You’re in the early stages of developing a few new cloud-based inventory and supply chain management systems. From the first meetings, you start to feel uncomfortable: the technology is discussed far too early in the process. The signs are undeniable. Your team isn’t focusing on baseline requirements or defining the business case. Instead, people are talking about new technology trends, such as containers and serverless.
I’m picking those technologies specifically, but it could be any technology for that matter, including generative AI, edge computing, or any new topic highlighted at the last cloud vendor conference. The problem isn’t that you’re choosing the technology – it has to happen at some point – you’re doing it too early in the process and you’ll likely make sub-optimized decisions, focusing too much on the final technology solution rather than requirements and business value.
So, assuming the focus is on solving the problem using these technologies, here are some issues for teams to consider.
Limited use cases mean that containers and serverless technologies are well suited for certain types of applications, such as microservices or event-driven functions. But they don’t apply to anything new. Legacy applications or other traditional systems may require significant modification or restructuring to operate effectively in container or serverless environments.
Of course, you can force any technology to solve any problem, and given enough time and money, it will work. However, these “solutions” will be low value and under-optimized, resulting in more expense and less business value.
Complexity is a common drawback to most new technology trends. Container and serverless platforms introduce additional complexity that teams building and operating these cloud-based systems must contend with. Complexity usually means increased development and maintenance costs, less value, and possibly unexpected security and performance issues. This is on top of the fact that they simply cost more to build, deploy and operate.
Managing container orchestration frameworks such as Kubernetes or managing the complexities of serverless function deployments is a challenge. These innovations can be worth the challenge, especially given the commercial value they can bring, but only in some cases.
Vendor Lock seems more of an irrational fear these days, but it’s one more thing. Each vendor has unique features, such as APIs, languages, and deployment methods. You build your application tightly coupled to a particular platform, so migrating to another vendor or adopting a different technology stack in the future may require significant redesign and investment.
The advantages should be considered along with the disadvantages, always depending on how a technology integrates with business requirements. Too often we let commercial realities take precedence over the hunt for new technologies, which is a problem. I choose serverless and containers because they’re more poorly applied than any other technology these days, and the result is far less value coming back to the business.
These technologies meet many business requirements, but they do not solve all business problems. No technology does. Cloud architecture is about configuring technology to generate fully optimized value for the business. We must work from the business problem to the solution. Any deviation from this process, such as picking a technology too early, results in new technology in place but horrible business value.
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