Any business when thinking of scaling business applications in a cost-effective way goes for a cloud computing approach. Even leading technology companies like Quora, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Spotify are also getting benefits offered by cloud computing infrastructures.
But these concepts can be maddening for the business owners and novices to understand. Just when they think they have understood the cloud service concept and how it helps businesses cut their overall costs and scale the app, they get introduced to new concepts. One such approach is Serverless Architecture.
It is one of the fastest-growing cloud models, with an annual growth rate of 75% according to a report.
In this article, we are going to deeply understand the concept of serverless and how it works and why it is useful for your business.
A Brief History of Cloud Infrastructure
Before we dive deeply into serverless architecture and its benefits in software development, let’s clear out our thoughts on some popular cloud computing infrastructures and how they work.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is a new age technology that allows you to use an on-demand delivery of the IT infrastructure and resource online with pay as you go pricing models.
You don’t buy, own and maintain any physical data centers and servers but you rent it from third-party services like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web services, and Google Cloud. From that, you can get technology services like computing power, storage, and databases on an as-needed basis.
The four types of cloud computing infrastructure as per Microsoft, that could be leveraged for your business are SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS vs FaaS. And you could select a suitable one as per your application requirement.
Contrary to traditional on-premise infrastructure, IaaS renders you online access to resources like data storage, networking systems, and cloud servers for deploying OS (operating system) and programs. In a nutshell, it’s like renting a physical server only online.
Platform as a service is currently the most used and popular model in 2020, covering around 32% share among these infrastructures and expected to increase in upcoming years.
Compared to IaaS, in this model, you only manage your application and data at your premises. Everything else is outsourced to the third-party vendors who will provide you hardware and software tools over the internet. Most developers prefer this model for developing an application.
SaaS provides software available for the user over the internet. Users have to pay monthly subscription fees to use it according to their need. They can discontinue using the service as their need for using that software overs.
Users can access the software any time with any device by just logging in it. The fourth one is serverless architecture.
What is Serverless Architecture?
Serverless architecture is a type of Web application architecture. It provides a way for programmers to build an application faster by removing them to manage the infrastructure needed to run the code. “Serverless” is a somewhat misleading term. It may lead you to believe that there is no server in the infrastructure. However, somewhere in the world in any corner of a majestic warehouse, there are definitely actual servers backing the serverless applications.
The characteristics may be somewhat similar to PaaS architecture but several big differences separate these two kinds of architectures.
The notable discrepancy between serverless and PaaS are pricing, scalability, tooling, startup timing, and ability to deploy at the network edge.
In the serverless architecture, you outsource deployment, resource allocation, provisioning, scaling, OS maintenance, and process monitoring.
How Does Serverless Architecture Work?
In the early days of web application development, an owner had to own hardware required to host the application which was quite cumbersome and menial work to do.
Then came the Cloud models (IaaS, PaaS, & SaaS), through which a business could buy IT resources and servers from third-party providers for the fixed price which allowed companies to handle and manage the traffic spikes on their application. However, there was a major chunk of space that couldn’t be put into use effectively and got wasted. In other words, companies used to pay more than the service they could consume.
To address these problems and ineffectiveness a new model came which is Serverless computing. It is also known as Function as a Service (FaaS) or Serverless architecture. The programmers assemble the code into building blocks called functions. This is identical to microservices where a big monolithic is split into small, manageable elements that can be scaled individually and parallelly. Though, Function as service takes it further by breaking up the monoliths even further.
This system allows developers to buy backend services on a pay- as you go model. Now they have to only pay for the services they use.
Let’s look at the analogy that will clear out your doubts about Serverless Architecture and how it works.
Compare the serverless architecture with the drawing of the water from the tap. Consider water as computing power. You can take as much as water you need just by tapping. It means you get the quantity exactly you want. On the other hand, other cloud technologies don’t allow the flexibility of paying only what you consume.
Basically, serverless architecture can be scaled up to leverage the benefits of new functions as per the request. Likewise, it can also be scaled down just switching off the functions when they are not needed or their set time is over.
Serverless Architecture Advantages
From a technical perspective, the benefits of Serverless architecture are innumerable. It streamlines the extra engineering efforts and simplifies the approach by eliminating complicated layers.
However, it is not that the architecture is only useful to the programmers. It possesses numerous advantages for businesses as well. Here are some of the pros of using serverless architecture in case you want to go with it.
You don’t have to worry about the scalability issue as long as you are going with a serverless architecture. The System automatically scale up to any level for handling the high volume of traffic growth.
For example, imagine you have built a mobile app as a startup idea. The app got rave reviews and its users increased to a great extent to which your server couldn’t handle the traffic. With a serverless host, you don’t need to worry about the crashing of your app. The servers get automatically scaled to ensure that your app works seamlessly.
2. Less Costly
As explained above, Function as a service lets you pay for the amount of service you use. So you don’t give any extra buck for the space which is unused. So if you are building MVP for your product then it would be advisable to go with this computing infrastructure.
