This is a special edition of Modern Digital Applications.

July 9th, 2018 was the launch of a podcast episode. It was an episode of the “Modern Software Podcast”, a podcast sponsored by New Relic, and hosted by New Relic’s Fredric Paul and Tori Wieldt. This particular episode was titled “The Great Serverless Debate”. It was a debate between myself, and a good friend of mine, Clay Smith. Clay and I were guests on the show.

That episode was a huge success, and I still get asked questions about it today. It seemed to me that it was time for an update of that debate…a redux if you will. Since New Relic’s Modern Software Podcast isn’t active right now, I thought I would take on the challenge myself and host a redo of the great debate — based on what we know about serverless in 2020.

So, on February 21, 2020, Clay and I got together for an update to our views on the world of serverless.

This is The Great Serverless Debate, Redux.

Links and More Information

The following are links mentioned in this episode, and links to related information:

Lee’s Guest — Clay Smith

Clay Smith is a good friend of mine. He was a senior software engineer at several early-stage startup companies and has been building serverless solutions for many years now, from mobile backends to real-time APIs with Amazon Web Services. Clay was a senior Developer Evangelist at New Relic, which is where Clay and I met.

Clay’s newsletter is “Monitoring Monitoring”. You can subscribe to the newsletter at

Questions/Issues Discussed

  • Is Lambda living up to the hype?
  • Is there an end to the hype anytime soon?
  • Has Fargate lived up to the hype?
  • What is the role of containers vs FaaS?
  • What is the role of Kubernetes?
  • What types of problems are suited for FaaS and what kind of problems are not?
  • How good was our guesses in 2018 for the state of serverless in 2020?
  • What will be the state of serverless in 2022?
  • We need a better term for FaaS than the generic term “serverless”
  • Use of FaaS as a glue between external services


  • Lee: “One of the problems with Lambda is…you are not making your service boundaries based on functionality, you are making service boundaries based on the limitation of the technology.”
  • Clay: “It’s been a great two years for event driven architectures in general.”
  • Clay: “There’s a new class of startups giving a Heroku type experience that look very interesting…”
  • Lee: “Lambda is very good…for the hook and glue use case” [system integration] Clay: “API Glue”
  • Clay: “We both definitely agree that the glue aspect is still the killer use case…”
  • Clay: “Greatest disappointment around FaaS the past two years is the DevOps…workflows. These sorts of solutions are still a total mess.”
  • Lee: “When Lambda first came out, that was my number one concern…how do you deal with them operationally. We are still operating the same way we were [then] with the tooling available now. It isn’t yet to the level it needs to be to be a true partner in the operations or DevOps organizations. … No-one has figured out how to do it yet.”
  • Lee: “When you move from a monolith to services, you aren’t decreasing the complexity, you are moving it out of the code and into the system of service interactions. With Lambda, there aren’t the tools yet to manage the complexity between interacting Lambda functions reasonable.”


Clay appeared as a personal guest, and not a representative of his employer. All views expressed by Clay are his own and not of his employer.

This podcast, “Modern Digital Applications”, is not affiliated with the “Modern Software” podcast. All views expressed in “The Great Serverless Debate, Redux” are those of Clay and Lee personally and not related to the “Modern Software” podcast.

The original “Great Serverless Debate” was created by Fredric Paul on the “Modern Software” podcast.