451 Research has found that, for the majority of new applications, serverless offers a lower cost of ownership than virtual machines and containers.
Serverless is something of a misnomer, because ultimately code runs on servers. It refers to services that allow code to be executed on demand, without having to provision — let alone manage — the underlying infrastructure.
The concept came to broad attention with the launch of AWS Lambda in 2014.
The TCO savings with serverless occur because developers don't need to provision, configure and manage the infrastructure.
For example, when a serverless function is active for just three quarters of the month, it only takes a 10-minute saving in operational overhead for serverless to beat virtual machines on TCO.
Additionally, the ability of serverless to increase utilisation makes it cheaper than VMs when the code is executed fewer than 500,000 times each month.
451 found IBM is cheapest for 0.1-second duration scripts, and Azure is cheapest for 10-second scripts, assuming memory requirements match predetermined size allocations.
IBM has an advantage in that — unlike the other providers — it allows users to specify the exact memory required so they don't pay for unused capacity.
The firm predicts serverless pricing will fall this year.
"Serverless is more than just hype; it has the potential to transform the way we develop, build and run applications in the cloud," said 451 Research research director Owen Rogers.
"Understanding the economics of serverless technology is vital to understanding its potential to disrupt the industry.
"Freemium serverless offerings from the four big cloud providers are already fuelling the growth of serverless services by stimulating experimentation and helping enterprises gain skills.
"This could lead serverless to be the next cloud price war battleground."
The executive summary of 451 Research's report 'Economics of Serverless Cloud Computing' is available here. 451 subscribers may download the full report.