AWS re:Invent Highlights Bold Serverless Strategy, Prompting a Swift Microsoft Response

Charlotte Dunlap – Principal Analyst, Application Platforms

Summary Bullets:

• Amazon Web Services (AWS) augments leading serverless LAMBDA solution with an innovative operational solution, Firecracker

• AWS announcement prompts Microsoft Azure to respond with numerous portfolio updates

At last week’s developer conference, re:Invent, AWS made the case for why the time is ripe for enterprises to take a serverless computing architectural approach to application development. The cloud giant rolled out new technologies that promise to make DevOps teams more operationally prepared for the heavy lifting needed to deploy emerging serverless and microservices apps.

At the bane of DevOps’ CICD success has been complex configuration roadblocks, stalling the deployment of modern production apps. Deploying containerized apps into an IT environment originally built for virtual, on-premises data centers is like fitting square pegs into round holes, never mind the even-more-complex microservices and serverless apps. AWS, to its credit, heard enterprise customers’ complaints and devoted numerous keynote segments and technology sessions to providing specifics on how to tackle these issues, in particular when and how serverless computing is appropriate versus containerization.

Among AWS’ most notable developer news was the announcement of Firecracker, a micro-VM technology that targets DevOps teams tasked with managing, governing, and securing the implementation of new serverless computing scenarios. The micro VMs leverage KVM and boost the performance of containers and serverless infrastructures including AWS Fargate and AWS LAMBDA. AWS is donating Firecracker to the open source community, which triggered a positive response from cloud providers for its ability to further DevOps’ technologies.

Microsoft, refusing to let AWS’ announcements go unchallenged, provided an Azure Serverless strategy update this week. It highlighted newly public previews of key features that support the notion of removing complex infrastructure provisioning requirements to advance abstractions further up the Azure stack. These new features include:

• Azure Logic App, event-driven technology appropriate for non-developers offering low-code, drag-and-drop capabilities, which now include more than 200 connections to external PaaS and SaaS services.

• Updates to Azure Event Grid include a decoupling of the technology as a sub-service to support use cases requiring massive scale for event triggered programs with near real-time event delivery.

• Azure Service Fabric Mesh, available in preview, takes serverless beyond event-driven to automate the management of container clusters so developers needn’t involve operations in app development.

• Azure Functions, Azure Kubernetes Service, and API Management are also now in preview and complete Microsoft’s portfolio of key serverless and microservices solutions.

Serverless computing’s role in business transformations will become significantly elevated in 2019. The technology has always held the promise of reducing developers’ infrastructure obligations, particularly server and database provisioning and integration with other services, alongside rapid scale and reduction in infrastructure costs. However, now as vendors strive to abstract DevOps infrastructure management obligations, the future of cloud computing infrastructure indeed appears to be serverless.

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