Although most users will never realize it, with every digital data entry and exchange servers are consuming substantial quantities of energy to file, store and sustain that data’s availability.
While the average consumer or office worker doesn’t consider the economic or environmental impact they have, IT and C-Suite teams are awakening to the problem and the awareness among energy concerns, legislators and thought leaders is growing. From the expanding troves of transactional data for AI to each video streamed on a smartphone or to a social media platform, hyperconnected companies are hungry to collect, understand, feed and leverage data on our digital habits. In today’s infrastructure models, data centers continuously burn through processing power to be ever-ready to those workloads—even when demand falls during regular off-peak periods.
That’s one of the two real pushes behind the shift from legacy to new serverless infrastructures: waste, both environmental and economic.
The world is waking up to the realization that the digital economy is consuming disproportionate levels of energy, putting new pressures on their organizations, their region’s energy infrastructures and, ultimately, on the planet.
A recent report from Climate Change News predicts billions of internet-connected devices could produce 3.5% of global emissions within 10 years and the communications industry could use 20% of all the world’s electricity by 2025. In fact, data from statistics portal Statista notes the energy consumption of Facebook usage alone amounted to about 2.46TW hours in 2017, compared to 532GW hours in 2011.
In the U.S. alone, data centers consume an astounding 90 billion kWh of electricity per year, the approximate annual output of 34 (500MW) coal-burning power plants. The data center consumption costs are baked in—organizations pay for always-on computing power to meet peak need regardless of how demand may fluctuate.
The Promise and Potential of Serverless
Cutting Energy Consumption: Serverless compute technology such as Amazon’s AWS Lambda or Microsoft’s Azure Functions are native cloud architectures designed to decrease consumption and increase agility and innovation.
It provides a more efficient function-as-a-service (FaaS) consumption model that enables organizations to pay for what they use, rather than constant peak demand charges.
Some of the economic impacts of serverless are obvious: Organizations that host their own servers have reconciled themselves to paying for those servers running at full power while sitting idle for much of the time. It’s like keeping your car constantly running, regardless of whether you’re going anywhere.
In contrast, serverless not only promises far greater energy efficiency from the macro-infrastructure perspective, it also is event-driven. Organizations pay by the computing power consumed, so their costs reflect their actual server usage rather than paying for always-on capacity.
The Shift Is On, From Managing Infrastructures to Solving Problems
Reduced energy consumption and cost efficiencies are important for organizations and the planet. Two other major promises serverless offers are the ability to let organizations focus on creating applications and services without chaining them to infrastructure and innovation opportunities.
Organizations shift the focus of their IT resources away from infrastructure maintenance—the provisioning, patching, operating system maintenance, managing runtimes and capacity planning overhead—to solving business problems. This means the focus of the organization’s IT resources can shift from managing infrastructure maintenance burdens to doing what IT was always meant to do: solve actual business problems.
But there’s another aspect to serverless that’s even more exciting.
Unlocking ‘Vendor Lock’ and Unleashing Innovation
Every great technology breakthrough inevitably tears through old barriers and accelerates innovation. Serverless is no different.
Furnace is a good example. It’s a new open source, serverless, streaming data processing platform for building big data solutions that are cloud platform and language-agnostic.
Some of the most urgently needed application construct types we’re likely to see in the near term will be for extracting and anonymizing old proprietary data for GDPR compliance, and for honeypot data collection and manipulation, with Elasticsearch and Redshift. Other application foundational on-ramps are in development.
According to Danny Waite, CTO for the Furnace Ignite organization, the Serverless Furnace source platform was architected to allow deployment and data traversal into and across various cloud, on-premises and hybrid environments, putting the underlying efficiencies of serverless to work on practical applications.
The application development platform is optimized to ingest massive volumes of data from different sources and in various formats. The Furnace open source community is soliciting feedback and community developers are working on various projects, with plans for constructs to harness and tap into the massive stores of now-untouched IoT data, among other sources.
Greener, Cleaner, Streamlined Computing
Serverless is a driver for ecologically greener, operationally cleaner and innovation-driving new computing. Its reduced data-center energy consumption, pay-per-use event-driven model, openness to innovation and seemingly unique ability to help align historical data with new regulatory requirements are all arguments for a shift in thinking and embrace of serverless. The improved economics are another compelling reason, though likely not a primary one for data-driven organizations.
Serverless communities such as Furnace Ignite are emerging with tools and techniques for adoption. The Furnace application development platform has been architected in a way that allows it to be deployed into various infrastructures, such as cloud, on-premises or within hybrid environments, with the ability to ingest huge volumes of data from different sources, in various formats, so developers can take that data and make it useable. The whole process can be done with speed and agility and removes all the nuances normally associated with working with streaming data.
Serverless platforms such as Furnace will continue to be developed to drive DevOps and meet the needs of the opensource community.