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Serverless vs Fully Managed Services: What's the Difference?

published Jan 22, 2024

Serverless vs Fully Managed Services: What's the Difference?

As organizations migrate to the cloud, the pivotal question arises: managed services or serverless? Both approaches are increasingly popular in the cloud computing domain. Knowing the differences between serverless vs. fully managed service will empower you to strategically align these paradigms with business goals. As a result, you get a future-ready cloud strategy to optimize costs, foster innovation, and enhance productivity.

With over a decade of expertise in cloud development, Serverless has deployed and consulted over 200 serverless architecture projects. This article draws from our extensive knowledge to highlight the ins and outs of fully managed services vs. serverless. We delve into the pros and cons of both approaches, emphasizing the technical disparities. 

After reading this, you will know how to compare serverless and fully managed services regarding scalability, performance, and resource management. Find out the cost implications and insights on making the right choice for your organization's unique needs.

Serverless vs. Fully Managed Services: Pros and Cons

Before diving into the pros and cons of both approaches, let’s briefly define them. The main difference between serverless and fully managed services lies in the level of abstraction and control over infrastructure. Serverless involves executing individual functions without managing servers, while fully managed services encompass a broader range of services, with the cloud provider handling infrastructure components, databases, and more.

Pros of Serverless

  • Cost Efficiency: You only pay for the actual computing resources. It eliminates the need for provisioning and maintaining idle servers.
  • Scalability: Serverless automatically scales on demand, ensuring optimal system performance during peak times.
  • Developer Productivity: This architecture allows developers to focus on code and business logic, accelerating the development cycle.
  • Reduced Operational Management: Eliminates the need for server management, updates, and patching.

Cons of Serverless

  • Cold Start Issues: When a serverless function invokes for the first time, an initial setup delay can increase the response time. 
  • Limited Run Time: Some serverless platforms have constraints on the maximum execution time for functions.
  • Restricted control: Limited control over the underlying infrastructure can restrict fine-grained customization and configuration options for developers.
  • Vendor Lock-in: With this approach, you have a tight integration with a specific public cloud provider that can limit monitoring and flexibility in the future.

Learn more about the pros and cons of serverless for business in our blog. 

Pros of Fully Managed Services

  • Reduced Infrastructure Management: Cloud provider handles infrastructure, databases, and other services, reducing operational burden.
  • High Availability: Built-in redundancies and failover mechanisms ensure high availability and reliability.
  • Customization: Fully managed services provide more control over configurations. It allows organizations to fine-tune settings based on specific requirements.
  • Predictable Performance: With this model, you have consistent performance levels with dedicated resources.

Cons of Fully Managed Services

  • Higher Fixed Costs: Fully managed services come with a higher baseline cost, including charges for reserved instances.
  • Scaling Challenges: Scaling can require more manual intervention than serverless solutions.
  • Less Control Over the Environment and Configurations: Reduced control limits customization and fine-tuning options for users.
  • Overhead Complexity: Organizations must still manage backups, updates, and security configurations.

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Technical Differences Between the Two Models

The difference between serverless and fully managed services lies in their technical implementations. Serverless architecture relies on event-driven, function-as-a-service (FaaS) platforms, while fully managed services encompass a broader range, including managed databases, storage, and other infrastructure components. Check the table for more details.

Technical Aspect Serverless Architecture Fully Managed Services
Operational Paradigm Event-driven, stateless functions triggered by events. A broad range of managed services, including databases and storage.
Deployment Model Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) for deploying individual functions. Comprehensive infrastructure management with middleware.
Customization Limited customization for individual functions. Greater control over configurations and fine-tuning.
Communication Between Services Event triggers and messaging services promote loose coupling. More traditional service-to-service communication methods.
Integration and Interoperability Microservices communicate through events and messaging. Supports hybrid deployments, allowing mixing of services.
Vendor Lock-In Tight integration with a specific cloud provider. More portability, but considerations for lock-in persist.

You can read serverless vs. monolith and serverless vs. microservices comparisons in our blog.  

Serverless or Fully Managed Services: Scalability, Performance, and Resource Management

Evaluating scalability, performance, and resource management in AWS fully managed services vs. serverless architecture allows businesses to align infrastructure choices with application needs.


Serverless architecture stands out for its automatic scaling, dynamically adjusting to fluctuations in demand. This feature makes it well-suited for applications characterized by unpredictable workloads. Fully managed services require manual adjustments for scalability and excel in scenarios where workloads are more predictable. 


Serverless architecture performance can vary due to potential cold start issues. Despite this, it is an excellent choice for applications characterized by sporadic workloads with short bursts of activity. Fully managed services offer a consistent performance experience by providing dedicated resources. This makes them particularly suitable for applications with stable workloads. 

