A serverless architecture is a way to build and run applications and services without having to manage infrastructure.
In the early days of the web, anyone who wanted to build a web application had to own the physical hardware required to run a server, which is a cumbersome and expensive undertaking.
Then came cloud computing, where fixed numbers of servers or amounts of server space could be rented remotely. Developers and companies who rent these fixed units of server space generally over-purchase to ensure that a spike in traffic or activity will not exceed their monthly limits and break their applications. This means that much of the server space that gets paid for can go to waste. Cloud vendors have introduced auto-scaling models to address the issue, but even with auto-scaling an unwanted spike in activity, such as a DDoS Attack, could end up being very expensive.
Serverless differs from other cloud computing models in that the cloud provider is responsible for managing both the cloud infrastructure and the scaling of apps. Serverless apps are deployed in containers that automatically launch on demand when called.
Under a standard Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud computing model, users prepurchase units of capacity, meaning you pay a public cloud provider for always-on server components to run your apps. It’s the user’s responsibility to scale up server capacity during times of high demand and to scale down when that capacity is no longer needed. The cloud infrastructure necessary to run an app is active even when the app isn’t being used.
With serverless architecture, by contrast, apps are launched only as needed. When an event triggers app code to run, the public cloud provider dynamically allocates resources for that code. The user stops paying when the code finishes executing. In addition to the cost and efficiency benefits, serverless frees developers from routine and menial tasks associated with app scaling and server provisioning.
Serverless architectures are application designs that incorporate third-party “Backend as a Service” (BaaS) services, and/or that include custom code run in managed, ephemeral containers on a “Functions as a Service” (FaaS) platform. By using these ideas, and related ones like single-page applications, such architectures remove much of the need for a traditional always-on server component. Serverless architectures may benefit from significantly reduced operational cost, complexity, and engineering lead time, at a cost of increased reliance on vendor dependencies and comparatively immature supporting services.
Introduction to BaaS
Backend-as-a-Service enables developers to focus on managing the frontend of applications and rid them of backend development tasks like hosting, cloud storage, and database management. This way, they don’t have to manage or write code for server-side activities such as database management, user authentication, and encryption.
Introduction to FaaS
Function-as-a-Service is an event-driven execution model that executes small modules of code. It triggers the functions when execution of certain events happens in application modules. This results in excellent cost efficiency, dynamic scaling of resources, and simplified processes.
Say, a user sends a web request through a browser to display content that’s already written as a function. The cloud provider processes the request, an occurrence called event, at the backend by using APIs and dynamic resource allocation to assign resources. Consequently, this reduces costs, scales storage and resources, boosts performance, and simplifies processes.
Why we choose Serverless Artitecture
One advantage of being hostless is you’ll have significantly less operational overhead on server maintenance. You won’t need to worry about upgrading your servers, and security patches will automatically be applied for you. Being hostless also means you’ll be monitoring different kind of metrics in your application. This happens because most of the underlying services you use won’t be publishing traditional metrics like CPU, memory, disk size, etc. This means you no longer have to interpret the low-level operational details of your architecture.
The benefit of serverless architecture is that your company can focus on your core product or service instead of running the hardware system and worrying about things like servers going down, or having enough storage capacity. Instead, you’re free to focus on your product roadmap, go-to-market timelines, and competitive features that make your business successful. Also, it provides cost efficiency, especially for applications that are burstable.
In the last couple years, the sheer breadth of cloud services has skyrocketed. These cloud services are natively accessible to one another, and you can leverage all these cloud-native integrations directly within your serverless infrastructure. One of the key benefits of serverless has become this integration, which is a huge time-saver. Things like logging and debugging, for example, become automatic.
Of course, there are also challenges. One of the challenges is that you have to have a mature process for your software development life cycle. Your developers have to follow best practices. They have to write good code. You have to have automation in place, especially during deployments. That’s because now, instead of deploying to a single server, you’re deploying to maybe hundreds of functions or services. Automation is key because it gets rid of human error and makes sure everything is deployed successfully.
The other key challenge is becoming locked into cloud vendors, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Services (GCS). For example, if you are using Azure cloud functions and you want to move your application over to AWS to use Lambda functions, that would require a significant rewrite.
That’s where alternative architectures come into play. These fit somewhere between classic cloud and serverless architectures:
Containerization – Docker containers are one of the most common forms
Hybrid Cloud Solutions – This is where you combine some on-prem and some cloud solutions
Multi-Cloud Solutions – This is where you leverage multiple cloud providers all together
Summary of advantages
Limitations of a Serverless Architecture
Debugging and troubleshooting become more complicated since it’s challenging to predict code performance once the code is deployed in a serverless environment.
In serverless computing, data security and protection is limited in comparison to traditional server architecture.
Serverless architectures aren’t ideal for the long-running, constant, and predictable workload processes.
It takes a lot of time to assess, implement, and test software builds because of its complex architecture.
Serverless computing is one vital component for any DevOps environments. It might not be right for every dev project, but it certainly can work for many of them.