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Beyond Containers & VMs: An Introduction to Serverless Application Architectures

Cisco Employee

One thing that’s always constant about the tech industry is that it never stands still.  Physical servers have filled datacenters for years and as recently as the 1990’s, application architectures had to treat them with great care as a scarce resource, like pets, because they took months to refresh. Virtual machines then came along and originally intended to separate resource usage but since their creation time was on the order of minutes so developers could treat them like cattle, which gave rise to a different type of architecture that assumed compute resources could be created and destroyed at will.

The current wave of technology involves containers, which uses a different and lower overhead resource separation technique than the VM stage that preceded it.  As a result, application architectures are comprised of smaller pieces of functionality that bind to one another over APIs.  These “microservices” can take advantage of the seconds it takes to spin up a new container for autoscaling and disaster recovery purposes.  To continue the pets/cattle analogy this wave is sometimes referred to as “chickens” because containers are smaller and more portable than VMs.

Serverless: The Next Wave Beyond Containers

But what if you want to create an application architecture based on even smaller components than what you can accomplish with microservices?  What if you could load single purpose functions in milliseconds and chain a set of them together with a set of events?  How easy would it be to get started if you had a million free function executions per month and you only got charged by the function execution, not for idle time?

The next technology wave looms on the horizon – feathers, if you will – and it’s called Serverless or sometimes Functions-as-a-Service.  It might sound a little weird for a company like Cisco that sells servers to be talking about a technology called Serverless, but in a session at Cisco Live (DEVNET-1193 Tuesday, 6/27 1:00PM-1:45PM Classroom 2) Tom Davies ( thodavie ) and Pete Johnson ( petercjo ) will explain how servers are indeed still there underneath the hood of a Serverless application architecture.

We’ll be discussing how Serverless works, how you can take advantage of the growing ecosystem of services and frameworks in this space, and why you may or may not consider a Serverless approach, all before providing a demonstration of this emerging technology.

Cisco Live! is a great time to learn about new things and this session is a perfect opportunity to get your first exposure to the next step in the evolution of application architectures!

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