Serverless or Kubernetes - What's Your Choice?




Wissen Team


May 28, 2024

The 2021 Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) Annual Survey revealed that Kubernetes is being used or evaluated by about 96% of the organizations. 79% of the survey respondents affirmed that they make use of certified Kubernetes-hosted platforms.

Elsewhere, Datadog's State of Serverless report outlined that the adoption of Serverless has grown by leaps and bounds, with more than 50% of organizations using Serverless across the most popular cloud platforms. For example, over 70% of businesses use Serverless on AWS, followed by more than 50% on Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. AWS Lambda remains the most used hosted Serverless platform, followed by Azure Functions and Google Cloud Functions.

Indeed, both Serverless and Kubernetes are becoming ubiquitous by the day - overcoming the notion of them being "niche" technologies. But what does this actually mean for businesses? Are Kubernetes and Serverless fighting for the same space, or can they, in fact, complement each other? What is the difference between them? And how can businesses use these technologies for the better?

Here's an overview of what Serverless and Kubernetes are and the differences that businesses should know to make a choice.

The What(s) and Why(s) of Kubernetes

Kubernetes, a portable and extensible orchestration tool, helps run and manage container-based workloads and services. Simply put, it ensures that containers are acting as they should be and working well together.

Why Is Kubernetes Needed?

Well, the applications today are designed to be scalable. However, to accommodate scalability, a lot of moving parts are involved (including microservices and the containers that pack them). Kubernetes works to ensure that these parts run smoothly based on how the business (or the developer) envisions them.

In essence, Kubernetes is a direct response to monolithic applications. In monoliths, a lot of functionalities are bundled into one app. The issue with these applications is that they are hard to deploy and manage, especially when different teams are managing different functionalities of the same application. All these teams have to be in sync for the rollout. Not to forget the added complexity that comes with scaling these applications and identifying anomalies.

Microservices help curb these challenges by ensuring that every functionality is a separate artifact that can be easily scaled and evaluated. These microservices are deployed using containers, which further constitute all the related application dependencies and configurations. Now, the question is - who orchestrates these containers? By orchestration, we mean who:

  • Takes care of the communication between containers
  • Ensures that these containers upgrade without downtime
  • Ensures that the errors that pop up are properly addressed

Enter Kubernetes for managing the cluster of containers. It helps automate the menial tasks and allows full control over the cluster.

So, When Should Businesses Consider Kubernetes?

  • When the business is using multi-cloud - Kubernetes can help host multi-cloud workloads, allowing for the same codebase to be used across different clouds.
  • When the microservices architecture is the de-facto way to build applications - Kubernetes, as explained above, is excellent at orchestrating and smartly scheduling containers - making the employment and management of microservices extremely viable.
  • When migration from on-premises to the cloud is on the cards - Kubernetes can help through application porting.

The What(s) and Why(s) of Serverless

Serverless refers to abstracting away the underlying infrastructure and platform. With Bare Metal programming and Virtual Machines (VMs), developers have to focus on managing and provisioning the servers. This requires a lot of coding effort and time to make sure every detail is taken care of. A Serverless framework, on the other hand, gives developers the opportunity to focus just on the business logic.

Why Is Serverless Needed?

Speaking strictly in terms of the technology's positioning in the current market, Serverless is even better than containers because the focus on the business logic is high, and the tech stack implementation effort is low. Besides, Serverless benefits from having no idle time, which can pop up in container-based deployments. In actuality, though, Serverless computing leverages containers, for that's where developers package code.

What stands out with Serverless and what businesses need today is auto-scaling. Because the cloud service provider is responsible for handling and scaling the server, serverless applications can automatically scale whenever a function needs to run. So, from a broader perspective, Serverless would handle traffic spikes excellently as the response to multiple requests would be operationally similar to what it is for a single request.

So, When Should Businesses Consider Serverless?

  • When the business needs to accelerate the time-to-market of relatively lightweight applications.
  • When the business needs to enhance the scalability of the applications; however, there's uncertainty about the traffic spikes.
  • When businesses want to make the most of their DevOps initiatives - Serverless would allow rapid iteration of applications, polyglot programming, and better collaboration between development and production teams.

Serverless vs. Kubernetes - What to Choose?

We have seen that both Serverless and Kubernetes use containers and leverage the microservices architecture. However, there are differences when it comes to project objectives, time-to-market, workloads, budget, scalability, and security.

For example, Serverless might be great at bringing applications quickly to the market, scaling them automatically, and reducing the costs that could otherwise snowball when there's idle time. Contrarily, Kubernetes takes time to set up, requires a well-defined approach to drive scalability and resiliency, and could cost more.

However, at the same time, Kubernetes is better positioned to handle substantial workloads, ward off language limitations, launch tests, etc. In terms of security, while Serverless relies on the cloud service provider's security practices and policies, Kubernetes requires mapping of Kubernetes' security policies and that of the cloud vendor's.

Ultimately, the decision between pursuing either of the two depends on the project's criteria, the workload, ecosystem requirements, prototyping requirements, budgetary constraints, security needs, level of management acceptable, and use-cases (like modernization, data processing, etc.)

We hope this blog sheds some light on Kubernetes vs. Serverless debate and allows you to make an excellent choice for your project. For more information about how to make the most of your Serverless or Kubernetes deployments, get in touch with an expert today!

This article was first published here.