Serverless computing: 6 things you need to know

How "serverless" is serverless computing? What are the benefits and risks of serverless computing? Get answers to these questions and more.

What is serverless architecture and why does it matter to your business? Forrester Research principal analyst Jeffrey Hammond spoke with TechRepublic about the basic tenets of serverless computing, and how companies are using it in next-generation infrastructure.


For proponents, serverless computing provides workforce solutions, efficiency, and cost savings in the enterprise. Everyone else? They may need some more convincing on the benefits of this newer technology.

If you are unsure about making an investment in serverless computing, consider the six points below.

SEE: Serverless computing: A guide for IT leaders (Tech Pro Research)

Serverless computing 101

1. What is serverless computing?

In the most basic sense, serverless computing is a cloud computing service that simplifies code deployment by running snippets of back-end code that developers write for a single short-lived task or function. Only the precise amount of computing resources needed to complete the task get performed—no more, no less. Customers, in turn, pay a fraction of a penny each time a task or function gets deployed.

2. How "serverless" is serverless computing?

The term "serverless computing" isn't entirely accurate. There is, in fact, an actual server, but it is run by a cloud provider instead of a person. The "serverless" part of the term refers to users no longer needing to manage the servers that run their code.

3. Where is serverless computing available?

Serverless computing is available via cloud providers, which include AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud Functions.

SEE: AWS Lambda: A guide to the serverless computing framework (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4. What are the benefits of serverless computing?

Serverless computing is inexpensive—you only pay for what you use. If no task is executed, there is no charge (the user is only billed down to the nearest 100 milliseconds.). Further, since there is no virtual infrastructure for a user to manage, serverless computing reduces operational costs and increases worker efficiency.

5. Who typically uses serverless computing?

Businesses running websites and apps with a need for back-end services or analytics.

Take this serverless computing survey , and get a free research report.

6. What can't serverless computing do?

Like most nascent technologies, serverless computing has limitations in regards to security, monitoring, and optimization software supporting the technology, not to mention there is the potential for latency or performance issues. Serverless computing is not suited for high-performance computing due to resource limits put in place by cloud providers. Partnering with cloud providers for serverless computing initiatives also introduces the potential for common concerns such as vendor lock-in or lack of control or responsiveness. In addition, serverless functions also remain stateless. Tasks may be re-used and re-executed, but currently, there exists no state storage.

What do you think?

How thoroughly has your organization researched the pros and cons of serverless computing? What functions does your company use serverless computing services for? What problems have you experienced with serverless computing technology?

Take this serverless computing survey from TechRepublic's sister site Tech Pro Research and let us know.

All respondents will have a chance to enter their email at the end of the survey and receive a free copy of the resulting research report, which is normally only available to Tech Pro Research subscribers.

Also see

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Image: Kittipong Jirasukhanont, Getty Images/iStockphoto

By Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman

Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman is an Associate Editor for TechRepublic. She has 20 years of experience editing and writing for B2B and consumer publications focused on technology, innovation, healthcare, food and culture. Melanie received a bachelor's degr...