The Future Of Serverless Computing: 5 Trends

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Serverless computing has emerged as a new compelling paradigm for the deployment of applications and services. It represents an evolution of cloud programming models, abstractions, and platforms, and is a testament to the maturity and wide adoption of cloud technologies.

I.Baldini et al in Serverless Computing: Current Trends and Open Problems

In a first article, we compared Cloud providers, namely the three market leaders, Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, and Google’s GCP. Think of that as the serverless ‘present’.

In this article I consider the future, look at the trends that we’re seeing in serverless computing today and considering how they are going to evolve in the months and years ahead. That’s the – you guessed it – serverless’ future’.

As Baldini et al suggest, serverless computing is an entirely new paradigm for the development and deployment of software applications and so every prediction needs to be considered in this context. Things change fast in an arena like serverless so what is a trend in May might be forgotten by December. Still, I have identified nine trends that I think will have an impact on the development of serverless computing across 2020, and some of them well beyond that.

Faas: Trend #1 In The Future Of Serverless Computing

 Let’s start with the trend that underlies all the other trends: serverless computing will continue to grow.

Serverless – what we can call function as a service or FaaS – is already an expanding market. While Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are leading the way, there are smaller players that have established a foothold in the market, either geographically or in certain enterprise markets. And make no mistake: a ‘foothold’ for a second-tier player is still worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Since 2016 the FaaS market has grown, on average, more than 30% every single year.
I fully expect that this trend will continue into 2021 and that more and more computing functions are pushed to serverless environments in the cloud.

Serverless Computing Trend #2:  Security Will Improve

Security is essential for computing whether you are running a serverless environment or not. At Witekio, it’s something we focus on intently because securing your devices and networks is a fundamental part of delivering a project that we can be proud of and that you and your customers can trust.

In the serverless world, however, security isn’t always the priority for others that it is for us.

One assessment by security firm PureSec revealed that security is a problem for a lot of serverless applications. As InfoSecurity magazine reported:

An evaluation of 1,000 open source serverless projects revealed that 21% of them contained one or more critical vulnerabilities or misconfigurations, which could allow attackers to manipulate the application and perform various malicious actions. About 6% of the projects even had application secrets, such as application programming interface (API) keys or credentials, posted in their publicly accessible code repositories.

When more than one-in-five open source serverless computing projects are insecure, and more than one-in-twenty are publishing their API credentials publicly, then serverless clearly has a security problem that needs to be solved in the future.

Look for this to change in the coming year, along two axes: push and pull.

  • On the ‘push’ side you’ll see clients of serverless development companies demanding more of their applications and more of the software development teams.
  • On the ‘pull’ side, there’ll be a greater focus on security by developers themselves. Look for marketing of superior end-to-end security offers as a sign that the industry is caring more about serverless computing security.

Serverless Trend #3: Easier Observation and Monitoring

When Digital Ocean surveyed the industry and sought feedback on the biggest challenges for developers in a serverless environment, two areas stood out: observation and monitoring. Fully 27% of the respondents reported that monitoring their applications was their biggest problem, outstripping other challenges like being locked into a vendor contract or even migrating to the serverless environment.

Looking forward I think we’ll see observation and monitoring tools improve, and not only because they have to!

Whether it is software vendors with commercial solutions looking for an entry into the large and growing serverless market or open source projects like OpenTelemetry (coming from the merging of OpenTracing and OpenCensus) and OpenMetrics developing their own market momentum, the capacity to observe and monitor serverless applications efficiently and effectively is only going to grow – and it’s about time, too.

 Serverless Computing Trend #4: The Future Needs To Be Green

In recent years, awareness of the impact of our choices and actions on the environment has become more widespread. Acting local and thinking global has become more than a green catchphrase and more a public policy guideline for the future. Make no mistake, this green revolution has come to the IT sector, too.

Serverless computing is a means of reducing the environmental impact that a business makes in a couple of important ways, as DevOps.com explains:

Serverless computing ensures organizations don’t over-utilize electricity. Additionally, with no physical servers and data centers that emit toxic radiation as they cool down, there will be lesser concerns about health and climate change.

What’s more, the very nature of serverless computing and its capacity to scale quickly means that investments in server hardware – a percentage of which would always sit idle and unused in ‘just in case we need it’ mode – need not be made. This reduces the environmental impact by reducing waste, reducing energy use, and keeping things just a little greener than they might be in a server-heavy setup.

Trend #5 – The Future of Serverless Computing Will Be Interconnected

A final trend I think we’ll see emerging in the years ahead is developers using a unified platform of serverless for the cloud, the premise and on edge. In this dream, a same source code could be deployed, used, and scaled everywhere seamlessly. Anthos is already on the verge of tackling the two first areas.

It’s already clear that the cloud in general and serverless computing in particular are both fantastic means to scale an application rapidly. With essentially unlimited computing power – or, to be precise, unlimited at a certain price – it’s easy and fast to grow with the serverless cloud.

But what I see emerging, is a trend towards applications being installed and kept local right up until the point that they need to be scaled…at which point there’ll be a seamless transition to the serverless cloud baked in. This sort of deployment will be attractive for the edge computing that the IoT sector is already embracing and will enable a vendor to set an application in the cloud, on a premium serverless environment, or on a local device with equivalent functionality and services. This will be a game changer for activities requiring high resource needs including big data analytics and training for machine learning.

If we look even further ahead, we could easily link serverless applications between different environments. This could eventually lead to a new generation of marketplaces where complex ready-to-use software systems are available. This new generation of unified environments will accelerate software analytics and monitoring and will allow users to leverage DevOps methodology for edge computing. This new generation of CD could be boosted even more by adapting SRE practices.

For developers, this sort of deployment will demand a reconsideration and adaptation of DevSecOps protocols, and there will be issues to consider around data integrity, data security, and privacy, particularly in light of Europe’s GDPR regulations. It will be challenging but it could be incredibly rewarding for vendors who embrace this serverless future.

As the old saying goes, prediction is difficult – especially about the future.

In a field that moves as fast and is growing as consistently as serverless computing, it’s hard to say exactly what the next months and years will hold. However, the eight trends above are ones I think are clear enough and important enough that they will make a real impact on the field into 2021.

But what about you?

Have you seen something that I’ve missed, or is there a trend that is going to leave any or all of the above for dead? Join the conversation here at Witekio and let me know what I’m missing, contact us ->

Did I miss something?
Marc Balme - VP of Engineering
04 August 2021