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Serverless Computing and Containers as a Service Surging in Popularity

By Paul Rubens (Send Email)
Posted May 22, 2018


The popularity of "serverless" computing in the cloud is exploding: its year-on-year growth rate is a staggering 75%. The next biggest trend in the cloud is the increasingly common use of containers as a service (CaaS), up 36% on last year.

That's according to RightScale's 2018 State of the Cloud report, a survey of cloud trends carried out in January with almost 1,000 respondents.Virtually Speaking

Serverless computing involves companies building and running applications in the cloud without the need to provision individual servers — the compute resources to run the applications are not the concern of the companies themselves because they are just provided and scaled up and down automatically by the cloud provider.

In effect, every part of the infrastructure needed to run the app is outsourced to the cloud provider, with the application, and only the application, being the responsibility of the company.

It's a trend that really gained traction last year, thanks to services such as AWS Lambda, and although a growth rate of 75% is unlikely to be sustainable, it's also a trend that looks set to continue this year. That's because there's a real value to not having to manage or provision servers, continuous scaling to match demand, and sub-second metering.

With AWS Lambda, for example, companies are charged for every 100 milliseconds that code is executed, and the number of times the code is triggered. If the code isn't running there's nothing to pay. So in theory that could mean big savings

Containers as a Service Poised for Even More Growth?

The rise in popularity of Containers as a Service (CaaS) is less remarkable than that of serverless computing, but you get the feeling it's a movement that's only just started. This is because container infrastructure is becoming increasingly automated, and automated CaaS platforms are ideally suited to public clouds.

And that's where businesses are heading. In fact, the RightScale report finds only 5% of companies have no plans to use public or private clouds, and only 4% use a single private cloud in their own data center. The remaining 91% are embracing the public cloud, multiple private clouds, or, in the case of the majority, a hybrid approach with at least one public and one private cloud.

On average, it turns out, companies are using almost five public and private clouds.

When it comes to public clouds, AWS is still the 500-pound gorilla, with 64% of all companies using it to run at least one application. But Azure is the public cloud with the momentum behind it: Microsoft's cloud is growing faster than AWS, and has now reached 70% of AWS adoption. Among companies only now starting to adopt cloud strategies, Azure is neck and neck with AWS in terms of adoption.

As for the rest, Google has grown from 15% adoption last year to 18% this year, while IBM has gone from 8% to 10%, and Oracle has doubled to 6%, albeit from a very low base. That's according to RIghtScale's report.

Aside from the Azure's rate of growth, perhaps the most impressive change since last year is VMware Cloud on AWS's strong showing. The service didn't exist for most of 2017 and was only launched in Amazon's US West (Oregon) region in August, yet a full 8% of companies now report running apps on it.

What this shows is there was pent-up demand for a VMware-compatible cloud, despite VMware attempting to offer one of its own for the last year or two. Customers like the idea, apparently, but only if it is supplied alongside the benefits from Amazon's expertise and economies of scale.

Clouds Hovering on the Cloud Computing Horizon

There are clouds on the cloud computing horizon, though, and the biggest one is security. It's the biggest single concern for companies of all sizes — it always has been, and it's not one that's going to go away any time soon.

The next biggest concern is one that is likely to be increasingly significant in the future, and that's the problem of managing cloud spending. A significant amount of this spending — as much as 35% according to RightScale — is wasted.

Until cloud providers and businesses themselves develop more effective ways to manage their cloud usage to eliminate this massive pecuniary wastage, cloud users will fail to reap the full benefits of adopting CaaS or of going "serverless."

And that, more than anything else, is likely to put a damper on the phenomenal growth that these two computing initiatives have been experiencing over the last twelve months.


Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.

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