Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Push Ahead on Serverless
Major cloud providers continue to build out the services they offer customers around serverless computing workloads, giving organizations more options and tools for creating and running modern applications in the cloud without having to worry about the underlying server infrastructure.
Microsoft Azure this month announced a new plan for its Functions hosting model that includes the ability to leverage what officials call “pre-warmed instances” that allow for applications to run without delays and scale quickly after sitting inactive. It also offers access to more powerful instances for serverless workloads.
Also this month, as part of its onslaught of announcements at the Google Cloud Next 2019 show, Google Cloud Platform unveiled an array of advancements around serverless computing led by Cloud Run, a serverless platform for containerized applications, as well as Cloud Run on GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine) and Knative, an open API and runtime for serverless environments.
The news from Azure and Google Cloud are part of a larger trend within the cloud space toward functions as a service (FaaS) – or serverless computing – to more efficiently run modern workloads in the cloud, a boon for organizations and one more area in which channel partners can help their customers as they continue their move into the cloud.
According to Paul Teich, principal analyst for Liftr Cloud Insights, “serverless is the final frontier for increasing server utilization and efficiency.”
In the public cloud, FaaS is more efficient than bare-metal servers, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS), though not as efficient as software as a service, Teich told Channel Futures.
“PaaS is more efficient than IaaS and bare metal because it takes developers less time to write, debug and validate apps on PaaS vs. IaaS,” he said. “Likewise for FaaS being more efficient than PaaS to write, debug and validate apps. SaaS is the ultimate in efficiency because someone else spent time doing all that writing, debugging and validating.”
Given that, FaaS is “theoretically … about the best an enterprise IT developer can do for both programming efficiency in developing an app and for runtime efficiencies in operationally delivering an app, but they have to start from scratch,” Teich added.
The debate over FaaS vs. PaaS vs. IaaS is less about the applications running in the environments and more about developer productivity, accelerating time to market and the operational efficiencies that come with scale, the analyst said.
Those also are many of the arguments for the public cloud in general, so all the top cloud providers are busy expanding their portfolios of services around serverless computing as well as the other as-a-service models. According to Amazon Web Services (AWS), the top benefits of serverless computing are eliminating the need to manage servers, flexible and automated scaling, paying for value rather than by server, and built-in high availability and fault tolerance.
Azure’s new Functions Premium plan delivers “a suite of long requested scaling and connectivity options without compromising on event-based scale,” Alex Karcher, program manager for Azure Functions, wrote in a blog. With the premium plan, customers get access to instances of up to four cores and 14GB of memory (up from one core and 1.5GB in the current consumption plan), as well as VNET integration and the pre-warmed instances that address the problem of cold starts, which can cause a delay when calling an application that has sat idle.
“Keeping a pool of pre-warmed instances to scale into is one of the core advantages beyond existing workarounds,” Karcher wrote, noting that in the consumption plan, there’s a workaround called a pinger that constantly …