March 24, 2017

Container platforms such as Docker and serverless compute services such as AWS Lambda are among the hottest trends in IT right now. What do they have to do with one another? Let’s take a look.

If you’re reading this site, you’re probably already familiar with Docker containers. They let you package applications into portable environments, called containers.

Serverless compute services do something kind of similar, in some ways. They allow you to run discrete units of code on demand without having to provision infrastructure.

What They Have in Common

To be clear, serverless computing and containers are not the same thing. But they share some common benefits, which include:

  • Minimization of the amount of provisioning you have to do on your infrastructure.
  • The ability to scale easily.
  • Minimal overhead, which translates to high performance.

What this means is that if you can benefit from Docker, you can probably also benefit from serverless computing, and vice versa. It makes sense, then, that people are weighing the respective benefits of Lambda and Docker and debating whether to use one or the other.

Separate or Together?

Or, even better, you can use containers and serverless computing at the same time. Indeed, that is already happening in the ecosystem.

For example, AWS encourages customers to combine ECS, its containers-as-a-service platform, with Lambda, its serverless computing framework. By integrating containers with serverless computing, Amazon says, you can use serverless functions to give a boost to your containerized applications.

Meanwhile, other vendors see Docker as an alternative to serverless computing. Platform9’s Managed Kubernetes service, which debuted last month, combines Docker with Kubernetes to host serverless workloads. Platform9 is pitching Managed Kubernetes as the option of choice for people who want to take advantage of serverless computing, but are wary of the potential vendor lock-in that could happen if they use AWS Lambda.

Whether you see serverless computing and Docker as competing solutions, or you view the latter as the ideal building block for the former, it’s clear that serverless computing and Docker are driving deep interest among the same group of people. Both are important trends to watch as organizations seek to build leaner, better performing infrastructure.

Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has covered technology and business news for nearly a decade, specializing in open source, containers, big data, networking and security. He is currently Senior Editor and DevOps Analyst with and