Serverless won’t kill the data center. Or virtual machines. Or containers. Some thoughts on the problems it does solve and what the future looks like.


Everyone wants to go serverless these days.
Whether you define serverless as dynamically shifting resources as needed, outsourcing the data center or simply as a no maintenance strategy, the term gets lobbed around a lot in today’s tech circles.

For Clay Smith, New Relic developer advocate, the term is both at peak hype cycle and worth keeping an eye on.

“I think what makes serverless interesting and where the debate gets heated is that it effectively stamps, in a big, big way, ‘deprecated!’ on a ton of technology,” he says, speaking with Fredric Paul on the Modern Software podcast. “I empathize with people who may have spent the past three years building out a container platform because when you consider the emergence of serverless, it definitely puts that kind of investment at risk. So I understand it, but I don’t think that’s an excuse to ignore it.”

Looking at Google searches in the United States in the last five years, it would be hard to ignore the uptick. But going sans servers is also a question of the bottom line, says author of “Archictecting for Scale” Lee Atchison.


“The cost of running an infrastructure is a real cost and the promise of serverless is to reduce or eliminate that cost,” he says. “But that promise is a hype promise. It’s never going to go away. There’s always going to be infrastructure costs.” The real benefit of serverless is about more management and control over the inevitable investments in infrastructure plus the capacity to scale independently from that infrastructure.

While Smith believes that going serverless frees devs up to focus on code and scaling, Atchison says that those aren’t  necessarily advantages brought about by serverless, but simply by the cloud.

In any case, serverless won’t be sounding the death knell for data centers — or virtual machines — any time soon. “The virtual machine industry is still in the billions of dollars. The life of this stuff seems relatively long and I don’t think serverless fundamentally changes that,” Smith says. ” I think when someone makes a tribute music video to their favorite server we’ll know we’ve hit peak nostalgia, but we’re stuck with them for a long time.” Amen?

Catch the entire 24-minute episode here.