The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) today released its first batch of data targeted at the serverless computing ecosystem. The move provides further support for the nascent serverless space and could prove a compelling step toward wrangling in some of the organizational challenges facing the ecosystem.
The data comes from the CNCF Serverless Working Group (SWG), which was established in 2016. CNCF formed the group in an attempt to “explore the intersection of cloud native and serverless technology.”
CNCF released a white paper explaining some of the basic concepts of serverless computing, use cases, challenges, and opportunities.
It also compares how serverless computing relates to more established cloud-native technologies. These include container orchestration using well-known examples like Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, and Apache Mesos; platform-as-a-service (PaaS) like Cloud Foundry, OpenShift, Deis, and Heroku; and the serverless ecosystem running as function-as-a-service (FaaS).
(Spoiler alert: there’s a place for them all.)
CNCF’s efforts could also bolster the use of serverless pods running inside a Kubernetes-managed container cluster. The Kubernetes Project is one of CNCF’s more prominent projects.
The latest CNCF data includes a graphical representation of the serverless computing ecosystem for those who prefer pictures to words. This includes platforms that have been presented to the CNCF SWG like Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda, Microsoft Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions.
A spokeswoman for the CNCF in an email noted that no serverless computing-specific projects have been submitted as a potential hosted project. However there are efforts on a draft dubbed CloudEvents that is a collaboration within the CNCF SWG that they plan to present to the CNCF Technical Oversight Committee later this year.
Tackling Lock In
More specific to the CNCF community, the white paper also highlights benefits of using open APIs as a way to avoid vendor lock in.
“One thing is quite clear – as a new technology there is a lack of standardization and interoperability between cloud providers that may lead to vendor lock in,” the white paper notes. “There is a need for quality documentation, best practices, and more importantly, tools and utilities. Mostly, there is a need to bring different players together under the same roof to drive innovation through collaboration.”
Vendor lock in has become one of the more prominent challenges facing the serverless ecosystem. Analysts have noted that the lack of market maturity has bolstered that stance by vendors, but that it will need to be overcome in order for serverless to garner greater adoption.
“Vendor lock in with serverless is more pressing than what is happening with containers,” said Charlie Li, chief cloud officer at Capgemini. “If you are a full Microsoft shop or all-in with AWS, this is not a problem. But if you want to have a multi-cloud environment, it’s not easy to migrate serverless applications across platforms.”
At first blush, vendors working in the serverless space appear to be on board with the CNCF efforts. Nate Taggart, CEO of Stackery, said his company always believed serverless was complementary to other cloud-native technologies and that the CNCF release shows rapid recognition of serverless.
“CNCF’s serverless working group is a clear marker of the incredible speed at which serverless has become a mainstream, mission-critical enterprise infrastructure technology,” Taggart noted in an email.
CNCF conducted a survey late last year that found 41 percent of its community members were dabbling with serverless technology. Vendor Platform9 conducted its own survey at last year’s KubeCon event that found FaaS was the third most popular use case among the community.
Redmonk analyst Fintan Ryan noted in a recent blog post that growing uptake by some large enterprise customers is legitimizing serverless as an option.
“None of these use cases are trivial – they are at significant scale, and with real revenue attached to them,” Ryan wrote.
Ryan noted that from conversations, a majority of serverless application workloads are being run on Lambda. Microsoft’s Azure Functions is also getting some attention with Google’s Cloud Functions “running a distant third.”
As an interesting side note, Ryan wrote that he has also heard of enterprise developers looking to bypass work on container platforms and moving straight to serverless architectures “for suitable applications.”
“We expect this trend to pick up pace over the coming twelve to eighteen months, but with various teething problems as developers adopt to this new paradigm and reach decisions on what programming languages and frameworks they find to be productive,” Ryan explained.