Serverless technology is all the rage right now. It’s been around since 2014, when AWS Lambda was first announced and it’s been taking over the software development world like a wildfire. But there isn’t much data about serverless technology users and their use cases out there. We decided to take matters into our own hands and find out more.
We conducted a survey to learn more about what made these companies switch to serverless, what problems they were trying to solve with it and what have been the biggest benefits/drawbacks they have witnessed since.
All the respondents are early adopters of serverless technology, mostly small and medium-sized technology companies (19 companies in total took part), and they are all active Dashbird and AWS Lambda users.
2017 is the year of serverless adoption…so far
We learned that all of the companies that took part in the survey started experimenting with serverless technology between 2016 and 2018, the majority (61.5%) starting in 2017. This shows how recent the whole technology still is and how the market is still growing.
Also, the companies reported that on average 57% (with the median value of 75%) of their current stack can be considered serverless.
Main benefits - quicker development, automatic scalability and cost reduction
Easier/quicker development was the main benefit reported by 42% of the companies. Automatic scalability (32%) and cost reduction (21%) being close behind. See the graph below.
One company reported that for them, the biggest benefit has been easier capacity planning. They commented it by saying: ”We now have the option to run dumb and less optimized code without worrying about overwhelming application servers.”
It’s interesting to see that even though cost reduction seems to be the main benefit that gets talked about, the companies that have been using serverless, actually report other benefits as being more important and having a bigger impact.
With clear benefits of quicker development, automatic scalability, and low cost, we will probably see the next Netflix being built from another garage somewhere.
Main drawback - lack of monitoring and debugging
So what about the bad stuff? 53% of the companies reported that the main problem with serverless technology has been the lack of debugging and monitoring tools.
Deployment problems and architectural complexity (both 16%) also got mentioned as the biggest drawbacks of going serverless.
It’s clear that serverless technology needs good monitoring and debugging tools and fortunately, there are already new options on the market for this.
It’s also interesting to see that, although it’s been widely reported as one of the biggest drawbacks of serverless, companies didn’t report vendor lock-in as the main problem.
26% AWS monthly bill cost reduction
Although there are some known cases of huge (70–90%) savings by companies that switched to serverless, the survey results showed that on average you can expect 26% (with a median of 20%) cost reduction on your monthly AWS bill.
4 developer workdays saved every month
Since quicker and easier development is one of the biggest benefits of serverless, we wanted to know how much in “developer work days” did the companies report to save. On average (and also the median) it’s 4 work days saved per month.
It means that simply by moving your stack on serverless technology, you could save almost one week of your developer’s time every month.
Imagine how much extra value could a high-performing developer add to the business when they have 4 additional days to spend on new projects each month!
Forget the AWS bill reduction, because, given the Silicon Valley salaries, this is probably the biggest potential benefit for your business when switching to serverless.
Delivery speed 77% faster with serverless
The companies reported that the average delivery speed increased 77% (with the median of 50%) after starting to use serverless technology.
This is a huge benefit and very clearly leads to added business value and potentially more innovative products getting launched, since it’s easier to experiment with new ideas and get them on the market in a record time.
Bonus: use cases for trying out serverless
We also wanted to know what was the exact use case that motivated these companies to try out serverless. Here’s what they said:
- Easy API deployment by data scientists.
- We were trying to process raw data coming from a signal stream.
- Building scalable public API as fast as possible.
- Trying to move a monolith API to a series of lambdas connecting to our db through a connection pooling instance.
- To move cron jobs from an Elastic Beanstalk environment to lambda functions (and then to reduce the overhead of devops).
- Building an event-based system which is resilient, performant and scalable.
- Needed an API for my blog. CORS was the initial problem.
- A simple “take an image, resize, return to client” workflow.
- The goal was to create a secure cloud storage company with a pay-as-you-go billing model.
- Started exploring it for Alexa skills.
- Tried to solve the problem with auto-scaling. Cost scaling with use was a large benefit.
- Solving time to market with a low starting cost.
We at Dashbird believe that serverless technology is the next big paradigm shift in software development that will bring massive business benefits and major technological advancements in the next couple of years.
The results of this survey also support that vision and with benefits like 77% increase in delivery speed, 4 developer workdays saved every month and AWS monthly bill reduction by 26%, it’s easy to see why serverless is gaining more and more traction and this trend probably won’t slow down any time soon.
Disclaimer: the survey was conducted in April 2018 and it’s based on the data of 19 companies who are actively using AWS Lambda and Dashbird.io for monitoring and debugging.