Serverless Computing: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back


Serverless computing offers the potential to program the cloud in an autoscaling, pay-as-you go manner. In this paper we address critical gaps in first-generation serverless computing, which place its autoscaling potential at odds with dominant trends in modern computing: notably data-centric and distributed computing, but also open source and custom hardware. Put together, these gaps make current serverless offerings a bad fit for cloud innovation and particularly bad for data systems innovation. In addition to pinpointing some of the main shortfalls of current serverless architectures, we raise a set of challenges we believe must be met to unlock the radical potential that the cloud—with its exabytes of storage and millions of cores—should offer to innovative developers.

p119-hellerstein-cidr19.pdf (478.8 KB)

Key Quotes

FaaS discourages Open Source service innovation

Most popular open source software cannot not run at scale in current serverless offerings. Arguably this is inherent: that software was not designed for serverless execution, and expects human operation. But given the FaaS limitations on data processing and distributed computing, one should not expect new scalable open source software to emerge. In particular, open-source data systems—an area of rapid growth and maturity in recent years—would be impossible to build on current FaaS offerings. Current serverless infrastructure, intentionally or otherwise, locks users into either using proprietary provider services or maintaining their own servers.


really glad to see this getting “the” traction!

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