Serverless Gains Ground Among AWS, Azure, Google Users

Serverless computing is increasingly becoming the norm across users of cloud's Big 3 vendors, according to new data from monitoring and security specialist Datadog.

In its third "The State of Serverless" report, Datadog found that more than half of its customers across Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform use serverless, which typically involves distributed chunks of code -- or functions -- being triggered by various kinds of user or system events, instead of monolithic programs. Datadog leveraged usage telemetry from thousands of its customers to compile the report.

"Serverless has transformed application development by eliminating the need to provision and manage any underlying infrastructure," the report said. "The current serverless ecosystem has grown more mature, and it now has considerable overlap with the world of container-based technologies. The wide range of available options has led over half of organizations operating in each cloud to adopt serverless."

Indeed, the following graphic shows the Amazon cloud leading the pack in the percentage of Datadog users who avail themselves of AWS Lambda, the primary serverless service, or its other options: AWS App Runner, ECS Fargate and EKS Fargate.

Serverless Adoption by Cloud Provider
[Click on image for larger view.] Serverless Adoption by Cloud Provider (source: Datadog).

Datadog started the State of Serverless reports years ago and now updates the numbers regularly -- this is the third edition. Throughout the series, the company has noted a growing correlation between serverless computing and the use of containers. In this report, container-related data points for each cloud include:

  • Google Cloud Run, GCP's serverless container product, is now being used by nearly 40 percent of Datadog customers operating in Google Cloud, a fourfold increase from January of 2020.
  • The percentage of Azure customers who are using Azure Container Instances has seen a 67 percent increase from 2020 to this year, which Datadog said indicates the growing maturity of the serverless market and the value of technologies that can be used to deploy existing applications as containers while also taking advantage of serverless.
  • In Q1 of 2020, less than 12 percent of AWS Lambda users were leveraging its serverless containers product, ECS Fargate. Today, more than 20 percent of AWS Lambda users have adopted ECS Fargate. The percentage of AWS Lambda customers running ECS on EC2 has similarly declined, indicating that organizations are doubling down on serverless across different types of workloads.

Again emphasizing the growing serverless/containers connection, Datadog said, "This evolution highlights the growing range of options available to organizations who want to go serverless, as well as a shift in how serverless technologies are leveraged. For instance, in addition to using individual serverless functions to run event-driven code, many organizations are also deploying containerized applications on serverless platforms such as Azure Container Instances, Google Cloud Run and Amazon ECS Fargate."

In fact, the report indicates one in five Lambda users is deploying functions as container images. Datadog said that approach comes with several advantages, including the ability to have much larger containers -- up to 10 GB -- as opposed to the .zip file approach, which is limited to 250 MB.

"This significantly larger size limit allows organizations to leverage dependency-heavy libraries such as NumPy and PyTorch, which support data analytics and machine learning tasks," Datadog said. "Additionally, packaging Lambda functions as container images makes it easier for organizations with existing Docker-based deployments and CI/CD pipelines to integrate serverless solutions. This ability to seamlessly incorporate serverless functions into existing workflows can save teams a significant amount of time and boost their productivity."

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Python and Node.js remain dominant among Lambda users: Some 99 percent of organizations use Python, while Node.js is only slightly behind at about 98 percent, followed by Java at less than 40 percent.
  • Over 60 percent of large organizations have deployed Lambda functions in at least three languages: About 33 percent of organizations use two languages or three languages, while about 19 percent use four, about 7 percent use five, about 5 percent use six or more, and about 4 percent use just one.
  • API Gateway and SQS are the AWS technologies that invoke Lambda functions most frequently: API Gateway is responsible for over half of all Lambda function invocations. SQS is at about 18 percent.
  • 80 percent of Lambda invocations from API Gateway are to single-purpose functions: "The vast majority of Lambda invocations by API Gateway are to single-purpose functions, which are used by more than 60 percent of our customers. This data reflects the many key benefits of single-purpose functions."
  • More than 20 percent of Lambda customers are also using ECS Fargate: Datadog said this indicates organizations are increasingly committed to serverless, while also pointing to a deep-seated belief in the ability of serverless technology to optimize workloads and operations.
  • Google Cloud Run is the fastest growing method for deploying serverless applications in Google Cloud: "Nearly 40 percent of Datadog customers operating in Google Cloud have adopted Google Cloud Functions, making it the most popular serverless offering in that cloud. However, this level of adoption is only about 3 percent above that of Google Cloud Run, Google Cloud's serverless container product. This finding suggests that when it comes to serverless, an increasing number of Google Cloud users are seizing the opportunity to launch containerized applications that don't require infrastructure management."
  • Azure Functions is Azure's most popular serverless offering, but adoption of Azure Container Instances is growing fast: The service is used by more than 40 percent of Azure customers. Another product that has seen a significant increase in adoption is Azure Container Instances (ACI), which helps organizations run fully managed serverless containers and is now used by nearly 30 percent of Azure customers. "This fact echoes similar trends that we identified within Google Cloud and AWS—namely, that organizations are moving beyond the traditional FaaS paradigm and are using serverless to launch containerized workloads. We also expect to see a further increase in the adoption of other Azure serverless container technologies such as Azure Container Apps, which enables teams to build and deploy entire containerized applications in managed serverless environments."

As this is the third edition of The State of Serverless reports, the company is beginning to shed more light on trends in the space.

"Serverless has long been promised as a way to scale quickly and simplify operations without having to worry about infrastructure management," said Ilan Rabinovitch, an exec at Datadog. "Since our last report in 2021, serverless technology has become mainstream across our customer base. Importantly, we are seeing serverless technologies being used in critical external- and internal-facing applications. This is in contrast to a couple of years ago when we first launched serverless monitoring and the usage was tilted toward R&D scenarios."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.


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