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Function as a Service – Is This a Likely Future?

Author: John Kaufling | | June 27, 2019

Cloud use is almost universal at the enterprise level, according to RightScale’s 2019 State of the Cloud survey, but there’s a large degree of variation in how companies utilize cloud services. Most leverage multiple vendors and services in pursuit of a cloud strategy that serves their needs.


One clear inference is that no single cloud vendor or service model is appropriate for all use cases. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the lack of a Tolkien-esque One Cloud to Rule Them All isn’t critical as long as companies can assemble the services and resources they need on an a la carte basis.

Deeper in the RightScale’s study is another interesting statistic. Cloud cost optimization ranks as the survey’s highest priority for enterprises, for the third consecutive year, and with good reason: respondents estimated their cloud spend wastage at 27 percent. RightScale’s parent, Flexera, measured actual wastage to be even higher, at 35 percent.

Those statistics both point to the potential, and need, for the evolution of a new model for the delivery of cloud services. Internally, some at Datavail have been speaking of this future model as “function as a service.” It’s a potential logical evolution of current cloud services.

When you opt for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) you’re purchasing compute and storage capacity. Platform as a Service (PaaS) vendors add development services and middleware, with both infrastructure costs and software licenses rolled into one payment. Under the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, enterprises pay a flat subscription fee for software licensing and delivery.

The existing XaaS models are focused on the tool, as opposed to the desired outcome. As generations of sales trainers have observed, “No one wants a drill. What they want is a hole.”

The FaaS model would shift the industry’s focus, metaphorically, to the hole.

Consider the example of shifting payroll to the cloud. Transferring existing accounting systems to an IaaS provider’s cloud means still be carrying the cost of the software as well as the contracted infrastructure. Opting for generic payroll software from one or another SaaS vendor entails a subscription cost, no matter how much or little you use the service.

Under an FaaS model, you’d simply pay a flat rate for every check you actually issue. You’ll pay for the actual result, not the means to create the result.

FaaS in this sense doesn’t exist yet, and it will take a few years to build out the necessary infrastructure and contractual details. It will also likely arrive under another name because some vendors are already working with a different definition of “Function as a Service.” That model is a serverless offering, which essentially treats the cloud as a “black box” where code loads and runs without its authors needing to know or manage anything about the underlying environment.

In the interim, your enterprise must adapt to the existing cloud services environment by identifying the vendors and services, or the combination of vendors and services, that best serve your business processes. As with any other complex decision-making process, it can be smoothed by the input of experienced veterans who’ve been down that road before.

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