3. Allows You to Focus on User Experience
The major benefit of using the serverless architecture patterns for your application is that you can give more time and resources for developing customer-facing features rather than managing and provisioning the server.
4. Lower Human Resource Cost
As we know that there is no need for installing and managing extra hardware cost, you also don’t need hardware engineers to manage that hardware. This saves a huge chunk of your product development budget.
Some Serverless Architecture Use Cases
Today, you would find that the majority of new startups leverage the benefits of serverless architecture as they seek the painless scaling and lower entry barriers in the market. Here, we have curated some of the use cases for serverless architecture models. Know which kind of applications you can build with this infrastructure.
1. Chatbots & Virtual Assistants
Messaging bots and AI assistants is the ideal choice that fits into the criteria of the serverless. Since people utilizing chat apps look for an instant response, serverless data aids in doing that. As your users’ increases from one hundred to thousand users, your processing time should stay the same which is automated with the Function as a service.
2. Internet of Things (IoT) Applications
The real-time response of the Serverless infrastructure makes it suitable for developing IoT applications. IoT apps require constant monitoring over any quantities like weather, pulse rate, temperature, or more. So, this serverless architecture helps you keep up with the changes tracked of quantities on a real-time basis.
It makes sure that the service you have purchased doesn’t sit idle and works 24/7 to make your IoT app seamless.
3. Heavy Image Oriented Applications
Every application heavily relies on the user experience to get succeeded in the competitive market. Especially rich image-oriented apps should have a unique user experience for its every user.
Today, we know that every device has different dimensions. To provide a perfect view of every image, developers need to provide multiple versions of the same image for the various screen sizes- from mobile, desktops, to laptops. But, platforms like Google and AWS lambda automatically optimize images for every need, making it a perfect solution for image-heavy apps.
4. Agile & Rapid Development Process
If you are looking for an agile and rapid development process, serverless could be a suitable choice. An agile or rapid integration process requires the execution of a particular code when needed which goes in line with the serverless technology. Since in this infrastructure you separate your codebase into function, bug fining becomes easy.
Is Serverless Architecture a new PaaS?
We have mentioned earlier in the article that PaaS is the closest architecture that somewhat behaves like Serverless. But there is a considerable amount of difference between them.
Organizations who have moved to the Platform as a service for a less resource cost can further lessen the expense by shifting to the serverless. Because FaaS takes management control completely out of the programmer’s hand. Moreover, the FaaS apps scale better than PaaS and have more benefits that could help enterprises.
Here are some factors that make serverless different than PaaS.
Scaling: Serverless applications can scale applications on-demand, instantly and automatically. It doesn’t require any extra configuration from the vendors as well as programmers. On the other hand, PaaS hosted apps can be scaled up on user demand. But developers have to do some forecasting to perfectly scale.
Pricing: Serverless billing is precise and programmers pay only for what they use. There are few vendors charge for the time their functions are running whereas some charge by the number of requests.
In the Paas, the vendors will charge you as per your usage but it is not precise as serverless. Some PaaS vendors charge monthly family fees for the services they are using. Developers can customize how much power they are paying for. But it is not instant as serverless.
Launch Time: Serverless apps can be activated almost instantly, as soon as the event triggers an application function. PaaS built apps can be up and running, however, they are not as lightweight as Serverless and takes longer for up and running.
Tools vendors Provide: Since serverless apps do not run on the machine, virtual or otherwise, the vendors do not provide any tools for testing and debugging. On the flip side, the PaaS vendor will provide you with more tools to build and manage their tools.
Top Serverless Hosting Providers
Currently, there are many serverless hosting vendors. But these top vendors are ruling the market with their comprehensive cloud services.
It is one of the early providers which provides you with AWS serverless services where you can run your code. The administration is totally managed by AWS.
It offers you a bunch of serverless computing solutions. With Google’s Cloud’s Serverless services you can deploy your app made in PHP, Node.js, Ruby, Go, Python, etc. Also, its functions allow you to build IoT backends, API processing, chatbots, and more.
Microsoft’s Azure is the most trusted cloud service provider after AWS lambda web server. Azure functions take care of infrastructure demand by your app and scale up and down as per requirement.
Ever since Alibaba has launched its serverless computing services, China and other international markets have trusted the brand to run their code on Alibaba.
IBM cloud functions are based on Open Whisk to build app actions which reacts to an event trigger quickly.
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As described above, serverless architecture patterns come with a number of values not least of all the ability to customize and scale, providing a function-as-a-service. But what you don’t get when you utilize serverless computing for your application architecture is control.
It remains to be seen, what future does serverless hold for app development. Are you a startup or a business, looking for a reliable partner who can help you choose the right cloud platform for your mobile app? As a leading cloud application development company, we have helped many enterprises to adopt the cloud-first approach and achieve their business objectives. Let’s talk.