Before a few years ago, a company’s architecture was limited to hardware resources such as servers, switches or storage cabinets. Today, however, there are big differences that have enabled companies and end-consumers to design their architecture according to their real needs.
If we go back a couple of decades, the few existing pay-as-you-go models were either related to vehicles and holiday flats (like rentals) or movie consumption models through video clubs.
It is interesting to see how this model has increasingly spread over time and gradually changed our consumption habits. Services or products that we had only conceived through a purchase, are now consumed through the growing pay-as-you-go offer, adapted to our time needs.
We have evolved from car rentals to a pay-as-you-go model through popular car-sharing companies, which charge a fixed rate and only for the distance travelled with the vehicle. Regarding videoclubs, the increasing emergence of streaming platforms has led to their disappearance. In conclusion, we now have an infinite amount of platforms available where we can access an infinite amount of content through a simple subscription, be it music, films, books or videogames, among others.
This shift in the way we consume has affected every conceivable sector. Hence the IT sector will not be an exception. If we go back to that same time period decades ago, when estimating costs for an engineering project, there was a division of costs split into capital costs, CAPEX (Capital Expenditure), and OPEX (Operation Expenditure), defined as follows:
- CAPEX, or fixed costs, such as:
- Expansion costs: In information technologies, they involve the acquisition of new hardware and the cost of implementing solutions.
- Maintenance costs: entirely related to the management of the systems.
- They are ongoing costs that are related to the systems and their daily operation.
Today, cost estimation has been disrupted due to a shift in how an IT project is billed due to the rise of the major public cloud service providers (such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform). According to their philosophy, their customers’ infrastructure is isolated from the hardware layer, thus their product is marketed directly to the end customer. As a consequence, the estimation of CAPEX costs tends to disappear, giving more emphasis to OPEX.
Public clouds are billed according to the number of resources requested and their typology, usually on a monthly basis. This aspect enables infrastructures to respond to temporary demand increases – for example, an ecommerce that needs additional resources to meet the demand arising during its sales period – generating automatic growth. In this way, customers can bear the costs only for the period of time needed, thus adjusting the costs to the actual demand.
While this dynamic marked a turning point in cloud service offerings, the need to offer services tailored to real customer requirements and the fierce competition between providers led to the next step: “Serverless“.
Currently offered as a complement to the main cloud service providers, the Serverless concept features an even more atomic billing, as the cost is quantified according to the execution time of certain processes. All that is needed to carry out this billing model, regarding calculation, is to include the code and the events that will trigger its execution. This leads to another relevant feature: when it comes to code, the hosting location is irrelevant, since the same code can run on different cloud providers, as long as the language is supported on all of them.
While Serverless is more widespread in terms of computation, its advantages have led to the development of more and more services that work identically. An example of this can be found in the exploitation of databases, where turnover is already calculated according to the number of transactions carried out on the database.
To analyse the relevance of serverless architectures, Datadog conducted a study in 2020 to find out how well established they are in the market. The findings were very informative, with over 50% of cloud customers benefiting from the advantages of Serverless, especially those using AWS services.
This is not an isolated market sample. In order to have a more global vision, Verified Market Research estimated the growth of the market for these architectures. This market would stand at USD 7.29 billion in 2020 and was estimated to have a compound annual growth rate of 21.71% from 2021 to 2028, reaching USD 36.84 billion in 2028.
The economic and operational benefits brought to their users seem to be sufficient grounds to consider that the models followed by the market will also follow this line.
While the above-mentioned advantages are strong arguments to promote this architecture, they are also an incentive from an energy point of view.
In recent years (and especially in recent months), social, political and climate concerns have driven companies to search for improvements in the energy efficiency of their operations to alleviate the rising costs caused by energy prices whilst simultaneously encouraging the adoption of sustainable actions aimed at complying with environmental, social and governance policies. In this respect, the EU’s goal is to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030.
In this scenario, the EU’s plan for ecological transition is clear. And the use of serverless architectures stand as an ideal lever to achieve it.
The aforementioned operation implies that only processes triggered by specific events are executed. Thus, energy consumption is considerably reduced if compared to a physical server or virtual machine, which must necessarily be kept running 24 hours a day, even if it is not fully exploited. Accordingly, the main public cloud providers offer their customers specific methodologies to build environmentally efficient infrastructures. Also, they have real consumption evaluators that proactively suggest infrastructure changes that will have a lower impact, guaranteeing performance.
It is therefore reasonable to assume that serverless infrastructures will progressively acquire a predominant role in the IT sector, thus making it a more efficient and environmentally conscious sector.
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