The state of serverless

I’ve just finished a series of five columns for The New Stack about the serverless trend in cloud computing. It’s a terrible name, but basically serverless means removing all the backend burden for developers. No need to worry about infrastructure or servers, you just pay a platform like AWS Lambda to run everything — you pay for what you use. Serverless frees up developers to focus on the (many) frontend tools they have available to them.

The serverless ecosystem starts with AWS Lambda, which is what’s known as a Functions-as-a-Service platform (FaaS). For the opening column for this series, I spoke with Nader Dabit, senior developer advocate at Amazon Web Services (AWS). He prefers to think of serverless as “a development philosophy.” He explained that the serverless trend is really about giving developers the tools, libraries and APIs they need to build cloud apps. 

For the next column about serverless and data, I spoke to Fauna co-founder Evan Weaver. Fauna’s goal is to provide a powerful “data API” for serverless apps, so that developers don’t even need to touch a database system. 

I then explored some of the limitations of serverless. Chief among them is management of state. AWS Lambda is the dominant serverless platform currently and its functions are, by decree, stateless — meaning there can be no record of previous interactions in a Lambda function. So I spoke to the creators of Cloudstate, who aim to build a foundation for “Serverless 2.0” by adding stateful functions to the mix.

AWS Lambda lacks some functionality too, so I spoke to Thundra’s Vice President of Product, Emrah Samdan. Thundra provides observability and security for serverless applications built on Lambda.

Finally, I talked with TriggerMesh co-founder and Chief Product Officer Sebastien Goasguen  about how serverless is an event-driven architecture. TriggerMesh wants to connect together services across multicloud. It’s early stage for this company, but it’s reminiscient of an old Web 2.0 favorite, Yahoo Pipes.

What I discovered talking to all these industry experts and researching the current state of serverless, is that there’s a thriving ecosystem being built up around this trend. Much of it is happening on top of AWS Lambda right now, but there are also intriguing efforts to extend — and even re-define, in the case of Cloudstate — what serverless can offer.

The big question is will an open source serverless platform arise to eventually usurp Lambda, much as Kubernetes usurped Docker in the mid-2010s in the containers world. Too early to say, but I’ll be keeping an eye on this trend going forward. Follow me on Twitter to keep informed of my weekly columns, which focus on what’s next on the cloud native internet.

Image from Pixabay.