UPDATED 13:33 EDT / JANUARY 08 2018


Doting developers could make 2018 the year of serverless computing

Building and deploying software with serverless computing functions is easier and cheaper than the worn infrastructure-first route. It may also be better than containers’ virtual method for running distributed software applications for some net-new applications. And new efforts are smoothing rickety on-premises-to-cloud portability. With such momentum, it seems nothing can keep 2018 from being the year of serverless technology.

But first, why has this trend been labeled “serverless?” After all, when a serverless application runs, there’s a server or servers somewhere thrumming along. Some say “serverless” is simply the term marketers have glommed onto; anyone who sells to software developers will understand why. “As developer, you’re sort of avoiding [information technology],” said Yaron Haviv (pictured), founder and chief technology officer of Iguazio Systems Ltd. In other words, the list of things a developer must deal with in order to design and deploy an app is “serverless.”

“You open a nice portal, you write a function, or you write your function in a GitHub repository somewhere, you click on a button, and it gets deployed somewhere,” Haviv said.

Pre-defined events trigger code that developers write to execute a specific function. There is no need to rent cloud server instances in advance to provide for the functions. Instead, the cloud provider automatically provisions the resources needed for each executed function. This not only cuts burdensome infrastructure provisioning from developers’ agendas, it can also whittle costs enough to win enterprise customers, and adversely pain those cloud providers without a competitive serverless offering.

Practical, on-prem models have been lacking, but Iguazio — known for its unified data platform — is filling the void with its open-source serverless platform for multicloud and edge deployments, Nuclio. Haviv compared Nuclio to serverless offerings from Amazon Web Services Inc. and others during an interview at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. He spoke with John Furrier (@furrier), host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, and guest host Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor), principal at The CTO Advisor. (* Disclosure below.)

This week, theCUBE spotlights Yaron Haviv in our Guest of the Week feature.

Containers give legacy legs in cloud

At last month’s KubeCon + CloudNativeCon event in Austin, Texas, serverless tech and the Kubernetes container orchestration management platform dominated conversations. Both containers and serverless computing methods have adoring cloud-native developer fan bases. Yet the two technologies differ on some salient points. For enterprises juicing up legacy apps with cloud-native-esque agility, serverless and container methods diverge widely in what they can offer. 

Containerizing legacy applications and then deploying them in a public cloud is pretty standard fare for hybrid cloud providers. It’s the go-to solution for many who believe it’s the easy way to modernize legacy apps. Some argue this method is lazy, glossing over legacy app modernization instead of fully upgrading with cloud-native capabilities. 

Haviv has been an outspoken critic of the container-to-cloud cure-all, seeing some companies as peddling. “They focus on refactoring legacy or monolithic apps to run in containers and gain minimal packaging automation benefits without the agility, elasticity and [Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment] benefits. They may as well keep those apps in [virtual machines] and just forget about it,” he wrote in a dzone.com article last year. 

But what else are companies with barrels full of of legacy applications to do? If refactoring monolithic applications for containers is less than ideal, at least it’s possible. Only the most reckless developer would attempt to refactor them for serverless, which is why containerization methods aren’t likely to be abandoned anytime soon.

“Don’t count on public cloud providers to stand by and watch their market share go away as containers take the majority of the legacy migration market between the two technologies,” cloud computing expert David Linthicum wrote on Datamation.com last November. “They are already expanding language, storage and data support for these tools, and both Microsoft and AWS will soon be in their third generations.”

Serverless value prop won’t stop

Likewise, don’t expect that net-new app developers won’t opt for serverless, given a choice. Public cloud has forced developers into murky infrastructure waters, where they must provision memory and processor capacity, and some want out. Serverless lets them wave goodbye to all that and get back to coding their applications. The function as a service market is projected to grow from $1.88 billion in 2016 to $7.72 billion by 2021, according to Research and Markets

Yet AWS continues to push containerization, having recently launched Fargate to run containers without provisioning infrastructure. This could help keep containers attractive compared to serverless in that regard. But will it answer the cost question to anyone’s satisfaction?

“It’s going to take many more dollars to build a net-new application using cloud-based or on-premises container technology than it will to build the same application using serverless tools,” Linthicum said.

Even AWS Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy recently stated himself that if Amazon.com launched today, it would go serverless.

Compared to the status-quo cloud instance provisioning, serverless could provide five to 10 times in efficiency gains, New York Times Chief Technology Officer, according to Nick Rockwell, as quoted by CIO.

Containers are popular largely, however, because they allow portability among on-prem and cloud environments. Here, serverless is playing catch up, with Iguazio’s  Nuclio offering prompting much-needed momentum. Nuclio is portable across “internet of things” devices, on-prem data centers and cloud deployments. This eliminates cloud lock-in and enables hybrid solutions, according to the company.

Who’s afraid of AWS?

Iguazio is crashing straight out of the gate touting Nuclio is a superior alternative to AWS’ Lambda serverless platform.

The company’s opinionated approach to constructing a solution benefits real-world customers more than the AWS megastore of service options, according to Haviv. “We do fewer services, but each one kicks ass. Each one is much better, much faster, much better engineered,” he said.

It is precisely what AWS has that Nuclio does not that may help Nuclio win the hearts of developers, Haviv said. A lot of Amazon’s services — virtual machines, Oracle migration services, etc. — are just legacy baggage to cloud-native developers, he added.

“Let’s assume I’m a startup and building a new cloud-native application. Do I need any of that? No, I can probably do with containers. I don’t really need VMs. I can use something like Kubernetes. I can use NoSQL databases,” Haviv said. (Nuclio can run on Docker Inc. containers and Kubernetes if users prefer.)

Nuclio serverless platform is autoscalable with continuous integration and versioning for the code. “Essentially, it’s a packaged version of a cloud-native solution,” he stated. It also happens to be faster than bare metal and 100x faster than Amazon Lambda, according to Haviv.

“We’re doing 400,000 events per second on a single process — they do about 2,000,” he said, adding that most open-source projects hover near the 2,000 mark as well.

While serverless and database as a service are clear favorites of developers, some information technology organizations stubbornly insist on doing things the hard way, Haviv explained. “They like to build stuff. They want to take the Nutanix, and take 100 services on top of it, and it will take them two years to integrate,” he said.

The pace of digital transformation doesn’t forgive such plodding. “By that time, the business already moved somewhere else,” Haviv concluded.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of AWS re:Invent. (* Disclosure: Iguazio Systems Ltd sponsored this segment of theCUBE. Neither Iguazio Systems Ltd nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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