legacy data centers, he adds.

“However, as computing power has advanced, the cloud service providers have been able to offer new capabilities and services based on advanced research in distributed computing, machine learning, microservices, and other architecture patterns and techniques that change the fundamental way we build and operate modern applications,” Petry says.

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Serverless: Part of the Evolution of Cloud Computing

Serverless is part of the evolution of cloud computing, very often applied to one specific area: development, says Adonay Cervantes, global field CTO CloudBlue, a multi-tier commerce platform.

“The ideal world for the development community is to have a single platform where they can code and release without the need to worry about the activities, applications, or workloads and their embedded maintenance to launch new applications.

“Serverless has the promise of providing these frameworks to developers.”

From a multi-cloud perspective, serverless becomes even more compelling, says Matthew Wallace, CTO of Faction Inc., a multi-cloud data services provider.

“As companies increasingly adopt a multi-cloud strategy to avoid vendor lock-in, enhance resilience, optimize costs, and select ideal features across various cloud providers, serverless can be a cornerstone of this approach.”

Serverless computing’s on-demand access to resources can facilitate faster and smoother testing and quality assurance cycles – and serverless is what’s next, says Cervantes.

“This accessibility can lead to improved application development outcomes, ensuring a higher level of quality and reliability,” he says.

Serverless Models Are Increasingly Popular

As the trend to migrate to the cloud continues, there will be more application modernization to take advantage of native cloud services that lean into these new serverless capabilities and services, Petry says.

Sean Mahoney, vice president and general manager at cloud-native consultancy Ensono Digital, agrees.

Cloud-native technologies, such as serverless models and containers, are becoming more popular across the public cloud, he says. This enables faster application development and deployment at scale.

For companies that want to innovate quickly or overhaul their cloud infrastructures without spending massive amounts of money, cloud-native application development might be the answer, Mahoney adds.

With serverless computing, organizations rely on the cloud providers’ automation to outsource their systems and server management, says Scott Buchholz, CTO government and public services practice and quantum computing lead at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

“The benefit is that many cumbersome and onerous tasks are handled out of the box, including scaling, patching, security, and more,” he says.

Since serverless applications are charged on a pay-as-you-go basis, they can be very cost-effective, particularly for applications that have low resource usage, according to Buchholz. He adds:

“Moreover, designed correctly, serverless applications benefit from cloud provider automation and can have significantly better uptime than applications managed in a traditional fashion.

However, not all applications will be well suited to serverless computing, he adds.

“It is likely to be more cost effective to use dedicated servers for applications with consistently high CPU and other resource usage,” Buchholz says. “Developers and administrators must adapt their habits and patterns to take full advantage of the tools. Ultimately, the benefits of serverless computing mean that it will become a much larger part of cloud usage over time.”

Additionally, serverless computing presents a transformative shift in how companies perceive and interact with cloud infrastructures, says Wallace.

“The promises of reduced overhead, automatic scalability, and cost-effectiveness are alluring for businesses,” he says. “At its core, serverless removes the need for developers to be entangled in the intricacies of server management, allowing them to focus on what truly matters: delivering value through their applications.”

Benefits of Serverless Computing

In most cases, the serverless model greatly reduces the need for companies to have staff dedicated to such concepts as patching and upgrades, systems administration, service-level agreements, such as system uptime, and even low-level performance tuning in operating systems and databases, says Petry.

“Instead, engineering teams focus entirely on delivering net new algorithms and user experiences that directly create value for the business instead of spending large percentages of time on sustaining engineering or keeping the lights on.”

Given the advantages provided by serverless models and the ongoing push to modernize into the cloud instead of just migrate, we will continue to see serverless architectures take over the way applications are built and deployed in the cloud, Petry adds.

In addition, serverless architecture provides several key benefits in the realm of security, says Lotem Guy, vice president product at Cycode, a provider of an application security platform.

“By abstracting away the underlying infrastructure, serverless platforms reduce the attack surface since there are no persistent servers for attackers to target,” he says. “This transient nature ensures that potential threats cannot establish a consistent foothold.”

Moreover, cloud providers automatically manage and patch the serverless environments. This means the underlying software is frequently updated to address vulnerabilities without needing developer intervention, ensuring that the foundational platform is resistant to known issues, according to Guy.

Additionally, serverless platforms often emphasize fine-grained permissions, allowing developers to easily apply the principle of least privilege. Guy says. And each function can be specifically tailored so that it only has the necessary permissions, limiting potential damage if a particular function is compromised.

“Coupled with the scalability benefits of serverless, which can mitigate certain types of denial-of-service attacks, organizations can leverage serverless architectures to achieve a more secure operational posture without the overhead of traditional infrastructure management,” he adds.

The Bottom Line

Serverless computing is seen as the future of cloud computing for several key reasons, says Udi-Yehuda Tamar, CTO at Skyhawk Security, provider of a cloud breach prevention platform.

First, many organizations are feeling the pressure to work within stricter budgets, and pay-as-you-go pricing and automatic scaling reduce operational costs, he says.

“And the seamless scalability of serverless computing is also very attractive,” Tamar says.

“It’s a simple solution that lets developers focus on code instead of infrastructure, and it accelerates time to market, which eliminates vendor lock-in. Serverless computing offers unprecedented cost savings, scalability, and developer efficiency, making it a promising future for cloud computing.”

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Linda Rosencrance
Technology journalist

Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer and editor based in the Boston area, with expertise ranging from AI and machine learning to cybersecurity and DevOps. She has been covering IT topics since 1999 as an investigative reporter working for several newspapers in the Boston metro area. Before joining Techopedia in 2022, her articles have appeared in TechTarget, MSDynamicsworld.com, TechBeacon, IoT World Today, Computerworld, CIO magazine, and many other publications. She also writes white papers, case studies, ebooks, and blog posts for many corporate clients, interviewing key players, including CIOs, CISOs, and other C-suite execs.