Let’s say your traffic changes very little. Your user base is constant. Things keep a steady pace and shocks aren’t likely. In this case, you can be almost entirely sure that you don’t need to adopt a serverless architecture. But, let’s face it — things are rarely that static.
A spike in traffic, a sudden influx of users, or a workload that varies greatly throughout the week are all likely things you could go through. And when facing all of those, serverless architecture becomes a great ally. Yet, that’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
If you’re still wondering ‘why go serverless?’, please, do read on. I’ll give you a few examples and ideas of why you could greatly benefit from migrating your project to a cloud-native development model.
A (fairly) new type of architecture
First of all, it’s better to start by saying that we’re dealing with a somewhat misleading name here. Serverless is far from being server-free. After all, your apps, databases, and such all require hosting, so serverless architecture does use servers. So, what is it, then?
Serverless architecture, also known as serverless computing, is a cloud computing model in which a cloud service provider automatically manages the infrastructure needed to run and scale applications. In a serverless architecture, developers can focus on writing code and building functionality without worrying about managing servers, databases, or other underlying infrastructure components.
As you can see, the main difference between serverless architecture and the traditional option is that, with serverless, you don’t have to either own or manage the infrastructure.The vendor takes care of all that. They provide backend services as (and when) needed. A part (or all) of your operations happen on a remote server.
Serverless tends to work independently of technology or language, covering everything from Java and Powershell to C# and Python. This is possible through a dynamic cloud computing execution model that has been in use for just over a decade.
Why go serverless?
All this sounds very promising. Does that mean you should adopt serverless architecture? The truth is, serverless offers a number of advantages over server-centric infrastructure. Increased flexibility and reduced operation costs are just some of them. Let’s see the most important ones.
1. Get rid of server management responsibilities
Surprise, surprise — going serverless means you don’t have to take care of the servers. It’s a no-brainer, really. You just focus on the code, building your app, website, or online service. Your provider is responsible for proper management, timely maintenance, efficient operations, and security of the servers. They are also expected to offer appropriate capacity at all times.
Just remember — it’s important to stipulate all the conditions and responsibilities in the contract beforehand. Normally, the vendor takes care of a lot of critical tasks, so make sure you read the small print before committing to any arrangement so you can rest assured that your needs will be taken care of.
2. Only pay for what you use
When considering the question of ‘Why go serverless?’, I can’t possibly avoid discussing financial matters. After all, cutting costs has always been a business goal. So, how can serverless architecture help you with that?
Let’s say today you have 100 users, next month you have 100,000, and then the next month it drops to 25,000. The numbers are going up and down like a roller coaster! If you had your own infrastructure, you’d go crazy figuring out how many servers to own and manage. It’s highly likely you’d end up wasting money on idle servers.
So, instead of running your own infrastructure, you can opt for serverless and only pay what you use. This covers storage capacity, traffic, or any other resources. With serverless architecture, you’ll get dynamic, precise, real-time provisioning proportional to your operations — and the money you’ll be earning. Talk about business flexibility!
3. Substantial scalability
The above sounds an awful lot like (yes, you’ve guessed it) scalability. And that’s precisely one of the standing points of serverless architecture. With it, fluctuating demands simply won’t affect you. You can start up, run, and end any part of your app as needed, scaling both up and down as you go along. In that context, crashes due to high demand are a thing of the past.
How can that be possible? Containers — the key element of modern-day app development. They are packages of code that contain all of the elements needed to run in any environment. As such, they help increase speed and efficiency in provisioning infrastructure with a high degree of flexibility.
4. Deploy and update in a jiffy
Speaking of speed, increased velocity is one of the main answers to the question ‘Why go serverless?’.
Do you want to deploy a new feature or simply add a patch to your app? Serverless architecture lets you do this without having to redo the entire code. It completely does away with single monolithic stacks. Simply modify the desired segment or function on the remote server, deploy it, and you’ll be all set.
5. Keep it secure
Given that servers are constantly online, safety is a common concern when it comes to serverless architecture. However, it’s important to note that the technology has matured quite a bit. This has brought us to a point where any reputable vendor can provide a robust layer of security measures.
Singular access points for each function have already become the norm. Aside from that. regular and meticulous patching and updating protect your app from external and internal threats, ensuring protection at all times and offering you backup systems in case any issues appear.
6. Drastically reduce latency
Even if internet speeds increase with each passing day, latency is still an issue. This annoying lag we experience between assigning a task and the app executing it sometimes happens due to the physical distance between us and the server. Fortunately, a serverless vendor with a global network of servers can mitigate this issue.
When you rely on a distributed serverless architecture, the code gets executed on the best possible server (defined by proximity, temporary capacity, and demand). In that way, a user in the US may connect to a remote server in Canada while a Malaysian user will rely on the Chinese server to access the same functions with the same speed.
7. Tap into service-oriented architecture (SOA)
When considering why go serverless, there’s a frequently overlooked reason. Adopting serverless operations also means your organization can gain access to service-oriented architecture (SOA).
This particular architectural style relies on service interfaces. It integrates separate and reusable software components, going so far as to hold code and data integrations needed to execute certain business functions. Not only are you getting the use of a remote server but you can also rely on other perks to boost your operations.
A few disadvantages
The above will probably give you a good enough answer to the question ‘Why go serverless?’. Those who like to take a balanced view will now ask ‘Why avoid it?’. After all, no technology is without its drawbacks and this type of architecture is no exception. So let’s cover the most obvious ones.
First and foremost, testing and debugging becomes a challenge. After all, you can’t exactly replicate a serverless environment if you wish to see how things will work prior to deployment. This lack of insight into the backend process can pose an obstacle.
And then, there’s the fact that not all remote servers are constantly running, which means they need to ‘boot up’ when they are called to action. This sort of startup can degrade performance and is one of the reasons serverless isn’t ideal for long-running processes.
Lastly, there’s the risk of vendor lock-in. Each provider offers unique features and workflows tailored to suit your needs. Unfortunately, too much reliance on them can leave you trapped in their specific ecosystem, making it difficult to make a switch further down the line.
How does it work in the real world?
Serverless handles fluctuating workloads as well as infrequent and intermittent spikes in traffic remarkably well. There are, however, other use cases I’d like to mention.
- Event triggers. Serverless makes them a lot easier to execute. For example, a change to a database can trigger a backup update, saving you the trouble of having to do this manually.
- Continuous integration and deployment. Pushing code in small increments through CI/CD pipelines enables quick bug fixes through automation.
- Asynchronous processing. In serverless, behind-the-scenes app tasks don’t interrupt the flow and won’t cause latency on the user end.
Is serverless the right fit for you?
‘Why go serverless?’ is one of the burning questions of today’s software development. The pros are numerous but a few cons could still make you think. After all, this is a potentially massive change to your operations.
Building lightweight and flexible apps with drastically decreased go-to-market time seems impossible without it. Serverless can also simplify the workflow and enable quick expansion. We’re already seeing the implementation of multi-cloud solutions that can further cut operational costs and reduce latency.
So, should you do it? The answer lies at the core of your operations. I encourage you to assess the needs of your enterprise. The benefits of this architecture remain too numerous to ignore.