Serverless, serverless, serverless. Perhaps you’ve already heard of this type of architecture that has recently become a popular new buzzword in the technical world. Famous companies such as Coca-Cola, FINRA, Netflix, iRobot, Bustle, Autodesk, and Thomson Reuters have already moved to serverless. So, what was the reasoning behind their choice?
The type of architecture fundamentally affects the success of any project. Traditional architecture provides many pros but there are also cons that you should consider. First and foremost, it requires a lot of effort to solve various issues associated with infrastructure management.
They may include allocation of servers or clusters, allocation of the necessary resources, installation of updates or new servers, maintenance of the operating system, and more.
Serverless architecture allows developers to create and launch applications without the concern of servers. Infrastructure support, fault-tolerance, scalability, and capacity provisioning are no longer the biggest challenges. In this article, you’ll learn what is serverless, what are the advantages and disadvantages of serverless, and when should you use it.
What is serverless architecture?
Serverless (serverless computing or function as a service—FaaS) is a natural cloud architecture that enables developers to shift most of the operational responsibility to the cloud provider, for instance, AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, Google Cloud Functions, or IBM OpenWhisk.
In a cloud-computing execution model, the cloud provider fully undertakes the process of running and managing the server. It is also in charge of the dynamic management of machine resource allocation. As a result, software engineers can focus on creating, deploying, running, and extending applications.
Serverless apps run in stateless compute containers that can be characterized as event-driven. Being controlled by a third-party, they may last for one invocation. Simply put, these apps are decomposed into separate serverless functions that can be scaled or called individually. A pricing model is based on the number of executions, not pre-purchased computing capacity.
So, if capacity provisioning, server management, and infrastructure maintenance lead to high operational and labor costs, you should think about moving to serverless to have them reduced. As an added benefit you don’t have to assign the development team to continuously monitor and scale the services. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Why should you choose serverless architecture
Serverless architecture provides developers, businesses, and users with plenty of benefits. With FaaS, each app is broken down into separate autonomous functions that can be automatically and elastically scaled in both directions—as function call frequency increases or decreases. All the requests are processed in parallel, they don’t queue for service as in traditional architecture.
This means that your system will continue to operate uninterrupted even under high load. Perhaps more importantly, the serverless cost of computing resources are generally lower as you need to pay only for the number of function executions. Therefore, each side wins. Now let’s take a deeper dive into the benefits of serverless architecture.
Advantages of serverless for businesses
- A cost-effective pricing model. FaaS providers charge only for the number of function calls.
- Server maintenance is the responsibility of the cloud provider. There is no need to set up new servers.
- Faster to market. Developers can focus on building software and applications as individual autonomous units that are easier to manage. As a result, the launch of the product is much faster.
- Reduced labor costs. You don’t have to address back-end infrastructure maintenance with back-end developers. Therefore the costs go down as the engineers can focus on other important tasks.
Benefits of serverless architecture for developers
- Reduced liability as software developers don’t have to continuously monitor and maintain back-end infrastructure.
- Zero system administration.
- Simple set up of serverless.
- Operational management is easier compared with traditional architecture.
- Elastic scaling. The system is instantaneously and automatically scaled when needed.
- Simple adoption. If needed, it will be easy to integrate Microservices, Nanoservices, or SOA (service-oriented architecture) principles.
Have to say, before implementing serverless technologies technical decision-makers usually perform application assessments and create a proof of concept. That helps a lot to understand the feasibility and viability of the whole idea.
Advantages of serverless for users
- Improved user experience. The serverless architecture provides system resilience so that the product continues to work efficiently without downtime in case of an influx of users or other issues.
- Customers get product updates more quickly. If businesses are striving to maintain a competitive advantage and release new features, they are to do so more quickly.
As you can see, there are many benefits of serverless architecture. However, there are some drawbacks too. First of all, it can sometimes be very difficult to estimate the end cost. You never know when the number of function calls will spike and require huge amounts of computing resources.
Some situations can be easily predicted like the preparation for Black Friday, but some may appear unexpectedly. Sometimes even minor changes can attract interest or some minor marketing activities may lead to an influx of users and the necessity for additional resources.
Secondly, the overall control over the hardware and software management is reduced. Also, there is a lack of control over the scaling process. Since you have to shift a lot of responsibilities, you should choose a trusted vendor.
From a technical standpoint, local testing becomes quite challenging as there are significant limitations on the local state. Furthermore, serverless architecture is relatively new compared to traditional architecture, so best practices have yet to be established.
You should set up serverless architecture if there is a small number of functions that need to be hosted. If you have a complex solution, it can be reasonable to look into a FaaS provider. However, in this case, developers will have to architect your products differently.
Examples of using serverless
We can count many serverless examples as various world-famous companies have decided to use it for their projects. Thomson Reuters set up this type of architecture for its analytics service which processes 4,000 events per second. As a result, the service is guaranteed to handle peak traffic, twice the amount of regular traffic, and provides high reliability.
Another company that uses serverless is Bustle Digital Group, a news, beauty, and fashion women’s magazine. With AWS Lambda and Amazon API Gateway, Bustle employs serverless computing for the back-end of an iOS application and websites. This switch has enabled the organization to save costs on infrastructure management, while developers can spend more time on building new products and looking for innovative approaches.
To sum up, serverless is a good way to save costs, delegate software and hardware management to a third-party, and focus on software development. High scalability, system resilience, and process agility are the resulting advantages of this type of architecture. If implemented properly, each side—business, developers, and users—win.
Technical experts claim that the choice of architecture is the base of product success. Here at YSBM Group, we believe that a software requirements document is another element of crucial importance. Learn how to create an excellent specification for making a truly great solution.
If you have questions about this topic or want to request a consultation, feel free to contact us. Having much experience in deploying various architectures and adopting serverless, we’ll be glad to help you define the best option for your project.