Monday 18 July 2016

Serverless becomes a thing.

When this blog was in the planning stage it had number of working titles.

It was clear from the start that a central theme would be Software as a Service (SaaS) and how you could design or adapt a school network to integrate this technology.  For this reason options like “SaaS School”  bounced around for a while until I realised that it sounded a bit too paramilitary and might attract the wrong crowd.

In the end the serverless school seemed like a good compromise. It had a provocative edge and appealed to my interest in disruptive technologies. However after three years it’s no longer the ‘edgy’ term it once was. Serverless has moved mainstream and has taken on a life of it’s own.

The new definition covers a topic far wider than simply removing servers from schools.

It appears that Serverless is a methodology that you can use to create applications using a combination of third-party services, client-side logic, and service hosted remote procedure calls (FaaS).  At no point does the developer have to worry about servers in the traditional sense. Everything about the hosting platform and the associated problems of availability, scaling, and upgrading is taken care of by somebody else. It’s not like you run a server and it’s managed by a 3rd party, with serverless development you have no servers at all.

Of course none of this has any direct relevance to educational IT although the trend is likely to result in more high quality web services entering the market which can only be a good thing.

What is interesting however is the realisation that, from the user perspective, servers shouldn’t be used as the building block for anything.

For software developers a serverless environment frees them up to concentrate in the one thing they should be doing, writing code to solve the immediate objective rather than wasting time configuring, fixing and scaling a development platform.

For teachers it allows them to teach rather than trying to figure out why services are unavailable, resources are running low and software is unresponsive under load.

Schools shouldn't be responsible for running on-premise data centres. The setup costs and ongoing overhead creates a massive drain on resources and to be honest it’s just no longer necessary. After all does every school pump it’s own water or generate it’s own electricity ?

Maybe in a few cases but nobody works this way through choice because it’s costly and  inefficient. Like electricity, information comes down the wire so why not let the same wire deliver the services as well.

I suppose it's possible that education will buck the trend and continue to invest in dusty grey boxes for many years to come, in which case I'll be left with a blog that sits on a trendy and desirable domain. At least from that viewpoint its all been worthwhile.

Offers anyone?

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