IT Strategy for Business
A blog for small and medium businesses looking for the tools and tips to really grow.

Virtualization, the Cloud, and the evolution of Serverless Computing

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 26, 2018 7:54:17 PM / by Alex Straffin

Make no mistake, Serverless computing is here.

Just as VMware's virtualization platform transformed how we scope, build, deploy, and manage client server infrastructures, and "The Cloud" expanded the capabilities and resources available to businesses; Serverless computing promises to finally eliminate the need for the traditional Windows server... almost.

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First, let me explain the difference between virtualization, cloud computing, and serverless computing.

Virtualization refers to the abstraction of hardware and software layers of the compute stack. What this means, is that your Windows server workload "doesn't care" about the hardware configuration that it's running on. All hardware that the server operating system interacts with is emulated. You might be thinking: Why do I care? We'll I'll tell you!

Hardware is expensive, and back in the day of the 1:1 physical server architecture, up to 80% of your high dollar infrastructure investment went completely unused! Some companies would even have 3 or 4 servers that each saw about 10-25% average utilization. What a waste!

What virtualization allowed us to do was run multiple server workloads on one piece of on premise or colocated hardware, maximizing utilization, and reducing hardware costs. YAY!

In Summary: Virtualization reduces the overall hardware liability for your business.

 

The Cloud refers to the abstraction of server infrastructure from the client site. This means that for some technologies, you can completely avoid the purchasing, management, and maintenance, of server hardware altogether. So this means that you're saving a ton of money right? Well not really.

Just because there's no hardware at your site, doesn't mean you don’t have to pay for it. What Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers like Microsoft's Azure and Amazon's AWS do, is bill you for the server licensing and hardware utilization that you subscribe to. So this doesn't eliminate the cost, or hardware centric pricing, it merely converts it from a capital expense, to an operational expense; meaning you only pay for what you use, and do so on a monthly basis.

In Summary: The Cloud eliminated the liability of server hardware, but not the liability of server management, and maintenance.

 

So where do we go from here? Are you picking up on the theme? It would seem that the direction of technology and IT in general is to continue to make it easier, cheaper, and more efficient to run a business that leverages powerful compute technologies. We are continually lowering the barrier to entry, leveling the playing field for the startup and SMB, and giving everyone access to enterprise grade compute services for a low monthly cost, with minimal risk.

In my opinion, the obvious next step is the transition to Serverless Computing.

 

Serverless Computing is the abstraction of the server from the service it serves (oh yeah). What this means, is that there is no server management liability at all! WOOT!

Serverless computing represents a shift in thinking, and the realization that the value delivered to the end user should be the primary focus; NOT the servers themselves. Think of it as the commoditization of SaaS based service delivery capabilities.

For example, on a traditional office network you will have a Domain Controller that handles authentication and the identities of your users, a File Server that provides your users access to your company’s files, an email server that enables secure communication, and an application server for whatever business critical apps you are running. Without even getting to Backup and Disaster Recovery or managed security services, we are already at 4 servers. Yikes!

Today, every single one of these services is available SERVERLESS!

Are we in the future? How is this even possible?

 

Here is how it's done:

 

Email Services:

Office 365 – I'd bet my left arm that everyone reading this has heard of Microsoft's killer productivity app, Office 365. This, in my opinion is the perfect example of serverless email service. Best in class, great for everyone. Great job Microsoft!

 

File/Collaboration Services:

SharePoint Online – OK, so this time last year I would not have included this in my post, but it has earned its place here today. SharePoint Online is built into Microsoft's Office 365 and in it's VERY specific and over architected way, can handle the need for file sharing and collaboration for your business. Now I'm not saying it isn't a can of worms, 'cause it is! But, it sure is incredibly powerful and simply the best service available in it's class when it comes to replacing the file server. Another serverless service integrated cleanly into the Microsoft Azure cloud stack.

 

Domain Services:

Azure Active Directory - Surely by now you are getting the hint. Microsoft has ben absolutely crushing the serverless services game, and Azure AD is no exception. Finally, with the introduction of Windows 10 Enterprise, you can add a Windows workstation to an Azure Active Directory domain! YES! No more need for a cumbersome Windows Domain Controller in your environment? Almost... As of the writing of this post, there is only a basic implementation of Group Policy in Azure AD. This may not matter for everyone, but for IT Pros, advanced Group Policy management goes a long way to automating the deployment and maintenance of security policies, and that is a very important miss. I was not able to get a date from Microsoft regarding the roadmap for fleshing out this functionality but rest assured we are asking for it. Maybe they don’t think we need it, maybe they are working on it... time will tell. But for now, Microsoft is playing full court press on Windows 10 Enterprise adoption and we are too.

 

Application Services:

{FILL IN VENDOR NAME HERE} - No, that's not a mistake. Almost ALL application development companies are adopting a SaaS model. This means the need for an application server in house is quickly vanishing. Im not saying that there isn't still a need for traditional application servers, but I am saying that there is a SaaS based solution for every single possible application in existence. Prove me wrong!

 

Whether you call it Serverless Computing, or Platform as a Service (PaaS), the concept is the same. Extrapolating the value delivered, from HOW it's delivered. No-one cares how RAD your server stack is. They only want to see and learn about how much more efficiently and cost effectively they can enable, optimize, and scale their business.

This is why we do what we do. To help you take your business to the next level, and to kick down the walls of technological limitations. We are taking our clients and partners to the serverless future and we are not looking back.

 

 

Topics: Managed IT Services, Infrastructure, Cloud, Azure, Office 365, SharePoint, Serverless