The serverless computing space is ripe for consolidation and standardization as organizations look for clarity and long-term support channels. Some predict those moves could happen as early as the next economic recession.
John Rymer, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, said that while the serverless ecosystem remains dynamic, he expects standardization and consolidation efforts will likely ramp when companies feel financial pressure.
“I predict we will see this push in serverless and microservices during the next recession,” Rymer said. “When there is an economic recession that is when people pull in their horns. They spend less on innovation and more on consolidation and rationalization of assets.”
Rymer explained that to this point the serverless space has not needed much in the way of standardization or consolidation. This is because the market is still so new that more ideas need to be fleshed out before there can be any sort of bedrock upon which to base standardization efforts.
Forrester Research recently released results of a survey of more than 3,200 global developers, with 25 percent of respondents stating they were adopting serverless. Around that same percentage also said they planned to adopt serverless.
However, that interest was pretty far down the list of options. For instance, agile software development was being used by 56 percent of developers, while 33 percent said they were using containers. But, looking ahead, plans to use serverless nearly matched that of all the other options on the list.
“Serverless was not at the top of the list of options, but it’s a lot newer than a lot of things on that list like agile methods, which has been around for a long time and seen a lot of adoption so you would expect that,” Rymer said.
Standardization and Consolidation
Those adoption numbers lead credence to the notion that the serverless space is still too untamed to handle standardization. Most current serverless deployments are specific to cloud providers that have launched their own serverless platform tied into their public cloud architecture. These include Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda, Microsoft Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions.
Rymer said that at this point developers are really making bets on particular platforms. “They know they are tying themselves to proprietary content, but if the business needs the app, so be it.”
“Standardization is the domain of management and not as big a concern to development teams,” Rymer said. “They just want to get stuff done.”
Those cloud giants also don’t yet have any reason to standardize on any specific serverless technology.
“The infrastructure layer at this point is a commodity,” added Richard Seroter, senior director of product at Pivotal. “Functions are the differentiator, so the motivation is not high for cloud providers to standardize.”
Seroter said that the eventual motivation could follow a similar path to the container ecosystem, which has rapidly consolidated around Kubernetes. That Kubernetes angle is already starting to spill into the serverless ecosystem as a way to standardize deployments. The most obvious example is the Google-led Knative initiative that launched earlier this year.
The Kubernetes-based platform was developed by Google, Pivotal, IBM, Red Hat, and SAP. It’s an open source set of components that allows for the building and deployment of container-based serverless applications that can be transported between cloud providers.
“Serverless is the new Kubernetes when it comes to what enterprises want,” Seroter recently told SDxCentral. “They at least want a vendor to have a serverless plan.”
James Governor, analyst and co-founder at RedMonk, noted in a recent blog post that, “Knative will almost certainly become the standard plumbing for functions-as-a-service (FaaS) on Kubernetes.”
Standardization is then expected to lead to consolidation. Seroter and Rymer both agreed that something like Knative could be that unifying M&A target for serverless players.
A perfect example of this has been in the container ecosystem where Kubernetes has been central to a number of recent deals. This includes IBM’s $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat and VMware’s purchase of Heptio.
There are a number of companies tightly focused on the serverless space, like Stackery, TriggerMesh, and Serverless. Those firms could be prime targets for larger cloud players looking to add a broader serverless scope to their operations.
“Next year could be a real inflection point for the space,” Rymer added.