Cloud BasicsTransformation

What Is Serverless?

We have been writing blog posts about cloud technology for a long time now.  Each week, we take a subject, and try to explain it to ordinary people.  But one thing we haven’t covered in any depth is serverless technology.  But what is serverless?

What is Serverless

Serverless doesn’t mean that there are no servers.  Don’t let anyone tell you that.  There are still servers, but you and your technical team don’t have to manage those servers.

To get this in context, let’s think about other services we all use:  I just got my car back from the garage, all fixed and awesome again.  I don’t know enough to fix my own car, so I need that done for me.  I could hire a mechanic, buy them tools, get a workshop for them to work in, and all the myriad things that employing people comes with.  And what do I even know about running a garage?

Or, I could buy a mechanic’s time as a service from an established garage.  I don’t have to know anything about the jobs that had to happen between me dropping off my pride and joy (I really do love my car), and when I pick it up again.  I pay an overall price for the service, and I’m on my way.  I just bought a garage-less service.  The garage still exists, but I don’t concern myself with the details of how it works.

Pricing

Let’s torture the above comparison a bit more to investigate the commercials of it.  Obviously the garage who fixed my car need to make a profit after they buy parts, tools, the building and staff.  Few businesses run at cost for very long at all.  So right away, I understand I paid a bit more for the services the garage provided for me, than they cost.

But think about the money I saved by paying that premium.  I got tens of hours back in my life because I didn’t have to learn how to fix my car.  I didn’t have the capital expenditure of tools.  And in this example, I was much more safe letting the experts look after my car.  How much is personal safety worth?

Let’s pull this back to cloud technology.  If your team didn’t need to spend time managing database backups and scaling, but instead used a serverless database platform, what’s that worth?  Well the answer to that question changes based on the business and what you focus on.  However, if you’re like most businesses and you’re not in the habit of stroking databases all day, you probably bought that skill in.  Now you don’t have to!

What Else Can Be Serverless?

Up to now, we have only covered databases, and cars.  But what other cloud technologies can be serverless?

And that list is growing all the time as cloud providers add more managed services to their offerings.

Is Serverless Right For Me?

This is where my garage analogy breaks.  Taking your car to the garage is much easier than building a garage yourself, but serverless often isn’t.  The reason is because technicians and developers have been building solutions with servers for decades.  Serverless technology is a very recent invention, so there are fewer people with the right skills to make it work.  And so it stands to reason that when you find someone to plug these serveless technologies together for you, they’re likely charging a lot of money to do it.

But once it is built and running, the ongoing maintenance should be next to nothing at all.  If your platform is going to run for many years, and we all hope ours will, then it will pay for itself.

So Is Serverless Cheaper?

Like so many questions around cloud technology, there isn’t a straight answer to this.  It all depends on your workload.

Let’s take it back to my garage analogy.  I already said that I know the garage owner is making profit off the top of that they charge me, and I’m fine with that.  But what if I had a fleet of cars that kept one of their mechanics busy all day every day?  Wouldn’t I be better off employing the mechanic myself?  Maybe.  Not definitely, because of all the other complexities of employment we already discussed.  But maybe.

And it’s broadly the same with serverless technology.  If you have a fleet of databases, and they form the core of your business, you might well want ultimate control over them.  It might be a good value proposition to have a full time database administrator on the team.  But most businesses don’t use the cloud like that.  They use a bit of this and a bit of that, and only pay for the small piece of each service they use.  Ideal!

How Do I Get Serveless Cloud Technology?

If only there were a friendly, affordable cloud consultancy you could talk to about this.  Oh wait, there is!

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