Cloud

Why serverless has so quickly become mission critical for mainstream enterprises

Serverless is barely out of diapers, yet mainstream enterprises are already looking to it to help them leapfrog containers.

Redmonk analyst James Governor is probably right: Serverless is being driven by tech laggards. But whether driven by newbies hoping to get the benefits of containers without figuring out the realities of running them, or by tech hipsters, serverless functions are getting real remarkably fast. As recent survey data from Serverless Inc. suggests, despite the relative novelty of serverless for most enterprises, it's already becoming critical infrastructure.

Driven by laggards

Of course, the data does come from Serverless Inc., which admits that "the majority of people who answered the survey were probably Serverless Framework users." So. the survey didn't necessarily reach the hinterlands of enterprise computing.

SEE: Quick glossary: DevOps (Tech Pro Research)

Or possibly it did. As the Stackery team told Governor, "serverless is being driven by mainstream enterprises. We see them leapfrogging containers so they can take something off the shelf and move quickly."

Containers are great, but as Governor pointed out, "The problem with container infrastructures is [they] call[] for highly skilled developers and operators," which many companies don't have and can't get, as the best developers prefer to work for "cooler" companies.

And so, serverless is driven by tech laggards who may well inhabit the "hinterlands of enterprise computing." Where are these companies using serverless? Well...everywhere:

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Image: Serverless Inc.

Mission critical at such a young age

As noted in the above graphic, some 53.2% of respondents said serverless is critical for their job. That's a massive number given how new serverless is. Again, it's a skewed sample, perhaps, but how about this: 24% of those surveyed had virtually no public cloud experience before adopting serverless.

Wut?

SEE: Special report: Riding the DevOps revolution (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Yes, that leaves 76% of those surveyed with lots of experience running applications in the public cloud, but to find nearly a quarter with none? Running cutting-edge serverless functions? That's huge, especially when you consider that 65% of those public cloud newbies say that serverless is critical to the work they do. It's also a testament to serverless being a great opportunity for companies looking to leapfrog the mess of containers.

As for what holds these companies back (experienced cloud consumers or otherwise), it's mostly a matter of operationalizing serverless. As much as serverless does to lower the bar to developer productivity, developers still want better tooling, more knowledge, etc. to feel that they're completely capable of moving forward with confidence. That's a great opportunity for vendors in the space, particularly since serverless is changing the whole definition of an "early adopter." In serverless, the early adopter is...everyone.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/Rost-9D

About Matt Asay

Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.

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