Not so serverless Neptune

Several years ago I wrote a post asking people to¬†stop calling everything serverless. I even gave a keynote at Serverless Days Milan the following year pleading the same message. My contention was quite simple: “when everything’s serverless, nothing will be.”

Back then, “serverless” was still relatively new, and the possibilities were seemingly endless. Sure, there were a few people starting to mislabel things, and of course, haters were gonna hate, but for the most part, the argument was less about the nuances of the technology and more about the “nature” of serverless and the serverless-first mindset. But then something changed.

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Cloud Native versus Native Cloud apps

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the next evolution of the cloud, and more importantly, what the developer experience looks like. A few years ago, I think that most of us in the serverless ecosystem thought that the path forward seemed quite clear. Serverless-first was obviously “the way.” Small, discrete, single-purpose functions interconnected through a series of planet-scale, self-upgrading, managed services with built-in redundancy was the holy grail of cloud development.

Of course there were some gotchas in there, and not every use case was a perfect fit, but over time we figured these would be addressed as the technology evolved. For the most part, that has come to pass. Even if AWS hasn’t quite yet solved some of these issues, other cloud providers and startups have certainly tried. But while serverless was slowly preparing to cross the chasm, another already widely accepted technology was gaining traction in the cloud: containers.

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The Unfulfilled Potential of Serverless

Corey Quinn, Cloud Economist (and perpetual thorn in AWS’s side), recently published a post titled The Unfulfilled Promise of Serverless. Twitter reacted as we would expect, with plenty of folks feeling vindicated, others professing their staunch disagreement, and perhaps even a few now questioning their life (and technology) choices. My take is that he’s not wrong, but he’s also not entirely right.

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