“Serverless” is one of those words that can be pretty misleading—because it does not mean what it sounds like it means. The server is still there, but it runs in the background like a resource that can scale up or down as needed. Someone else maintains the infrastructure, handles provisioning, and takes care of other administrative tasks. It may sound as if MSPs have one less resource to manage for their clients. That is true, but it also has the potential to create higher value products and services. Companies often hire an MSP so they do not have to worry about the infrastructure that runs their business. What they really want is for everything to work in harmony, with as little drama as possible. Serverless fits the bill.How can MSPs take advantage of the move to serverless computing? Where there are challenges, opportunities emerge. Let us look at both.
ComplexityMSPs thrive in areas where technology is most complex. Think high-density WiFi, virtualization or migrating applications to the cloud. MSPs step in when an organization does not have anyone on staff with the skills to professionally manage the latest technology and solve IT pain points. Serverless computing is the extreme version of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), but not all businesses will understand the pitfalls. MSPs will find themselves managing Docker containers, virtual machines and serverless computing frameworks like AWS Lambda. All require extensive expertise, and it will not be easy to manage all three instances from a single management console. But what is difficult for MSPs will also challenge IT organizations that do not have the same level of resources.
Vendor Lock-InEvery cloud provider provides unique features that sets their service apart from the competition. That feature you so desperately desire can lead to vendor lock-in and force you to rewrite your application to migrate it to competing services. For example, if your code is optimized for Azure, you will not be able to easily move it to AWS. MSPs can help customers understand the considerations of selecting one cloud provider over another, but it might come down to coding expertise. Code rewrites are a pain and usually come in over budget, so selecting the right platform in the beginning is essential. MPS can play a major part here.
Cost SavingsAnytime a MSP offers a service that drives the bottom-line savings for the customer, they have a winner on their hands. Serverless computing promises substantial savings for VMs and containers. A report from 451 Research finds that if a serverless function is active for three hours of the month, it only takes a 10-minute saving in operational overhead for serverless to beat virtual machines on TCO, even when the virtual machine is hosting containers. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM are in a battle to be the leader in serverless offerings, with Amazon’s aggressive pricing driving down costs across all providers. These companies have invested billions building state-of-the-art facilities. Now, they need customers to justify that investment. That means prices should continue to drop.
Greener ComputingAccording to Forbes, typical servers in business and enterprise data centers deliver between 5 and 15 percent of their maximum computing output on average over the course of the year. That is an incredibly inefficient proposition. Servers that are powered-on but running idle still use a lot of energy. Apple, Google, and Microsoft like to mention how they built their massive data centers near renewable energy sources. That is good news for the environment, but we still have a ways to go. Going serverless moves provisioning and capacity decisions to the vendor. They then compute capacity based on our needs in real time. This could lead to a far more efficient use of resources across data centers.
ConclusionThere is a lot to like about going serverless, and MSPs are well-positioned to help companies take advantage of the features serverless platforms offer. Like anything cloud-related, the transition will take years, so don’t expect VMs and containers to disappear overnight. While the name may be somewhat confusing, serverless computing offers a lot of value and is set to experience explosive growth. It is still in its infancy and will not solve every problem or replace every infrastructure. But it provides reduced operational and development costs. MSPs that embrace the complexity while offering clear solutions should be able to benefit as serverless continues to gain mindshare.
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