Let’s start with the fact that cloud computing is growing exponentially. Businesses are continually migrating from traditional data centers and inefficient physical servers to innovative cloud technologies and microservices architectures. What are the key factors driving businesses to build or migrate their architectures to the cloud? Based on a recent survey we highlighted 4 benefits of cloud computing that are considered to be vital for most businesses.
Today there is an increasing number of different cloud services that enable developing more cost-efficient applications with higher performance and more effortless scalability such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Function as a Service (FaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). If you’ve been looking for a full-service framework solution for your business needs, then it’s likely that you’ve come across the concepts of Serverless and Docker, that represent FaaS and PaaS models, respectively. Many experts now consider these solutions as the best practices in cloud computing as they offer simplicity and flexibility in application development and deployment. However, they have some unique differences that we are going to cover today.
Serverless vs. Docker
To start with, it's worth saying that both - Serverless and Docker point out an architecture that is designed for future changes, and for leveraging the latest tech innovations in cloud computing. While many people often talk about Serverless computing vs. Docker containers, the two have very little in common. That is because both technologies aren’t the same thing and serve a different purpose. First, let’s go over some common points:
- Minimum overhead
- High performance
- Requires minimal infrastructure provisioning
Although Serverless is more innovative technology than Docker, they both have their disadvantages and of course, benefits that make them both useful and relevant. So let's review the two.
Pros and cons of Serverless
Serverless allows you to build and run applications and services without provisioning, scaling, and managing any servers. You can build them for virtually any type of application or backend service, and everything required to run and scale your application with high availability is handled for you. Let’s have a look at the benefits and drawbacks of Serverless.
Advantages of Serverless
- Deployment simplicity is what makes Serverless incredible. There’s no administration of infrastructure needed - just upload your functions, and that’s all. No Dockerfiles or Kubernetes configurations. Your time-to-market will be amazing, and it’s something startups value more than anything else.
- As you pay per function execution, Serverless is cheaper than containers. When an application is not being used, it shuts down, and you don’t pay for the idle time. That is great for startups that are short on cash.
- There’s no worry about scalability as the cloud provider you choose does it for you automatically if there is a need. You don't have to configure anything, it just works.
- Updating or modifying a single function is typically easier to do in a Serverless architecture.
- Almost all Serverless solutions support event triggers, which means they are great for pipelines and sequenced workflows.
Disadvantages of Serverless
- Serverless is considered as a “black box” technology, that means you don’t necessarily know what’s going on inside.
- As a Serverless application grows, the complexity of troubleshooting explodes because of the way the FaaS applications are designed to work.
- Serverless always depends on a third party vendor, so that changing the cloud provider can be a headache.
- Depending on the workload, Serverless architectures can take a lot of the expensive overheads in terms of operating and supporting the basic infrastructure.
- Serverless architecture sometimes can be very tricky to get right and typically requires significant upfront human resource costs.
The four major services that are being utilized for the Serverless orchestration are Amazon Step Functions, Azure Durable Functions, Google Cloud Dataflow, and IBM Composer.
Here are a few companies and startups that use Serverless right now: Netflix, Codepen, PhotoVogue, Autodesk, SQQUID, Droplr, AbstractAI.
To get more information about Serverless, refer here:
- AWS Lambda - run code without thinking about servers. Pay only for the compute time you consume.
- Serverless computing - Focus only on building great applications
- Serverless Framework. The most widely-adopted toolkit for building serverless applications.
- Serverless computing. Take your mind off infrastructure and build apps faster
- IBM Cloud Functions. Execute code on demand in a highly scalable serverless environment
Pros and cons of Docker
Docker is a containerization platform that packages your application and all its dependencies together in the form of a docker container to ensure that your application works seamlessly in any environment.
Advantages of Docker
- Container technology enables you to scale your applications as much as you want. Going Serverless, that’s not always the case, as sometimes it may cause the size and memory restrictions.
- Docker containers are vendor-agnostic and portable by their nature, whereas going Serverless always depends on a third party.
- Docker provides different environments based on app requirements by using containers. So that it’s easy to transfer and run the application anywhere you want.
- You have full flexibility and control with Docker containers in terms of setting policies, managing resources, and security.
- It allows developers to build, test and deploy applications quickly as containers carry the minimal runtime requirements of the application, decreasing their size and enabling them to be deployed instantly.
- Docker produces an API for container management in an image format and a chance to use a remote registry for sharing containers. This scheme serves both developers and system administrators with advantages for instance.
Disadvantages of Docker
- Containers don't run at bare-metal speeds. Indeed, containers utilize resources more efficiently than virtual machines, but they are still subject to performance overhead due to overlay networking, interfacing between the container and the host system, and so on.
- By default, all of the data inside a container disappears forever when the container shuts down unless you save it somewhere else first. There are ways to save data persistently in Docker, such as Docker Data Volumes, but this is probably a challenge that still has yet to be addressed in a seamless way.
- Although the core Docker platform is open source, due to competition between the companies that back them, some container products don't work with other ones. For example, OpenShift only works with the Kubernetes orchestrator.
- Docker containers were designed as a solution for deploying server applications that don't require a graphical interface. While there are some creative strategies (such as X11 video forwarding) that you can use to run a GUI app inside a container, these solutions are clunky at best.
The most popular tools that are being utilized for Docker containers orchestration are Kubernetes, Openshift, Docker Swarm.
Here are a few companies and startups that use Docker right now: PayPal, Visa, Shopify, 20th Century Fox, Twitter, Hasura, Weaveworks, Tigera.
To get more information about Docker, refer here:
- Docker Containerization Unlocks the Potential for Dev and Ops
- What is a container
- Docker - Case Studies
To sum up
Are Serverless and Docker the competing platforms? Hardly. They are mutually supporting parts of the dynamic world of cloud computing. Both services used to develop microservices but work for different needs. If you want to reduce application management and don't care about the architecture, then Serverless is the best option. If you want to deploy an application on specified system architecture with having control over it, then Docker containers are the best option. So when comparing Serverless vs. Docker, it comes down to choosing what is better for your particular needs.
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