What’s all the FaaS about?
One of the latest buzz words taking Cloud Computing by storm is that of Functions as a Service (FaaS) or serverless computing. Serverless is a hot topic in the world of software architecture, however it has been gaining attention from outside the developer community since AWS pioneered the serverless space with its release of AWS Lambda back in 2014. As one of the fastest growing cloud service delivery models, FaaS has fundamentally changed the way in which technology is not only being purchased but how it’s delivered and operated.
The significance of FaaS for businesses could be huge. Businesses will no longer have to pay for the redundant use of servers, but just for how much computing power that application consumes per millisecond, much like the per-second billing approach that containers are moving towards. Instead of having an application on a server, the business can run it directly from the cloud allowing it to choose when to use it and pay for it, per task – making it event driven. According to Gartner, by 2020, event-sourced, real-time situational awareness will be a required characteristic for 80% of digital business solutions, and 80% of new business ecosystems will require support for event processing.
FaaS is a commoditised function of cloud computing and one that takes away wasted compute associated with idle server storage and infrastructure. “Not every business is going to be right for FaaS or serverless, but there is a real appetite in the industry to reduce the cost of adopting the cloud – so this is a great way to help drive these costs down,” adds Richard Slater, Principal Consultant at Amido. “The thing is, if you’re considering this as an option you are signing up to the ultimate in vendor lock-in as it’s not easy to move these services from one cloud to another; each cloud provider approaches FaaS in a different way and at present you can’t take a function and move it between vendors. As the appetite for serverless technologies grow, the nature of DevOps will subsequently change; it will still be relevant, although how we go about doing it will be very different. We could say that we are moving into a world of NoOps where applications run themselves in the cloud with no infrastructure and little human involvement. Indeed, humans will need to be there to help automate those services, but won’t be required to do as much coding or testing as they do now. With the advent of AI, the IoT, and other technologies, business events can be detected more quickly and analysed in greater detail; enterprises should embrace ‘event thinking’ and Lambda Architectures as part of a digital landscape.”
With FaaS and serverless gaining momentum, we are seeing fundamental changes to the traditional way in which decisions around technology are made, with roles like the CIO evolving at enterprise level now that there isn’t the same level of vendor negotiations. “Cloud providers are basically the same price across the board, meaning there is little room for negotiation, other than length of contract. However, signing up to long-term single-cloud contracts introduces the risk of having a spending commitment with a cloud that doesn’t offer the features that you need in the future to deliver business value. In this respect, the CIO is still necessary,” adds Richard Slater.
The current industry climate is demanding an increase in specialised IT skills that can cater to serverless digital transformation. If business leaders want to deliver, they need to let go of the ‘command and control’ approach and empower teams to be accountable. Creating the environment and securing the right skillsets to be able to develop, own and operate applications from within the same team is demanding for a new breed of IT engineering. Organisations wanting to embrace digital transformation and this new breed of cloud service delivery must start to give trust to the individuals closest to the business and writing code on the ground. “To a certain extent this trust must be earned, but in many of today’s enterprises there is so much governance around technical delivery that it has the effect of slamming the brakes on any transformation,” concludes Richard Slater, Principal Consultant at Amido.
We’ve seen trends come and go over the years, but with global companies like Expedia and Netflix embracing serverless computing, and cloud heavyweights Amazon, Google and Microsoft offering serverless computing models in their respective public cloud environments, FaaS seems here to stay.