Serverless has been a trending topic amongst development teams for a few years now, and for good reason. The rapid rise of serverless adoption has empowered developers to take advantage of increased agility, scalability, and efficiency for customer-facing applications and critical workloads.
According to Forrester, nearly 50% of companies are either using or planning to switch to serverless architecture in the next year. That mass migration seems to bear out what we’ve been seeing at New Relic: a 206% increase in serverless volume among accounts from June 2019 to December 2019.
The phenomenon of serverless prompted us to compile an industry-spanning report, For the Love of Serverless: 2020 AWS Lambda Benchmark Report for Developers, DevOps, and Decision Makers. That report will be released tomorrow—Valentine’s Day—and surface key trends, insights, and benchmarks essential for anyone building a serverless architecture. [Update: Download the report right here!] If you’re interested, you can register for the report’s corresponding webinar right now.
To complement the data we’ll be sharing in our report, we also spoke with serverless experts throughout the developer community to get their perspectives on the current state of the industry and the direction it’s heading.
Today, we’re kicking off a series of blog posts that’ll continue over the next few weeks highlighting conversations with thought leaders featured in the report, beginning with Sheen Brisals, who oversees the architecture of serverless solutions at The LEGO Group.
Hopefully, LEGO doesn’t need any introduction, but the famed toy company has been embracing serverless over the past few years after a hiccup on Black Friday forced it to re-evaluate its ecommerce platform. Sheen and LEGO have been on the serverless journey ever since.
As a seasoned software engineer, AWS Certified Solutions Architect, conference speaker, and a team coach, Sheen has many great observations about the future of serverless, including thoughts on its thriving community, vendor lock-ins, and why the technology’s cost benefits are sometimes overstated.
New Relic: What are the biggest organizational challenges facing serverless adoption in 2020?
Sheen: Developing the organizational mind-shift to see serverless as an ecosystem of managed services as opposed to viewing serverless as just a bunch of Lambda functions.
It is often challenging (or even impossible) to show upper management a convincing like-for-like cost comparison of an on-prem or hosted environment versus a serverless estate. Without this direct comparison, it often delays the migration to serverless or management buy-in into serverless.
Indirect expenditure—serverless services may reduce the cost in most cases. However, adding support solutions such as monitoring and observability, may bring in more cost complexities. For example, the pricing model of the observability tools (based on events and data points) worries me as this can shoot up pretty fast as the serverless ecosystem grows. Often the cost-savings gained by moving to serverless is quashed by paying for these solutions. This may trigger an anti-serverless sentiment.
Lastly, over-glorifying the term “vendor lock-in.”
New Relic: What are the biggest technical challenges facing serverless adoption in 2020?
Sheen: Tooling—this is getting better, but there is still quite a lot of confusion and inconsistency that leaves teams in limbo.
Observability—specialist vendor solutions are becoming active with many offerings, but from an average team or small startup point of view, these solutions are rather expensive (in my opinion).
Confusion—the blessing of having many similar services capable of doing the same things creates confusion among engineers and early adopters. This sometimes slows down the momentum.
Also, typically, teams moving from a traditional development setup to cloud and serverless look for a perfect solution, platform, and ops environment to launch their serverless adoption. This causes unintended delay and friction.
New Relic: Where do you see serverless heading in 2020?
Sheen: For starters, functionless prominence, i.e., fewer functions or more codeless opportunities. Becoming more and more event-driven and reducing the need to add functions for everything.
Also, [I expect to see] more industry adoption for all the right reasons. AWS is gradually bringing down the barrier between the accessibility of traditional server resources and services from the serverless side of the fence. Meaning, you don’t need to opt for a container-based solution simply to access non-serverless services. They’re not fully there yet, but they are well on the path.
And I’m excited about the prospect of Amazon EventBridge taking center stage and orchestrating the functionless, event-driven culture among custom and AWS services and also with approved partner solutions. I am hoping to see more features added to EventBridge.
The serverless community is also growing stronger. And we’re moving away from the mundane definition of “what” serverless is and toward the understanding of “why.”
New Relic: What are you most excited about in 2020 regarding the state of serverless?
Sheen: For those who adopted serverless already, [I’m excited about] consolidation of their platform, further acceleration, and speed in bringing business value. And for those starting new, [I’m excited about] the abundance of services, the pool of practical knowledge, and the active and helpful serverless community.
New Relic: What do you think is the biggest serverless myth that persists?
Sheen: There are several. First, serverless makes you debt-free. The cost benefits are overplayed. Yes, there are cost benefits, but serverless brings so much more into an organization in this cloud era than just the cost.
The next is vendor lock-in. Yes, there is lock-in and for a good reason. There aren’t many people around (except perhaps Yan Cui) to break the myth and explain the business in layman’s terms. The purists may sit around and debate for a glorified solution to have the locks broken, but I suspect they will struggle to bring business value in an acceptable time frame.
Third, is the Lambda hammer syndrome. This is something borrowed from my talks, but the point is that many businesses still believe that a Lambda function is the savior of all their monolith problems.
The final myth is that there are still servers in serverless.
Get a guided tour through our upcoming report, “For the Love of Serverless: 2020 AWS Lambda Benchmark Report for Developers, DevOps, and Decision Makers,” and learn what technical challenges are impacting serverless adoption and which other serverless myths experts are debunking by attending our upcoming webinar.