In recent years several innovative technologies have been developed, especially where enterprise IT is concerned. This is largely a result of changing business needs, enhanced connectivity, and a demand for more efficient processes and operations that drive business productivity and growth. One such innovation is serverless computing. This on-demand computing platform takes away the complexity of the building, running, and maintaining application infrastructure. This is then turned into a revenue-boosting service offering, sold by cloud service providers. This serverless technology poses an exciting opportunity for Telcos to expand on its service offerings and add more value to their customer base.
What is serverless computing, and why has it become so popular?
To understand the value of serverless computing for both customers and Telcos, we first need to understand what serverless computing is. Serverless computing is a service offering, provided by a cloud provider, that manages, provisions, and maintains back-end services for web and mobile-based applications. This means that you, as a customer, do not need to worry about managing the underlying architecture, physical and virtual hosts, virtual machines, containers as well as the operating systems associated with serverless application development.
In simple terms, serverless computing allows you to build modern applications with more agility, flexibility, and at a lower cost. This is primarily because this software enhances developer productivity. Software developers can focus on their core products and developing products that speak to customers’ needs and wants instead of worrying about and managing operating servers or runtimes.
What makes this model so attractive is that you pay for the exact machine resources that you use, which is quite different to cloud computing in which you pre-purchase bandwidth and resource units
Serverless Types and Technologies
There are different types of serverless technologies and types that allow for applications to be broken up into individual functions while being used and scaled individually. These include:
- Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) – this is a cloud service model that allows developers to outsource all the back-end aspects of mobile and web applications. Developers can then focus on writing the front-end code. BaaS providers often provide ready to use software for server activities which includes user authentication, database management, remote updating, push notifications for mobile apps, cloud storage as well as hosting.
- Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) – this is a type of cloud-computing service that allows you to write and execute code in response to an event, without the complex infrastructure typically needed for building and launching microservice applications. With this FaaS function model, the physical hardware, virtual machine, operating system, and web server software management is handled by the cloud service provider automatically, all you need to provide is the application code.
- Serverless Databases – are different from the FaaS and BaaS models as it is intended to store data. This simple storage service has been designed to adapt storage capacity, to increasing or decreasing workload needs and applications. In this case, you only pay for the data resources you use.
- Serverless Frameworks – are Command-line interfaces (CLI) that offer structure and automation, allowing you to focus on building sophisticated, event-driven, serverless architectures. Popular Serverless Frameworks include AWS Lambda, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
Why use serverless computing?
We have covered what serverless computing is and some different serverless models and frameworks, but we haven’t discussed why there has been such a significant increase in the use of this technology. A recent report published by Allied Market Research stated that the global serverless architecture market was estimated at $3.01 billion in 2017 and is expected to hit $21.99 billion by 2025, registering a CAGR of 27.8% from 2018 to 2025. Why are we seeing such significant growth in this market? The answer is simple and lies in the benefits of serverless computing mentioned below.
- Reduced operational and development costs – one of the most significant benefits to serverless computing is the cost savings, especially when compared to other cloud services. Not only do you only pay for what you use but this model allows you to minimise the costs associated with access authorisation, presence detection, security, image processing, and more.
- Flexible scaling and automated high availability – using this technology, your application will be scaled automatically to adapt to your user base increase, growth, and usage. Serverless architecture also provides built-in availability and fault tolerance, as this is provided as a default to the service.
- Deployment speed– serverless computing allows for the faster deployment of resources when compared to other cloud computing models. This means that you can deploy apps in minutes compared to days and months.
- Faster to market – by minimising operations and overheads, developers can speed up the rate at which they build, test, and release new features, so products are market-ready faster.
Serverless computing has many benefits, but there are also a few drawbacks associated with this technology. These primarily relate to vendor lock-in and control, which makes switching serverless providers difficult, deployment, versioning and packing issues, integration problems, and architectural complexity which impacts testing and debugging capabilities. As this technology continues to evolve, we do expect to see the development of several solutions aimed at solving these issues.
Serverless Computing and Telcos
The use, need, and demand for mobile and web-based applications for businesses to connect with their clients is becoming more and more prevalent, especially with the increasing use of smartphones globally. More and more businesses are turning to applications as a means to communicate with their employees and customers, and Telcos are in a position to provide a service that answers this need. Telcos can use serverless computing technology to develop value-added serverless offerings that enhance connectivity and provide cost-effective applications that are reliable and fast to deploy.
By providing customers with these kinds of value-added services Telcos can differentiate themselves in a very congested market. This kind of service offering could be a deciding factor for customers choosing a service provider. The knock-on effect of creating these offerings is that you create different revenue streams, enhance customer experience, and reduce customer churn. This ultimately enhances profitability and growth. If you answer your customers’ needs for innovative solutions that speak to their needs, they are less likely to move to other providers.
Some people have been bold enough to say that serverless computing is the next evolution of cloud computing. There is no doubt that this innovative technology has immense potential especially for Telcos, who can use this to provide services that add value to their customer base. This is definitely a “watch this space” discussion, and as this technology continues to evolve we expect to see it have more of an impact on the telecommunications industry as a whole.