Serverless vs. containers has been a topic of debate for several years now. Picking anyone among the two is always a tough decision to make for businesses/developers.
Both serverless and containers have a lot in common. You want a modern, future-proof architecture to efficiently run the latest innovations and scale; they both have it. Accessibility, resilience to interruptions, and speed, if that’s what you are looking for, they both have them too. These commonalities make it possible to merge both to complement each other and use them as one. But before heading to the union of serverless and containers and how it works, it is essential to get a brief about individual technique.
What are the containers?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you can write an application code, pack it, and run it anywhere on any machine? That’s the basic idea behind containerization. According to Docker, the best example of using containers, “A container is a standard unit of software that packages up code and all its dependencies, so the application runs quickly and reliably from one computing environment to another.” Since all the dependencies are packed with the application, you can run it on any machine, even if the required software is installed on the host platform or not.
Pros of containers
- Control and flexibility
- Easier migration path
- Simple testing
- Compatible with microservices architecture
Cons of containers
- Administrative work (developers need to take care of maintenance, scaling, and security)
- High cost
- Pay even if the application is idle
- More manual intervention
- Slower deployment time as compared to serverless
What is serverless?
According to AWS, serverless is a way to define services, packages, and strategies into functions and events that can be run whenever you want. It allows you to split the entire applications into small functionalities that are triggered when an event occurs. It is the native architecture behind the cloud services. AWS through Lambda was the first-ever cloud provider to give serverless compute services.
Pros of serverless
- Cost optimization (pay-per-use)
- Zero administration
- Faster deployment
- Microservices architecture
- No cost for idle time
Cons of serverless
- Vendor lock-in
- No standardization
- Cold starts
- Complex apps are harder to build
The adoption of serverless is growing exponentially. According to the O’Reilly survey conducted in June 2019, 40% of respondents worked at organizations that have adopted serverless. The figures are impressive but not surprising considering the benefits and the potential of the technology. However, there are also some concerns related to serverless, such as vendor lock-in, educating staff, etc.
But what if you can converge serverless and containers to get the best of both the world? That would be amazing, right?
It was vital to understand both containers and serverless to make a perfect hybrid solution to get the most of both. Now since you know the strengths and shortcomings of containers and serverless, it’s time to explore the technology that makes this confluence possible and see the benefits they provide to businesses.
Blending serverless and containers to get the perfect combo for your business
Blending serverless and containers is not very hard but not that easy too. You might want to get to that sweet spot where you can leverage the best of both worlds. Both serverless and containers have their pros and cons. But if you plan the hybrid solution correctly, the pros of one can complement the cons of the other for a win-win solution.
In serverless architecture, code runs on-demand, and containers offer portable environments. With the convergence, you can pack an application in a container and execute it wherever and whenever you want. This will require you to make your application’s workloads lightweight for easy and quick deployment and execution. Currently, there are two well-known solutions i.e., AWS Fargate and Firecracker for smoothly converging both the techniques.
AWS Fargate is the engine for Amazon ECS. It allows you to deploy and run containers on the cloud without the need to manage servers. This means that despite running containers, you don’t have to look after the servers manually.
Another perfect example of blending serverless with containers is Firecracker. Firecracker is the underlying technology for AWS Fargate and AWS Lambda.
“Firecracker is a virtual machine monitor (VMM) that uses the Linux Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) to create and manage microVMs.”
Instead of using “runC” at the end of the application in containers, Firecracker proposes to use a lightweight microVM. If the microVM serves as the runtime at the end of the applications, it will run faster due to light workloads. It allows you to take advantage of lightweight workload isolation and security functionalities of serverless along with the resource efficiency feature of containers.
Serverless and containers both will undoubtedly enhance workloads to bring the most to businesses and ultimately across all users. The future lies in the union. Ultimately, both the paradigms will blend into each other, and by embracing this dual power, you can definitely excel and get an edge over others in this fierce business competition.
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