As the use of Cloud Computing in running applications grows, techniques and technologies have been developed to ease the packaging and deploying of software. Containers and Serverless Computing are two currently popular techniques that allow developers to decouple complex applications into smaller services for ease of replication and portability. These two frameworks allow development companies to develop and ship applications with higher flexibility and less overhead compared to traditional hosting. These solutions are applicable to different use cases but can be integrated together for a superior hybrid solution. In this article, we’ll explore the differences, similarities, and popular use-cases for containers and serverless architecture.

What is Serverless Computing?

First of all, Serverless does not eliminate the need for servers. It just means that server provisioning and management are outsourced to a cloud service provider. Developers write code, create configuration parameters, and then ship this application as a package to the cloud-based server. All popular public cloud platforms offer some form of serverless computing capability. Amazon, for instance, offers AWS Lambda that runs as a Function as a Service (FaaS) platform. Other public serverless architectures include Google Cloud Functions and MS Azure Functions.

Since serverless computing is a pay-as-you-use service, you will save on cloud costs as you pay for the actual traffic volume and time used. Functions generate little overhead, are small, and perform simple tasks, further reducing the cost of running an application. Serverless applications are also low maintenance since developers don’t have to worry about availability levels, back-end server tasks, system policy settings, or provisioning containers. A Serverless Architecture provides firms with a standardized programming environment that makes deployment incredibly simple. 

What are Containers?

A container is a virtualization solution that emulates an entire operating system, making it easy to run multiple workloads on a single instance. Containers essentially isolate application services into a self-contained unit. With proper orchestration, these units allow for swift product development and transition between different application environments. By compartmentalizing an application, containers enable DevOps teams to work independently while collaborating on different parts of the software.

Containers offer a high level of portability since teams can be deployed on different Operating Systems. With containers, firms don’t need to emulate hardware, meaning applications will consume fewer resources compared to other virtualization options. Containers also give developers a high level of control since they get a say in the application deployment and packaging alternatives. Containers offer a high level of independence and portability, meaning firms can’t be “locked-in” to a particular service vendor. Finally, containers offer the possibility of image tagging and environment versioning, which helps developers ship applications with timely updates.

Similarities between Containers and Serverless Computing

Both Containers and Serverless platforms allow developers to create flexible and highly evolving applications. These architectures share a few common traits that allow for seamless application packaging and deployment. Both containers and serverless frameworks integrate perfectly with microservice architecture, which reduces application provisioning overhead and wait times. Both frameworks also require a simple API invocation to integrate with 3rd party resources. Containers and Serverless architecture also create isolated environments for applications, letting developers outsource infrastructure management while focusing on code development. Containers and Serverless frameworks are light deployments that start-up ultra-fast and run on the cloud.

Differences Between Serverless and Containers

While these two frameworks run on the cloud and support microservice architecture, they take a completely different approach to application deployment. For instance, in containers, the user is in full control of the initiation process while Serverless frameworks hide the process of initiation from the user. Firms using containers will, therefore, need an infrastructure engineer to manage containers, while the responsibility of infrastructure management is transferred to the vendor in serverless. Containers introduce payment peculiarities since firms will need a running server for the application to stay available even when not in use. With serverless, users only pay for the execution time.

Applications running on containers are simpler to test since debugging operations can be run locally on the platform in which the app is deployed. Serverless applications are, on the other hand, difficult to test since it is hard to replicate the back-end environment locally. Containers allow for heterogeneous development, meaning teams with varying programming backgrounds can work on any application. Serverless vendors often specify the programming languages they support, limiting development choice. Serverless applications have a shorter time to market since developers don’t have to worry about infrastructure dependencies, while containerized applications take more time to deploy since it takes a while to configure and set up containers. 

Use Cases for Containers

Containers are preferred when flexibility and full control are desirable. Containerizing an application is, therefore, perfect when it comes to complex architecture yet the developers still need to fully administer security and resource allocation. Containers also form the perfect deployment tool for extensive e-Commerce platforms, where all components are shipped as containers representing different areas of business logic. Containers have also found great application in migrating monolithic applications to the cloud. This is because containers are incredibly effective at breaking down these systems and rebuilding them as microservices. Finally, you can use containers if you plan to scale your application continuously.

Use Cases for Serverless

Serverless is a cost-friendly, low maintenance, and simple solution that helps developers ship code faster and more reliably. If a firm lacks the resources to manage back-end infrastructure, Serverless architecture will provide it on a friendly budget. Since Serverless is pay-as-you-use, it is perfect for event-driven applications that are not constantly running. Serverless is also useful in handling traffic behavior changes when the traffic of an application is unpredictable. Serverless architecture is also great for handling real-time uploads and data streams by managing input from connected devices in real-time. In IoT devices, one can deploy serverless to handle the large volume of data generated by background processes.

Serverless-Container Integration

These two platforms can work synergistically, each leveraging its own strengths to provide a highly effective, flexible deployment solution. Containers are perfect for large and complex application deployments, while serverless computing applies best to small services where the back-end can easily be outsourced. Developers can containerize applications, but outsource such functions as server provisioning and maintenance, further freeing up the firm’s resources. Serverless applications on the other hand can benefit from the easy replication, updating, and switching capacity offered by containers. For AWS users, AWS Fargate is a novel solution that helps developers build Container-Serverless hybrids for faster performance. 

Conclusion

For any developer looking to build a fast, flexible, and reliable application, Serverless Computing and Containers are two of the top architecture choices. While they offer a different approach to provisioning and deployment, these frameworks can integrate seamlessly, allowing the creation of a hybrid architecture that lets developers reap the benefits of both. If an application requires more memory than the Serverless vendor allocates them, for instance, containers can be used to provide resources outside the scope of the serverless vendor. Choosing one platform over the other requires a careful examination of application requirements and firm resources. You can, however, be sure that both containers and serverless architecture will steer the world of application development through improvements in Cloud Computing.