Serverless architecture is often referred to as Function as a Service (FaaS) or serverless computing, and it is widely used for applications that are deployed in the cloud. With serverless architecture, there is no need for server hardware and software to be managed by the developer, as these applications are dependent on third party software.
In a serverless environment, applications divided into individual functions, and these can be scaled and invoked individually. It’s a powerful solution for many application developers, but it’s important to understand exactly what it is, and what the possible vulnerabilities can be.
Serverless technology is already a popular topic in the software world, and there are many vendor products, books and open source frameworks dedicated to this. Its use has become very popular solution for many organizations deploying cloud applications, with even some of the traditionally conservative organizations using some form of serverless technologies.
This software trend delivers the scaling necessary and reduces time-to-market for a reliable, effective application platform. Just think Uber, Airbnb and Instagram – they all have large user databases and real-time data that functions seamlessly due to serverless architecture. And between Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store, there are more than four million apps competing for attention, making serverless architecture a great way to gain a competitive advantage and reduce development costs, which can easily top six figures. The term ‘serverless’ has received some backlash, as it implies that there are no servers at all, but in fact that are naturally still servers running in the background. The difference is that they are managed by vendors but you don’t have access to change or manage them. That’s also why many feel it should be referred to as Function as a Service.
The Benefit of Serverless Architecture
When you think of software applications being hosted on the Internet, it usually means that you need to have some sort of server infrastructure. This typically means either a physical or virtual server that needs to be managed, including all the different hosting processes and operating system that it needs for your application to run. Using a virtual server from providers such as Microsoft or Amazon, you can eliminate any hardware issues, but you’ll still have to manage the server software and operating system.
When you move to serverless architecture, you focus only on the application code’s individual functions. Popular services like Microsoft Azure Functions, AWS Lambda and Twilio Functions all take care of the physical hardware, the web server software, and the operating system This means you only need to focus on the code.
Here are a few great benefits of using serverless architecture:
Better scalability. Developers all want their apps to be successful, but if it does happen, they need to make sure they can handle it. That’s why provisioning infrastructure is a great choice to make, as you will be prepared when success strikes.
Reduce time to market. Developers can now create apps within days or even hours, instead of weeks and months. There are many new apps that rely on third-party APIs including social channels like Twitter, maps like Mapbox, and authentication like OAuth.
Lower developer cost. Serverless architecture significantly reduces the need for human resources and computing power. Servers don’t need to be so expensive anymore; plus, if you don’t need always-on servers, your running costs will reduce even more.
Serverless architecture also allows for faster innovation, and this means product engineers can innovate at a rapid speed since this technology reduces any system engineering problems. This means less time for operations, and a smoother application. Product engineers can now rather focus their attention on developing the business logic of the application.
Having access to out-of-the-box scalability is one of the major reasons why developers use serverless architecture. Costs are kept to a minimum, as you are basically only paying when something happens, i.e. a user takes a certain action. Generally speaking, this is a great solution for most developers looking for a cost-effective solution.
Serverless architecture remains one of the best technologies yet, but it’s worth noting that it may in some cases have slight drawbacks that developers should be aware of.
Here are a few aspects to consider:
Complex architecture. It might be challenging to manage too many functions simultaneously, especially since it can take time to decide how small every function should be. There needs to be a balance to the amount of functions that can be called by an application. AWS Lambda, for example, has limits as to how many concurrent executions you can run of your lambdas.
Not enough operational tools. Developers rely on vendors to provide monitoring and debugging tools. Debugging systems can be difficult, and will require access to a lot of relevant information to help identify the root cause.
Implementation testing. Integration tests can be tough to implement. The units of integration, or function, is smaller than with other architectures, and this means developers rely much more on integration testing that with other architectures. There can also be problems with versioning, deployment and packaging.
Third-party API system problems. Some of the problems due to the use of third-party APIs can include vendor lock-in, multitenancy problems, vendor control, and security issues. Giving up system control while APIs are implemented can cause loss of functionality, system downtime and unexpected limits.
With serverless technology, applications can be built faster, and scaled more effectively. Additional computing power can be assigned automatically, and there is no need for developers to monitor and maintain complex servers.
Serverless architecture can accommodate a wide range of developing needs. From connected aircraft engines to file-sharing apps - data continues to grow and evolve, and serverless will become the standard in development and execution of various functions.
By significantly reducing development and management costs, serverless architecture is set to completely take over the software architecture space.