Serverless Computing Heats Up as Pivotal Software Takes on Cloud Giants
#PivotalSoftware Inc., part of the privately-held tech giant that emerged from #Dell Inc.’s acquisition of #EMC Corp., plans to compete with #Amazon Inc.’s #AmazonWebServices and other major cloud providers in the next evolution of #cloudcomputing. In this new era, physical and #virtualservers that are traditionally used to run certain applications become invisible to the developers building apps because the servers are owned and managed by a cloud provider. This is a trend commonly referred to as serverless computing, pioneered by #AWS in 2014 with the launch of its Lambda offering. It frees developers from having to manage servers and allows them to focus on writing code. Part of the appeal of serverless computing is also economic, because the customer only pays for certain applications when they’re executed, which is possible because the apps aren’t being run on a customer’s server. Pivotal, majority-owned by the new #DellTechnologies Inc., is now joining a field of new entrants in the market with #SpringCloudFunction, its version of serverless computing that’s expected to launch in mid-2017. Pivotal executives say its new feature could open up the potential for new kinds of services and applications, such as narrowly-written, single-purpose apps that are triggered by specific events. In practice, this might allow a large bank to send a notification to a customer whose mobile banking app is detected in another country, asking whether they want to activate the use of their credit card in that location, said James Watters, senior vice president of products for Pivotal. Before, there was no software application that could be triggered specifically for that purpose, and the bank didn’t have a way to use only the compute power needed to “fire and expire” that application, Mr. Watters said. “The idea is that there’s a brand new way of application developers and enterprises enriching their apps … and interacting with customers,” he said. Pivotal will follow in the footsteps of several cloud providers who are offering this type of service, which allows developers at enterprises to write software applications that can be executed on a cloud provider’s server only when a specific event, or piece of code, is triggered. By 2020 the use of serverless computing will become part of an enterprise’s strategy as they look to make the best use of public cloud infrastructure, according to a September report from research firm Gartner Inc. Mr. Watters said the boom in internet-connected devices has fueled the growth in event-based cloud computing because the software applications for those devices require massive amounts of requests of short duration. Enterprise customers or IT departments only pay for each time the code is executed, instead of doling out cash up front for physical or virtual servers traditionally used to run applications, which they may end up not needing. “When you have these bursty, episodic events where you suddenly need to take a bunch of actions, but it’s not worth having all that capacity turned on, that’s great motivation for doing this,” Mr. Watters said. With Spring Cloud Function, software developers write applications in Spring Cloud Services, its cloud-based programming platform. Pivotal Cloud Foundry runs the code either on its cloud or the clouds of other providers it partners with, such as Microsoft Azure. Enterprises will license Pivotal’s software and will be billed by the cloud provider they’re using whenever a code is triggered. Lambda, by contrast, manages the developer’s code and runs it on AWS’s own servers, billing the customer for every millisecond that a code is triggered, AWS has said previously. Other companies that have recently launched serverless computing competitors to AWS Lambda include Microsoft Corp.’s Azure Functions, released a month ago, and Google Cloud Functions, which debuted earlier this year in a test with limited customers. As businesses continue their migration to the cloud, serverless computing will become a permanent feature of cloud services, analysts have said previously. Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies, which was formed in the wake of Dell Inc.’s $60 billion deal to acquire #EMC Corp., told the WSJ in September that the evolution of cloud computing would be an “attractive” area of investment.