A mixed-method empirical study of Function-as-a-Service software development in industrial practice
Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) describes cloud computing services that make infrastructure components transparent to application developers, thus falling in the larger group of “serverless” computing models. When using FaaS offerings, such as AWS Lambda, developers provide atomic and short-running code for their functions, and FaaS providers execute and horizontally scale them on-demand. Currently, there is no systematic research on how developers use serverless, what types of applications lend themselves to this model, or what architectural styles and practices FaaS-based applications are based on. We present results from a mixed-method study, combining interviews with practitioners who develop applications and systems that use FaaS, a systematic analysis of grey literature, and a Web-based survey. We find that successfully adopting FaaS requires a different mental model, where systems are primarily constructed by composing pre-existing services, with FaaS often acting as the “glue” that brings these services together. Tooling availability and maturity, especially related to testing and deployment, remains a major difficulty. Further, we find that current FaaS systems lack systematic support for function reuse, and abstractions and programming models for building non-trivial FaaS applications are limited. We conclude with a discussion of implications for FaaS providers, software developers, and researchers.