VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Is serverless computing the next evolution of open source? And, more broadly, is serverless the key to opening up software development to the masses?
Those two questions were the crux of a short keynote address by Austen Collins, CEO of Serverless Inc., at this week’s Open Source Summit event in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The first question tackled the perceived barrier between open source and serverless. This has been due to the locked-in nature of most serverless platforms that to this point have been tied to a specific cloud provider’s platform. Think Amazon Web Services’ Lambda or Microsoft Azure Functions. The open source community is not typically a fan of this architecture.
But, Collins noted that the open source community has accounted for 90 percent of contributions to the Serverless Framework, which is a platform that allows for the development and deployment of serverless functions within a siloed deployment model. He explained that the Serverless Framework allows for and supports “true serverless deployments” instead of just functions-as-a-service (FaaS).
“This is what the serverless movement is all about,” Collins said.
The open source community has also led the rise of managed platforms as organizations are more willing to adopt those platforms if they know they will not be tied to proprietary services. Collins explained that this has in turn helped drive awareness and acceptance of serverless platforms that in essence rely on managed infrastructure.
“Building and maintaining everything ourselves is not as attractive anymore,” Collins said. “The rise of externally managed services caused the serverless architecture.”
Collins did admit that there were potential downsides to giving up control to external service. These include cost, reliability, lock in, and legal issues.
“There’s nothing wrong with building yourself, and it’s getting easier to do that,” Collins said. “However, it appears that culture is not as attractive anymore.”
Software Development for All
Collins also threw out a slide that touted, “the goal of serverless is to abstract the complexity out of software development until it’s accessible to all.” He explained that goal would allow for a much broader base of people to get involved in software development.
“The metric of success is not to increase the software we can build, but for the people that can create software,” he said. Collins added that this would also allow for software developers to be more broadly focused instead of needing to specialize on a specific programming language or platform.
This idea is gaining traction. For instance, the recently launched Knative initiative uses a set of open source components that allow for the building and deployment of container-based serverless applications that can be transported between cloud providers. It does this by using Kubernetes as an infrastructure and management layer.
Photo: Austen Collins, CEO of Serverless Inc., on stage at this week’s Open Source Summit event in Vancouver, British Columbia.