28 Sep 2018
by Victoria Kuleshova, Dmitry Kuleshov

What is Serverless?

Serverless computing, or just Serverless as a shorthand, is a cutting-edge technology that has recently disrupted the software architecture and application development space. To capitalize on Serverless solutions, many key market players have already jumped on the serverless bandwagon. Such cloud services incumbents like Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Google largely introduce serverless architectures and frameworks to be seamlessly deployed on their cloud platforms. Bluntly put, serverless computing is a request- and event-driven application deployment technology that enables developers to create a cloud-based execution environment with vast computing resources. Serverless helps build on-demand applications, sensitive to time-critical events and requests. What’s more, serverless architecture can provision runtime environments within milliseconds by allocating all necessary computing resources and then, spin them down when a current task is over. That said, Serverless can be an exceptional option for companies to catalyze their DevOps practices.

The difference between serverless and microservices

Both software development techniques have much in common, meaning they can reduce operating costs and deployment time, cope with changing development requirements and automate routine resource-consuming tasks. However, there are some considerable differences you should know about.
  •  Microservices. This technology is a variant of service-oriented architecture (SOA), which allows developers to deploy functional modules and define certain APIs like SOAP, RESTful, AMQP, JSON or other common protocols in order to get an access to servers with proper libraries provisioned. Keep in mind, that the microservice is active even in idle condition. With microservices all the data required is containerized and unpacked while developers addressing a certain API. Functional modules are run on the platform and initiate various operations to be handled by microservices on the cloud.
  •  Serverless. The serverless architecture enables developers to deal with cloud-based capabilities on demand. Whenever an event is set, it triggers a serverless function, which performs an operation based on input commands. The obtained results are then processed on the serverless platform according to the predefined set of rules and algorithms. Once the operation is done, the computing resources are immediately spun down. So serverless technology does not utilize computational resources when it is idle, therefore it can be called an on-demand cloud-based environment.

How Serverless works

Being a pattern of event-driven architecture, Serverless employs distributed services in the cloud to ease and orchestrate the software development and application deployment workflow. Basically, Serverless comes into two conceptual forms:
  • Backend as a Service (BaaS)
  • Function as a Service (FaaS)
Let’s elaborate on this. BaaS means utilizing third-party multitenancy back-end assets to empower own software development processes. It reacts on HTTP requests, API calls while granting access to a cloud-based database and executing required actions. In the meanwhile, FaaS platforms, AWS Lambda, for instance, provide their users with fully manageable event-driven environments. The rationale behind the efficiency of FaaS is pure and simple. The development flow is predetermined by certain events like messages or mouse clicks. Serverless can be boiled down to three main procedural steps: 1. Each event triggers the respective function, after which an execution environment is generated in the cloud. 2. The function is being set into motion. 3. Once the function is through, the event-oriented environment eventually comes to a close. Working in tandem, BaaS and FaaS solutions, thus comprise the serverless paradigm and give much elbow room for developers to smoothly deploy and streamline the programming workflow, even with large loads. To help you tell Serverless architecture pattern from other types of cloud-based services, we decided to visualize the peculiarities of Baas+FaaS flow when compared to such popular platforms as IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.


Pros and cons of using Serverless

Why does Serverless gain so much traction nowadays? The usability of event-driven architecture (EDA) is quite obvious to software development experts. To help you out, let’s break down the core advantages of Serverless, albeit coming in concert with some minor drawbacks, that the developers of software applications can tap into. Pros of serverless computing:
  •  Cost-efficiency. Users can leverage the benefits of the so-called ‘pay-as-you-go’ policy, meaning that you have to pay only for the time and computing resources you actually utilized during deployment, with no asterisk attached. Say, AWS Lambda offers a free tier that gives users 1 mln requests free of charge, $0.20 per 1 mln requests thereafter, and free 400,000 GB-seconds of compute time per month with $0.00001667 for every GB-second used thereafter.
  •  Maintenance. Managing the overall development process usually takes many pains in terms of time and effort. Moreover, you need to engage a dedicated team of skilled specialists to handle ongoing tasks, especially when they are not automated or hosted in the cloud. That said, serverless turns out to be very advantageous when it comes to taking responsibility for new and current data alignment and syncing, routine requests processing and other bland and boring deployment tasks. Thus, serverless pipeline leaves much space for developers to zero in on core priorities.
  •  Security. A serverless architecture provides robust security means to protect your programming assets from most transport layer and network DDoS attacks, SQL injections, HTTP floods, cross-site scripting, bots, and scapers, enabling alongside additional detection and monitoring to mitigate potential risks and threats.
  •   Usability. Serverless ensures the orchestration of your source code and enables smooth runtime validation on every single function involved in the software deployment flow. On top of this, you are granted with a single entry for all programming features hosted in the cloud.
  •  Scalability. Depending on the number of computing resources required to allocate for executing a certain function at a certain period of time, Serverless demonstrates high flexibility by seamlessly scaling its capabilities to comply with ever-changing data loads and other challenges. These are the most essential benefits your company can reap from utilizing serverless solutions in application software development. Although some minor inconsistencies occur, they by no means can spoil the overall promising picture of Serverless technology. All in all, Serverless is just an emerging pattern in event-oriented architecture with vibrant potential.
Should you have more questions on how to get Serverless integrated with your business processes, feel free to contact us.  

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