Serverless vs Containers: The Best Use Cases for Each Technology

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Serverless Computing and Containers are some of the most popular technologies for deploying applications. Used correctly, they help developers deploy applications quickly while spending less money. Based on our considerable experience in DevOps, we wish to shed some light on the serverless vs containers dilemma.

Containers and Serverless

Containers and Serverless

Let’s take a look at what containers and serverless are.

What is a container?

Containers are application deployment environments that enable an application to run quickly and move between environments without error.

Containerization provides reliability and flexibility for local development. This allows developers to work separately on each part of the application for which they are responsible. This architecture provides a robust and easy-to-use approach to deploying, managing, and testing your application.

How to use containers?

  • Peak software for deployment.
  • Connect certificates.
  • Configure a load balancer for the API server.
  • Separate and backup etcd service.
  • Create multiple control plane systems.
  • Span multiple zones.
  • Manage ongoing features.

Pros of containers

Let’s take a look at the pros of containers.

  • Portability. Containers can be deployed on Windows, macOS, Linux, and in the cloud.
  • Less resource consumption. Containers do not need to simulate hardware and consume much fewer resources.
  • The greater level of control. Teams can choose the programming language and how to package the container. They control the behavior of the application.
  • No vendor lock. The containers are portable and do not depend on any supplier.
  • Version control. Developers can control versions of the environment, allowing them to revert to a previous version.
  • Unlimitedness. Containers can be as complex as you need them to be. There are no memory limits or timeouts, unlike serverless.

Cons of containers

Let’s take a look at the cons of containers.

  • Difficulty setting up and managing. Using containers requires deep skill. This can lead to slower setup and management.
  • Optimization of the code. To use containers to their full capacity, code changes may be required.
  • Higher costs. You need to pay to use the server even if no operations are running.

What is serverless?

Answering the question what is serverless computing? And paying for physical infrastructure is not necessary with what type of work environment? We can say that serverless architecture is the execution of cloud computing, where the provider takes over the servers and the management of computing resources. In other words, you don’t need servers as they are deployed in the cloud.

Advantages of serverless

Here are the advantages of serverless.

  • Automatic scaling. As traffic increases, all resources are scaled automatically.
  • Doesn’t require administration. The supplier takes full control of the infrastructure.
  • High availability. High availability can be achieved through automatic management and scaling of infrastructure.
  • Good pricing policy. You pay only for the resources used.
  • Microservices. Microservice architecture is a great option for serverless use.
  • Fast delivery to market. You can introduce new features to consumers much faster by loading code through the API.

 READ ALSO: Decomposing monolith to microservices.

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Disadvantages of serverless

Let’s take a look at the disadvantages of serverless.

  • Downtime. Function outages cause time-consuming operation evaluations to fail.
  • Cold start. You need to warm up functions that cannot handle peak loads by default.
  • Delay. Any delay in time can have negative consequences.
  • Difficult transition. Moving to a serverless architecture can be resource-intensive and costly.
  • Difficulties with monitoring and debugging. Your application is broken up, and each of them may contain bugs.
  • Supplier dependency. If you have chosen a cloud provider, then collaboration with third-party services becomes almost impossible.

How containers and serverless are similar?

Serverless architecture and containerized environments are not the same things. But in spite of everything, they duplicate some of the functions of each other:

  • manage application code;
  • use orchestration tools to scale;
  • are a more efficient solution than virtual machines.

Difference between containers and serverless

We’ve summarized the key differences between the two types of application deployment environments below.

  • Support. Containers run on Linux and Windows. And serverless work is done exclusively in cloud services.
  • Self-service capability. Serverless architecture requires the use of the cloud. And with containers, you set up your own localhost environment.
  • Cost. Given that serverless architectures run in the cloud, you will need to pay to use them. You can customize the container environment yourself, but you still have to pay for management.
  • Supported languages. If the server supports the language, you can easily put an application written in that language into the container. In contrast, serverless frameworks are limited in language support and vary from platform to platform.
  • Availability. Containers work as long as you need. And serverless functions are designed for short run times. Usually, it is a few hundred seconds before they turn off.

Why Use Containers?

Now we will analyze the reasons why you should use containers.

  • Packaging. Cloud computing containers provide a way for you to assemble the components of your application and package them together into a single build artifact.
  • Portability. Containers allow you to place your application anywhere, ensuring it runs reliably.
  • Efficiency. Containers increase efficiency through an efficient isolation model.

When to Choose What?

When to Choose What

When does the problem of choosing between serverless and containerization arise? Enterprises build applications and sooner or later they need to scale arises. In such cases, there are two optimal solutions, it is either serverless or containerization. Below we will tell you which solution to choose in which cases.

When to Choose Containerization?

Choose containers if:

  • you need a higher level of control over the resources and security of the application;
  • you have a monolithic system that you want to transform into microservices;
  • you want to move a monolithic system to the cloud;
  • you are going to continually scale your application.

When to Choose Serverless?

Serverless is great for the following scenarios:

  • you have a limited budget for managing and maintaining infrastructure;
  • you do not have the necessary resources to support the internal infrastructure;
  • your service traffic is unpredictable, or you know your traffic pattern and can pre-heat the infrastructure to handle everything. This is why you want changes in traffic behavior to be automatically detected and processed;
  • an event-driven application that does not always need to be started.

Can Serverless and Containers Coexist and Build a Reliable Hybrid Architecture?

It can be very effective if the application’s core functionality is run as containerized microservices, with the serverless functionality being used for some background operations or infrequently used (but CPU-intensive) functions.

There is also AWS Fargate. Combining the benefits of serverless and containers, this service allows you to have better control over your application without worrying about scaling. 

If you’d like to learn more about AWS and Azure, check out our Microsoft Azure vs. AWS: The Best Feature Comparison article.

Conclusion

Containers vs serverless technologies are similar in function but operate on different principles. Based on our tremendous DevOps experience, we recommend that you use Containers. But many companies will prefer to use both solutions at the same time. In fact, you can even use both technologies to deliver the same application.

 

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Dmitry Vyshnyov

Dmitry has 5 years of professional IT experience developing numerous consumer & enterprise applications. Dmitry has also implemented infrastructure and process improvement projects for businesses of various sizes. Due to his broad experience, Dmitry quickly understands business needs and improves processes by using established DevOps tools supported by Agile practices. The areas of Dmitry’s expertise are extensive, namely: version control, cloud platform automation, virtualization, Atlassian JIRA, software development lifecycle, Confluence, Slack, Service Desk, Flowdock, Bitbucket, and CI/CD.