serverless computing vs containerization
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Serverless Vs Containers: What to Choose When & Why

09 Dec 2021

Containerization and serverless computing have become quite popular with DevOps lately and for good reason. Both are cloud-based, more efficient than virtual machines (VMs), enable developers to build applications with far more flexibility, and reduce infrastructure costs when leveraged in the right use cases. But ever wondered how do they complement each other? What are the potentials and pitfalls of each architecture?

To help you hit the ground running on these hottest technologies, we’ve done all the legwork and laid it on the line. It’s serverless computing vs containers, right now. So, let’s dive right in.

What is Serverless Computing?

An execution architecture wherein the app code runs on demand without the need to provision, manage & maintain the infrastructure. This simply means that users can execute code at any time and pay only for the number of resources used for running the app code. And when you compare the cost of traditional servers with this serverless execution model, you’ll realize it means a lot of cost-cutting!

Why Use Serverless Functions?

The traditional approach of deploying applications over big servers comes with the added responsibility of provisioning and managing the resources.
This can invite a few server related issues (like – additional charges for keeping up, scaling or downsizing the capability and appropriate security updates) that could impact the overall time to market and delivery cost – both of which are crucial to software development projects. Now, this is where serverless computing comes into play. This architecture helps to reduce time, complexity and finally the cost of running a reliable and scalable server for a modern application. Further, with a chosen cloud platform (AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud) and dynamic resource allocation – a piece of code can be executed.

Benefits of Serverless Computing

  • Pay only for the time & resources required to run the code
  • Automatically scale up and down based on the app traffic
  • Accelerate development cycle and time-to-market
  • No maintenance hassles and reduced administration
  • No cost for idle time

What are Containers?

A lightweight virtualization architecture that contains both the application and related components that ensures its smooth operation, including libraries and settings. They allow deploying of individual applications inside portable, isolated environments. This application could consist of a database, an application server, or a web server where each is running in a different container. It’s like an instant premix for a pancake – all you need to do is the host and run!

Why Use Containers?

What if you could pack your application along with all the dependencies into one box and run it in any environment? Containerization makes it possible – regardless of the dependencies installed in the host system. It also helps ensure that software runs optimally when it is moved from one computing environment to another. This enables the DevOps team to work on individual parts of a large, complex application for speedy development, deployment, and testing.

Benefits of Containerization

  • Vendor agnostic containers with zero dependencies on any cloud platform
  • The DevOps team has total control over app packages
  • Better portability for deploying applications to different hardware platforms and operating systems
  • Scalability & control for managing resources and setting security policies
  • Less overhead with fewer system resources
  • Greater efficiency with faster patching

This read would help you explore the essentials of containerization and how it can make the deployment of applications faster and more effective.

Both containers and serverless computing enhance workloads while enabling businesses to extract optimum value across users. So why not converge them and get the best of both? The future lies in embracing their dual power to outpace competitors!

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Containers Vs Serverless – How do they complement each other!

While the two of the technologies are different from each other, they have some aspects in common.

Both allow development teams to;

  • Deploy app code consistently at all times
  • Save the cost and avoid the complexity of VMs
  • Automate & dynamically scale workloads
  • Abstract apps from the latent host environment

Now let’s do a feature-by-feature comparison of each deployment option. The table below lists the difference between containers and serverless.

Serverless Containers
Availability Typically runs for a short duration & shuts down as soon as the processing of current data or event is complete. Designed to run for a prolonged duration.
Deployability Functions are relatively smaller, do not come bundled with system dependencies, and only take milliseconds to deploy. These applications go live as instantly as the code is uploaded. Containers take relatively longer to set up initially because configuring system settings & libraries takes time. Once configured, they only take only a few seconds to deploy.
Scalability The backend of an application inherently & automatically adapts to meet the desired demands. Requires planning to scale up by procuring the server capacity to run the containers.
Host Environment Are tied to host platforms – based in the cloud Runs on certain windows versions & the latest Linux servers.
Cost Eliminates the unnecessary expense incurred on resources as you’re only charged for the server capacity that your application uses. Containers are constantly running, and cloud providers charge for the server space even if the application is not in use at that time.
Maintenance Much easier to maintain since the serverless vendor takes care of software management & updates. It is the developer’s job to manage and update each container before deployment.

Even while the features overlap in certain aspects, none of the above achitectures are interchangeable. Serverless computing works better for certain use cases, while in others, containerization is what you need.

To help you find out which model is best suited for your next cloud-native project, let’s explore some practical use cases for different business needs.

serverless computing use cases

Use Cases of Serverless Computing

  • Web and Mobile Applications: Build backend APIs that efficiently service web & mobile apps even with fluctuating loads.
  • CRON Jobs & Cloud Automation: Changing configurations, backing up databases, and performing periodic jobs that don’t need a constantly running server.
  • Hybrid Cloud Apps: When individual cloud providers don’t meet unique business needs, development teams leverage powerful features from different vendors and deploy services that enable essential tweaking & get functionality that fits the unique format needs of cloud vendors.

Use Cases for Containerization

  • App Modernization: This eliminates the need to completely rewrite applications and offers portability to re-engineer apps with less effort and at a lower operational cost.
  • Low Latency Applications: Consistency of operations results in the processing of requests with a shorter time frame for applications that require immediate cloud processing – AR & VR capabilities, real-time streaming, online games and more.
  • Mobile Computing & IoT: The rising number of IoT devices and smartphones are generating an ocean of data. While networks are already crowded, public cloud platforms are also struggling to keep up. Fortunately, enterprises can quickly spin up as many containers as needed to store and process data for uninterrupted communication.
containerization use cases

Serverless Or Containers - When to Choose What?

Serverless Computing is a perfect fit when you want to:

  • Automate handling of fluctuating traffic patterns
  • Reduce the cost of resources & server maintenance
  • Deploy apps and websites without having to set up an infrastructure
  • Dynamically resize images and modify video transcoding

Containers are your best bet when you want to:

  • Use the OS of your choice and ensure total control over the runtime version(s) and programming language
  • Custom design solutions with version-specific requirements
  • Develop container-native apps
  • Refactor a complex monolithic app
  • Migrate legacy apps to a modern environment

How We Can Make Containers & Serverless Work in Sync

Containers and serverless are not mutually exclusive and so, they can complement each other’s pros and cons! Combining them can bring your business a relative advantage.

At Rishabh Software, whether your app uses a monolithic architecture or you have a complex containerized system, we can help you make the most of the ease and economy of serverless. Do explore our cloud software development services capability to learn how we help enterprises to realize the full potential of collaborated performance, software quality & delivery speed.

Seek Help With Serverless Migration?

We can help you choose the right deployment framework by considering all stages – from preparation to migration and post-transition for data flows and application services.