According to data from a recent Cloud Foundry Foundation survey, serverless computing is outpacing conventional patterns of emerging technology adoption. All the while, a PwC FinTech focus study suggests that serverless computing can help banks regain their advantage over emergent high-tech competitors.
But how can a new technology trend have such a transformative impact on business? The answer is simple: The value proposition of serverless computing is aligned with prominent and widespread business priorities. Let me explain.
Like the financial institutions mentioned in the PwC’s study, organizations across the globe see technology-driven innovation as essential to compete. However, the first-mover-advantage is still a good predictor of success in capitalizing on new opportunities. And the ability to quickly sense and respond to change is key to achieving the operational excellence required to retain customers and expand to ancillary markets. Similarly, serverless computing promises to enable faster innovation at a lower cost and simplify the creation of responsive business processes.
The alignment between business objectives and the value proposition of serverless computing is clear. What might be less clear is what “serverless computing” means and how an organization can successfully embrace it.
Achieving faster innovation at a lower cost
Serverless computing is a cloud-computing execution model where compute, inter-application communications, such as messaging and storage resources, are provisioned and scaled instantly in a very granular manner by the service provider to support actual application workloads. These capabilities allow developers to focus on coding instead of managing deployment and runtime environments. Also, application resources utilization is carefully metered, and consumers pay only for the activation and use of these resources while an application runs. There is no up-front cost for infrastructure and no fee when the application is idle. Thus, with serverless computing, an organization can innovate faster and at a lower cost – and support its evolution toward becoming an intelligent enterprise.
Because serverless computing environments can provision and scale resources on demand, they are ideal for handling sporadic or unpredictable workloads. This might be the case, for example, when you roll out a new promotion on your website and do not know how many customers will respond or how much capacity you will need to carry out the required follow-up. Serverless computing eliminates the risk and cost of overprovisioning, as it can scale resources dynamically with no up-front capacity planning required.
Enabling responsive business processes
Serverless computing environments are ideal to support the development and deployment of responsive business processes across multiple application domains that react to change in real time.
For example, serverless function services – often referred to as function as a service (FaaS) – can automatically activate and run application logic that carry out simple tasks in response to specific events. These events might entail the submission of a new product order, an HTTP call from a mobile application, a timer alert, or a status change in a transaction, for instance. These functions are stateless microservices, and several instances of the same function can run in parallel to cope with the flow of incoming events.
If the task enchained by an incoming event involves data management, developers can leverage serverless backends as a service (BaaS) for data caching, persistence, and analytics services via standard APIs. A BaaS can also trigger events – for example, when a data value changes or reaches a certain threshold. These events can then be used to activate new tasks carried out by other functions and applications.
Serverless computing flow
Most importantly, application developers need the ability to discover, manage, and accurately dispatch the multitude of events that business applications and customer interaction channels generate. Event broker services help address this requirement. They allow serverless application components to work independently from one another with no blockage while they carry out different tasks in parallel.
With this event-driven application infrastructure in place, one organization can decide at any moment to execute a new task in response to a given event. For example, when an event indicates that a piece of equipment is malfunctioning, a function can be automatically activated to display an alert on a monitoring dashboard. If the maintenance department then decides to track equipment malfunctions over time, a developer can quickly create a serverless function that is triggered by the same event and logs the alert in the appropriate repository. When a new alert comes in, the cloud provider will activate both functions. This translates into greater innovation agility, as there is no need to modify or redeploy existing application logic.
Choosing enterprise-ready innovation for tangible business results
Innovation always carries an inherent risk. To mitigate risk, organizations need to rely on enterprise-ready technology. This provides an essential “technology insurance” that increases the likelihood of a tangible return on investments.
Adopting a new computing paradigm needs to be simple, and the technology solution has to support a variety of use cases. In the case of serverless computing, you need to have all the components and tools required to deliver robust, responsive applications that can deal with high event volumes generated across your organization – in the cloud or on-premise.
Development organizations can leverage end-to-end productivity tools to build and deploy serverless application components. They can also take advantage of technical and business services to accelerate the development effort, connect new applications with cloud and on-premise processes, and manage and analyze data anywhere.
Innovation cannot be done in isolation, and serverless innovation is no exception. All new automation silos sooner or later undermine a company’s business agility. Serverless environments need to work synergistically with all relevant applications via open APIs. A serverless cloud messaging and event brokering service, for example, can help organizations discover and dispatch business events generated by an ERP solution across cloud and on-premise. In this way, a new order generated could trigger a serverless function that automatically sends a thank-you note to new customers via Gmail, Slack, Twitter, or another communication method.
Organizations also need the flexibility to develop and deploy their innovations where it makes the most sense for their business. Platforms that rely on open standards, deploy on all the major hyperscale public clouds, and offer portability between the hyperscaler IaaS foundations are really the ideal choice for serverless environments.
Enterprise-ready serverless technology allows businesses to benefit from serverless, enterprise-ready innovation that works synergistically with their digital core within a simple, secure, and standards-based cloud environment. Enterprise readiness combined with the value proposition of serverless computing helps organizations increase innovation agility and use responsive applications to achieve operational excellence.