Resource Management

Serverless architecture minimizes the need for resource management, with the cloud provider dynamically handling the infrastructure. It is an optimal choice for teams emphasizing rapid development and deployment. The focus remains on coding without the burden of intricate infrastructure management. 

Fully managed services give organizations greater control over resource configurations, catering to specific resource requirements and customization needs. This approach suits enterprises seeking a more hands-on approach to infrastructure management and customization. 

Serverless and Fully Managed Services: Cost

Cost considerations are pivotal in decision-making. Serverless architecture often brings cost savings thanks to its pay-per-use model. Fully Managed Services may involve higher fixed expenses but provide more predictability.


Serverless architecture is cost-efficient for workloads with sporadic usage and significant idle times. This model only charges organizations for computing capacity consumed while executing functions. The serverless pay-per-use model aligns with the precise needs of their applications and minimizes unnecessary costs during idle periods.

Fully Managed Services

While entailing higher fixed costs, fully managed services offer more predictable pricing structures. This model can be cost-effective for consistent and high resource utilization applications. The dedicated resources ensure stable performance and reliability. The trade-off between fixed costs and predictability allows organizations to make informed decisions considering their specific budgets and application requirements.

Serverless or Fully Managed Services: Which One to Choose

Several factors come into play when deciding between serverless and fully managed services. They include specific application requirements and their type, team expertise, and budget constraints. To assess the compatibility of each model with your organizational needs, it's crucial to align the choice with organizational goals, consider the nature of workloads, and evaluate the desired cost of ownership.  

Scalability requirements, development flexibility, and cost-effectiveness are decision-making criteria that determine which approach best suits your organization's specific objectives and operational preferences.

If your organization is new or transitioning to the cloud, fully managed services can be an excellent choice. A managed service provider offers expertise at a fixed monthly rate, enabling you to focus on core business objectives while they troubleshoot specific aspects.

On the other hand, if you're already in the cloud and aiming for cloud-native solutions, serverless computing becomes a compelling option. Serverless not only reduces dependency on servers and associated costs but also provides greater elasticity, scalability, faster time to market, and increased productivity.

You can also use both approaches simultaneously. For example, AWS Aurora, a managed database compatible with MYSQL and PostgreSQL, offers both managed and serverless options. In the managed option, the database runs 24/7. It provisions virtual machines and manages their health, allowing you to focus solely on deploying a robust database schema.

The serverless option deploys Aurora in a serverless manner. The storage runs continuously, while data manipulation processes like fetch and update are serverless. 

Both serverless and managed services can coexist, providing a versatile approach to an organization’s cloud strategy. Containers serve as a common thread, seamlessly weaving through both paradigms. When choosing the right approach, consider your existing data stack capabilities and align your plans with overarching business objectives. 

Our Team as Your Serverless Development Partner

Serverless is a leading software development company specializing in developing serverless applications with expertise in AWS and the Serverless Framework. Our team of ISO 27001 and ISO 9001-certified cloud developers is highly rated on platforms like Clutch and Upwork. Over the last decade, we have deployed and consulted on over 200 serverless architecture projects. 

We can recommend optimal cloud-based solutions tailored to your infrastructure needs. You optimize your processes by delegating the intricacies of AWS software development to us. Serverless delivers exceptional user experience, ensuring accelerated time to market, reduced operating costs, and seamless scalability. 

Elevate Your Cloud Strategy with Serverless Team

Choosing serverless vs fully managed services is a nuanced decision. Both approaches come with their pros and cons. While serverless provides on-demand scalability, agility, and cost-efficiency, fully managed services offer consistent performance and customization options. The ideal solution depends on workload characteristics, development speed, resource control, and cost sensitivity. You can also integrate both approaches. 

When deciding on serverless or fully managed services, assess your current data stack capabilities and align your plans with overarching business objectives. To explore these considerations further and tailor a solution to your specific needs, consult with Serverless. We're here to provide in-depth insights, conduct assessments, and guide you through optimizing your cloud infrastructure.

Schedule a call to get an intro consultation on serverless and fully managed services.


Which model is more suitable for high-performance applications?

For high-performance applications, fully managed services are often more suitable due to their dedicated resources and customization options. This solution ensures optimal performance tailored to the application's needs.

Can serverless architectures and fully managed services coexist?

Yes, serverless architectures and fully managed services can coexist seamlessly. Organizations can create a flexible and hybrid infrastructure, optimizing cost-effectiveness and performance across various aspects of their applications.

What security considerations should I keep in mind for both models?

Both fully managed services and serverless security considerations include robust identity and access management and encryption in transit and at rest. Adherence to best practices is vital for securing cloud resources and ensuring data integrity and confidentiality.

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Kyrylo Kozak
Kyrylo Kozak
founder, CEO