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Serverless in the enterprise, 2021: Building the next generation of efficient, flexible, cost-effective cloud native applications

By Alex Torres Senior Market Research Advisor, IBM Market Development & Insights

In constant pursuit of faster, simpler and more cost-effective ways to deliver application functionality and service development, organizations are turning to microservices, containers and serverless computing. 

These modern approaches help them efficiently build and run applications in hybrid cloud environments, gaining speed to market and seizing competitive advantage. 

Serverless computing offers extremely high performance and flexibility at scale while shifting all of the burdens of server administration to cloud providers. Freed from these tasks, developers can focus on optimizing code and adding features and functionality for their applications instead of managing infrastructure. 

Serverless automatically spins up infrastructure, scale apps on demand in response to increased traffic, and scales down to zero-no instances-when they're no longer called. Because serverless is a pay-per-use consumption model, it can dramatically reduce the cost of running many applications.

The IBM Market Development & Insights (MD&I) team conducted a series of surveys that recorded the perceptions and real-world experiences of more than 1,200 IT executives, developer executives and developers from large and midmarket companies. 

Respondents represented a range of experience with a serverless computing approach, including those currently using one as well as nonusers who are exploring or planning to adopt this approach in the near future. 

The results offer insight into the real-world opportunities and challenges for implementing a services development approach that includes serverless.

Some of the interesting numbers around benefits achieved were:

  • 85% of users say the effort and expense are worth it
  • 84% of users say that using serverless creates better collaboration among team members.

And adoption is increasing as 68% of nonusers say they are very likely or likely to adopt a serverless approach in the next two years. Among users, we also see popularity as 72% believe their organizations will increase use of serverless architectures in the next two years.

Current users and nonusers are excited about what serverless architectures can do for their organizations, and both groups believe that the future is bright for the approach.

Current users of a serverless application development approach are realizing significant, ongoing benefits that span many areas of the business, with cost, scalability and security named as the primary benefits.

Current users also agreed that their concerns-the lack of experienced talent, security concerns and understanding which applications are right for transition to a serverless architecture approach-can be mitigated by up-skilling their team and hiring in new talent with the right skills.

For current nonusers, primary concerns center around a lack of clarity about how to move forward-finding relevant use cases, where to get executive support, attracting talent and needing tactical insights into the process.

Most anxiety around serverless security boils down to a lack of transparency into operational control. Will my function spin up in a secure environment? Can I control the level of isolation? How do I ensure compliance? Will connections remain open after the function scales to zero?

The answers lie in learning the levels and ranges of protection that cloud providers offer for serverless and their relative costs. For example, a cloud provider may offer compute isolation ranging from container-level isolation, where your functions run in isolated containers running on a shared virtual machine (VM); VM-level isolation, where your containers run on a single-tenant VM; and hypervisor-level isolation. Providers may offer similar ranges of network and storage isolation options. If available, a confidential computing environment-where your data and code are encrypted and isolated at rest, in motion and during computation-provides the ultimate in isolation. The more isolation you chose, the higher the cost; the more granular your options, the better you can balance cost and security.

Providers also offer services managed for various levels of regulatory compliance, spanning base-level compliance; common regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); and extremely demanding, industry- or government-specific regulations such as financial standards or the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). Again, the more demanding the level of compliance, the higher the cost. As always, adhering to best practices can help further mitigate your security risks. Practice sound connection management-use HTTPS by default, enable function-to function communication over private networks only and configure connections to close whenever functions scale to zero. Runtime protection, application programming interface (API) gateways and tightly controlled access and permissions will further tighten security and reduce your exposure.

Enterprises are turning to serverless for many types of applications, both internally and with help from third-party providers. In addition, ready-to-use third-party software solutions make up a sizeable share of these applications in use. Applications in which serverless development currently is being focused include customer relations management (CRM), data analytics and business intelligence, finance, and HR; in short, the applications related to corporate operations.

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Visit the IBM Virtual Booth at KubeCon EU 2021 to learn more and talk to our experts.


To learn more about cloud native technology innovation, join us at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2021 - Virtual, which will take place from May 4-7.  


Alex Torres Senior Market Research Advisor, IBM Market Development & Insights

Alex Torres 

Alex leads primary research on cloud technology, managing relationships with clients and suppliers. He analyzes market dynamics as context for developing and testing hypotheses; and uses quantitative and qualitative tools based on specific research goals. Alex has expertise in creating visual representations of primary research data for executive reports. 

Published Wednesday, April 28, 2021 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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