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Q&A: The state of Azure serverless

Eric Pulsifer
Eric Pulsifer

Hot on the heels of Microsoft Ignite 2020, Microsoft has announced Microsoft Create: Serverless — four hours of serverless goodness slated for Wednesday, September 30, from 8 a.m. to noon PDT. The half-day virtual event for developers and Azure enthusiasts covers all things serverless with 18 speakers, five networking sessions, and a hands-on coding workshop using Azure functions. Register and get the full scoop over here.

But what do folks steeped in Azure and serverless think about where current trends in serverless and where it’s at today?

To find out, we picked the brains of serverless senseis (and Microsoft Create: Serverless speakers) Jeff Hollan, Principal Program Manager for Azure, and Linda Nichols, Cloud Native Technical Specialist, Global Black Belt Team at Microsoft.

What serverless service, tool, or feature of Azure are you most excited about right now?

Jeff Holan

Jeff: Every few weeks I have a moment of realization when I remember how awesome Durable Functions is. It can make solving some very hard problems with state and serverless trivial. I honestly don’t know what I would do without it. Outside of functions, GitHub actions and GitHub code spaces are both tools I think are going to completely change how we develop and iterate on projects. 

Linda Nichols

Linda: Since it was introduced at Microsoft Build, I’ve been really excited about Azure Static Web Apps. I immediately tried it then, and I’ve been using it to refactor a lot of my older applications that were gathering dust. I think that cloud development has historically been geared more towards back-end developers and this service gives front-end developers the tools to deploy their applications and to easily create serverless backend APIs. 

Why is serverless building a critical skill for developers?

Linda: To be competitive, businesses have to find ways to increase productivity and focus on innovation. Serverless development allows teams to increase the speed at which they can develop applications and then to move those applications to market. I think this makes the skillset in high demand for most companies.

Jeff: Serverless is by its nature cloud native. It requires you break up your problem into scaleable and event-driven pieces, and helps you be more productive and cost-effective at how you run these. Learning how to build a solution with serverless likely isn’t just an economical and productive way to build an application, but also will help introduce you to cloud concepts and architectural patterns that will define the next generation of applications.

What’s the biggest obstacle to serverless adoption?

Linda: I think change can be a little scary for developers. That’s why I love talking about developer processes and DevOps in a Serverless environment. Once developers can see that Serverless architecture removes a lot of the obstacles and overhead from traditional development, then a lot of the initial apprehension is gone.

Jeff: There are a lot of concepts and services involved with serverless. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by it. Knowing which features to use when, which hosting options or services are the best fit isn’t always a clear answer. This isn’t necessarily unique to serverless, but it’s very pronounced with serverless given how quickly some of these things are evolving. I’ve found what works best for folks is just starting simple — build that first function, try that first set of features. See how it fits, see how it feels, and move from there. Progress is better than perfection.

Want to know more about serverless?

Whether you couldn’t know less about serverless or you’re a serverless savant, A Cloud Guru can ensure you don’t feel useless when it comes to serverless.

Just getting started? Check out our free course for an intro to serverless basics. Ready to take a deep dive into the cool blue waters of Azure serverless? Make a splash with our the Serverless Computing with Azure Functions course.

And catch Jeff and Linda at Microsoft Create: Serverless. Jeff speaks at Boosting your Serverless APIs with API Management, Linda covers Developing low-code Serverless Applications, and the two will host an open-mic networking sessions called The Citizen Developer Movement in a Serverless Environment. More info here.


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