What is serverless

Serverless computing has become one of the most trending names among the software development community these last couple of years. We have seen many rise and increase in applications taking a serverless development approach. But what does serverless computing do?

Serverless computing or serverless is an implementation model where the cloud provider (ex: AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud) is accountable for executing a piece of code by dynamically allocating the resources on its server. Here the cloud provider chargers for only the resources that are being used. Developers using serverless do not need to worry about the underlying infrastructure or managing the infrastructure.

These code segments normally run inside stateless containers which trigger multiple events ranging from HTTP request to database events to cron jobs.

Why you need to consider serverless

Our traditional way of developing applications has been that we have some degree of control on the requests that are made through our applications to the server. This leads to the overhead of managing these server resources ourselves, This in-turn creates some overhead on the team,

  • The cloud service provider chargers even when no requests are made to the server.
  • Huge effort and time has to be put into maintenance, running and uptime of these cloud servers.
  • When applications tend to scale, these scaling needs to be manually managed and when not needed, needs to be scaled down, which is a manual process.

To avoid these issues, development teams can consider shifting their development towards serverless approach. When teams tend to manage these resources as well, it distracts them from their core responsibility of developing a fully fledged application. Startups that have small teams needs to consider using a serverless computing approach.

Serverless services providers offer backend services on a pay-as-go basis, where you just need to pay for the services which you use only. These service providers offer Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) platforms as well.

Advantages of serverless:

  • Lower costs – Generally serverless is considered very cost-effective since traditional cloud providers who offer backend services charge even for unused resources.
  • Scalability– Developers who use serverless do not need to worry about the scalability of the application, Its taken care by the service provider itself.
  • Backend services– With functions that are offered by cloud service providers, developers can create simple functions that independently perform a single purpose.
  • Quicker turnaround – Serverless architecture can significantly cut time to market. Instead of needing a complicated deploy process to roll out bug fixes and new features, developers can add and modify code on a piecemeal basis.

Architecture constraints

One of the biggest challenges that are faced when moving into serverless is that, the applications we develop need to be structured in the form of functions. Most of the developers are used to the traditional monolithic architecture. But in the serverless world, you are typically required to adopt a more microservice based architecture.

Here is where stateless functions come into play, each of the functions run inside stateless containers. This means that you won’t be able to run code in your application server that executes long after an event has completed or uses a prior execution context to serve a request.

The future with serverless

Serverless computing is considered the feature of software architecture. This future is characterized by rich thick-client applications talking directly to cloud data stores and small cloud-based micro-services for protected workloads & service orchestration.

Now our user interface applications can have all the logic that sits in the backend and can communicate directly to a wide range of could services to execute unique functions, such as authentication, storage, notifications etc.

Now when you want to add a new feature, you only need to add it to your front-end code and just call out a backend cloud service. The below image shows a detailed architecture of a serverless approach.

Serverless architecture