Serverless computing is becoming yet another way for cloud service providers to parse out access to enterprises looking to take advantage of virtualized services. Think containers, only slightly different.
Serverless computing architectures are designed to reduce the amount of overhead associated with offering services in the cloud. This includes the ability for a cloud provider to dynamically manage server resources.
In a recent report and accompanying webinar, 451 Research described serverless computing as being similar to function-as-a-service (FaaS). In fact, Owen Rogers, research director for 451 Research’s Digital Economics Unit, said the terms are basically interchangeable.
The serverless computing space itself is still in its early days, with the market having only started to gain traction following the launch by Amazon Web Services (AWS) of its Lambda platform. Lambda allows an organization to pay only for the compute time consumed – there is no charge when the code is not running.
The overall economic advantages gleaned from serverless computing are based on better use of resources resulting in less waste. However, being still somewhat a new market, Rogers said his research found a lot of companies making statements, “but not following up on pricing.”
“Serverless is a new technology, so the business case is not crystal clear,” Rogers said.
According to 451 Research, serverless pricing is typically based on three parameters: script duration, or how long the code is used; the number of requests; and the memory required for the function.
Further muddying the financial picture are free access options designed to allow developers to try a serverless platform.
“These allow end users to experiment,” Rogers explained. “This is great for developers, but for me this also stimulates demand for serverless.”
Rogers also favorably compared the total cost of ownership (TCO) of serverless computing to that of virtual machines (VMs). Rogers explained VMs needed to be up and running before a function request was placed, thus an enterprise would “need to pay for that, and there is an element of waste when capacity is not being used.”
“With serverless, we don’t have this problem,” Rogers said. “It scales instantly with a request. You just need to configure the request with the function and no other concerns.”
Savings were also cited in terms of overall management, as “there is a lot less hassle to administrate serverless than VMs.”
Rogers noted there was only a tiny savings needed to undercut VMs in terms of TCO. This savings could accelerate, Rogers said. And he expects further serverless computing price reductions as the market gains traction.
IBM Least Expensive
IBM’s cost advantage was on usage based on tenths of a second, up to around two second of total usage per script. Helping to bolster IBM’s value is that the company does not round up usage to the nearest usage marker, which 451 Research found to be in 128 megabyte buckets.
“IBM has a simple model,” Rogers explained. “For very small duration scripts, it’s pretty much cheapest all the time, or at least in our parameters.”
For longer usage scenarios, 451 Research found Microsoft’s Azure platform could offer a less expensive product. Google and AWS pricing did not factor into the various usage models provided by 451 Research. Rogers did note that what is the least expensive to use may not provide the most value to developers. In other words: your mileage may vary.