Serverless Startups – Inside @Skyscanner Engineering HQ, with Gareth Williams, CEO/Co-Founder

Serverless Computing

Serverless Cloud Computing is a great example of both the dynamism of Cloud services and also how this infrastructure evolution is changing the very nature of software engineering itself.

Serverless computing is a cloud computing execution model in which the cloud provider dynamically manages the allocation of machine resources. Pricing is based on the actual amount of resources consumed by an application, rather than on pre-purchased units of capacity.[1] It is a form of utility computing.

For example AWS offers this beginners guide for setting up your first serverless application.

Skyscanner

It is an ideal technology and service model for startups: Literally, pay only when your service is active, billed only for what you use. Not only that but a development paradigm that emphasizes rapid delivery of new, modular digital services.

Skyscanner is one key poster child for the Scottish tech sector, marking the first ‘unicorn’ through becoming the nation’s first billion dollar startup, harnessing the power of the Cloud to do so. Listen to CEO / Co-founder of Skyscanner Gareth Williams explain how

fundamentally they are a software company living in the age of continuous deployment.

As they describe in their tech blog they’ve sought to emulate the global digital pioneers of these trends notably Netflix, synonomous in the tech sector with cutting edge ‘Cloud Native’ approaches that best exploit the power of massive providers like Amazon, referring to a software architecture that utilizes ‘microservices’, breaking large unwieldy single ‘monoliths’ of code into small, interlinked modules.

As Phil Dalbeck Principal Engineer for Skyscanner describes in this Slideshare presentation they too have leveraged AWS to make this dramatic growth possible and scalable, also implementing best practices to ensure their information security. Also highlighting another key trend, ‘multi-cloud’, making use of multiple Cloud providers to fulfil all your business needs, they’ve also adopted Salesforce.com for their sales team to use.

The industry has since made another evolutionary leap forward, one that further lowers the barrier for new digital entrepreneurs, what is called ‘Serverless’ computing, implemented through services including AWS Lamda.

As the name suggests, and as Professor Bill Buchanan of Napier University describes in his Linkedin blog, this represents the ultimate pinnacle of the Cloud computing trend, a complete abstraction away from the underlying mechanics of IT, freeing developers to focus entirely on the value add software they’re creating. They never have to meddle with any aspects of the servers or other infrastructure components, the parts that don’t add new value.

Critically for entrepreneurs is the point that it’s implemented entirely On Demand. Other AWS services offer a utility pricing model yes, linking pricing to usage but it’s not entirely fluid, requiring reservation of resources for example. In contrast Lamda is entirely ‘event-driven’, it activates and operates only for the time the software is called and executed, and customers are billed only for that exact usage.

This Silicon Angle article captures the essence of the opportunity – Entrepreneur Ryan Kroonenburg has built the world’s first ‘Serverless Startup’, a business model based entirely on leveraging this capability.

On Demand is the ideal model for startups, you incur costs only at the time you generate the associated sale, every transaction is profitable, but to date it’s been a utopian ideal not a realistic possibility. Serverless now brings that utopia to the real world, and for Scottish startups who don’t have access to the same investment capital as their USA counterparts but compensate for this through a wealth of ingenuity and creativity, it offers a hyper-accelerating rocket fuel for our innovation economy.

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