An IT leader’s guide to serverless computing

October 14, 20194 minute read

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Whenever there’s an advancement in experimental technology, it’s exciting news. But when that emerging tech becomes available to help your organization run a leaner, faster, and safer operation? Well, that’s cause for celebration in the IT department—once you’ve managed to get the senior stakeholders on board, of course.

Enter serverless computing, the cloud-computing execution model that has developers and IT leaders jumping for joy. Since rumblings about the serverless model began a few years ago, the technology has grown more sophisticated and robust, and today, nearly all of the largest cloud providers are offering serverless options. It’s one of those rare and beautiful situations when buzzword tech lives up to its hype.

But what is it, exactly? And how might these cloud computing advancements affect your IT environment? Here’s the breakdown.

What is serverless computing?

Serverless computing is a service that offers worry-free computing power from the perspective of the customer. Contrary to what its name suggests, servers are still part of the process, but you won’t be responsible for managing them. All the responsibilities and headaches (housing and cooling, critical updates, and spinning up new resources to meet needs) rest on your chosen cloud service provider. You don’t have to worry about managing any virtual infrastructure, and you only pay for exactly what you use—that is, the time when your code is running—rather than renting server capacity that you might not always need.

Essentially, the serverless model was built to run small, independent bits of code called functions that carry out specific, quick tasks. For example, a good use case for serverless might be a voice-controlled AI assistant. Every day, millions of users make requests to their AI assistants and receive responses in short, simple interactions. Because there’s no way to predict how many requests users will make within a given timeframe, it’s difficult for the AI assistant provider to determine how much server space they’ll need. However, serverless computing dynamically scales the infrastructure as the number of requests fluctuates.

What are the benefits of the serverless model?

There are three primary advantages to the serverless model:

Reduced operational costs

With serverless, you’re only paying for the resources you actually use. This takes the guesswork out of the equation and can also help you avoid paying for tons of extra rented server space in a data center somewhere that you’re retaining “just in case.” You also don’t have to worry about buying, configuring and managing servers yourself, which can help further reduce IT costs.

Increased productivity of employees

When your internal technical teams don’t have to worry about maintaining infrastructure and provisioning needs, they’re able to focus their energies on building and deploying the core product as quickly as possible and innovating in other areas of operation.

Optimized IoT availability

In our connected environments, micro-interactions are taking place billions of times every day. Because of its dynamic scalability and pay-as-you-go model, serverless is purpose-built to make IoT as seamless and cost-effective as possible.

How will serverless computing affect security?

One of the greatest advantages of the serverless model, the fact that you don’t manage your own servers, can also be a drawback. While cloud service providers make security a top priority, it’s still mostly out of your control. As an IT leader, this can be a little nerve-wracking.

“Despite the many operational benefits that serverless provides, shifting infrastructure control to the provider creates new and considerable risk,” says Gadi Naor, CTO and co-founder of the security platform Alcide, in an article for Forbes. “Preventing advanced attacks requires new, advanced anomaly detection mechanisms, application awareness and tight controls.”

After you confirm that your goals and priorities align with those of the service provider, your best bet is to let them do what they do best and redouble your security efforts on what you can control. As IoT continues to grow and resource-sharing cloud models grow with it, it’s critical that you secure every endpoint in your organization, especially commonly overlooked ones like printers. By investing in products built with highly sophisticated security features, like HP Printers’ run-time intrusion detection and Connection Inspector, you can reduce the risk of hackers hijacking your devices or using them as dangerous backdoors into your network.

Serverless cloud computing advancements will likely define the future of the enterprise IT, but no matter the tech in question, securing your environment today will enable to focus your efforts on training and implementing whatever big productivity boosters come along next.

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