A new study from 451 Research finds that serverless computing can save enterprises more money than virtual machines and containers.

Scott Ferguson, Managing Editor, Light Reading

July 4, 2017

3 Min Read
Serverless Is Cheaper Than VMs, Containers – Report

Serverless computing is still a new concept in the era of cloud computing, but a new research paper finds that this aspect of the cloud could save enterprises money, even compared to virtual machines and containers.

451 Research looked at serverless computing products from the four biggest public cloud providers -- Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft and IBM -- and found that the technology offered a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) compared with VMs and containers, which have been around longer and are more established within the enterprise. (See Containers Vs. VMs: Where Should IT Pros Puts Their Money?.)

Overall, IBM offered the least expensive offering, although Microsoft scored well on certain configurations, according to the June 29 report.

As Enterprise Cloud News Editor Mitch Wagner pointed out in a recent article about Platform 9, serverless computing or serverless architecture does actually require servers. (See Artificial Intelligence Expert Weighs In for WiC.)

The serverless part comes courtesy of the software that automatically manages resources -- memory, storage and VMs -- and spins up those resources as needed, as well as winds them down depending on the demand. The advantage here is that the technology allows developers to focus on application behavior.

Figure 1: Penny saver (Source: WerbeFabrik) Penny saver
(Source: WerbeFabrik)

This is where the savings come from, according to 451 Research. Since there is no need for developers to provision, configure or manage the infrastructure to create applications, an enterprise can save money over the course of time.

"When a serverless function is active for just three quarters of the month, it only takes a 10-minute saving in operational overhead for serverless to beat virtual machines on TCO. Even without the savings in developer time, the ability of serverless to increase utilization means it is cheaper than using VMs when the code is executed fewer than 500,000 times each month," according to the survey.

Serverless computing first came to wider attention in 2014, when AWS released its Lambda product. Google, IBM and Microsoft all followed with their own offerings.

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Serverless -- or functions-as-a-service (FaaS) -- is increasing in popularity, with about 37% of IT shops using some version of the technology, according to 451 Research's "2016 Voice of the Enterprise (VotE): Cloud Transformation, Workloads and Key Projects" report.

"Serverless is more than just hype; it has the potential to transform the way we develop, build and run applications in the cloud. Understanding the economics of serverless technology is vital to understanding its potential to disrupt the industry," Owen Rogers, a research director at 451 Research, wrote in the report.

451 Research also found that enterprises should look for further price cuts in serverless computing later this year.

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— Scott Ferguson, Editor, Enterprise Cloud News. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

About the Author(s)

Scott Ferguson

Managing Editor, Light Reading

Prior to joining Enterprise Cloud News, he was director of audience development for InformationWeek, where he oversaw the publications' newsletters, editorial content, email and content marketing initiatives. Before that, he served as editor-in-chief of eWEEK, overseeing both the website and the print edition of the magazine. For more than a decade, Scott has covered the IT enterprise industry with a focus on cloud computing, datacenter technologies, virtualization, IoT and microprocessors, as well as PCs and mobile. Before covering tech, he was a staff writer at the Asbury Park Press and the Herald News, both located in New Jersey. Scott has degrees in journalism and history from William Paterson University, and is based in Greater New York.

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