Evergreen Serverless Performance Reviews

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In the past 6 months I published several blog posts under the same theme of comparing the serverless services of the top cloud providers in terms of their performance and scalability properties:

I received some very positive feedback on those posts (readers are fantastic!). On top of that, people always had great suggestions about improving and extending the contents of those articles. I’ve been thinking a lot about them.

Limitations of a blog post

However, the format of a blog post is limited in several important ways:

  • Read-only. Once it’s published, it’s published. Except for some typos, I never make changes or extend the past articles. Despite the lack of technical limitations, re-writing blog posts doesn’t seem to be a part of the genre. If I want to add another cloud, do I change the old post or create an entirely new one?

  • Point-in-time. All those articles are heavily data-driven: numbers, charts, comparisons. The value of the data decreases as time goes. Readers can’t trust the 2-years-old numbers in the ever-changing world of the cloud.

  • Wall of text. A blog post is just a chunk of text interrupted by images and charts. People read it from top to bottom. There’s no other structure to it. So, I have to come up with the best sequence of material to present. I have to balance the length of the post to give enough insight but not to be too long and tedious. There’s no good way to summarize something and then send curious readers to the details.

  • Same for everyone. Readers might have different backgrounds. Somebody only cares about one cloud provider or one language because that’s what they work with. Others look for brief comparison and industry-wide trends. Nonetheless, they all have to read the same text.

  • Not reproducible. Because of the previous points, there is no real incentive to make the experiments reproducible. It’s enough to run it once, publish the results, and forget. However, this means that the effort is lost, and there is no open code that others could use.

I decided to have a shot at addressing these issues.

How to solve these problems

I believe I can solve the issues inherent to the format of the blog by doing the following steps:

  • Automate the experiments. Provision the required infrastructure, run the workload, collect metrics, record the data, aggregate them, and publish the charts. All programmatically, without significant human intervention.

  • Run more often. Re-do the experiments every month or so. Compare the results over time, detect any trends.

  • Website not blog. Publish the results as a set of pages with different perspectives on the related data. Make it compelling for multiple types of audience.

  • Keep it up-to-date. Make sure that people can trust the data as being actual, not old or obsolete.

  • Open everything. Publish the code behind the experiments, the raw data, the aggregated data. Enable people to find bugs, flaws, and suggest improvements—if they want to.

What’s available today

I’ve completed all the suggestions for the topic of Cold Starts:

Cold Starts landing page screenshot

Cold Starts landing page screenshot

Two dozens of cloud functions span across three providers. The experiments run for a week and then the results are saved as JSON files. A script aggregates the data and produces charts in several seconds.

I commit to running this experiment and updating the data at least once in 2 months for as long as it would make sense, to my judgment.

The corresponding section of the website consists of 16 pages with different focus and level of details.

All the code and data are open.

I invite you to give it a try, follow me on Twitter and leave the feedback on GitHub.

Cold Starts in Serverless Functions.

Cloud developer and researcher.
Software engineer at Pulumi. Microsoft Azure MVP.

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